Hindu Mythology is based myths, stories and legends found in many Hindu narratives.
A single myth can have a number of different versions. While some may have some historical meaning, others are symbolic or have a deeper meaning and can be interpreted in various ways.
Myths and legends
First of all, Hindu mythology is believed to have come from the ancient Vedic religion originally. The Vedic myths and Hindu beliefs are indelibly linked.
The Vedas are:
Many of the myths are found in the Sanskrit epics as well as the Puranas.
These myths and legends tell the stories of the various Hindu gods. the origin of the world, the adventures of various heroes, heroines, gods and goddesses as well as some mythological beasts.
- One being the tale of earth as a cosmic egg in the Rigveda.
- The other tells of earth and everything else made from the mangled limbs of Purusha. Who had been sacrificed by the gods as was a non-natural man.
- In a third story, the god Vishnu jumps in to the cosmic waters in the shape of a boar and brings forth the earth. In the Shatapatha Brahmana, Prajapati, the first father was all alone. He split himself in to 2 persons, a male and a female.
In Hinduism there are 14 worlds:
- There are 7 heavens (upper worlds). Earth forms the lowest level of the 7 heavens.
- And 7 underworlds.
The 7 higher worlds are:
- Bhuloka (Earth),
- and Satyaloka
While the seven underworlds are known as:
- Rasatala and
When you die, you are judged by Lord Yama or yamaduts. Then you go to one of the worlds in an appropriate body. The soul returns to earth and is reborn once it’s time. It is done in that specific world to repeat the cycle until you have reached a state of supreme salvation and can enter in to swarga (uppermost heaven).
The main gods
- Matsya (the fish),
- Kurma (the tortoise),
- Varaha (the boar),
- Vamana (the dwarf),
- Narasimha (half man half lion),
- Kalki (on a horse, ends time),
- Rama (lovely moon),
- Krishna (god of compassion and love),
- Balarama (god related to farming),
- Parashurama (god of retribution and equilibrium).
Other gods of importance (Devatas)
Besides the gods Vishnu, Durga (Devi) and Shiva, there were many other gods also worshiped. Brahma was fairly important in the late Vedic periods.
Thirty three other gods (the Tridasha) made up of 12 Adityas, 11 Rudras, 8 Vasus and 2 Ashvins are mentioned in the Rigveda. Some of these devatas were associated with specific functions or elements such as rain, water, death, precious metals, sun, fire, wind and the moon.
Lakshmi is the goddess of blessings and luck and the wife of Vishnu. While Sarasvati is the goddess of music, art and writing and the wife of Brahma.
Ganesh, the elephant god (depicted as a man with the head of an elephant) comes in as the son of the god Shiva and his wife Parvati and he appears in numerous Hindu myths as well as various other religions.
Spirits and demigods
There are main gods and secondary gods that come up in Hindu mythology. But besides these, there are many spirits and demigods that also have their place in the traditional stories.
Some of the ones that come up regularly are:
- the Nagas (snake spirits who are human but have snake tails),
- the Gandharvas (Indra’s heavenly musicians),
- Yakshas (fairy or gnome like spirits),
- Vidyadharas (magicians),
- Rishis (seers/composers),
- Asuras (evil spirits)
- and the Pisachas who haunt the fields of battle.
In the myths there are twelve battles between the Asuras and the gods for control of the three worlds:
- (Martya or earth,
- Patala the underworld
- and Svarga or heaven).
The gods wielded all sorts of weapons such as daggers, swords, spears, bows, clubs and maces. As well as more divine weapons such as thunderbolts, a discus, a trident and magical astras that rain down snakes, set enemies alight, invoke floods and put out flames. Other specialized weaponry includes divine armor, helmets, crowns, jewelry and staffs.
The tale of the flood
A common myth in many religions is the tale of the great flood (deluge) and of a person who is warned that the flood is coming.
In the Hindu myth this is Manu who is protected by Vishnu manifesting as his fish avatar, along with the animals and plants and saves him from drowning in the flood. All humans are said to be descendants of Manu (Manavas).
In Sanskrit Krishna means ‘blue skinned’. He is depicted in most artwork as having a blue tinged skin. The rivers Ganges, Saraswati and Yamuna are all personified in the Hindu myths as goddesses.
In this section are descriptions of Hindu Mythologies and mythological beings described in the encyclopedia.
The following articles are presented: