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.VJ




Ganesa.



Lakshmi.



DURGA.



Sarasvati.



Kartikeya.



HINDU MYTHOLOGY,



VEDIC AND PURANIC.



BY

W. J. WILKINS,

OF THE

LONDON MISSIONARY SOCIETY,
CALCUTTA.



ILLUSTRATED.



CALCUTTA:

THACKER, SPINK & CO., GOVERNMENT PLACE.

Bombay: THACKER & CO., LIMITED.

London : W. THACKER & CO., 87, NEWGATE STREET.

1882.



LONDON :

PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,

STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS.



PREFACE.



On my arrival in India, one of my first inquiries was for some
full and trustworthy account of the mythology of the Hindus ;
but though directed to various works in which some informa-
tion of the kind desired was to be found, I sought in vain for
a complete and systematic work on this subject. Since then
two classical dictionaries of India have been published, one in
Madras and one in London ; but though most useful books of
reference, they do not meet the want that this book is intended
to supply. For some years I have been making notes with the
intention of arranging them in such a way that any one with-
out much labour might gain a good general idea of the names,
character, and actions of the principal gods of Hinduism. It
should be noticed that this work does not profess to contain
new translations of the Hindu Scriptures, nor to give very much
information that is not to be found scattered in many other
books. In a few cases original extracts have been made ; but,
generally speaking, my work has been to collect and arrange
translations ready to hand. It has been my earnest endeavour to
give a fair and impartial account of these deities, as far as possible
in the very words of the sacred books ; such an account as I
should expect an honest-minded Hindu to give of God and His
works from a careful study of the Bible. I have honestly striven
to keep my mind free from prejudice and theological bias, and
wishing to let the sacred books speak for themselves, have re-
frained from commenting on the passages quoted, excepting

a 2



viii Preface.

in cases where some explanation seemed necessary. I have
not selected those texts which describe the darker side only
of the Hindu gods, nor have such been altogether suppressed.
Though I must confess there was much met with that could
not be reproduced, I may assert with confidence that an
honest effort has been made to give a truthful account of the
things commonly believed by millions of our Hindu fellow-
subjects.

In order to render the work more interesting and instructive,
a number of illustrations of the principal deities have been
introduced. Most of them have been copied from pictures drawn
by the Hindus themselves, and which may be seen in the
houses of the people. No attempt has been made to idealise
them ; they are, what they profess to be, faithful representations
of the designs of Hindu artists. For their kindness in making
these drawings from the original highly coloured pictures, I am
very greatly indebted to my friends the Rev. A. J. Bamford,
B.A., and Messrs. H. T. Ottewill and C. A. Andrews, B.A.

By the introduction of a full index it is to be hoped that this
work will serve as a classical dictionary of India ; whilst the
classification of the gods will enable the student to obtain a
general view of Hindu mythology, and of the relation in which
one deity stands to others. And as many legends are given at
some length, the book can hardly fail to be interesting to the
general reader, who may not have time or opportunity to refer
to the sacred writings from which they are taken. .

A word of explanation respecting the classification of the
deities is called for. It will be noticed that some of those
described as belonging to the Vedic Age appear under the same
or other names in the Puranas ; whilst others spoken of as belong-
ing to the Puranic Age have their origin, traceable indeed with
difficulty in some cases, in the Vedas. The Vedic gods are those
whose description is chiefly to be found in the Vedas, and whose
worship was more general in the Vedic Age ; the Puranic are those
who are more fully described in the Puranas, and whose worship
was more general in the Puranic Age. Any very rigid classifica-
tion it would be impossible to make.



Preface.



IX



The following are the principal works from which materials for
this volume have been taken : —

'Original Sanskrit Texts.' 5 vols. J. Muir, D.C.L., LL.D.
London, 1868.

'The Vishnu Purana.' H. H. Wilson. London, 1840.

1 The Ramayana of Valmiki.' R. T. H. Griffiths. Benares,
1870.

' Indian Wisdom.' Monier Williams. London, 1875.

'Ancient and Hindu Mythology.' Col. Kennedy. London,

1831.

'A View of the History, Religion, and Literature of the
Hindus.' Rev. W. Ward. Serampore, 181 8.

' Hindu Pantheon.' Col. Moor.

'Manual of Buddhism.' Rev. R. S. Hardy. London, 1853.

'Classical Dictionary of India.' J. Garrett. Madras, 1871.

' Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology, &c.' John
Dowson. London, 1879.

' Chambers's Cyclopaedia.' Prof. Goldstiicker's Articles.



Calcutta, February 1882.



W. J. w.










V

CONTENTS.



PART I.— THE VEDIC DEITIES.

PAGE

Chap. I.— The Vedas 3

II. — The Vedic Gods generally 7

III.— Dyaus and Prithivi IO

IV. — Aditi and the Adityas 14

V.— Agni 18

VI.— Sun or Light Deities—

1. Surya 25

2. PUSHAN 3°

3. MlTRA AND VARUNA 31

4. The Asvins 37

5. USHAS • • .40

VII.— The Storm Deities—

1. Indra 45

2. Indrani 53

3. Parjanya 54

4. Vayu 55

5. The Maruts 57

VIII.— Soma 59

IX.— TVASTRI OR VlSVAKARMA 64

X.— Yama 67



J>



JJ



?>



PART II.— THE PURANIC DEITIES.

Chap. I.— The Puranas 77

II. — Brahma 80

III.— Brahma 84

Sarasvati 91



53



Xll



Contents.



PAGE



Chap. IV.



>>



V.-



-Vishnu

Lakshmi

-The Incarnations or Avataras of Vishnu-
i. The Matsya or Fish Avatara
2. The Kurma or Tortoise Avatara.
The Varahar or Boar Avatara
The Nrisingha or Man-Lion Avatara
The Vamana or Dwarf Avatara .
The Parasurama Avatara
The Rama Chandra Avatara
The Krishna Avatara
8a. The Balarama Avatara
9. The Buddha Avatara
The Kalki Avatara
Jagannath
Chaitanya.
Kamadeva



J-

4.
5.

6.

7-
8.



10.



»



V



»



?J



1J



VI.— Siva .

Panchanana
VII.— Uma .

Parvati .

DURGA

The chief Forms of Durga

1. Durga .

2. Dasabhuja

SlNGHAVAilNI.

Mahishamardini .
Jagaddhatri .
Kali

muktakesi
Tara

Chinnamustaka
Jagadgauri .
Pratyangira .
Annapurna
Ganesajanani
Krishnakrora
VIII.— Sons of Siva and Parvati—

1. Ganesa

2. Kartikeya
IX.— The Puranic Account of the Creation

X. — The Puranic Divisions of Time .



3-

4.

5-
6.

7-
8.

9-
10.

11.

12.

13-
14.



Contents.



Xlll



PART III.— THE INFERIOR DEITIES.



Chap. I. — The Divine Rishis —



i,



3-



?>



II.

III.



Bhrigu
pulastya

PULAHA

4. Kratu

5. Angiras

6. Marichi
Atri .
Daksha
Vasishtha
Narada

-KUVERA

-The Demigods
i. sugriva
2. Hanuman
Nala .

NlLA .
SUSHENA



7-

8.

9-

10.



3-
4-
5-



OF THE RAMAYANA-



?)



>>



jj



IV. — The Demigods of the Mahabharata
V. — The Planets —

1. Ravi, or Surya

2. Chandra, or Soma .
Mangala .
Budha
Vrihaspati

6. SUKRA

7. Sani ....

8. Rahu and Ketu
■The Asuras
Jalandhara
-Sacred Animals and Birds

Garuda ....

Jatayus and Sampati .

-Ganga ....



3'
4-
5-



VI



VII.-



VIII.



IX.— Sacred Trees



PAGE
30I

305
306

306

306

307
307
309
315
317
321

326

332
336

339
339
342

360
360
360
360
361
361
362
363
364
367
373
374
379
383
39 T



XIV



Contents.



Chap. X. — Miscellaneous Minor Deities—
i. Shitala

2. Manasa

3. SastI .

4. The Shalgrama

5. The Dhenki

6. Ka? Who?
-Superhuman, though not Divine Beings—

1. Apsarasas, Gandharvas, and Kinnaras

2. Rakshasas



„ XI. — 5



PAGE

394
395
397
397
399
399

401
403



INDEX



405







lUsCISfflf




•■ \iMF




KMim



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.



PAGE



From Moor's t Hindu Pantheon



55



5?



From a native picture



Durga and other Deities. From a native picture {Frontispiece)
Agni.

SURYA.

Varuna.

Indra.

Vayu.

Yama.

Brahma.

Sarasvati.

Vishnu.

Lakshmi.

The Matsya Avatara.

The Kurma Avatara.

The Nrisingha Avatara.

The Vamana Avatara.

The Parasurama Avatara.

The Rama Chandra Avatara.

Ravana.

The Krishna Avatara.

Krishna slaying Bakasura.

Krishna holding up Mount Govard-

dhana.
Radha worshipping Krishna as Kali
Balarama.

Buddha. Drawn from an image in Ceylon by Rev. A. J. Bamford, B. A.
Buddhist Temple and Dagoba at Kelaniya, Ceylon. Original

sketch by Rev. A. J. Bamford. B.A.
Buddha. Draw from an image in Ceylon by Rev. A. J. Bamford, B.A
Kalki. From a native picture

Jagannath.
Kamadeva.



J?



•>•>



55



55



55



55



55



55



55



55



55



55



55



55



55



55



55



55



19

26

32

45
55
67
84
92

99
108

114

120

125

131
136

142

155
166

172

174
177

185
188

189
194
205
208
213



XVI



List of Illustrations.



Siva slaying Kamadeva.

Siva.

Siva Temple at Benares

Har-Hari.

Siva slaying an Asura.

Panchanana.

Siva and Parvati.

Parvati worshipping the Linga



From a native picture



5>



From a photograph .
From a native picture



»



5)



From Moor's ' Hindu Pantheon



»



>>



J5



From Moor's ' Hindu Pantheon '
From a native picture



5J



5J



Dasabhuja. From a native picture

Jagaddhatri. „

Kali.

Kali dancing on Siva.

Annapurna.

Ganesa.

Kartikeya.

Daksha.

SUGRIVA.

Monkeys constructing the Bridge at Lanka.

Hanuman. From Moor's ' Hindu Pantheon '

Arjuna shooting at the Fish. From a native picture

Battle of the Kurus and the Pandavas. „

Garuda. From Moor's ' Hindu Pantheon '

Jatayus. From a native picture

Ganga. „

Shitala. From a native picture

Manasa.

Sasti.

Sacred Trees. Drawn from Nature by the Rev. A. J. Bamford, B. A. : —

Soma- plant

The Tulsi

The Bel .

Banyan Tree .
Fig Tree

The Lotus

The Nim.

Pipal Leaves .



?>



PAGE
214
218
219
229
232
236
242
245
251
257
258
259
265
267
276

309
326

328

333
348
352

374
380

333
394
395
397

60
300

39o
39i
393

400

411
412



The tail-pieces are taken from drawings of Hindu temples and decorations
in the works of RAM Raz, Rajendralala Mitra, FERGUSSON, and
others.



PART I.



THE VEDIC DEITIES.



B



HINDU MYTHOLOGY.



THE VEDIC DEITIES.



CHAPTER I.

THE VEDAS.

BEFORE speaking of the Vedic Deities, it is necessary that
something be said concerning the Vedas themselves, the source
of our information respecting these deities. The root of the
word is vid } " to know :" hence the term Veda signifies knowledge ;
and as at first these books were not written, it signifies know-
ledge that is heard, or orally communicated. The Vedas are
not supposed to be the work of a single person, but it is believed
that they were communicated to a number of Rishis or saints,
who in their turn transmitted them to their disciples.

The instruction contained in these writings is said to have
been breathed forth by God Himself. At other times it is said
to have issued from Him like smoke from fire. Sometimes the
Vedas are said to have sprung from the elements. The accounts
of their origin differ in form, but agree in teaching that they
were the direct gift of God to man ; and hence they are regarded
with the greatest veneration. They are the special property of

B 2



4 The Vedic Deities.

the Brahmans. As early as Manu (700 B.C.) it was regarded as
a most grave offence for a single word of these divinely given
works to be heard by a man of a lower caste.

The Vedas are four in number : of these the Rig-Veda is
probably the oldest, then the Yajur-Veda, then the Sama-Veda,
and last of all the Atharva-Veda. Each of these Vedas consists
of two main parts : a Sanhita, or collection of mantras or hymns ;
and a Brahmana, or ritualistic precept and illustration, which
stands in somewhat the same relation to the Sanhita as the
Talmud to the Law. Attached to each Brahmana is an Upani-
shad, containing secret or mystical doctrine. The Sanhita and
Brahmana are for men generally ; the Upanishads are for the
more philosophical inquirers. Of these Sanhitas, the "Rig- Veda
Sanhita, containing one thousand and seventeen hymns, is the
oldest and most important ; whilst the Atharva-Veda-Sanhita is
generally held to be the most recent, and is perhaps the most
interesting. Moreover, these are the only two Vedic hymn-books
worthy of being called separate original collections ; "* the others
being almost entirely made up of extracts from the Rig- Veda.

The Sanhitas of three of the Vedas are said to have some
peculiarity. " If a mantra is metrical, and intended for loud
recitation, it is called Rich (from rich, praise), whence the name
Rig- Veda ; i.e. the Veda containing such praises. If it is prose
(and then it must be muttered inaudibly), it is called Yajus (yaj,
sacrifice, hence, literally, the means by which sacrifice is effected) ;
therefore Yajur-Veda signifies the Veda containing such Yajus.
And if it is metrical and intended for chanting, it is called
Saman [equal] ; hence Saman Veda means the Veda containing
such Samans. The author of the Mantra, or, as the Hindus
would say, the inspired ' Seer,' who received it from the Deity, is
termed its Rishi ; and the object with which it is concerned is its
devata — a word which generally means a ' deity,' but the mean-
ing of which, in its reference to mantras, must not always be
taken literally, as there are hymns in which not gods or deified
beings, but, for instance, a sacrificial post, weapons, &c, invoked,



* (.



Indian Wisdom,' p. 9.



The Vedas.



are considered as the clevata." * It is generally believed that
the Brahmanas are much more recent than the Sanhitas.

The Veoas have not come down to the present time without
considerable dispute as to the text. As might have been
expected, when this teaching was given orally, discrepancies
arose. One account mentions no less than twenty-one schools
(Sakhas) of the Rig- Veda : another gives five of the Rig- Veda,
forty-two of the Yajur-Veda ; mentions twelve out of a thousand
of the Saman-Veda, and twelve of the Atharva-Veda. And as
each school believed that it possessed the true Veda, it anathe-
matized those who taught and followed any other version. The
Rig- Veda Sanhita that has come down to the present age is that
of one school only, the Sakala ; the Yajur-Veda is that of three
schools ; the Sama-Veda is that of perhaps two, and the Atharva-
Veda of one only.

"The history of the Yajur-Veda differs in so far from that of
the other Vedas, as it is marked by a dissension between its own
schools far more important than the differences which separated
the school of each [of the] other Vedas. It is known by the
distinction between a Yajur-Veda called the Black— and another
called the White — Yajur-Veda. Tradition, especially that of
the Puranas, records a legend to account for it. Vaisampayana,
it says, the disciple of Vyasa, who had received from him the
Yajur-Veda, once having committed an offence, desired his
disciples to assist him in the performance of some expiatory act.
One of these, however, Yajnavalkya, proposed that he should
alone perform the whole rite ; upon which Vaisampayana,
enraged at what he considered to be the arrogance of Yajna-
valkya, uttered a curse on him, the effect of which was that
Yajnavalkya disgorged all the Yajus texts he had learned from
Vaisampayana. The other disciples, having been meanwhile
transformed into partridges {tittiri), picked up these tainted texts
and retained them. Hence these texts are called Taittiriyas.
But Yajnavalkya, olesirous of obtaining Yajus texts, devoutly

* Goldstiicker, art. " Vedas," Chambers's Cyclopaedia.



6



The Vedic Deities,



prayed to the Sun, and had granted to him his wish, — ' to possess
such texts as were not known to his teacher.' " * And thus
there are two Yajur-Vedas to this day ; the Black being con-
sidered the older of the two.

As to the date of the Vedas, there is nothing certainly known.
There is no doubt that they are amongst the oldest literary
productions in the world ; but as to when they were composed
all is conjecture. Colebrooke seems to show from a Vaidick
Calendar, that they must have been written before the 14th
century B.C. Some assign to them a more recent, some a more
ancient date.



Goldstiicker, art. " Vedas," Chambers's Cyclopaedia.




si



i



■ L .J




( 7 )



CHAPTER II.

THE VEUIC GODS GENERALLY.

YASKA (probably the oldest Commentator on the Vedas) gives
the following classification of the Vedic gods : — " There are three
deities, according to the expounders of the Vedas : Agni, whose
place is on the earth ; Vayu or Indra, whose place is in the air ;
and Surya, whose place is in the sky. These deities receive
severally many appellations, in consequence of their greatness
or of the diversity of their functions." * In the Rig- Veda itself
this number is increased to thirty-three : " Agni, the wise god,
lends an ear to his worshippers. God with the ruddy steeds,
who lovest praise, bring hither those three-and-thirty." This is
the number commonly mentioned, though it is by no means
easy to decide which are the thirty-three intended, as the lists
of the gods vary considerably ; whilst in another verse it is said,
that " three hundred, three thousand, thirty-and-nine gods have
worshipped Agni."

These deities are spoken of as immortal, but are not said to
be self-existent beings ; in fact, their parentage in most cases
is given, though the various accounts of their origin do not
agree with each other, as found in different parts of the Vedas.
Agni and Savitri are said to have conferred immortality upon
the gods ; whilst it is taught that Indra obtained this boon by
sacrifice. An interesting account is given in the ' Satapatha
Brahmana ' t of the means by which the gods obtained immor-
tality, and superiority over the Asuras or Demons. All the

* Muir, O. S. T., v. p. S. t Ibid. iv. 54-62.



8' The Vedic Deities.



gods were alike mortal, all were equal in power, all were alike
sons of Prajapati the Creator. Wishing to be immortal, they
offered sacrifices liberally, and practised the severest penance ;
but not until Prajapati had taught them to offer a particular
sacrifice could they become immortal. They followed his
advice, and gained the desired boon. Wishing to become
greater than the Asuras, they became truthful. Previously
they and the Asuras spoke truthfully or falsely as they thought
fit ; but gradually they ceased from lying, whilst the Asuras
became increasingly false : the result was, that the gods after
protracted struggles gained the victory. Of the gods, originally,
all were alike in power, all alike good ; but three of them
desired to be superior to the rest, viz. Agni, Indra, and Surya.
They continued to offer sacrifices for this purpose until it was
accomplished. Originally there was not in Agni the same-
flame as there is now. He desired, " May this flame be in me,"
and offered a sacrifice for the attainment of this blessing, and
obtained it. So Indra increased his energy, and Surya his
brightness.

It will be noticed that each of the gods in turn is regarded by
the worshipper as superior to all the others ; and in the Vedas
this superlative language is employed, and the identical epithets
are given indiscriminately. Professor Max Miiller says :
" When these individual gods are invoked, they are not con-
ceived as limited by the power of others, as superior or inferior
in rank. Each god, to the mind of the supplicants, is as good
as all the gods. He is felt at the time as a real divinity, as
supreme and absolute, in spite of the limitations which, to our
mind, a plurality of gods must entail on every single god. All
the rest disappear for a moment from the vision of the poet, and
he only who is to fulfil their desires stands in full light before
the eyes of the worshippers. ... It would be easy to find, in
the numerous hymns of the Rig- Veda, passages in which almost
every single god is represented as supreme and absolute."

The will of these gods is sovereign ; no mortal can thwart
their designs. They exercise authority over all creatures. In
their hands is the life of mortals. They know the thoughts and



The Vedic Gods generally.



intentions of men ; and whilst they reward their worshippers,
they punish those who neglect them.

Professor Williams says,* " that the deified forces addressed
in the Vedic hymns were probably not represented by images
or idols in the Vedic period, though doubtless the early
worshippers clothed their gods with human forms in their own
imaginations." Professor Max Miillerf speaks more positively :
" The religion of the Veda knows of no idols. The worship of
idols in India is a secondary formation, a later degradation of the
more primitive worship of ideal gods." The guarded language
of Professor Williams seems to be better suited to the facts, as
far as they are known, for Dr. BollensenJ speaks quite as
strongly on the other side. He writes : " From the common
appellation of the gods as divo naras, ' men of the sky,' or
simply naras, ' men,' and from the epithet nripesas, ' having the
form of men,' we may conclude that the Indians did not merely
in imagination assign human forms to their gods, but also
represented them in a sensible manner. Thus a painted image
of Rudra (Rig- Veda, ii. 33, 9) is described 'with strong limbs,
many-formed, awful, brown ; he is painted with shining colours.'
" Still clearer appears the reference to representations in the
form of an image. ' I now pray to the gods of these (Maruts).'
Here it seems that the Maruts are distinguished from their gods,
i.e. ' their images.' " " There is in the oldest language a word,
' Sandris,' which properly denotes ' an image of the gods.'

We shall now proceed to the consideration in detail of the
deities as described in the Vedas.

* ' Indian Wisdom,' p. 15. f ' Chips from a German Workshop,' i. 38.

t Muir, O. S. T., v. 453.




io The Vedic Deities.



CHAPTER III.

DYAUS AND PRITHIVI.

The general opinion respecting Dyaus (Heaven) and Prithivi
(Earth) is that they are amongst the most ancient of the Aryan
deities : hence they are spoken of in the hymns of the Rig- Veda
as the parents of the other gods.* They are described as
" great, wise, and energetic ;" those who " promote righteousness,
and lavish gifts upon their worshippers." And in another place
they are said to have " made all creatures," and through their
favour " immortality is conferred upon their offspring." Not
only are they the creators, but also the preservers of all
creatures ; and are beneficent and kind to all. In other
passages Heaven and Earth are said to have been formed by
Indra, who is declared to transcend them in greatness, whom
they follow " as a chariot follows the horse." They are de-
scribed as bowing down before him ; as trembling with fear on
account of him ; and as being subject to his control. Again
they are said to have been formed by Soma ; and in other
verses other deities are said to have made them. This con-
fusion of thought respecting the origin of these gods led very
naturally to the question being asked in other hymns, " How
have they been produced ? Who of the sages knows ? "

There seems to be considerable ground for the opinion that
Indra gradually superseded Dyaus in the worship of the Hindus
soon after their settlement in India. As the praises of the
newer god were sung, the older one was forgotten ; and in

* Muir, O. S. T., v. 23.



Dyaus and Prithivi. I I

the present day, whilst Dyaus is almost unknown, Indra is
worshipped, though in the Vedas both are called the god of
Heaven. The following statement of Professor Benfey* gives a
natural explanation of this : — " It may be distinctly shown that
Indra took the place of the god of Heaven, who, in the Vedas,
is invoked in the vocative as Dyauspitar (Heaven - father).
This is proved by the fact that this phrase is exactly reflected
in the Latin Jupiter, and the Greek Zeu-pater as a religious
formula, fixed, like many others, before the separation of the
languages. When the Sanskrit people left the common country
(where for them, as well as for other kindred tribes, the brilliant



Online LibraryWilliam Joseph WilkinsHindu mythology, Vedic and Purânic → online text (page 1 of 31)