Death and Destruction in Hindu Mythology

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  • Topic: Puranas, Hinduism, Vishnu
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Death and Destruction in Hindu Mythology

Thomson Muriyadan
F.Y.B.M.M Div: A
Roll no. 38

If one's perception of mythology is that of mystical creatures, gods and demons and boons and curses, then Hindu mythology fits the bill perfectly. A glance at the introduction of any of the books written on the subject could make one dizzy at the sheer number of gods, demons and stories about the world it encompasses. The Hindu view with respect to birth, life and death is very diverse and the myths leave enough room for logical interpretation. An outsider (non-Hindu) would find these myths to be very nonsensical whereas the Hindus are taught from the younger age to interpret these myths in their own personal ways though they continue the accept the larger truth about them.

Death has been one of the strongest reasons why man continues to follow a particular religion. Though one might say a person is always born into a religion and hence, is a believer by this virtue and also might disown religion at sometime of his life, there are a mighty few numbers who keep their stand on being an atheist till death. Death can be viewed as the ultimate truth of life and the most inevitable event in one's journey of life. No religion, accepted in considerable numbers, promises immortality of the body. But religion kicks in to console the believer the immortality of the soul. Many religions consider death to be an event where the soul is liberated from the body and is free of the problems and desires of this world. Every religion gives the faithful a different world view and puts the responsibility of one's death in the hands of one or more supernatural beings who form the basis of each religious theology. In Hinduism, death is not viewed as a great calamity at all. This is because of the prevalence of a concept called samsara (Sanskrit word meaning the bondage of life, death and rebirth). It is the cycle of birth and rebirth or metempsychosis which is dictated by the inexorable law of karman, to which every individual is subject.(Dictionary of Hinduism, Margaret and James Stutley, 1977). Thus, in general, there are three consequences of death- Ascending to Heaven or swarg, descending to hell or narak or interestingly a rebirth onto earth which is a distinct feature of Hindu belief and mythology. This concept of rebirth has been disputed in many other religions like Christianity which doesn't believe in rebirth. The Hindus believe firmly in this theology and hence, some of their religious traditions like marriage is a bond that has to be kept for 7 rebirths and so on.

This abstraction is therefore followed throughout Hindu mythology giving the gods the power to reincarnate themselves and appear in various forms. Human beings are believed to be reborn from many births as animals and formerly as plants. So death in this context acts a link in between successive rebirths. To be reborn, one must die and in what form one will be reborn is decided by the tally of one's karma that includes the good and bad deeds and the state of the soul while dying. If the soul enjoys desires uncontrollably it is reborn as a human being. If it manages to overcome earthly desires, it becomes eligible to see heaven and so on and so forth.

In Hindu mythology, most of the concepts are understood with reference to the actions and consequences of the doings of gods and demons. On doing a detailed study of the mythologies recorded between the time block of 1500 B.C.- 1500 A.D. One will see contrasted ideas of death. On mapping the general ideas we find death to be or to fulfill the following purposes- To be reborn, as a form of punishment, as a religious sacrifice, as a means to liberated oneself, etc.

In Hindu mythologies, death is closely related to time since the Sanskrit word for time, kala, also coincides with name of the god of death who is also known as Yama. Birth and death are normal markers for human or...
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