Darwin's theory of evolution has influenced modernist interpretations of Hindu philosophy, especially reincarnation and human development. Hindus have found support for, or ideas foreshadowing evolutionary ideas, in scriptures, such as the mytheme of Dashavatara, the incarnations of Vishnu starting with a fish.
In India, there were minimal references to Darwinism in the 1800s. While elements of Victorian England opposed the idea of Darwinism, Hindus already had the present notion of common ancestry between humans and animals. While the creation–evolution controversy has seen much debate in US, Middle East and parts of Africa, it is an insignificant issue in India, because of its Hindu-majority population.
Many Hindu reformers compare the Samkhya philosophy, specifically the term parinama and the concept of evolutes, with Darwinism. According to Gosling, Swami Vivekananda based most of his cosmological and biological ideas on Samkhya. Influenced by western thought and esotericism, Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo developed a view on reincarnation in which an involution of the Divine into matter takes place, and the person has to evolve over multiple lives until the Divine gains recognition of its true nature and liberation is attained.
According to Hindu creationists all species on earth including humans have "devolved" or come down from a high state of pure consciousness (Brahman). Hindu creationists claim that species of plants and animals are material forms adopted by pure consciousness which live an endless cycle of births and rebirths. Ronald Numbers says that: "Hindu Creationists have insisted on the antiquity of humans, who they believe appeared fully formed as long, perhaps, as trillions of years ago." Hindu creationism is a form of old earth creationism. According to Hindu creationists the universe may even be older than billions of years. These views are based on the Vedas, which depict an extreme antiquity of the universe and history of the earth.
The Sanskrit epics of the Hindus mention several exotic creatures including ape-like humanoids.[page needed] The Ramayana speaks of the Vanaras, an ape-like species (ape-men) with human intelligence, that existed millions of years ago alongside modern humans. Michael Cremo, a Hindu creationist, states:
The idea of ape-men is not something that was invented by Darwinists of the nineteenth century. Long before that, the ancient Sanskrit writings were speaking of creatures with apelike bodies, humanlike intelligence, and a low level of material culture. For example, the Ramayana speaks of the Vanaras, a species of apelike men that existed millions of years ago. But alongside these ape-men existed humans of our type. The relationship was one of coexistence rather than evolution.
The order of the Dashavatara (ten principal avatars of the god Vishnu) is interpreted to convey Darwin's evolution. British geneticist and evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane opined that they are a true sequential depiction of the great unfolding of evolution. According to them, like the evolutionary process itself, the first avatar of God is a fish - Matsya, which depicts aquatic life, then comes the aquatic reptile turtle, Kurma, which depicts creatures moving to land, then a mammal - the boar Varaha, then Narasimha, a man-lion being, which is sometimes taken to mean creatures like Okapi, Archaeopteryx, and others, then comes Vamana, the dwarf hominid. Then Parashurama depicts humans when they were in the caveman stage. And then, Rama depicts the rise of civilization and kingdoms. (Sometimes, when Balarama is taken into account, he is taken to represent the growth of agriculture.) Krishna is taken to symbolize the growth of art and crafts and Buddha is taken to depict the embarking on philosophical and religious thought. Kalki is not yet born.[citation not found] Various saints, thinkers and authors like Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Helena Blavatsky, Monier Monier-Williams, Nabinchandra Sen, C. D. Deshmukh have associated the Dashavatara with evolution.
Hinduism has its own version of evolution, which agrees with the scientific theory that evolution is from the simple to the complex and from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous
For example, the Ramayana speaks of the Vanaras, a species of apelike men that existed millions of years ago.
Hinduism and Science