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
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
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
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.