Showing posts with label Mythology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mythology. Show all posts

Monday, November 23, 2015



Yakshi – Female Earth Spirit - Symbol of Fertility

Yakshi is female earth spirits which is considered as a symbol of fertility by the Hindu, Jain and the Buddhist faith and are portrayed as wide-hipped voluptuous women with narrow waists, broad shoulders who caused a tree to bear fruit by simply touching it with her foot.

Here the figure is depicted smartly unified in the form of a column, the centre of which takes the shape of a leafy tree. The yakshi is generally depicted with her upper hands holding a branch of the tree with a graceful pose which is a traditional gesture in sculptures of yakshi. The ashoka tree is closely linked with the Yakshini mythological beings.

Yakshi with her foot on the trunk and her hands holding the branch of anartificial flowering askoka or less often other tree with flowers of fruits, is one of the frequent elements in India art that is found at the gates of Buddhist as well as Hindu temples.The sculptures of yakshi are generally perceived in intricate architectural motifs on the porticoes of temples as well as stupas.

These types of figures recognized often as mother-goddesses date back to the Indus Valley civilization which is the earliest known Indian urban culture.

Female Counterpart of Male Yaksha

Yakshi or Yakshini or Yakkhini are mythical beings and the female counterpart of the male Yaksha who are attendees of Kubera, the Hindu god of wealth. He rules in the mythical Himalayan kingdom of Alaka. They are considered to be guardians of the treasure that is hidden in the earth, resembling fairy.

 Thirty six Yakshinis, in Uddamareshvara Tantra, are described which include their mantras as well as ritual prescriptions. In early Buddhist monuments, Yakshis were considered important as decorative element and are found in several ancient Buddhist archaeological locations.

One will find an identical list of Yakshas and Yakshinis in the Tantraraja Tantra which states that these beings are givers of whatever is preferred.

 Though Yakshinis are generally generous, there are other yakshinis with spiteful characteristics in Indian folklore. In pre-Aryan days, the folk goddesses were protective deities in Indian religions and yakshis were worshipped by the rural folks with the expectations of boon or protection from evil.

Main Indian religions of later day considered these goddesses to attract the rural folks, making them accept these religions without reservation. Importance to yakshis in Jainism is seen from the fact, that there is a yakshi of each of the 24 tirthankaras and is the tirthankaras of the guardian deities.

Yakshis Have Special Place in Art History of India

Five out of these 24 yakshis, are celebrated in sculptures, terracotta figurines and bronzes, the popular ones are Ambica, the yakshi of Neminatha, the 22nd tirthankara. The others are the Jwalamalini, Padmavathy, Siddhakkiya and Chakreswari, the protecting goddesses of Parsvanatha, Mahaveera, Chandraprabha and Adinatha, respectively, the 23rd and 24th - the last, the eighth and the first tirthankaras.

Yakshis have now become folk deities again due to the decline of Jainism. Retired senior epigraphist, V, Vedachalam, of Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department who has done perceptive research on the origin and the growth of the yakshi cult has commented that `yakshis have a special place in the art history of India’.

From the fourth century B.C. during the time of the Mauryas, the Kushanas – second century B.C. and the Guptas – fourth century A.D. right to the 13th century A.D. yakshi has been celebrated in hundreds of standalone sculptures, terracotta figurines, bas-beliefs and stunning bronzes. Nonetheless, yakshis worship was recognized in a regular manner from the Gupta era. In Tamil Nadu one will find separate shrines for them dating from the 12th century.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Timeless Myths

Timeless Myths – Four Mythologies in Europe

Timeless Myths are focused around four mythologies in Europe namely Arthurian legends, Classical Mythology, Celtic Mythology and Norse Mythology. In the Middle Age and the Renaissance, Roman and Greek myths were renewed in arts and literatures and its popularity is even seen today.

Arthurian Legends

Arthurian Legends
The Arthurian Legends comprises of tales and knightly romances and have been divided into three sections namely Camelot which is referred to the characters that are found in the Arthurian legends, the Age of Chivalry which are collection of tales and romance found in the Arthurian legends and the Songs of Deeds which are another collection of Frankish legend of Charlemagne, where the French called their epic poems as chanson de geste.

Classical Mythology

The Classical Mythology comprises of epics and tales of the ancient Roman and Greek myths and literature with great unmatched variety and originality. Greek mythology is intermingled with Greek classical literature and the works consists of old myths during the European history which has withstood the test of time.

It has survived through the works of several classical writers from the time of Greek colonisation – 5th century BC and the decline of the Roman Empire – 3rd century AD. However Roman myth and legend were not recorded till the 1st BC to the decline of Roman Empire.

Two great authors of Rome, Ovid and Vergil wrote on this subject and together with other Roman writers made classical myth very popular that the medieval Europe as well as modern society had the tendency to utilise the popular Roman names for the Greek gods and heroes rather than their Greek names.

Classical myths has four section namely the Pantheon related to information of Greek deities with tales of Creation along with other myths, the Heroic Age containing information of Greek heroes and heroines and their adventures. Royal Houses contain stories of famous families of the most powerful cities in Greece as well as legends of the foundation and monarchy of Rome

Celtic Mythology 

Celtic Mythology
The Celtic myth was not recorded till the 11th century AD after the Vikings had left Ireland and their oral traditions; sources seemed to be quiet old and ancient. Several of the myths are from Ireland and Wales and Celtic myths comprises of those from Brittany, Cornwalland Scotland. Credits go to Welsh myths and to the Irish for the legends of King Arthur and while Tristan and Isolde medieval romance originated in Brittany, it became popular in Continental Europe as well as the British Isles. The Celtic literature did not appear till the Middle Age and the Celtic people and their religions were known during the ancient Rome.

Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology
The Norse Mythology differs from the other mythology. Here the characters and world even in Asgard are solemn and grave which may be due to the fact that though the gods are immortal, they have the tendency to be destroyed in the final battle between the good and evil.

Norse and Teutonic mythology are divided into three parts: The Asgard which contains information of Norse and Teutonic deities inclusive of Aesir and Vanir giants as well as monsters. Valhalla is information on Norse and German characters especially the heroes and heroines, rulers and the dwarfs while Norse Sagas contains Norse and Germanic tales of the Creations and Ragnorok together with Volsunga Saga and the Nibelungenlied.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

History mystery: Serpent in Ancient Mythology

Serpents or snakes in the ancient world had two different meanings, namely heaven and healing and evil and the underworld. The serpent first emerged in ancient Egypt with the god Atum who was depicted as a snake and was associated with the creation and considered to be the finisher of the world. As per the Book of the Dead, Atum rose from the water of chaos taking the form of a snake and in conversation with Osiris, informed that he would turn back to snake form when the world would be destroyed. From this reference it is presumed that the serpent is connected to rebirth and eternity. Serpent is derived from the origin Latin word serpens or serpentis which creeps and is commonly used in mythic or religious rituals and have been used for some of the most oldest rituals performed by humans. As per Egypt mythology namely Wadjet or the Green One, was one of the ancient goddess of the city of Dep and considered to be the patron and protector of lower Egypt and unification of Upper Egypt, a joint protector as well as the patron of the whole of Egypt.

The portray of the Green One or Wadjet with the sun disk is known as the ureaus, and it become the emblem of the crown of rulers of Lower Egypt and was also considered as a protector of kings and rulers as well as women in childbirth. The patron goddess who was associated with land was depicted as a snake headed woman at times like an Egyptian cobra, a venomous snake and at other times as a woman of two snake heads or a snake with a woman’s head. Her worship was in the renowned temple in Per Wadjet which gave the city its name and it is presumed that this oracular tradition spread towards Greece from Egypt. In the Christian Bible, the Old Testament, the serpent was the one who tempted Eve the first female creature in the Garden of Eden and brought about the downfall of innocence and the beginning of sin and the first human beings in the Garden of Eden or Paradise got to know the outcome of eating the forbidden fruit tempted by the serpent to Eve who also enticed Adam to eat the same, thus disobeying God’s law from eating the forbidden fruit.

Further on, in the story of Moses, we are told that the Israelites became ungrateful and turned away from God who punished them with snake bites Moses was instructed by God to make a brass serpent and hang it on a pole and those afflicted with snake bites could be healed on gazing at the brass serpent. For ancient Greek and Aclepios, the serpent was the god of medicine and healing and some consider the staff with snake coiled around is a symbol of medicine which is connected to Asclepios who used non venomous serpents for healing rituals in the temple. Many debated as to why the snake was used as the symbol of healing and the conclusion drawn was that it represented healing due to its ability of shedding the skin and renews itself. The Hopi of North America considered snakes as fertility symbols that performed annual snake dance in celebration of the union of snake youth, a sky spirit and the girl snake of the underworld spirit to renew the fertility of nature. While the dance was in progress, the snakes were handled and at the end of the dance were released in the field to ensure good crops. Historically, serpents are considered as fertility or a creative life force and as snakes shed their skin, they are symbols of transformation, rebirth, healing and immortality.

The snake dance was also considered as a prayer to the spirits of the clouds, thunder and lightning so that the rain may fall and give good crops. Other cultures, symbolized the snake as the umbilical cord which joined all humans to the earth. It is also believed that the Great Goddess was always accompanied with snakes and at times had them entwined around her staff. In ancient Greece, they were worshipped as guardians of her mysteries of birth and regeneration. Serpents are often connected to poison and medicine and its venom is connected with the chemicals of plants and its fungi have the power to either poison, heal or provide consciousness. They are also considered to be revengeful and vindictive and are often prone to deliver deadly defensive bites without warning to their victims. In various mythologies, serpents are identified differently. In Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu is believed to sleep while floating on the cosmic water on the serpent Shesha who while holding all the planets of the universe on his hood, is singing the glories of Vishnu. Shesha is also referred as Ananta Shesha meaning Endless Shesha.

Monday, October 7, 2013

History mystery: Intriguing Love Story of Paris and Helen

Paris was the son of King Priam of Troy and his queen Hecuba, who was also called Alexander or Alexandros. He was rejected at birth and raised as a shepherd boy on Mount Ida since it was foretold that he would be the cause of the downfall of Troy as per the dream of Hecuba. The dream was that she gave birth to a firebrand, the flames of which spread all over the city. This dream was interpreted by Aesacus to her and Paris was sent out with the hopes that the dream would be false. As Paris grew up he became a valiant defender of his flock and shepherd and received the name of Alexander which means the defender of men. He was also successful in identifying his real origin and got to know who his parents were when Priam prepared to celebrate a funeral solemnity for Paris, whom he thought was dead, He had ordered a bull to be brought from his herd and the same was to be given as a price to the winner of the game. Paris, who had participated in the game, conquered his brothers when one of them drew his sword to kill him but Paris fled to the altar of Zeus Herceius and it was here that Cassandra declared him as her brother and Priam accepted him as his son.

Paris was loved by a nymph, Oenone the daughter of the river god Cebren whom he married and she gave birth to a son, Corythus, who according to some was later sent by his mother to serve the Greeks as a guide during voyage to Troy. It is also said that Paris himself killed his son out of jealousy when he found him with Helen whom he loved and wanted her. Oenone possessed prophetic powers and she cautioned Paris not to sail towards the country of Helen which he ignored though she promised to heal him if he got wounded since that was the only aid she could offer him. It is said that at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the sea goddess, Eris, the goddess of discord was not invited and in a fit of rage when she was turned away, had stormed in casting a golden apple among those assembled there and addressed them saying ‘To the Fairest”. Three goddess laid claim to the apple namely, Aphrodite, Hera and Athena and Zeus was asked to choose from the three goddesses and fearing to be hated by the two not chosen he meditated and instructed Hermes to lead the three goddesses to Paris to resolve the issue.

The three goddesses tried to win the favor of Paris by offering him gifts and Paris was swayed by the offering of Aphrodite who promised to bestow him Helen, the most beautiful woman as his bride. Being a beauty contest, it seemed most appropriate that the goddess of beauty and love had offered Paris this offering but unfortunately Helen was the bride of Menelaus. The abduction of Helen led to the Trojan War and the downfall of the city. Some are of the opinion that Paris carried off Helen, the wife of Menelaus who followed him willingly due to the influence of Aphrodite while Menelaus was away from Crete, while others believe that the goddess deceived Helen by giving Paris the appearance of Menelaus while still others believe that Helen was carried away by force by Paris either during a chase or during a festival. Helen of Sparta is perhaps the most inspired character in ancient and modern literature and the war which was fought for her sake lasted for ten years.

Helen was a tantalizing enigma and though she was of flesh and blood, she was also immortal since she happened to be the daughter of Zeus and her mother was the beautiful Leda queen of Sparta who was lured by the father of the gods taking the form of a swan and her husband was Tyndareus. According to some versions, Nemesis is named mother in the bird form and the Helen egg was given to Leda to be raised. Helen had a sister Cytemnestra and twin brothers Castor and Pollux or Polydeuces and while Pollux shared a father with Helen, Caster shared with Cytemnestra and the two brothers are called Dioscuri Helen was one of the most spectacular characters of a dramatic love story of all times and one of the reason being the ten years war which took place between the Trojans and the Greeks namely the Trojan War. She was known to be the face that launched a thousand ships due to the vast number of warships that the Greeks sailed to Troy to get Helen back. Helen was famous for her beauty throughout ancient Greece and had many suitors who were most willing to take her as their bride.

Monday, September 30, 2013

History mystery: Ancient Mythology about Rainbow

The most favorite component throughout history is the rainbow which is a natural phenomenon appreciated for its beauty. According to the Sumerian mythology, the rainbow’s power, according to some was regarded as the sole benevolent portraying its perception of the world culture though its past stories. The Epic of Gilgamesh for instance, an ancient king of Sumerian’s reign during 3000 BC; gives us detailed written evidence of the culture during that age. It portrays the Sumerian farmer god Ninurta defending Sumer with a bow and arrow wearing a crown similar to a rainbow. According to Christian mythology, in the chapter of Genesis, Noah was appointed by God to save every living pair of species from the great floods. When the flood had destroyed all living creatures from the face of the earth, the rainbow was a symbol of God’s promise that he would never destroy all of the earth with flood and the rainbow was a covenant between God and man forming an arc between earth and heaven. As per the Greek mythology, the daughter of first generation gods Electra and Thaumas, Iris was the goddess of sea and sky and her father was the wondrous marine god while her mother the amber, a cloud nymph.

Iris was a messenger of the gods and in ancient Greek vase painting depicted as a young woman who flew on golden wings, dressed in rainbow colors, a herald’s rod and at times a water pitcher in her hand. She seems to be speeding with the wind delivering news and appears in nine of the twenty four books of Homer’s – The Illiad. She is often depicted standing beside Zeus or Hera offering nectar from her jug and as a messenger of the gods was incomparable from Hebe art..She was the goddess of the rainbow and often represented as the handmaiden and personal messenger of Hera. For the Greeks from the coastal dwellings, the rainbow was seen spreading over the distance between the clouds in the sky and the sea and the goddess was said to represent the rain clouds with water from the sea. Greek myth was of the belief that Iris delivered messages that were rarely of peace or of good fortune. One of her jobs was to fill a golden jug with holy water for Zeus who would make misbehaving gods make a binding oath on the holy water. She has no distinctive mythology of her own but she appears in a myth as an errand running messenger and described as a virgin goddess.

According to later writers, Iris was married to Zephyrus and was the mother of Eros. Being engaged in service of Zeus and Hera she even served Achiles in calling the wind to his assistance and performed her services not only when commanded but also rendered advice and services of her own accord. Her name seems to contain double meaning where iris relates to the rainbow and eiris to the messenger.
According to some poets, Iris is described as the rainbow itself, while Servius implies that the rainbow was merely the road on which she travelled which appeared when the need arose and disappeared when it was not needed. Regarding her worship, the Delians offered her cakes made of wheat and honey and dried figs on the island of Hecate. In ancient Greek vase painting, she appears as a beautiful young woman, standing and dressed in a long wide tunic with a light upper garment and wings attached to her shoulders. She is found carrying the herald’s staff in her left hand or appears to fly on their wings with sandals on her feet along with the staff and the pitcher in her hand and compared to a swift footed storm wind messenger.

Different mythology and groups like the Norse and Navajo are of the belief that the multi colored arc, bridged the distance between earth and heaven while some called it the bridge or the gateway to heaven. The Norse believed the rainbow to be bridge that could be used by gods and mortals killed in the battle of just war. According to some they believe that the rainbow only shows up in the sky when St. Peter opened the pearly gates of heaven to usher in the new souls in heaven and its colors representing the magnificence of heaven. Others think that it is a link of six or seven bridges, based on the belief of individual’s culture on the number of colors in the bow that the soul had to successfully travel to reach heaven. As per the African’s belief the rainbow was actually a full circle, half of which could only be seen at an appropriate time. They also believed that the rainbow separated the earth from the heaven. As per Roman mythology, the rainbow is believed to be the pathway for Mercury the messenger god.

According to German, myths the rainbow was considered as a bowl that God used during his creation to color the world while others thought that it was a magnificent gift of nature. The ancient Arabians believed it was a tapestry woven by the south wind while the Incas thought that it was a gift from their sun god. The Buddhist identified the rainbow to the seven regions of the earth due to its seven colors and believed it as the next highest state of achievement before Nirvana, the place very one and all individuals meet their end. The Hindus believe that the rainbow represents the archer’s bow of their god of war and that the god used the bow to send arrows of lightening to kill demons who threatened their land and their people. In Islam, it is believed to have only four colors instead of the seven colors, namely blue, green, red and yellow which are related to fire, earth, water and wind. The Native American tribes considered the rainbow as the drinking fountain for all souls of heaven while other believed it to be a bridge between the world of humans and the world of gods though not heaven and still others believed it to be merely a pathway which the gods used.