Dec 04, 2023
Dec 04, 2023
Hindu Literature, Legends & Mythology
Continued from Previous Page
Unlike other Western or Far East civilizations, the ancient Indian literature, legends and mythology is so vast and rich that it needs altogether a separate piece of writing to do some justice with it. For instance, in the erstwhile old world civilizations, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey as well as Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh are often adjudged as the greatest ever ancient pieces of classical literature by the Western sources, which are basically epic adventures and stories of war, vengeance and love among the feuding gods, adventurous heroes (men), vicious giants and demi-gods, etc. compared to these Western epics, the two Indian classics Sage Valmiki’s Ramayana and Sage Vedvyasa’s Mahabharata alone are many times greater in volume and content encompassing not only the tales of the aforesaid nature but also enormous universal knowledge and wisdom (applicable even today) on the subjects like duties of king and citizens, socio-economics, science, medicine, astronomy, philosophy, spirituality, and so on. Ignoring these facts, the Western historians and scholars of the colonial era had discredited and dismissed this Sanskrit and other Indian languages based knowledge simply categorizing it as mythical and figment of imagination. The author proposes to bust these myths and ill-conceived notions of West too in the following account of the Indian literature, legendary tales any mythology.
Ancient Indian Literature
The majority of the biased western historians and scholars have systematically attempted to discredit and deny relevance of the ancient Indian languages (Sanskrit, Pali, Tamil, etc.) based an incredibly rich collection of literature on Indian culture and religion in the past. The oldest and most prominent among them are the four Vedas namely Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda, and ten principal Upanishads namely Isa Upanishad, Kena Upanishad, Katha Upanishad, Prasna Upanishad, Mundaka Upanishad, Mandukya Upanishad, Taittiriya Upanishad, Aitareya Upanishad, Chandogya Upanishad and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Besides there are nearly 200 minor Upanishads in various disciplines, and a host of other texts like Dharma-Sastras, Brahma-Sutras, Mimamsa, Agamas, Yoga-Sutras, and so on, on a wide ranging subjects including not only the religious and spiritual aspects but also other disciplines like sciences, astrology, yoga, ayurveda, music, dance, architecture, statecraft, social duties and laws, which were continued to be written in the post-Vedic age. These texts are highly valued for the scriptural and variety of knowledge in other fields but are not readily available or known to common Indian owing to various constraints.
Subsequently written, the Indian Puranas and Epics have accounted for the continuous genealogical and chronological history of the ancient Indian sub-continent since the Vedic age. They are a sort of encyclopedic texts of the ancient Indian literature encompassing a wide range of topics including the theology, philosophy and genealogy of gods, heroes, sages and kings of solar and lunar dynasties along with the cosmogony, cosmology, mythology, Manvantaras (cosmic cycle), folk tales, eternal love stories, pilgrimages, temples, medicine, astronomy, mineralogy, grammar, and so on. There are eighteen Mahapuranas namely Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Naradeya Purana, Garuda Purana, Padma Purana, Varaha Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Markandeya Purana, Vayu Purana, Vamana Purana, Brahma Purana, Matsya Purana, Kurma Purana, Linga Purana, Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana and Agni Purana. Of them, the Bhagavata and Vishnu Puranas are among the most ancient and most followed texts, which among many things also attach great significance to the Bhakti-yoga practice. There are a large number of secondary puranic texts too categorized as Upapuranas 9or minor Puranas) comprised of similar historical content. Of them, another, list of eighteen significant Upapuranas has been drawn by scholars describing the legends of the Vedic and post-Vedic age. The other scriptural texts include Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Upavedas, Vedangas, Darshana Shastras, Bhakti texts, etc., mostly composed in the post-Vedic age.
Another great genre of Hindu historical and religious texts is the ancient Indian epics. They deal with similar legendary, mythological and allied subjects including the narratives of ancient sages and kings apart from many other topics as covered under the Puranas. In the category of ancient great epics fall essentially four books namely the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Yogavasishtha and Harivamsa. The first two are most popular not only among the Hindu masses but also well known and acknowledged worldwide. The Ramayana (composer: Sage Valmiki) is based on the life events and allied tales of the legendary King Sri Ramchandra who is even deified and fondly remembered by masses as Maryada Purushottama (most dignified person) owing to the high moral and ethical standards set through his own conduct in personal and public life. The Mahabharata (composer: Vedavyasa) is the largest ever epical Granth (book) on the theme of succession and power tussle among the cousin princes of the contemporary and most powerful Kuru dynasty with all time great versatile and iconic Yogeshwar Krishna as its central character. About two other epics namely Yogavasishtha and Harivamsa: the former is structured as a discourse by Sage Vasistha to Prince Ram in the form of fables and legendary tales about philosophies of life similar to Advaita Vedanta, while the latter focuses on the life of Shree Krishna encompassing a wide range of subjects including the concept of the creation of universe and history of Solar and Lunar dynasties.
These texts had been mostly written in Sanskrit which itself has undergone several structural changes since the Vedic age. As it would have been difficult for the common people to learn or understand lengthy and complex script and high philosophical contents of the Vedas and Upanishads, the ancient visionary sages and scholars continuously endeavoured to make it more simple and user-friendly for the aforesaid category by popularizing the same truth and concepts through fables, legends and mythical stories and narratives. The aim of the Puranas and Epical literature in the post-Vedic era was to spread the essence of Vedas through examples and illustrations to educate and motivate people for the righteous duties and actions in the contemporary society. Thus apart from recording the chronology and genealogy of important dynasties, sages and events, the Puranas were essentially also meant for people who were unable to suo moto read or understand high scriptural philosophies and knowledge of Vedas but could learn the same through illustrations, observations and devotion. In fact, the epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata of the Itihasa (history) category also fall in the same genre with somewhat similar objective. Initially, these texts were mostly written in Sanskrit but later many of them were rewritten and translated in other evolving Indian languages for the universal reach and circulation.
Apart from the foregoing literature on scripture and Itihasa categories, the ancient Hindu literature is also comprised of a rich legacy of variety texts that fall under the nomenclatures of Prakarana Granthas (secular scriptures), Subhashitas, Kavyas, Natakas and Alankaras. The Prakarana Granthas serve as the primers for the spiritual studies and experiences and some representative classical writings of this category are Atma Bodha and Bhaja Govindam. For instance, Atma Bodha is a short Sanskrit text on Advaita Vedanta attributed to Adi Shankara dedicated to the path of self-enlightenment and awareness about the Atman (soul). Similarly, Bhaja Govindam deals with the human attachment and ignorance about the wealth, lust and other worldly diversions as also the path of riddance from these illusions. The Subhashitas are a category of secular literature in Hinduism in the form of stories, instructions and sayings. Bhartrihari’s Satakatraya, Somadeva Bhatta’s Katha-Sarit-Sagara and Kshemendra’s Brihat-Katha-Manjari fall in this category. Then Kavyas are scholarly compositions by several ancient writers in India. The classical examples of Kavyas are Kumara-sambhava, Raghuvamsha and Meghadutam composed by Kalidasa; of these first two are categorized as Mahakavyas. Good illustrations of famous prose Kavyas are Banabhatta’s Kadambari and Harshacharita. Among the best known Natakas (Dramas) are Abhijnana-Shakuntalam written by Kalidasa, Uttara-Rama-Charita by Bhavabhuti and Mudrarakshasa by Visakhadatta. In Sanskrit literature, the Alankaras were the compositions of great eloquence and elegance containing ornamental language both in poetry and prose, and the Kavyaprakasa by Mammata and Rasagangadhara by Jagannatha could be cited amongst the best Alankara Granthas ever written.
In fact, there is a long list of scholars and authors belonging to the ancient India and it is not possible to draw out a complete list of these author and their works/books in a short piece. However, just to illustrate richness of the ancient Sanskrit literature, a few more important authors and their just one representative work for the sake of brevity, is listed here: Bharat Muni (Natyashastra), Bhasa (Svapnavasavadattam), Vishnu Sharma (Panchatantra), Narayan Sharma (Hitopdesha), Vilhana (Vikramankadeva Charita), Dandi (Dashakumaracharita), Ashvaghosa (Sharikaputraprakaran ), Bhavabhuti (Malatimadhava ), Shri Harsha (Ratnavali), Rajashekhara (Baal Ramayana), Krishnamishra (Pravodha Chandradaya ), Vishakhadutta (Mudrarakshasa ), Bhattanarayana (Veni Sanhar), Shudraka (Mudrarakshasa; his real name was Indranigupta), Shaktibhadra (Ashcharya Chudamani), Vatsa Raj (Tripurdah), Damodara Mishra (Mahanataka), Gunadya (Brihatakatha), Vallal Sen (Bhoja Pravanddha), Buddhasvami (Vrihat Katha Sholka Sangraha), Ashvaghosa (Buddha Charita), Kshemendra (Ramayanamanjari), Hemchandra (Kumarpal Charita), Jaydeva (Gitagovinda), Dhoyi (Pavandoot), Vatsyayana (Kamasutra), Bharavi (Kiratarjuniya), Aryabhatta (Aryabhattiya; iconic mathematician), Varahamihira (Surya Siddhanta), Trivikrambhatta (Nalchampu), Narayana (Subhadraharana), etc.
The majority of known and available ancient Hindu literary works are written in Sanskrit language. According to Swami Shivananda of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh, the most of such literature falls into six orthodox and four secular sections. Of this, the orthodox section constitutes the authoritative scriptures of the Hindus while the secular section embodies the later writings in the classical Sanskrit literature. The six orthodox scriptural literatures are Shrutis, Smritis, Puranas, Itihasas, Agamas and Darsanas while the remaining four secular writings are represented by Subhashitas, Kavyas, Natakas and Alankaras; the examples of same are already illustrated in the foregoing paragraphs. As the major parts of northern India remained under Islamic rule for nearly six hundred years followed by the colonial British rule for another almost two hundred years, this invaluable legacy of the Indian culture and religions remained ignored and even repeated attempts were made by many Islamic rulers to discourage and destroy the available manuscripts of Sanskrit and other literature in libraries and Hindu homes. Similarly, the colonial era western scholars and historians promoted McCauley’s education by systematically ignoring and dismissing these writing as sheer imagination and untruth, full of ignorance. In Southern India, almost similar fate was experienced with the many valuable works of the ancient Tamil literature.
Legends and Mythology
In his earlier writings also, the author has referred to the mammoth corpus of the ancient Sanskrit literature comprising of 4 Vedas, 108 or more Upanishads, 6 Shastras, 18 Mahapuranas, 2 great Epics, and a variety of other literature, as also the fact that no other civilization, nationality or language in the world could boasts of such glory. It is also true that while recording the chronology and genealogy of ancient kings, warriors, sages and other heroes, we find that in many cases some interpolations and exaggerations also exist incorporating Adbhut Rasa (supernatural content) thereby giving several living legends a tinge of historic-mythological nature. However, this feature is not unique to Indian ancient Sanskrit literature alone; instead, such occurrences could be frequently noticed not only in the ancient literature but also in the texts of the medieval and modern age across the world.
The available Indian texts (Puranas and Epics) mostly in Sanskrit literature and associated evidences provide fairly continuous and systematic chronological and genealogical history of the ancient India from the Mahabharata era onwards; however, such details prior to the epoch of the Mahabharata war are not as systematic and without gaps. Besides, some interpolations and exaggerations in text probably in later period to incorporate Adbhut Rasa (supernatural content) gives the historical legends a feeling of the historic-mythological legends in many cases. Thus the historical account from the Vedic age to the Gupta dynasty from the traditional sources is not entirely flawless or without gaps but so is the case of, or even worse, the Western concept of adjudicating the history of the Indian civilization with reference to largely undeciphered archaeological remnants of the Indus Valley Civilization and the utterly flawed Aryan Migration Theory.
It is a well known fact that the colonial era Western scholars and historians had dismissed the traditional ancient Indian history as figment of imagination thereby treating the entire chronological and genealogical history of India as part of the Indian mythology. Unfortunately, following the independence in 1947 the leftist historians have dominated the scene with the legacy political patronage for several decades actively endorsing the Western outlook and interpretation of the Indian history completely ignoring the ancient Sanskrit and other Indian languages based historical data and facts. These historians have mostly glorified only the medieval history dominated by the Islamic rulers while the need of the hour was to research and critically examine the ancient Indian past with reference to available evidences such as the chronology and genealogy recorded in the Indian historical texts, and available archaeological and epigraphic evidences, etc.
For instance, while the Dashavtars (ten incarnations) of the god Vishnu and/or various manifested forms of god Shiva could be treated as part of the Indian mythology but the legendary personalities such as the iconic King Sri Ramchandra of the Solar dynasty during the Ramayana age and Yogeshwar Shree Krishna of Yadu dynasty during the Mahabharata age cannot be simply dismissed as mere fictitious characters. Evidences of their existence and tales associated with their life events are available not only in the Indian sub-continent but also in the Southeast Asian countries and other parts of the world. They were such great men who established paradigms of human morality, ethics and righteous duty during their life time so much so that they were deified in due course by the people and their birthdays and associated life events are celebrated by the faithful Hindus everywhere till date. This distinction and associated facts of real Indian legends and mythological events needs to be learnt and acknowledged by every rational and truth-seeking person.
Legendary and Mythological Tales
From the very subtitles namely ‘Legendary’ and ‘Mythological’ tales, it would appear that a distinction exists between the two terms and it is indeed so. Legends are mostly based on characters and events that indeed existed at certain point of time but possibly due to some interpolations and exaggeration of associated facts and events, the real people or events assume a larger than life dimension making it often unbelievable for the people. As against this, a myth is a traditional narrative or tale, mostly concerning certain entity, hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of facts or a natural explanation, often with supernatural elements like deities or demigods or even bizarre creatures like demons and ghosts. In mythical or mythological tales, one often encounters heroes, both men and divine, even in fierce conflicts and wars with the evil forces with the former prevailing upon the latter establishing both corporeal and moral victory for good.
Ancient Indian Puranas and epics provide many tales of both genre as part of their chief narrative or storyline to illustrate the victory of good over the evil or to derive certain moral and ethical lessons. In common parlance, people tend to mix up the meaning of legends and myths and loosely use the same jargon to describe both genre of literature. This practice is not unique to Indian classical literature alone and, instead, it has been abundantly used in the literature of all other ancient civilizations such as Roman, Greek and Sumerian civilizations. The Greek master piece works like Iliad and Odyssey, and Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh are classical examples of this genre. Such occurrences in literary writing have been popular and abundant even in the medieval and modern ages too. For example, the folktales of Arabian Nights, Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp, Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor, etc. from the middle east, Baital Pachisi in Indian sub-continent, and the tales of Luke Skywalker, Batman or Phantom from West fall in the similar category. A few popular Indian legendary characters and mythical tales are briefly discussed here.
1. Legends of Sri Ramchandra
Popularly called Ram or Rama, Sri Ramchandra is a legendary character and an iconic King of the ancient Solar dynasty, who is so often fondly remembered as Maryada Purushottam by the Hindu masses. He was born to Queen Kaushalya and King Dashrath at Ayodhya, who was the ruler of the Kingdom of Kosala. He married Sita and his other famous siblings were Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. According to the traditional Indian historians, he was born in 5,674 BCE during the Ramayana era (the estimated span of 5,677 to 5,577 BCE). The date of his birth is still celebrated by the most Hindu households as Ram Navami. His entire span of life and associated events are documented in the Epic Ramayana originally authored by Sage Valmiki, which also has the honour of being classified as the Adi-Kavya or the first epic poem of the Indian literature. The story of Ramayana covers his birth, growing with parents and brothers, education and marriage, fourteen years exile along with the wife Sita and brother Lakshamana consequent to manipulations by the step-mother, abduction of Sita by the Rakshasa King Ravana, consequent war and destruction of Ravana along with his accomplices, return to Ayodhya and establishment of an ideal reign (Ram-Rajya), and allied characters and events.
Although Ram was born in the most illustrious and powerful royal family of the time, yet he had to face many unexpected challenges since the early stage of life itself which inter alia included exile for fourteen years into impoverished and difficult situations, the pain of abduction of wife Sita and consequent ferocious war with the powerful enemy like King Ravana. In addition, he had to tackle difficult ethical and moral dilemma in life necessitating personal sacrifices such as separation from Sita. The Ramayana deals with the entire life of Ram and his close kin and associates allegorically highlighting ideals of the duties, rights, social and religious responsibilities of a righteous person. The Sage Valmiki’s Ramayana contains approximately twenty-four thousand verses with the story line presenting ideal role-model of a man and woman, their conduct in family, how one should conduct with his elders, superiors, equals, and subordinates, how a ruler should rule, how a man should lead his life in this world, inter alia including spiritual pursuits in life. It is the most venerated work among Hindus and different authors too have attempted hundreds of versions of Ramayana later on. The King Ram was so widely popular and respected among masses that he was deified and worshipped as an incarnation of god Vishnu by Hindus and the tradition continues till now world over among them, especially in the South Asia and Southeast Asian region.
2. Yogeshwar Shree Krishna
Yogeshwara is a Sanskrit word which is used to signify specific virtue or attribute of a person. It’s a compound of two words Yoga and Ishwara, which implies a meaning of the ‘God of Yoga’, a phrase frequently used to describe only Shiva and Krishna in Hinduism. Yogeshwar Krishna is yet another great and iconic king of Dwapara yuga (5577 – 3176 BCE as per Hindu classification of the life span on planet earth), who was born to the royal parents Queen Devaki and King Vasudeva, while under detention in a prison. He was nourished and nurtured by the foster parents Yashoda and Nanda during his childhood in Gokul-Vrindavan near the modern day Mathura because of the threat to his life from the maternal uncle and tyrant King Kamsa. As a grown up teenager, he had to return to Mathura to overthrow and destroy Kamsa rescuing his parents and as savior of common people in the kingdom. Later, he moved on with greater missions in life to establish a separate safe and secure kingdom at Dwarka for his Yadu clan and play a central character and crucial role in the ongoing feud and power struggle of the most powerful Kuru dynasty of Hastinapur and the Mahabharata war (3,162 BCE).
The Mahabharata is the greatest epic ever written in Sanskrit in the world history which contains over one lakh verses. The storyline covers a wide range of events and other subjects with Kuru Dynasty (cousins Pandavas and Kauravas) and Yadu Dynasty (Krishna and Yadava clan) remaining its central theme. Shree Krishna is undisputed hero of the era who supported the Pandavas as they were considered righteous side. Along with the great storyline, the epic also encompasses the essence of Vedas and Upanishads covering aspects of the religion, philosophy, mysticism, polity, and so on through moral teachings, stories and episodes, discourses, sermons, parables and dialogues. The sacred teachings of the Bhagavad Gita are also a part of the same epic in the form of dialogue between Yogeshwar Krishna and delusional prince Arjun in the Kurushetra. He i yet another legendary character who was deified and worshipped by the people as an incarnation of god Vishnu and an iconic symbol of compassion, tenderness, love and protection. His affection and bonding with the childhood friend Radha has been immortalized as the most sublime, eternal and pure love and his birthday is celebrated by the most Hindu households as Krishna-Janmashtami.
With the evidences available in different parts and traditions attached with the aforesaid two iconic personalities, there should be no doubts about the existence and good deeds of the aforesaid two legendary kings of the ancient India. The human nature has been such at all times that the ordinary folks tend to deify the great people and start worshipping them as can be seen in the case of modern age great men like MK Gandhi (alias Mahatma) and BR Ambedkar (alias Babasaheb). In due course, some imaginary and unbelievable events have been interpolated with exaggerations thereby giving their lives a historic-mythical character. For instance in various texts of Ramayana, the evil King Ravana is depicted as having ten heads, clearly an interpolation and exaggeration, which ignorant and common people either believe it or dismiss it as fictitious tale while some scholars and wise people try to explain it linking with Ravana’s deep knowledge of the four Vedas and six Shastras OR his ten negative attributes like Kama (lust), Krodha (anger), Moha (delusion), Lobha (greed), Mada (pride), Maatsyasya (envy), Manas (mind), Buddhi (intellect), Chitta (will) and Ahamkara ( the ego). In the following paragraphs, a few illustrations of mythical tales and fables are also given.
3. Matsyavtar: The Origin of Life
According to Indian mythology, the life on the planet earth has flourished and destroyed several times. In Matsya Purana and some other Hindu texts including Mahabharata, there is mention of a great deluge (The Great Flood), which had nearly wiped out the entire animal and plant life on the earth. The research of the traditional Indian historians has indeed find some clues, according to which a great deluge indeed occurred during the reigns of Vaivasvata Manu’s Kingdom (the present day Saurashtra close to the Girnar hills) around 11,200 BCE which led to huge destruction and loss sans the alleged extinction of the life on whole planet. However, in this context a mythological tale of god Vishnu incarnating as Matysya (Fish) who rescued and saved the minimum representative life (seeds) on planet which has since grown and flourished on the earth. Incidentally, somewhat similar mythical tales about the great deluge and intervention of the God also exist in the ancient literature of the other Old World civilizations such as the tales of Noah’s Ark or Safina Nuh.
The legend goes that one-day righteous King Vaivasvata Manu, a devotee of god Vishnu, found a tiny fish begging him to save it from some other predator fish. Heeding its request, Manu initially put the small fish in a jar, as it rapidly continued to grow, he had to repeatedly change its habitat to larger containers, then to the pond and river, and finally to the ocean. At this juncture, the mega fish revealed its true identity and told the king about the imminent deluge destroying the life on earth. Matsya advised Manu to build a huge ark (boat) to save samples of all medicinal herbs, seeds of plants, animals, and seven legendary sages. Soon the entire earth encountered enormous storm and rains for days and was flooded; Matsya reappeared, directed Manu to fasten the ark to him using the legendary serpent Vasuki as rope. The fish sailed through the turbulent waters for a long time and finally the ark was tied with the highest mountain peak. According to this mythical tale, Manu was selected by Vishnu to restart life because he was the most moral and righteous man left on the earth at the time. When the storms subsided and the water retreated, Manu became the progenitor of life again on the earth.
4. Dashavtars of Vishnu
Several Hindu Puranas such as Garuda, Skanda, Padma, Agni, Narada, and Varaha have described ten incarnations of god Vishnu with minor changes in the list about the identity of the later human forms. Broadly, these incarnations are Matsya (Fish), Kurma (Tortoise), Varaha (Boar), Narsimha (Man-Lion), Vamana (Dwarf), Parasuram, Ram, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki. While Vedas talked about one God (referred to as Brahman) and some natural deities too as His various abstract forms essential for the safety and welfare of living beings. During the post-Vedic age, three key manifested forms of the same unmanifested Brahman were conceptualized as the triad of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva linking them with three core functions of creation, sustenance (preservation) and withdrawal (destruction), respectively. Besides, as the Sustainer god, Vishnu also received maximum devotion and attention of the Sanatana adherents and a large number of associated mythical tales were written in the Puranas, Epics and other secular literature.
The tale of Vishnu’s first incarnation as Matsya is linked with fresh origin of life on earth as narrated in the foregoing tale. The Kurma is referred to as the second incarnation of Vishnu in puranical tales. According to this, when the Devas and Asuras were churning the Ocean of Milk to obtain Amrita (Nectar of immortality), to stop the Mount Mandara from sinking down in the ocean, Vishnu transformed into a huge tortoise to bear the load and support the huge mountain. According to yet another myth, dvarpalakas (gatekeepers) Jaya and Vijaya of Vaikuntha, the abode of Vishnu, were cursed by Sage Sanaka to be born as Asuras as punishment for stopping him at the entrance. Consequently, the two brothers were reborn as powerful Asur brothers Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu. When the former abducted Bhumi (the Earth) and hid her at the bottom of the cosmic ocean, Vishnu incarnated as Varaha to kill Hiranyaksha and rescue Bhumi on his tusks restoring her to original place in the universe. Following this event, he had incarnated yet again for the fourth time as Narsimha (half man – half lion) to save humanity and devotee Prahlad from the persecution of Hiranyakashipu.
Vamana was the fifth incarnation of god Vishnu. In the ancient age, the Devas and Asuras were constantly competing for supremacy which led to constant conflicts and wars among them. Prahlada’s grandson Bali had defeated Indra, the king of Devas, and captured three words driving away devas from heaven. Bali was famous for his charitable causes (Dana); so on Devas’ request, Vishnu approached him as a Vamana and sought three paces of land from him. Once granted, Vishnu as Vamana took giant strides to cover earthly and heavenly realms in two steps but later agreed to restore Bali as the ruler of Pathala (netherworld). The latter incarnations of Vishnu are in human forms. Vishnu incarnated as a warrior Parashuram to avenge injustice done by King Kartavirya Arjuna to his sage father and in the process he is said to have destroyed Kshatriyas twenty-one times on the earth. God Vishnu’s subsequent seventh and eighth incarnations are briefly described as King Ram and King Krishna in the foregoing paragraphs. In some of the Hindu texts, Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, is referred to as the ninth incarnation of Vishnu while some others mention Balram, Krisna’s elder brother, as the ninth incarnation. In several Hindu texts, Kalki is mentioned as the tenth and final incarnation of Vishnu, yet to occur, who is expected to appear towards the end of the Kaliyuga (present age). His attire is described as a brilliant warrior on a white horse with sword drawn in right hand when the Adharma will prevail with the reign of evil, chaos and persecution everywhere.
Fables: Apart from the legendary and mythological tales largely meant for the adult readers, the ancient Indian literature is also very rich in fables which are equally useful and liked by the children and adults as well. For instance, Panchatantra, ascribed to Vishnu Sharma, is one such ancient collection of animal fables in Sanskrit verse and prose, the oldest version of which is supposedly of 200 BCE vintage. It is among the most translated Indian literary works worldwide at least in fifty languages. Most of the popular fables in Europe, Far East and Southeast Asian countries are so often either direct translation or based on the stories of Panchatantra. Most of these stories end deriving morals that the children can imbibe and apply in their own lives. For the sake of illustration and brevity, only one such fable is briefly enumerated here.
5. The Loyal Mongoose
Long ago, there lived a Brahmin and his wife in a village, who were blessed with a son after a long prayer and wait. To give company and provide safety as well, the Brahmin carefully thought about bringing a dependable pet in the household. After considering various options, he finally settled for a mongoose. Although the Brahmin was satisfied and soon both of them started loving the mongoose but his wife somehow remained always suspicious about the pet fearing it might cause harm to their only son. One day, the Brahmin’s wife went to the market for buying vegetables and groceries, and she asked her husband to keep a vigil on child who was peacefully sleeping in the cradle. As the Brahmin fully trusted the mongoose, he too soon went out to seek alms hoping the mongoose will look after the child well during his absence.
After sometime when the Brahmin’s wife returned, she found the mongoose keenly settled at the door with its mouth blood-stained. The wife panicked fearing that the mongoose had killed their child finding him alone in the house. Out of sheer anger, she threw her loaded basket on the mongoose and frantically ran towards the room where she had left the child sleeping in the cradle. To her utter surprise, she found a dead snake on the floor bitten into pieces and the child peacefully still sleeping in the cradle. Now she understood what would have happened in her absence and rushed back to see the mongoose only to find him dead. She cried and wept ajar in remorse that she had killed the loyal mongoose, which was of no avail now. The moral of the fable is that one should never act in haste and that every action should be taken by rational thought. If a person does something without careful consideration, the subsequent consequences could be hazardous and painful.
This piece of writing is the concluding part of this author’s take on the Indian civilization. Among the Old World civilizations, the Indian civilization is the oldest surviving civilization while all others such as Sumerian, Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Persian civilizations were completely lost with the advent and onslaught of the two later Abrahamic religions during the post-Christ age. Be it chronology and genealogy, history of various dynasties and kings, expanse and grandeur of Indian culture and religion, magnitude of literature on material and spiritual sciences, or legendary and mythological tales; the span, volume and magnitude of information in Indian classical literature is such that full justification with it cannot be made in a few pages of writings. However, the author has tried his best to put forth representative content in the aforesaid disciplines in five parts. He would also like to add that the myopic vision of the Indian civilization by the colonial era western scholars and historians in dismissing Sanskrit and other Indian language based knowledge while merely relying on the relics of Indus Valley and Aryan Migration theory, as endorsed by Indian leftist historians patronized by certain political dispensation, can neither be true representative nor acceptable by aware Hindus in New India.
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More by : Dr. Jaipal Singh