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Multiverse: Where science and ancient wisdom concur

We are all familiar with the Big Bang theory—an event that is widely accepted to have occurred 13.7 billion years ago, which led to the creation of planets, stars and galaxies. In simple words, this theory explains our existence on Earth, which is, in the larger scheme of things, a small speck of dust in the cosmos.

But not all of us know that something extraordinary happened moments after the Big Bang, something our scientists failed to notice. There wasn’t just one explosion, but multiple ones in succession that created an endless number of ‘pocket universes’, just like ours. At least that’s what some of the greatest modern physicists, including professor Stephen Hawking, believe.

In one of his last researches, professor Hawkins said it is possible that we have an infinite number of universes in our cosmos, and reality might not differ much in these parallel worlds. If his research has merit, it’s possible that we all have our doppelgangers, living in a neighbouring universe on a different planet Earth. Someone who is a postman or a football coach on our Earth might be the President of the United States or a National Geographic photographer on the other. There, Hawaii could be a continent, Russia a tiny island; birds might swim in the oceans, while fish fly like kites in the air. Each universe could have its own version of reality that is very, or not very, different from ours.

It is a fascinating thought, indeed, but there is no concrete proof that such a multiverse exists. However, there are various studies that point towards such a possibility. One such paper, published by a string of prominent experts, hails parallel universes as one of the reasons for the origin of Cold Spots—an unusually sized patch in the outer space whose genesis has kept scientists mystified for ages. Co-author of the paper, Professor Tom Shanks of Durham University, said in an interview, “… Cold Spot was caused by a collision between our universe and another bubble universe. If further, more detailed analysis (…) proves this to be the case then the Cold Spot might be taken as the first evidence for the multiverse.” What a day it would be for science when we can finally say for sure that parallel universes exist!

Given that so far, we haven’t even explored our own universe to its full limit, it does sound rather fantastical to think we can discover multiverse, if the theory is even true.

It turns out, multiverse is one of the few subjects where science and ancient wisdom concur. In Hindu cosmology, ancient texts are filled with mentions of alternate universes. Bhagavata Purana is one such text that covers a wide range of topics from cosmology to mythology. It is one of the earliest written manuscripts, that refers to multiple universes and their connection with each other. Even physicist Bryan E Penprase quotes a translation from The Bhagavata Purana in his book The Power of Stars: “Every universe is covered by seven layers—earth, water, fire, air, sky, the total energy and false ego—each ten times greater than the previous one. There are innumerable universes besides this one, and although they are unlimitedly large, they move about like atoms in you. Therefore, you are called unlimited.”

The Hindu cosmology has countless such narratives that support the theory of multiple universes. Even though one cannot consider them as evidence, they raise a critical question that is hard to ignore: Without any scientific expertise, how could our ancestors have possibly known about parallel universes? Centuries ago, there were no powerful computers or the Hubble telescope in space to help people support such theories. Still, the ancient scriptures are full of references to constellations, multiverse, time dilation, and many other astronomical concepts. One can only wonder how.

Dr C V Giridhara Shastry, a Sanskrit and Vedic scholar, has a take on this puzzle. “Hindu mythology is filled with many awe-inspiring reports on measuring the distance between the earth and the sun or the right size of our planet. I believe they were able to do so because they were good observers and remarkable mathematicians. Maybe, they knew that sun is a star that is burning in our cosmos. And like our world, there might be other worlds as well, hanging in tandem to ours.” What he says, makes sense. Around 1,000 years ago, people could measure the circumference of earth through the shadows casted by the sun. All with the help of a little geometry.

However, even with speculations that seem to have merit, there is no way, as yet, to prove the concept of multiverse. Because, in the end, science believes in evidence and things it can measure. Given that so far, we haven’t even explored our own universe to its full limit, it does sound rather fantastical to think we can discover multiverse, if the theory is even true. It will probably take us centuries, if not thousands of years, before we touch the circumference of our own universe. Maybe then we will have answers to questions that have baffled us for thousands of years. Until then, we can only theorise and hypothesise where our curiosity could take us next.

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