BHAGÎRATHA – King Whose Tapas Brought Ganga

Bhagîratha’s story is part of the myth of the coming to earth of the Gangâ (Ganges). These interlocking stories gave Bhagîratha a great royal lineage, with prior events in that lineage requiring him to do a thousand years of austerities (tapas) in order to ask S´iva for a boon. And all this explained the coming … Read more

BHAGAVAD GÎTÂ – Hindu Mythological Scripture

The Bhagavad Gîtâ (Song of the Lord) is one of the most loved scriptures of India. It is pan-Indian, even though its central character, Arjuna, discovered that the driver of his war chariot, Krishna, was the supreme lord of the universe, Lord Vishnu. If this claim were taken literally and exclusively, the Bhagavad Gîtâ would … Read more

AVATÂRA – Concept of Incarnation, Coming Down of God

The term avatâra is usually associated with divine incarnations, especially the ten incarnations of Vishnu. But there were lists with as many as twenty-six incarnations. The ten avatâras, dashâvatâra (dasha, “ten,” and avatâra, “incarnations”), were Matsya the fish, Kûrma the turtle, Varâha the boar, Narasimha the lion-man, Vâmana the brâhmacâri (second stage of life) dwarf, … Read more

ASVATTHÂMA – Kaurava Commander-in-Chief

Asvatthâma became the commander-in-chief of the Kauravas when their great army had been reduced to three—plus the dying Duryodhana. Those three entered the camp of the Pandavas and slaughtered many heroes and their children. Five young sons of the Pandavas were beheaded and taken back to Duryodhana. Draupadî, wife of the Pandava brothers, wanted revenge, … Read more

AMRITA – Vedic Nectar of Immortality

In the Vedas, amrita was a characteristic or quality of a suitable offering in the fire sacrifices to the gods. Soma (the divine plant) had more amrita than other offerings. Later amrita (or amritam) was a substance produced by the Churning of the Milky Ocean (kshîrâbdhi-mathanam). There were different versions of this myth in the … Read more

History of Hindu Mythology as a Whole

Myths are situated within historical periods. The same myth told in the medieval period of India as it was articulated in the Purânas (a body of scriptures of later Hinduism) may differ from earlier contexts and meanings. For example, Siva has not always been the same supreme deity that he became in some of the … Read more

Hindu Mythology as a Lively Entity

A Hindu does not have to “believe in” the details of the myths. These details are open to variation. In fact, there are often many versions of the same story, and one version may contradict the details of another. A Hindu can participate in the mythic meaning of a tradition simply by identifying with the … Read more