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.Rather than one consistent, monolithic structure, it is a range of diverse traditions, developed by different sects, people and philosophical schools, in different regions and at different times, which are not necessarily held by all Hindus to be literal accounts of historical events, but are taken to have deeper, often symbolic, meaning, and which have been given a complex range of interpretations.

Source Edit

The four Vedas, notably the hymns of the Rigveda, contained allusions to many themes.

In the period of Classical Sanskrit, much material is preserved in the Sanskrit epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Besides mythology proper, the voluminous epics also provide a plethora of information about ancient Indian society, philosophy, culture, religion and ways of life.

The Puranas deal with stories that are old and do not appear (or fleetingly appear) in the epics (Puratana is Sanskrit for "ancient", the derivative noun purana means "old story" – "history" to be precise). Puranic texts as preserved, however, mostly post-date the epics, dating to the Early Middle Ages.

The epics themselves are set in different Yugas (epochs) or periods of time. The Ramayana, written by the poet Valmiki, describes the life and times of Lord Rama (the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu) and occurs in the Treta yuga, while the Mahabharatha that describes the life and times of the Pandavas, occurs in the Dwapara yuga, a period associated with Lord Krishna (the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu). In total, there are 4 Yugas. These are the Satya Yuga (or Krita Yuga), the Treta Yuga, the Dvapara Yuga and finally the Kali Yuga. The avatara concept, however, belongs to the puranic times well after the two great epics, though they often refer to pre-epic yugas.

The Bhagavata Purana is probably the most read and popular of the puranas. It chronicles the story of the god Vishnu and his incarnations (Avatars) on earth.

Vedic mythology Edit

Main article: 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, mythology, 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.

Epics Edit

Main article: Hindu Epics

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.

The Deluge Edit

Matsya avatar-7

Matsya Avatar

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 Avatar 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 people of the epics Edit

Hindu mythology is not only about Gods and men, but classifies a host of different kinds of spiritual, celestial, ethereal and earthly beings. Most of the names mentioned in the Hindu mythology are from Sanskrit language, which are based on personal attributes of the character. There are several such examples in the Hindu mythology. So the names may vary in different references and might bear more than one meanings or references.

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 mean sages in Sanskrit). They are Kashyap, Bharadvaja, Atri, Gautama, Jamdagni, Vashista, and Vishvamitra. The other meaning of Saptarishis is constellation of Great Bear (Ursa Major).

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

Worlds Edit

Main article: Loka
The Creation of the Cosmic Ocean and the Elements (detail), folio 3 from the Shiva Purana, c. 1828

The Creation of the Cosmic Ocean and the Elements (detail), folio from the Shiva Purana, c. 1828

Hindu mythology defines fourteen worlds (not to be confused with planets) – seven higher worlds (heavens) and seven lower ones (underworlds). (The earth is considered the lowest of the seven higher worlds.) The higher worlds are the seven vyahrtis, viz. bhu, bhuvas, svar, mahas, janas, tapas, and satya (the world that is ruled by Brahma); and the lower ones (the "seven underworlds" or paatalas) are atala, vitala, sutala, rasaataala, talatala, mahaatala, paatala.

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 a heaven and/or a 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 is born 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, a state of absolute and eternal bliss.

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