Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Comparison of Hindu and Greek Mythologies


Of Gods and Men


Greek Gods Image Courtesy : umich.edu


Mythology is the oral retelling of stories or myths of a particular group of people or culture that lived long ago. They provide us an idea about the values, culture and intellectual development of the people of those cultures and civilizations. Two of the most vibrant, advanced and complex mythologies are that of the ancient Greeks and the Hindus (Indian). Their religions were correspondingly called Hellenism and Hinduism. These two religions and cultures existed in different parts of the world and were separated by great distances. But there are some amazing similarities between their fables and myths and this post is aimed at highlighting a few of them. Readers are welcome to contribute their ideas as well.


Zeus and Indra


In Hindu mythology the Kashyapa fathered the Devas (Gods). Bear in mind that these gods does not include the triumvirate Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva who are considered superior to the Devas. The ruler of the Devas was Indra.


Indra Image Courtesy : jnanam.net


In Greek mythology the Gods were fathered by Cronus. Zeus is the ruler of Gods just as Indra is his counterpart in Hindu Mythology. Indra and the other gods reside atop Mount Kailash while Zeus and the other Greek Gods reside on top of Mount Olympus. Indra represents Thursday in the days of the week. So does Zeus. Zeus is the God of thunder and lightning. So is Indra.


Good and Evil


The Gods of Mount Olympus represents good while their antitheses are the Titans represent evil. In the same way we have the Asuras as the chief tomentors of the Devas. The interesting fact in both these mythologies is that both good and evil are fathered by one and the same being. While the Gods and the Titans were fathered by Cronus, the Devas and the Asuras were fathered by Kashyap. There is a constant struggle between the forces of Good and Evil in both mythologies. Throughout the mythologies we can see the Gods tricking their antithesis during instances when they require the Titan’s or the Asura’s help.


Devas battling the Asuras Image Courtesy : harekrsna.com


Gods, Men and Evil





While men have always worshipped and showed unfaltering devotion towards the Gods, the Gods on their part have not been as benevolent as they might lead us to believe. In fact the Gods’ attitude towards men has been quite curious to say the least, almost bordering on tyrannical. They punish them for the slightest of disrespect, putting inexplicable curses on them and even raping or seducing their women. It is ironic that the Titans and the Asuras are considered to be evil when they have done more good to men than the Gods and Devas in certain instances. Their behavior and attitude towards men is exemplified by two incidents in the mythology.


In Greek mythology there is the story of Prometheus who stole fire from the Gods and gave it to men. Men after receiving fire began to be developed and more enlightened. Zeus was so enraged by this that he punished Prometheus to be chained to a Mount Caucasus. Each day an Eagle would come and peck out his liver, which would be regenerated in the night. This cycle continued until Hercules (son of Zeus. Also known as Herakles) killed the eagle and freed Prometheus.


Prometheus giving fire to man Image Courtesy : wikipedia.org


Similarly in Hindu Mythology there is the story of the benevolent Asura king of Kerala called Mahabali. During his reign the kingdom prospered unlike in any other. There was equality and happiness among all. There was neither deceit nor corruption. Indra and the other Devas were jealous and afraid of Mahabali’s popularity and conspired with Lord Vishnu to end his reign. Vishnu came to earth as Vamana (one of his 10 incarnations) and tricked Mahabali into the depths of the underworld, but not before granting the asura king one last wish; that to visit his subjects once a year. Even today people of Kerala celebrate his day of return as the famous Onam festival.


Prophesies and their impact


Prophesies have a major role to play in these mythologies. One of the most recurring themes in these myths is that of a main character trying to avert a particular prophecy but in turn succumbing to his destiny. In both mythologies we can see this theme recurring again and again.


One such instance in the Greek mythology is that of Cronus who becomes aware of a prophecy that he will be overthrown by one of his children. In order to avert this fate Cronus begins to swallow each one of his children as soon as they are born. When the sixth child Zeus is born, Rhea (Cronus’ wife) devises a plan to save him with the help of Cronus’ mother Gaia. Rhea secretly gives birth to Zeus and arranges for him to be brought up in exile. Later a grown up Zeus comes back to free his siblings and forces Cronus to flee.


Rhea giving a childto Cronus Image Courtesy : timelessmyths.com


Similarly in Hindu mythology King Kansa is foretold that the eight son of his sister Devaki would kill him. To avert this, Kansa imprisons both Devaki and her husband Vasudeva and allows them to live on the condition that they hand over all their newborns to him. Devaki’s eighth son was Krishna (a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu) and as Kansa had killed all their previous children, they arranged for the child to be brought up in exile and presented another newborn to Kansa in his place. A grown up Krishna later returned to avenge the death of his brothers and killed Kansa.


There are many other similarities between the various mythologies in the world. It is not possible to cover all of them under the realms of a single post. But it is infinitely fascinating to learn more and more about them as they shows us how similar we all are, even though we have different cultures and are from different civilizations. Maybe we are the same no matter which part of the world we really are from.



37 comments:

Anonymous said...

In your section "Indra represents Thursday in the days of the week. So does Zeus. Zeus is the God of thunder and lightning. So is Indra."

I'd like to point out on a related note that Thor from the Norse mythos is also a god of thunder and lightning and the origin of the english word Thursday, from the old english Thor's Daeg, meaning day for Thor.

There are many other similarities between Indian and Norse mythos.

Denny said...

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Metajavier said...

Thank you for your visit! We meet in the network(net)!

Pawlie Kokonuts said...

Man! This is a course in itself! Very impressive. Can I get educational credits? Way to go.

algelic said...

I loooooved this post. I love hearing about mythology!

Thanks for stopping by my blog! ^^ I love this other side of the moon!

§a§a said...

Theme Jamil Thank you, but all myths are myths appeared old and formulated some facts about the status of legends. This is prevailing in the ancient world such as Greece and the Greeks and Romans also formerly India and other countries Distinguished ancient world and also blessed Egypt فلعلم that civilization is the civilization of Egypt Dakkemeh that took Greece Hadharha but scientists Greece veterans Talimu University Online into the sun in Samar and whom Aristotle, and others Arschmides

§a§a said...

Theme Jamil Thank you, but all myths are myths appeared old and formulated some facts about the status of legends. This is prevailing in the ancient world such as Greece and the Greeks and Romans also formerly India and other countries Distinguished ancient world and also blessed Egypt فلعلم that civilization is the civilization of Egypt Dakkemeh that took Greece Hadharha but scientists Greece veterans Talimu University Online into the sun in Samar and whom Aristotle, and others Arschmides

Té la mà Maria said...

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visit blog:
irreverent, ecléctic, iconoclastic e liberty
http://telamamaria.blogspot.com
in Catalonia - Spain
thank

Dominic KLM said...

Hi there , I wondered , can you read dutch , since you have posted on my blog , that it was worth your time ,and I have only one english post...

Greetz A Curious Dutchman

Lurifax said...

hey=)
I got curious about you and where you come from, after I read your comment on my blog!
Interesting to read about Hindu mythology, since I remember a lil' bit about Vishnu and other Gods from a religion lesson in 10th grade ;)

Greetings from a little viking :)

girlzoot said...

--It is ironic that the Titans and the Asuras are considered to be evil when they have done more good to men than the Gods and Devas in certain instances.--

This line really struck me from this piece. I think that one of the reasons for the greeks to consider the Titans more evil than Zeus and his pantheon was their otherness. The complete foreign nature of the Titan I imagine was more evil than a petty Zeus with man-like qualities.

The idea of relating to a Titan and their symbolic nature was not quite so simple as relating to a Zeus that indulged every whim and desire.

Jessica said...

wow, nice site...thanks for commenting...i really like the openness of your site...

JFdel said...

Very interesting! I liked the approach. I suspect that many resemblances are born from a similar origin: in both Greece and India, Aryan tribes came to dominate ancient local tribes which had Mother Goddesses cults. That could explain the similarity between the Ramayana and the Iliad.

JF del Giorgio
http://thestone.ajplace.com

Renee Stage said...

damn you're blogs are amazing. I'll be back for sure!! thanks for the comments and reads!

The Black Wizard said...

nice article, and thanks for the coment in my blog... its intersting to know someone like you how wrote this intersting things on the web, i hope to be conected, you know my english is no so good but i really intersting to know and to discover the fascination of your culture. i´m going to add your blog to my links.. bye and have a good day i wish you the best... Adios.. desde Guatemala

Czina said...

thanks for your comment. It didn't ever happend to me - I published the post and when I came back to main page - your comment was here.

so good luck with your blog - looks interesting!

Akhila said...

Great post. I personally thought of the Krishna-Zeus connection myself.

Saara-Sofia said...

Kiitos kun pistäydyit blogissani. Omasi vaikuttaa myös mielenkiintoiselta! Kaikkea hyvää!

Sincerely,
Saara-Sofia

Mancha said...

Hi, thanks for you visit to my blog.

A Jacksonian said...

It has been ages since I have done any comparitive mythology! Did my best to get a good thumbnail of Hindu texts, which are mainly abridged works when I was in university as the full texts... well, I was not going to be a scholar of it, let me put it that way. A definite lifetime of learning there. My main interests, due to cultural background have always been in the Nordic mythos, broadly speaking, although the Lapp culture is distincly different from its Germanic neighbors. But the basic Campbellian route and reading what I could get my hands on and then doing the thematic crossing of story archetypes proved to be vastly interesting, even if my knowledge is broad, but thin.

I don't post much on that, quite truthfully, as I am not a scholar, just an interested student of those conceptual views and how they show up again and again. One of those was flood myths although I did restrict that to some of the Native American cultures because of my background in geology and the happenings of the last glacial period. Similarly my look at giants was sparked by a television program and I was watching it while basically between the Waking and the Dreaming and the description of the Nordic Gods and Ymir suddenly crystallized...

I thank you for visiting my place and your article here stirred fond memories for me, and much thanks for that!

葬月 said...

That's cool!~

Jacob Rogers said...

A wonderful read, glad I stumbled on it.

There is little wonder about why there are similarities between these mythologies because it is believed that both of these cultures stem from a group of people called the "Indo-Europeans". The similarities you've pointed to can be found in cultures all the way from India all way over to Scotland. It's no coincidence that both the Indians and the Celts had a priest class, the Druids and the Brahmin respectively.

┅☆伈随风飞 said...

Like your blog learning

AM I A HINDU? said...

You are 100% right in writing There are many other similarities between the various mythologies in the world.

1 For example, one can read the story of Noah's Arc with Hindu story of Manu Sage Manu also made a ship as per orders of God.

2. There are similarities with the statements of Jesus with statements of Lord Krishna. JESUS became CHRIST. JADAVA became KRISHNA. Jesus was a shepherd. Krishna was a cowherd.

2 Similarly, JOHN 1:1 [70 AD] has similarity with a Hindu Vedas verse [ at least 5000 BC]

"Prajapathi Vai Agre Aseet"
In the beginning was Prajapati, The Brahman, The God

"Tasya Vag dvitiya Aseet" with whom was the word:

"Vag Vai Oarama Brahman" and the word was verily the Supreme Brahman - The God.

John 1:1 states: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God."

kk said...

This is a great article.
News from "Gods Own Country" - Kerala

Tinamtl said...

Myhtology is one of my greatest interests. Loved reading that - I don't know much about the Hindu Gods but I know alot of the greek myths. Also bussism. When buddists go into trances they are able to recognize many different Gods. Sometimes what we think of as a God, is actually a demon. But that's another subject ;0)

xakshatx said...

thnks very much for this information. I am gonna have to write a 5 page essay on this, and this is plenty information. Couldn't find this info anywhere. ty

Anonymous said...

Hello,

Thanksfor your web page, it helped me a lot. Actually the secret for these similarities lies in greek script which have its birth from sanskrit. The greeks just adapted to indian philosophy, i will post the proof for this in few days. There is no influence of Alexander to india.

Paul Singh said...

xlvInteresting article. What led me to this was recent documentary on BBC Radio 4 which discussed Greek Mythology. They mentioned the ages of man, Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age, which are very similiar to the ages, yugas, of Hinduism. In Hinduism these beliefs are still held whereas in the west they have been lost. I personally believe this is a shame as I think there is more to the description of ages, and lifespan, than meets the eye.

Anonymous said...

Ignis is the Greek God of fire.

Agni is the Hindu Deva of fire, and a synonym of fire.

SOUTH ASIA BLOGGER said...

HINDU INFLUENCE ON GREEK PHILOSOPHY
by
Prof. Timothy Lomperis

SOUTH ASIA BLOGGER said...

HINDU INFLUENCE ON GREEK PHILOSOPHY by PROF. TIMOTHY LOMPERIS

jhonny said...

it is really true and awesome. but you forgot to compare between the god of war ares with some one who is a mystery to me till this day . so kindly clarify my doubt . thank u

Anish said...

Actually even I was reading about Indian and Greek mythology..
Really loved the definition of mythology that you gave.
I have read in some places an a likeness between Argus and Indra as both were womanizers.
Also a similarity between Parushuram and Perseus and Tripura and Troy..
Do get back
Anish Mitra
musafirmitra@ gmail .com

meandmythinkingcap said...

This is cool. I am doing some comparaitive mythology posts myself.
Used to be childhood interest of mine.

More comparative mythologies

abdussamadh said...

By the way bro which mythology is older hindu or greek

sm said...

Even I think there is some similarity between Indian myths and Persian Myths. People of Iran still thinks that they are from the Aryans. The name Iran itself came from the name Aryan. People of India, Iran, German , Greek are from the same background. Even if you follow the body structure except the colour you can understand that they are even similar even today. There posture is same.
I may be more interested to know about the Perus, Mayas culture and old myths of India, Greek, Persia. That also may be similar.
All the ancient great kings of the world claim that they are the sons of Sun or they are Suryavansha.

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