Hindu mythology

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Myths

Articles about Mythology:
In its broadest academic sense, the word "myth" simply means a traditional story, whether true or false. (— OED, Princeton Wordnet) Unless otherwise noted, the words "mythology" and "myth" are here used for sacred and traditional narratives, with no implication that any belief so embodied is itself either true or false.

Hindu mythology is the large body of mythology related to Hinduism, notably as contained in Sanskrit literature, such as the Sanskrit epics and the Puranas. As such, it is a subset of Indian mythology.

Vedic mythology

The roots of mythology that evolved from classical Hinduism come from the times of the Vedic civilization, from the ancient Vedic religion.

The characters, theology, philosophy and stories that make up ancient Vedic myths are indelibly linked with Hindu beliefs. The Vedas are said to be four in number, namely RigVeda, YajurVeda, SamaVeda, and the AtharvaVeda. Some of these texts mention mythological concepts and machines very much similar to modern day scientific theories and machines.


The two great Hindu Epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata tell the story of two specific incarnations of Vishnu (Rama and Krishna). These two works are known as Itihasa. The epics Mahabharata and Ramayana serve as both religious scriptures and a rich source of philosophy and morality for a Hindu. The epics are divided into chapters and contain various short stories and moral situations, where the character takes a certain course of action in accordance with Hindu laws and codes of righteousness. The most famous of these chapters is the Bhagavad Gita (Sanskrit: The Lord's Song) in the Mahabharata, in which Lord Krishna explains the concepts of duty and righteousness to the hero Arjuna before the climactic battle. These stories are deeply embedded in Hindu philosophy and serve as parables and sources of devotion for Hindus. The Mahabharata is the world's longest epic in verse, running to more than 30,000 lines.


Hinduism presents a number of accounts pertaining to cosmology, and several explanations have been given as regards the origin of the universe. The most popular belief is that the universe emerged from Hiranyagarbha, meaning the golden womb. Hiranyagarbha floated around in water in the emptiness and the darkness of non-existence. Ultimately, this golden egg split and the cosmos was created. Swarga emerged from the golden upper part of the Hiranyagarbha, whereas Prithvi came out from the silver coloured lower half part.

The wars

The weapons

Apart from the traditional human weapons like swords, daggers, spears, clubs, shields, bows, arrows and maces, and the weapons used by the Gods (such as Indra's thunderbolt Vajrayudha), the texts mention the utilization of various divine weapons by various heroes, each associated with a certain God or deity. These weapons are most often gifted to semi-divine beings, human beings or the rakshasas by the Gods, sometimes as a result of penance.

There are several weapons which were believed to be used by the Gods of the Hindu mythology, some of which are Agneyastra, Brahmastra, Chakram, Garudastra, Kaumodaki, Narayanastra, Pashupata, Shiva Dhanush, Sudarshana Chakra, Trishul, Vaishnavastra, Varunastra, and Vayavastra.

Some of these weapons are explicitly classified ( for example, the Shiva Dhanush is a bow, the Sudharshan Chakra is a discus and the Trishul is a trident), but many other weapons appear to be weapons specially blessed by the Gods. For example, the Brahmastra, Agneyastra (Sanskrit: Astra = divine weapon) and the other astras appear to be single use weapons requiring an intricate knowledge of use, often depicted in art, literature and adapted filmography as divinely blessed arrows.

Sometimes the astra is descriptive of the function, or of the force of nature which it invokes. The Mahabharata cites instances when the Nagastra (Sanskrit: Nag=snake) was used, and thousands of snakes came pouring down from the skies on unsuspecting enemies. Similarly, the Agneyastra ( Agni) is used for setting the enemy ablaze, as the Varunastra ( Varuna) is used for extinguishing flames, or for invoking floods. Some weapons like the Brahmastra can only be used (lethally) against a single individual.

Apart from the astras, other instances of divine or mythological weaponry include armor ( Kavacha), crowns and helmets, staffs and jewelery ( Kundala).

The Deluge

The story of a great flood is mentioned in ancient Hindu texts, particularly the Satapatha Brahmana. It is compared to the accounts of the Deluge found in several religions and cultures. Manu was informed of the impending flood and was protected by the Matsya Avatara of Lord Vishnu, who had manifested himself in this form to rid the world of morally depraved human beings and protect the pious, as also all animals and plants.

After the flood the Lord inspires the Manusmriti, largely based upon the Vedas, which details the moral code of conduct, of living and the division of society according to the caste system.

The peoples of the epics

Hindu mythology is not only about Gods and men, but classifies a host of different kinds of celestial, ethereal and earthly beings.

Sapta Rishis

Lord Brahma, out of his thought, creates seven sages, or Sapta Rishis, to help him in his act of creation. Sapta Rishis (sapta means seven and rishis means sages in Sanskrit). They are Bhrigu, Angira, Atri, Gautama, Kashyapa, Vashishta, and Agastya. The other meaning of Saptarishis is constellation of Great Bear ( Ursa Major).


The Pitrs, or fathers, were the first humans. Pitrs comes from the word Pita(In Hindi and Sanskrit) or Father. So it is about paternity and paternal relations.


Hindu mythology defines fourteen worlds (not to be confused with planets) - seven higher worlds (heavens) and seven lower ones (hells). (The earth is considered the lowest of the seven higher worlds.) All the worlds except the earth are used as temporary places of stay as follows: upon one's death on earth, the god of death (officially called 'Yama Dharma Raajaa' - Yama, the lord of justice) tallies the person's good/bad deeds while on earth and decides if the soul goes to heaven and/or hell, for how long, and in what capacity. Some versions of the mythology state that good and bad deeds neutralize each other and the soul therefore spends time in either a heaven or a hell, but not both, whereas according to another school of thought, the good and bad deeds don't cancel out each other. In either case, the soul acquires a body as appropriate to the worlds it enters. At the end of the soul's time in those worlds, it returns to the earth (is reborn as a life form on the earth). It is considered that only from the earth, and only after a human life, can the soul reach supreme salvation, the state free from the cycle of birth and death and the place beyond the fourteen worlds where the eternal god lives.

Gods and goddesses

There are many deities in Hinduism. At the top are the trimurti: Shiva (the destroyer), Vishnu (the protector), and Brahma (the creator), and their wives (goddesses in their own right): Shakti (also known as Paarvathi, Ambicaa) the goddess of courage and power, Lakshmi the goddess of all forms of wealth, and Saraswathi the goddess of learning. The children of the Trimurti are also devas, such as Ganesha and Skanda.

Brahma is considered the ruler of the highest of the heavens (the world called Sathya), so in one sense, Brahma is not beyond the fourteen worlds as Shiva and Vishnu are.

Some gods are associated with specific elements or functions: Indra (the god of thunder and lightning; he also rules the world of Swarga), Varuna (the god of the oceans), Agni (the god of fire), Kubera (the treasurer of the gods), Surya (the sun god), Vaayu (the god of wind), and Soma (the moon god).

Swarga also has a set of famous heavenly dancers: Urvasi, Menaka, Rambha, and Tilottama (all female), whose job is to entertain the heavenly court, and upon orders from the heavenly kings, to distract people on the earth from accumulating too much good deeds so as to become a threat to the heavenly kings.

Other notable inhabitants of the heavens include the celestial sages, and Naaradha the messenger of the gods.

Yama (the god of death and justice) is said to live in Kailash along with his master Shiva. He rules the lower world of Naraka with a band of emissaries called the Yama duta (messengers of Yama), who bring the souls of dead persons to Yama for evaluation. Chitragupta is one of those lower level celestial beings who functions as the karmic accountant of all the actions of the human beings on earth.


Several gods are believed to have had incarnations ( avatars). As the protector of life, one of the duties of Vishnu is to appear on the earth whenever a firm hand is required to set things right. The epic Bhagavatham is the chronology of Vishnu's ten major incarnations (there are totally twenty six incarnations): Matsya (fish), Kurma (turtle), Varaha (boar), Narasimha (lion-faced human), Vamana (an ascetic in the form of a midget), Parasurama (a militant Brahmin), Rama, Krishna,Gautam Buddha(later budhists separated themselves from hindus), Kalki (a predicted warrior on a white horse who would come in this yuga ) whose appearance also signals the beginning of the end of the epoch.

House of Ikshvaku

Ikshvaku was the son of Manu,the first mortal man, and founder of the Sun Dynasty.


The first king to conquer all of the world was Bharata, son of Dushyanta and Shakuntala. All of this world, Vishwa, is named Bharatavarsha, or The Land of Bharata, or The Cherished Land.

King Bharata's conquests are described to have stretched over all of modern India, and Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, as well as the ancient Gandhara region of Afghanistan. No account has been known to exceed these geographical boundaries.

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