A Brief Comparison Between Indian and Greek Mythology

Myth: A Brief Comparison Between Indian and Greek Mythology

While all the ancient civilizations come with their own unique legends and myths, Greek mythology has always managed to evoke a special amount of interest. And honestly, how could it not? Greek mythology is made of a set of diverse traditional tales which include various deities and creatures, heroes and villains. The stories and legends are engaging, wholesome, and absolute in nature. However, these legends and myths have been circulating for ages now, and as a result, they are being compared to mythological stories from other cultures.

The Indus Valley civilization flourished in the South Asian region roughly around 3300 BCE. This was the birthplace of Hinduism and is where modern day India is situated. Despite the geographic difference, both the ancient Greek civilization and the Indus Valley civilization were two of the oldest and richest civilizations of all time. However, that is not all they have in common.

Throughout the years, there have been some strange similarities noticed in both the mythological stories, in Indian mythology and Greek mythology. From deities to mythological creatures, to legends and myth, there are some unmistakable similarities which cannot be denied. These instances raise so many questions as to why they are so similar even after belonging to two completely different cultures. Unfortunately, there are only speculations and theories answering this question, and no solid answer.

Greek Deities and Their Indian Counterparts

Greek Deities and Their Indian Counterparts
Greek Deities and Their Indian Counterparts (quora.com)

Both Indian mythology and Greek mythology follow a polytheistic approach. This is why both cultures feature multiple gods and goddesses. There are gods for everything, from love to wealth and good luck, from power to wisdom.

Zeus and Indra

Zeus and Indra
Zeus and Indra (Credit: quora.com)

In Greek Mythology, Zeus is the king of the gods. He is the god of thunder and lightning and is considered to be one of the most powerful warriors of all time.

According to Indian Mythology, Indra is the king of his pantheon. He is the god of rain and thunder and is considered to be one of the best warriors of all time.

Both these gods possess a thunderbolt as a weapon. Both are portrayed as morally grey, polygamous womanizers. Both are also self-centred and jealous in nature. The resemblance is simply uncanny.

Hades and Yama

Hades and Yama
Hades and Yama (Credit: zigverve.com)

According to Greek mythology, Hades is the lord of the underworld. He is portrayed as cold and stern.

In Indian mythology, Yama is the god of death. He is portrayed as the face of Dharma and the bearer of truth.

Both Hades and Yama are in charge of souls in the afterlife. Both are the heads of their versions of the afterlife and dole out punishment for past transgressions.

Hermes and Narada

Hermes and Narada
Hermes and Narada (Credit: zigverve.com)

In Greek mythology, Hermes is the messenger of the gods, who has winged shoes. With the help of these shoes, Hermes acts as a courier who carries news to and from the gods.

According to Indian mythology, Narada is the messenger of the gods who teleports freely anywhere. He is said to gather all the information and pass it to the gods.

In legends, both are portrayed to be shrewd and cunning, and both are known for tricks and misleading people. Both are also one of the only individuals who can freely travel through the divine, as well as the mortal realm.

Eros and Kamadev

Eros and Kamadev
Eros and Kamadev (Credit: zigverve.com)

Eros is the Olympian god of love and the son of Aphrodite, who is the goddess of beauty and love.

Kamadev is the Indian deity of desire and love, and is considered to be the son of lord Vishnu and goddess Lakshmi.

Both Eros and Kamadev are portrayed to be the god of love and are considered to possess a bow and arrow, which they use to make people fall in love.

Persephone and Sita

Persephone and Sita
Persephone and Sita (Credit: greecehighdefinition.com)

Persephone in Greek mythology and Sita in Indian mythology, were both abducted against their wishes. Persephone was abducted by Hades, whereas Sita was abducted by Ravana.

Achilles and Karna

Achilles and Karna
Achilles and Karna (Credit: storypick.com)

Achilles and Karna were both demigods and incredibly skilled warriors.

In Indian mythology, Karna had impenetrable armor, which helped him to achieve his invincibility.

According to Greek mythology, Achilles was dipped into the Styx River as an infant, by his mother. As a result, most of his body became invincible where the water touched, except for his heels, because of his mother’s grip on them.

Karna’s armour has been largely compared with that of Achilles’s Styx-coated body.

Hephaestus and Vishwakarma

Hephaestus and Vishwakarma
Hephaestus and Vishwakarma (Credit: detechter.com)

Vishwakarma is quite a modern Hindu god, who is said to have made the weapon of Indra. Similarly, the weapon of Zeus was made by Hephaestus. Both are considered to be the gods of construction and architecture.

Athena and Kali

Athena and Kali
Athena and Kali (Credit: aminoapps.com)

According to legends, both Athena and Kali were born from the forehead of the other gods.

Athena is the goddess of wisdom, courage, civilization, law and justice, strategic warfare, strength, crafts and skill. She is said to have sprung out from Zeus’ forehead after he experienced an enormous headache.

Goddess Kali is said to be born from the forehead of goddess Durga. It is said that whenever goddess Durga responds with such anger, her face darkens and goddess Kali appears outside of her forehead.

Myths and Legends That Seem All Too Familiar

Myths and Legends That Seem All Too Familiar
Myths and Legends That Seem All Too Familiar (Credit: topcount.com)

Greek mythology and Indian mythology are both incredibly rich in terms of myths and legends. There are numerous stories, featuring different characters. However, what cannot be ignored are the striking similarities between the characters and the situations, and the instances that are featured in the stories.

The Holy Trinity

The Holy Trinity
The Holy Trinity (Credit: quora.com)

Both Greek mythology and Indian mythology feature a sort of holy trinity ruling over the cosmos.

In Greek mythology, there are Zeus, the ruler of heaven; Hades, the ruler of the underworld; and Poseidon, the ruler of the seas.

Similarly, in Indian mythology, there are Brahma, the Creator; Vishnu, the Protector, and Shiva, the Destroyer.

The Seven Sisters and Saptarishis

The Seven Sisters and Saptarishis
The Seven Sisters and Saptarishis (Credit: facebook.com)

In Greek mythology, there is a mention of the Seven Sisters, also known as the Pleiades. They are said to be a cluster of stars.

Similarly, in Indian mythology, there is the concept of Sapthrishis, which are seven bright stars that can control even the sun.

Children of God and Human

Children of God and Human
Children of God and Human (Credit: unclekatha.com)

In Greek mythology, the concept of demigods is a popular one. According to the legends, they are said to be the offspring of a god or goddess and a mortal being. In the myths, they are worshiped as heroes. Perseus, Achilles and Hercules are some of the well-known demigods of all time.

There is a similar concept present in Indian mythology. In the legendary Epic of Mahabharata, the Pandavas are said to be fathered by gods but birthed by mortal mothers. According to the legends, Yudhishthira was the son of Yama, Bhima was the son of Vayu, and Arjuna was the son of Indra. Kunti was the mother of all three. Nakula and Sahadeva were twins, born from the divine Ashvini twins and mothered by Madri.

Prophecies That Ensured Fates

Prophecies That Ensured Fates
Prophecies That Ensured Fates (Credit: topcount.com)

In mythology, prophecies are a fairly common instance to occur. However, some prophecies lead to major mythological events.

One such prophecy is mentioned in Greek mythology. It is said that there was a prophecy that one of Cronus’ children would be the end of his rule. As a result of the prophecy, Cronus began to kill all his children by swallowing them as soon as they were born. However, his wife Rhea managed to save Zeus and sent him to grow up in exile. Later on, upon growing up, Zeus returned and overthrew his father and freed his siblings.

In Indian mythology, similar instances occur between lord Krishna and Kansa. According to the legends, there was a prophecy which said that Kansa would be dethroned and killed by the eighth child of his sister Devaki. As a result of the prophecy, Kansa kept his sister and her husband Vasudeva imprisoned and killed each of their children as soon as they were born. However, Devaki and Vasudeva managed to save Krishna and later on, he returned and killed Kansa.

Absences That Caused a Chain of Events

Absences That Caused a Chain of Events
Helen and Sita

There are many similarities and contrasts between the Greek epic Iliad and the Indian epic Ramayana. However, perhaps the most noticeable similarities are the premise of the war and its tragic end.

The Iliad details the course of the Trojan War and its end. A similar thing is seen in the Ramayana, as it explains the events of the War between lord Rama and demon king Ravana.

Both the stories feature a woman as the cause of the brutal war. The only contrast here is that in the Iliad, Helen fell in love with Paris and eloped, whereas in the Ramayana, Sita was abducted by Ravana.

After the war, both the epics end on a tragic note, as the victors were not happy despite having won. In the Iliad, the epic ends with the city of Troy being completely destroyed along with the love between Helen and Paris. In the Ramayana, Sita was sent to exile and asked to walk on fire to prove her purity. The epic ends with her being consumed by the earth itself.

The Tragic End of the Almighty Hero

The Tragic End of the Almighty Hero
Achilles and Lord Krishna (Credit: hindufaqs.com)

In Greek mythology, Achilles was arguably one of the most skilled warriors and a respected hero of all time. He was said to be invincible, as he had impenetrable armour and was incredibly skilled in all kinds of warfare. However, he had only one vulnerable body part, his heels, that were used against him. Achilles was killed by an arrow piercing his heel.

A similar instance appears in Indian mythology with lord Krishna. He was the reincarnation of lord Vishnu and was practically a god in the mortal realm with supernatural powers. However, he was also killed by an arrow piercing through his heel.

Locations Which Are Weirdly Alike

Locations Which Are Weirdly Alike
Locations Which Are Weirdly Alike (Credit: pparihar.com)

Both in Greek mythology and in Indian mythology, there are several locations mentioned which seem vaguely but strangely similar. These locations are generally mentioned in legends and myths and are very specific.

Vaitarani and Styx – River That Separates Two Worlds

Styx – River That Separates Two Worlds
Styx – River That Separates Two Worlds (Credit: detechter.com)

Both in Greek mythology and in Indian mythology, there are mentions of special rivers that separate the mortal world from the spirit world. In Greek mythology, the river is called Styx and in Indian mythology, it is called Vaitarani. In both cultures, the Milky Way is seen as regarded as the river.

Mount Kailash and Mount Olympus – The Residence of Gods

Mount Kailash - The Residence of Gods
Mount Kailash – The Residence of Gods (Credit: kailash-mansarovaryatra.in)

Mount Kailash and Mount Olympus are both real mountains with deep religious significance in Indian and Greek mythology, respectively. Mount Kailash is the home of lord Shiva and goddess Parvati. Mount Olympus, on the other hand, is the home of the twelve Olympian gods.

Atlantis and Dwarka – The Lost Cities

Atlantis - The Lost City
Atlantis – The Lost City (Credit: intelligentliving.co)

In Greek mythology, Atlantis is a legendary island. According to legends, after a failed attempt to invade Athens, Atlantis sank into the ocean. In Hindu Mythology, Dwarka, a city built by Vishwakarma on the order of Lord Krishna, suffered a similar fate of submersion into the sea after a war among the Yadavas, the descendants of Lord Krishna.

Mythological Creatures That Look Suspiciously Similar

Mythological Creatures That Look Suspiciously Similar
Greek Mythological Creatures (Credit: quora)

There are countless mythological creatures in both mythologies. Some of them are good, but some are downright evil. Most of the Greek mythological creatures are huge and one of a kind. However, there are some creatures which bear quite a resemblance to Indian mythological creatures.

Cerberus and Sharvara

Cerberus
Cerberus (Credit: quora.com)

In Greek mythology, the gates of hell are said to be guarded by the hell hound pet of Hades. It is called Cerberus.

Similarly, Sharvara was Yama’s dog, who was the guard of the gates of the underworld.

Icarus & Daedalus and Jatayu & Sampati

Icarus & Daedalus and Jatayu & Sampati
Icarus & Daedalus and Jatayu & Sampati (Credit: kooapp.com)

In Greek mythology, Daedalus was a skilled craftsman and was held captive in a tower with his son, Icarus. In order to escape, Daedalus created wings for himself and his son using feathers and wax. During their flight towards freedom, Daedalus warned his son to not go too close to the sun for the fear of the wax in his wings melting. But Icarus soared high above the skies and went so close to the sun that his wings melted off and he died.

This story is somewhat parallel to the story of Jatayu and Sampati in Indian mythology. Unlike the Greek tale, the story of Jatayu and Sampati is one of fraternal affection. According to the legend, Jatayu, blinded by his pride of power, reached so close to the sun that his wings were about to be destroyed. However, he was saved by his brother Sampati, who decided to spread his own wings in order to shield his brother. In the process, Sampati lost his own wings and spent the rest of his life without them.

Minotaur and Mahishasura

Mahishasura
Mahishasura (Credit: evangelist2209.artstation.com)

In Greek mythology, the Minotaur was a monster with the body of a man and the head and tail of a bull. It was said to be the offspring of the Cretan Queen Pasiphae and a majestic bull. The Minotaur used to live in a Labyrinth, receiving annual offerings from youths and maidens to eat. He was eventually killed by the Athenian hero Thesus.

A similar looking creature is found in Indian mythology named Mahishasura. According to legends, Mahishasura was a buffalo demon who pursued his evil ways by shape shifting into the form of a buffalo. He was ultimately killed by goddess Durga.

Nymphs and Apsaras

Apsaras
Apsaras (Credit: pinterest.com)

Nymphs in Greek mythology were described to be inferior female divinities. They were considered to be symbols of beauty and femininity, which is established by the number of gods and men that fall in love with them on sight or have love affairs with them. They were not immortal but were extremely long-lived.

Apsaras in Indian mythology were described to be celestial singers and dancers who used to inhabit the heaven of the god Indra. It is said that the apsaras used to provide sensual pleasure for both gods and men.

But Why Are They So Similar?

Proto-Indo-European Migration
Proto-Indo-European Migration Map (Credit: quora.com)

There are many hypotheses as to why there are so many similarities between Greek and Indian mythologies. The most believed one, however, is the belief that it is because both cultures have a common origin. According to this hypothesis, both Greek and Indian culture emerged from a prehistoric religion, which is the Proto-Indo-European religion. It is hypothesized that these people migrated to all different directions, which resulted in forming the proto-people groups of many of the modern day ethnicities. These groups can be divided into people groups, such as Iranian, Germanic, Indo-Aryans, Greek and several others. As they kept migrating, and mingling with other groups, they also kept spreading their languages and culture, taking them everywhere they went. When the Indo-Aryans eventually arrived in the Indian subcontinent, and mixed with the pre-existing people of the region, it resulted in the birth of modern-day Indians. In the process, their religion also got fused with the native folk religions of the time, which evolved into the Hinduism that is known today.

The same happened with Greek culture, where a group of people migrated to the modern day area of Greece. They also got mixed with native hunter gatherers of the time. As a result, they formed the modern day people of Greece, and created Greece’s pantheon.

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