An array of Hindu Gods from Hindu Mythology

Fascinating Tales And Legendary Creatures in Hindu Mythology

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world, with millions of followers all over the world. For well over 3,000 years, Hinduism through its mythology has been accumulating the sacred stories and heroic epics that make up the mythology of Hinduism. Whereas nothing in this complex and colourful Hindu mythology changes, the basis of beliefs remains the same. It is pulsing with creation, destruction, love, and war, which shifts and changes. Most Hinduism myths occur in several different versions. Moreover, religion has many characters with multiple roles, identities, and histories. This seeming confusion reflects the richness of a mythology that has expanded and taken on new meanings over the centuries.

The Hindu religion is the oldest religion whose origin dates back to prehistoric times. Specifically, around 5000 to 10,000 BC. So, it is no wonder that many of the myths, beliefs, and mythologies surrounding the religion are just as old. In fact, given this timeline, many of these mythologies may have gone through a number of retellings over the years. Hindu mythology has a rich history, enigmatic characters, resounding stories. As well as a surprisingly innate association with modern science. There are also cyclical periods of time that repeat themselves after a certain interval. You must have heard about the epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, as the former is the longest known epic in history.

Origin of Hindu Mythology

Hindu Scripture
Hindu Scripture/ Photo: Mytheencyclopedia

Around 1700 b.c., people from the northwest of India began migrating to India. Specifically, they are called Aryans or Indo-Europeans. They brought a mythic tradition that became the basis of an early form of Hindu mythology. Over the years, as the Aryans mingled with the peoples and cultures of the Indian subcontinent, mythology grew increasingly complex.

Hindu mythology has gone through various stages, which has a link to the most important texts surviving from each period. The earliest stage has an association with the Vedas, the oldest Indian document. One of the associations with Hindu mythology, the Rig-Veda, is a collection of 1,028 hymns of praise and prayers to the gods with references to myths. The Vedas have a basis in ancient Aryan traditions. These traditions in Hindu Mythology have an oral form of communication.

Consequently, there are certain key beliefs in Hinduism mythology that form the background against which the myths unfold. One of these is the idea of reincarnation, sometimes called the transmigration of souls. In Hindu mythology belief, each soul experiences many, many lives. After the death of one body or incarnation, the soul is born again into a new living body. Even the gods can have a human form of reincarnation.

Hindu Mythological Stories

Hindu Gods and Goddesses
Hindu Gods and Goddesses/ Photo: Outlook India

The Dedication of Ekalavya

Ekalavya was a young boy living with his tribe, deep in the forest. His aim in life was to become the finest archer the world had ever seen. However, when he asked to become Drona’s student, he was refused, due to the low status of his birth. Despite this, Ekalavya created a statue of Drona and practised archery before it, until he became incredibly skilled. However, when Drona encountered him and learned of his accomplishments, he was afraid that a tribal boy would surpass his best student, Arjuna. He demanded that Ekalavya sacrifice his own right thumb as payment for learning under his name. Without questioning Drona, Ekalavya immediately cut off his right thumb and gave it to him, and was, therefore, unable to become the best archer in the world.

The Devotion of Surdas

Surdas was one of the greatest devotees of Lord Krishna. He loved Krishna so much that he wrote over a lakh of devotional songs in his honour. Surdas was a blind man, according to the story, who once took away Radha’s anklet when she was following him. When asked to return it, he refused, stating that he could not confirm her identity as he was blind. At this point, Krishna blessed him with sight, after which Surdas begged Krishna to take his sight away again. When asked why, he said that he had seen Krishna, and there was nothing else he wanted to see again.

The Courage of Abhimanyu

Abhimanyu was one of the greatest warriors in the Kurukshetra War. While his mother, Subhadra, was pregnant with him, his father, Arjuna, narrated the Chakravyuha battle formation technique to her. Abhimanyu learnt the entire technique from the womb but fell asleep right before Arjuna revealed how to escape the formation. During the war, Abhimanyu was trapped inside the Chakravyuha created by the Kaurava army. Even though he didn’t learn how to escape, he gave up his life fighting for his parents and family.

The Integrity of Rama

Everyone knows of the Ramayana, the epic which chronicles the stories of the sixth incarnation of Mahavishnu, Lord Rama. In the Ramayana, Rama is forced to leave his kingdom and go into exile with his brother, Lakshmana, and his wife, Sita. Near the end of his exile, Ravana, the king of Lanka, kidnaps his wife and holds her hostage. Facing all the terrible odds, Rama manages to fight Ravana and his enormous army, and defeat them, rescuing his wife.

The Strength of Durga

When the asura-king Mahishasura defeats Indra, the king of the gods, and takes his place in heaven, the great goddess Durga is created from the divine energies of all the gods combined. She then takes on Mahishasura, the Buffalo Demon, and defeats him and his entire army, saving the world.

The Faith of Prahlada

Prahlada, the son of the demon Hiranyakashipu, was a great Vishnu devotee. However, his arrogant father hated Vishnu, as he considered himself to be the one true God, due to the boon he had received from Lord Brahma. He tries to kill Prahlada by many methods, but each time Vishnu is Prahlada’s saviour. After Hiranyakashipu’s last attempt on Prahlada’s life, he gets killed by Narasimha, the man-lion incarnation of Vishnu.

The Focus of Arjuna

When the Pandavas were young, they trained under Drona, the master of combat. Drona wanted to test his pupils, so he stuck a toy bird in a tree and asked all of them to aim their bows at its eye. When he asked them what they could see, the Pandavas gave different answers, such as the bird, the leaves, the tree, and so on, and missed. Only Arjuna, without missing a beat, said he could see nothing more than the eye of the bird. Pleased, Drona asked Arjuna to shoot. Arjuna’s arrow pierced the bird’s eye perfectly.

The Strength of Sita

Later, Rama and Sita return to Ayodhya, as king and queen, beginning a prosperous rule. However, rumours began to spread about Sita, who had lived with another man, Ravana (even though it was against her will). To control these rumours and ensure the continued faith of his subjects, Rama banished Sita to the forest, where she stayed with Valmiki. Here, she gave birth to twin boys and raised them as a single mother, all by herself.

The Loyalty of Shravana

Shravana was a poor teenage boy, helping his parents on a pilgrimage to all the religious sites in India. As they were old and blind, he was carrying them in two baskets slung over his shoulders. While crossing the forests of Ayodhya, Prince Dasharatha’s wayward arrow hits Shravana and he dies. Even with his dying breath, he begs Dasharatha to carry water to his thirsty parents.

The Patience of Mandodari

Mandodari was the wife of Ravana. While he made misdeeds and cruelties, she spent her days trying her best to convince him to be just and honourable. She even asked him to free Sita, although her advice fell on deaf ears. Till the end, she stayed loyal to her husband.

Hindu Mythological Creatures

Mythologcial Creatures
Mythological Creatures/ Photo: ScoopWhoop

Airavat

The legendary white elephant that served as Indra’s mount

The Hindu mythological creature Airavat was born when Brahma sang seven sacred hymns over the two halves of the eggshell from which Garuda hatched. He is also the reason behind the myth that elephants can bring clouds. According to a legend, when Indra defeated Vritasur, the demon of drought. Consequently, Airavat reached down to the watery underworld with his trunk and sprayed the water into the clouds. Indra then caused the watery clouds to rain down upon the drought-stricken land.

Nandi

Shiva’s bull, the protector of all the animals, who calmed down the Angry Shiva

The Hindu mythological creature Kamadhenu, the mother of all the cows, starts giving birth to a lot of calves, the milk from all of whom flooded Shiva’s abode. This disturbed his meditation and made him really angry. And he struck the cows with a bolt of fire from his third eye. To calm him down, the gods offered him a magnificent bull, Nandi, the son of Kasyapa and Kamadehnu.

Narasimha

A fierce combination of a lion and a man

The Hindu mythological creature Hiranyakasyipu, the asura king, had a boon from Brahma that made him almost indestructible. He could not die either on earth or in space; or in fire or in water; neither during the day nor at night; neither inside nor outside (of a home); nor by a human, animal or God; neither by an inanimate nor by an animate being.

To kill Hiranyakasyipu, Vishnu took the form of Narasimha (a man-lion form). He came out to kill at twilight (neither day nor night); on the doorsteps of his palace (neither inside nor outside); used his nails to kill (neither animate nor inanimate); put him on his lap before killing (neither earth nor in space). The boon was thus made ineffective.

Sharabha

The cannibalistic bird created to tame Narasimha

After he killed Hiranyakashipu, the Hindu mythological creature Narasimha was still enraged! Lots of efforts were made to calm him down. Prahalada, one of Vishnu’s greatest devotees, was sent by Brahma, and all his efforts went in vain. Frightened, all of the gods went to Shiva for help in calming Vishnu. Shiva then appeared in his most devastating form, Sharabha. It is said to be a giant, frightening, cannibal bird form. Sharabha scratched Narashima with its wings and carried him off into the distance.

Sheshnaag

The serpent with 1000 heads that keeps the earth stable

The Hindu mythological creature Sheshnaag had 1000 brothers who always caused trouble for everyone around them. Tired of living in such bad company, Sheshnaag left his home and went to the Himalayas. He started meditating and observing strict penances for his brothers’ deeds. Impressed by this, Brahma offered him a boon, but Sheshnaag only asked to be a servant of spirituality. So, Brahma asked Sheshnaag to coil around the earth and hold it steady, which he gladly accepted. It is said that when Sheshnaag coils forward, creation happens, and when it coils backwards, the universe ceases to exist.

Kamadhenu

The mother of all cows

The Hindu mythological creature Kamadhenu, also known as Surabhi, is the original mother of all cows. There is a belief that the cow came into being during the churning of the cosmic ocean, and is in presentation to the seven sages by the gods. Every part of the cow’s body has religious symbolism. Its four legs symbolize the four Vedas, and its breasts the four Purusharthas. Its horns symbolize the gods, its face symbolize the sun and the moon, its shoulders symbolize fire. Consequently, there is also a belief that it grants all desires of its owner and hence is also known as the ‘cow of plenty’.

Garuda

The most famous winged beast in Indian mythology

The Hindu mythological creature Garuda and his mother were slaves to the snakes. In order to be free, Garuda had to go to Indra’s kingdom and steal the amrit. So Garuda did exactly that, although he had to battle all of Indra’s might to do this. He and his mother were freed at once.

Vishnu, though, asked him to prevent the snakes from drinking the amrit. Just as the serpents were about to drink the amrit, Garuda asked them to clean up first. When the snakes were away cleaning themselves, Indra attacked Garuda and tried to claim the amrit. Garuda managed to smash Indra’s thunderbolt but couldn’t keep the amrit. However, a few drops of amrit fell on the ground and the snakes licked it. The amrit was so strong that it burnt their tongues. Apparently, that is the reason why snakes have forked tongues.

Conclusion

Indian mythology is definitely a treasure trove of stories. The oldest religion in the world has its jewels in the form of stories and mythological creatures that foretell wonders. Which Hindu mythological tale tickles your fancy? And what Hindu mythological creature enchants your mind? Let me know in the comment section below.

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