A book on Hindu mythology may seem like an anachronism in today’s world of digital communications and space travel. After all, while we explore the far reaches of the outer space, we fail to locate the heaven where our devis and devatas live. One wonders if there is any place for the ancient myths and legends in our lives and if the children growing up with computers will find these tales of the ancient battles of gods and demons interesting. But in fact, myths continue to fascinate both adults and children. They are a record of the creative imagination of a people and the literary heritage of a, country.
The magic of myths is eternal. Even today comic books and television serials telling the stories of Shiva or Krishna are guaranteed to be popular because in addition to being a part of the peop1e’s faith, they are also great stories. These ancient tales continue to enrich our imagination and give our spiritual life both direction and meaning. For Indians, myths are not just relevant, they continue to be a vibrant part of their daily existence.
Myths have something to offer everyone. For children surrounding their grandmothers listening wide-eyed to the adventures of Durga battling the demons, they are fabulous tales. As adults they begin to question and probe, wondering why we worship Vishnu but have forgotten Brahma or seek the hidden meaning behind the myth of a celestial river’s reluctant descent to earth. Because within their layers of magical happenings, myths often carry a kernel of truth, an ethical observation or even an echo of a true historical event. Myths have this intriguing habit of taking the history of a people and wrapping it up in clouds of magic, memory and mystery.
What is amazing about Hindu myths is the way they have remained alive in the minds of the people even today, when in most cultures they have receded into the pages of books. In India our gods and goddesses are living deities, receiving their daily puja at temples and their festivals are still celebrated with fervour. Indians have this ability to live at many levels, devotees holding puja flowers also carry their cell phones into temples, naked sadhus use video cameras at Kumbh Melas, and priests check their digital watches before drawing out astrological charts. There is this acceptance of the many aspects of life and so there is little sense of conflict between the traditional and the modern.
The Hindu world of deities and their myths have been gathered into this book for people who need a compact, easy reference to the complicated, intricate, and at times contradictory world of Hindu mythology. It tries to answer the questions that rise to our minds and also hopefully encourage readers to delve deeper into this living heritage by going back to the original sources in the Vedas and Puranas.
Most of the books written on Hindu myths were either scholarly studies or were aimed at children, where the myths were treated purely as stories. There was a need for a comprehensive study of myths for the lay readers and surprisingly the few I could find had been written over a Century ago. This book is aimed at the readers of today, especially of the post-Independence generations of urban Indians who have grown up with a limited or fragmented knowledge of the myths and want to know more.
So this book not only narrates the myths but also tracks the evolution of Hindu mythology from the pantheon of Vedic deities to the Puranic trinity of Brahma—Vishnu—Shiva and the Devi. It delves into the growth of their powers and studies the rise and fall of the Vedic gods. The book also tries to clarify and organise the maze of myths and legends so that the story of Hindu mythology becomes easier to understand.
Even then, a journey into the world of Hindu myths can be a very confusing one. Our ancient books contain an immense collection of tales, often many versions of the same ones and at times stories that contradict each other. The attributes of the deities change and merge and at times the same ones are claimed by many other gods. For instance, in the Vaishnava myths Vishnu has taken all the roles of creator- preserver-destroyer while the Shaiva myths credit them all to Shiva with Brahma apparently without any powers. Both Indra and Varuna are called king of heaven and both are invoked to give rain. If Indra is the commander of the army of the gods then so is Kartikeya. The difference between Kali, Chamunda and Chandika is hard to comprehend.
So if readers disagree with the version of la story told here it just means their original source is a different one. One cannot create logic and order in ay world that thrives on its myriad, ever changing colours. Similarly scholars may find this book elementary but there is a need for such reader friendly books on aspects of our heritage. This book is a result of the great work done by scholars and all that has been done is that their wisdom and knowledge has been gathered and presented in a more accessible manner, so; that this fascinating heritage of our country can continue to enthrall our minds and spirits, adding colour, magic and a touch of the unexpected into our regimented lives.
About the Book:
This book takes the reader on a journey through the magical and fascinating world of Hindu gods and goddesses and answers the often asked questions about the evolution and myths of these fabulous deities.
Enter the delightful world of the devis and devatas, the 'great shining ones' of the Vedas and the Puranas. In this compact, easy to refer to collection of Hindu mythology discover the myriad myths of the gods from the Vedic Indra, Surya and Agni to the Puranic Vishnu, Shiva, Durga, and Ganesha.
Here are exciting tales of the eternal battle between gods and demons, the churning of the ocean, the romance of celestial maidens and the boons and curses of ancient sages. In this book are collected the best loved myths of all the important deities of the Hindu pantheon. With it there is also the history of the myths, delving into the evolution of deities and the rise and fall of gods. The myths are presented with a selection of the sublime poetry written in praise of the gods and goddesses and information on their festivals.
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