Hiranyagarbha: the golden egg

Hiranyagarbha The Golden Embryo by Artist Vidya Devi and Dhirendra Jha, with permission from Exotic Indian Art

In the image above, we see Hiranyagarbha. Hiraṇyagarbha means the ‘golden womb’ or ‘golden egg’. It is also called the universal germ of creation. Carl Jung likens Hiraṇyagarbha to the “phenomenology of the child’s birth” saying:

“The ‘child’s’ birth always points back to an original psychological state of non-recognition, i.e., of darkness or twilight, of non-differentiation between subject and object, of unconscious identity of man and the universe.” (CW 9i, para 290)

From one perspective Hiraṇyagarbha is the germ seed of creation, from another Hiraṇyagarbha is a potentiality that is always there– as an image of non-differentiated or unmodified awareness. What follows is the story from the creation from the Matsya Purana, a story of Hiraṇyagarbha.

In the beginning, there was nothing in the universe. There was only darkness and the divine essence (brahman). It is impossible to describe the brahman, it has no traits that can be described.

When the time came for creation to start, the brahman removed the darkness and divided itself into three. These three parts came to be known as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The first object that was created was water and Vishnu slept on this water. Since nara means water and ayana means resting-place, Vishnu is accordingly also known as Narayana.

In this water next appeared a golden (hiranya) egg (anda). The egg shone with the radiance of a thousand suns. Inside the egg, Brahma created himself. Since he effectively created (bhuva) himself (svayam), Brahma is also known as Svayambhuva. The egg, you will remember, was golden. Garbha means womb, and since Brahma was born inside a golden egg, he is also known as Hiranyagarbha.

For a thousand years Brahma stayed inside the egg. He then split the shell into two and emerged out. Heaven (svarga) was made from one half of the shell and the earth from the remaining half. All the land masses, the oceans, the rivers and the mountains, had been inside the egg in embryonic form. Brahma made them manifest.

The sun was also born. Since he was the first (adi) being to be born, he is known as Aditya. The word mrita means dead. Since the sun was born when the egg (anda) died, the sun was also known as Martanda.

Brahma‘s first act was to meditate. It was while he was meditating that the Vedas, the Puranas and the other shastras (sacred texts) emerged from Brahma‘s mouth.


  1. Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious ,  Collected Works 9i by C. G. Jung
  2. The Matsya Purana

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