Hindu Mythology is based myths and legends found in many Hindu narratives and a single myth can have a number of different versions and 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
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: Samaveda, Atharvaveda, Rigveda and Yajurveda. 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.
There are more than one myths detailing the creation, one being the tale of earth as a cosmic egg in the Rigveda, the other tells of earth and everything else being 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. The wife runs away and hides herself as various animals, he follows, becoming the male of each type of animal and in this way, all animals were created. In the Puranas, Vishnu was the first being and he thought about creation and Brahma came from a lotus out of Vishnu’s navel. The universe was then said to be created by Brahma, Vishnu keeps it preserved and Shiva (Maheshvara) destroys it again, beginning the cycle anew.
In Hinduism there are 14 worlds, there are 7 heavens (upper worlds) and 7 underworlds. Earth forms the lowest level of the 7 heavens. The 7 higher worlds are bhuloka (Earth), Bhuvarloka, Svarloka, Maharloka, Janarloka, Tapoloka and Satyaloka while the seven underworlds are known as Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala and Patala. When you die, you are judged by Lord Yama or yamaduts and you then go to one of the worlds in an appropriate body. The soul returns to earth and is reborn once it’s time 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
Vishnu was originally a solar deity in the Rigveda but becomes the creator in the Hindu Triad which consists of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. In myths he is the giver of grace and restores righteousness. He is also the protector of life and appears as various avatars on earth: 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).
Shiva is considered a supreme deity and is seen as the god of destruction and is also known as Rudra (the wild god). The myths tell of sacrifices, love and retribution as well as erotic love and the opposite side of the coin, restraint.
Devi is the wife of Shiva, also known as Parvati and embodies power and strength for her partner. She is also known as the mother goddess or Mahadevi and is considered equal to Shiva. In some myths she is the buffalo demon Mahisha who destroys evil when she is in her aggressive form known as Durga. She is also portrayed as Chumunda or Kali who prevents the demon Raktabija from creating more demons from drops of blood.
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’ and 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.This new section is being constructed.