In the Study of Comparative religion, Iconography and Literary Records play a major part. Taking recourse to these sources this book presents a detailed analysis of ancient Religion, especially of the concept of gods among the primitive people in Asia and Europe. The author has traced a general affinity between the inhabitants of the ancient world in regard to the construction of idols of deities and the observance of customs of their worship.
The book contains thirteen illustrations of gods and goddesses. Among these, the Indian Ganega is a deity of auspiciousness. His resemblance in titles and attributes, in shape and dimension with the old Italian deity Ganus is remarkable. Saturn is the god of time with the traditional history derived from the Indian, Greek and Latin sources. The ten incarnations (Avataras) are traced to their origin and depicted along with their anecdotes. Then comes Manu, the ancient law-giver—the Saturn of Italy. Indra the lord of deities is identified with Jupiter.
The book describes trinity represented by Brahma, Visnu and Siva; Laksmi the goddess of wealth and the consort of Visnu; Kubera the lord of riches; Varuna the god of waters; Parvati the daughter of the mountain-god comparable to the Olympian Juno; Karttikeya the Orus of Egypt or the Mars of Italy; Kama the god of generation; Ganga the sacred river; Rama the Dionysos; Krsna, the Apollo of Greece; Narada, the Hermes or Mercury. Scores of identifications present a full glimpse of the old-world divinities as sculptured in different lands or described in different literatures.
The book is very interesting and informative. It is designed to meet the immediate requirements of the research scholar, and the general reader. For their benefit, it is accompanied by a critical Introduction and Glossarial Index.
Prof. Pushpendra Kumar, Retired as Head of the Department of Sanskrit, Delhi University, Delhi, in the year 2001.
First class first and Gold Medalist in M.A. (Sanskrit), Delhi University, Delhi, 1958. Ph.D. on Shakti Cult in the Puranas (Published) 1967 from Delhi University. Common-wealth Scholar and Post-doctoral fellow, London University, London 1970-72, worked on Tara Cult.
Visited many European Countries viz. France, Italy, West Germany, Austria, Holland, Switzerland and Nepal for higher studies and lectures. Principal, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Delhi, 1972-74. Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland since 1970.
Author of 45 books and 60 articles.
General editor: on various topics of the Purana-Vidya Series, Chief Investigator-U.G.C.; Major Research Project. Published A Descriptive Catalogue of Sanskrit Inscriptions published in seven vols Hindu Dharma-shastra in 6 vols. Received Delhi Sanskrit Akademi Award 1997.
In the year 2000, he was honored by the Mahamahim President of India by the certificate of Honor for the scholarship of Sanskrit and excellence. In the year 1999. Honored by the Sampurananda Sanskrit University Varanasi, for his excellence in Sanskrit and received many other awards. Specialization in the Puranas, Epigraphy and Sanskrit Kavya-shastras.
The following study relates to the concept of deities in ancient world. The sources of the concept are traceable in ancient literature, painting or sculpture, which reveal that the primitive people, all over the world, were idolatrous in faith. This is curious to observe that, though separated by distance of time and space, the different nations produced idols of similar form and similar dimensions accompanied by similar form of worship. The striking affinity suggests the probability of a common home, a common culture, if not a common race of these idolatrous people who left their original home for some unknown reason and spread over different parts of the world. Idolatry must have been very popular among these people, or we would not have found thousands of altars, temples or other sacred places dedicated to the idols of gods.
The causes of resemblance are hard to define but scholars have taken pains to find out at last in their opinion, a way to explain them. Explanations are as fanciful as the concept itself, for, they are associated with the poet's fancy which fabricates myriads of tales about persons created out of 'airy nothing', the purpose of creation being just to personify an abstract or a metaphysical idea and give it a human habitation and a name.
As an illustration of the foregoing statement : Maya (illusion) is conceived to be the mother of universe; Kama (love) is held as the son of Maya. Maya and Kama are thus personified or rather deified. Again, wild admiration of the people for heavenly bodies, elements and powers of nature has turned the phenomenal into the spiritual entity i.e. subject for peoples' veneration or worship. For instance, a Vedic poet hails the approach of dawn as the goddess of celebrity. She is personified as a mother who delights her child by her sight or a goddess who receives the devotee's worship with her pleasant smile. The poet is swayed by wonder at her sight and out of devotion sings songs of her praise. In the same category can be placed the worship of Sun among Indians and Iranians, as well as inventions of minor deities such as Moon, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Saturn and the deification has given us a number of incarnations of the Suprem, (God, the principal incarnations being ten in number. The first three are : Fish, Boar, Tortoise, (Matsya, Varaha, Kurma). The Fish, the symbol of benevolence and protection preserves the pious Manu and his family from inundation which destroys the wicked men on earth. Islam and Christianity have dropped the legend of Fish and its protection to Manu but they have retained the episode of Manu (Hazarat Nuh, Noah, Nodha), and his Arc (the boat). The event of Flood is common to the Vedas, Koran and Bible.
The second incarnation of Visnu the supreme god is in the form of a boar. As the symbol of strength, the boar is deified and worshipped in different parts of India. His awe-inspiring images are installed in temples, altars, at main gates of holy centres. The boar, though very ugly to look at, is sanctified by man's devotion. Though for different reasons, Islam prohibits the slaughter of boar or feeding upon its flesh. The causes of veneration are not far to seek. As the Puranas record the supreme deity Visnu incarnated in the form of al boar, drew up and supported on his tusks the earth which had been sunk beneath the sea.
The third incarnation of the supreme god was in the form of a tortoise who sustained the globe which had been convulsed by the violent assaults of demons while the gods churned the ocean with the mountain Mandara.
The fourth incarnation was in the form of a man-lion (Nrsimha) issuing from a bursting column of a marble to devour a monarch, who would have slain his religious son Prahlada.
Puranic literature is full of such anecdotes which modern scholarship has denounced as myths.
But most of the deities, shorn of poetic exaggeration of their valour, might have been historical personages. They are depicted as overthrowing tyrants, establishing peace and harmony in the otherwise chaotic and bewildered world. Thus we read in the Puranic lore : the supreme being in the form of a dwarf (Vamana) overthrew Bali; in the form of Parasurama slew Sahasrarjuna Karttavirya; in the form of Rama, son of Dagratha killed Ravana; in the form of Krsna, son of Vasudeva, the foster son of Nanda the cowherd, thinned the world of unjust and impious men; in the form of Buddha the ninth incarnation, reformed doctrines contained in the Vedas and practiced by their followers; in the form of Kalki, the tenth incarnation, yet to come, mountained on the white horse with a sword blazing like a comet, will slay all offenders who will be then on earth.
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