Indian Pantheons: Crash Course World Mythology #8

Posted By on September 2, 2019

Hey there, I’m Mike Rugnetta and this is
Crashcourse mythology. Today, we’re going to tackle one of the
most difficult and fascinating pantheons in all of mythology. It’s got dancing dwarves, buffalo demons,
and some many armed folks. Yessir there’s a lot going on in this pantheon! Maybe even more than in the Egyptian pantheon. Sorry Thoth. In this episode, we’ll talk about the pantheon
of deities in Indian myths. Unlike myths from Egypt and the Ancient Near
East, there are living people for whom these stories have deep, personal, religious meaning. Remember how it got a little uncomfortable
when we discussed the Bible’s creation story? Well, it’s gonna be a bit like that. But we’re gonna try to minimize the awkwardness. Just ask–wait, there’s no god of awkwardness?! Ruh roh. INTRO Discussing the Indian pantheon is tricky for
two reasons: first because it remains a living belief system for about a billion people. And second because Indian religious and mythic
traditions are not only abundant but also ancient. As in Egypt, there are different sets of gods
and goddesses that were worshipped at different points in time. But unlike Egypt, India was and is home to
many different languages, which means we have a lot of different stories, each with many
different versions. We are going to focus mostly on stories that
have been written in Sanskrit, the sacred language of Hinduism. Sanskrit first appears in written form around
150 CE in a series of rock inscriptions that look much more complex than what I’ve inscribed
on rocks. This probably doesn’t say “Parvati wuz
here! Vishnu + Lakshmi 5eva.” Let’s remember that Sanskrit is a complex
language and its poetry may sound unusual to English ears. But we can handle it. Lead the way, Bragi, Norse God of poetry. In the earliest Indian traditions, Dyaus the
sky father, and Prithvi the earth mother were central. Hey, sky dad and earth mom! Nice to see you over here, too! Do you mind if I drop off some cosmic laundry? Later, however, Surya the sun god, Agni the
fire god and Indra the warrior king of the gods took top God Billing from mom and dad,
who were arguing all the time! Sky dad, earth mom, knock it off! Just stop the fighting! We can all get along. Indra was the child of the sky and the earth,
and was responsible for keeping them separate, but had his own beef with another god, Varuna,
who may once have been the ruler of the gods, but was supplanted by Indra. Hey, even god’s got beef, right? Wonder if one of them recorded a diss track… Anyway, the most well-known myth about Indra
is about his battle with Vritra, a giant serpent or dragon, whom Indra kills, thus creating
the sun, the dawn, and they sky. (Yeah, I know – you thought we had sky covered
but, mythology is tricky.) The death of Vritra also gave form to chaos. Which is nice. So yup, it’s our old friend the creation
story, but with violence instead of sex. In a number of stories, Indra is described
as battling and destroying hostile minor deities and demons. I mean, someone has to, right? And so maybe, you’re thinking yay, Indra. He fights the good fight. But… he also breaks oaths,kills family members
and commits adultery with Ahalya, the wife of the sage Gvautama. For which he lost his testicles. Cherries emoji. Scissors emoji. Face Screaming in emoji. But hey wait, it’s OK. in another myth he
has them replaced with those of a ram. Emoji. So…um…guess that worked out. Indra’s weapon of choice is a thunderbolt,
similar to Zeus, and by India’s classical age he becomes a god of rain. And this changing function over time is generally
emblematic of Indian myth. Like the Egyptian pantheon, it’s difficult
to pin down one canonical set of myths or characters because they appear in so many
forms, often with multiple names. Here’s another version of how things get
going: In the Vedas, which are the most ancient Hindu scriptures, Prajapati was the creator
god, but over time, and especially in the Upanishads, another collection of important
Sanskrit texts, the less anthropomorphic concept of Brahman developed. Brahman isn’t a GOD so much as the all-encompassing
essence of reality, the supreme cosmic spirit. Pretty cool, right Thoth? It’s not something you can easily represent
on a sandstone relief, but then again it’s not that dissimilar from “god” in monotheistic
religious traditions. Brahman has sometimes been translated as the
“world soul” and all individual souls are one with it. Don’t get too comfortable, though, because
Brahman, in later classical Hindu mythology and religion, is embodied and personified
as three deities: Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer. They are all distinct, with their own stories,
and yet also represent aspects of the more esoteric and universal idea of Brahman. This triumvirate? Trifecta? Divine Hat Trick? Hindus call it the trimurti and Vishnu and
Shiva loom largest in Indian myths. So then, why is Brahma third banana? Well, once the universe is created, the work
of the creator is done. True, The concept of cyclical existence is
central to the Hindu and Buddhist worldview, so you’d think a creator would be considered
among the most important gods. Still, Brahma’s significance declined in
comparison with that of Vishnu and Shiva, perhaps because, according to John Brockington:
Essentially he is a fusion of a creator deity with the impersonal Brahman propounded in
the Upanishads, which see the goal of religious endeavor as some kind of union with the absolute,
whereas the popular forms of religion attested to in the epics prefer a more personal and
devotional approach. In other words, Brahma doesn’t really get
involved in the juicy stuff– battles and quests and adultery. So let’s turn to Vishnu, the preserver. Stories of Vishnu often involve his consort
Shri, also called Lakshmi, a goddess of prosperity and good fortune, which is pretty terrific
as dowries go. Vishnu protects the world from evil, and he
often appears in different forms called “avatars”. Avatars are the human or animal form of a
god on earth and they are very, very rad. By the classical period, Vishnu had 10 or
so avatars: Matsya, the fish, who we’ll hear more about
when we talk about floods Kurma the tortoise, who played a role similar
to the tortoise in the earth diver myth that we saw
Varaha, the boar who is a boar and does boar stuff
Narasimha the man-lion who kills the demon Hiranyakashipu
Vamana, the dwarf who defeats the demon Bai through trickery
Parashurama who kills the hundred-armed Arjuna with an ax and probably has amazing biceps
Rama and Krishna who are central to the Mahabaratha,
one of the great Sanskrit epics The Buddha who is the Buddha. You know. From Buddhism. Kalkin who is a future avatar and a millennial
figure that will establish a new era. But not like, a millennial millennial. Kalkin is not on Snapchat. Shiva, the destroyer, had his origins in the
Vedic era as a storm god who was a “wrathful avenger” and a “herdsman of souls,”
which definitely sounds trickier than sheep. Shiva is also associated with yoga, asceticism
and erotic love. Which definitely sounds contradictory. Or maybe just flexible. This erotic aspect manifests most concretely
in Shiva’s symbolic form as a linga, which is self-explanatory if you look at it, and
might explain why Shiva has numerous female deities as either wives or consorts, including
Sati and Parvati, and sometimes Durga and Kali. Basically, Shiva has game. One of the best known images of Shiva is his
depiction asl the lord of the dance–no, definitely not, yes. According to one scholar:
“His steps are intended to relieve by enlightenment the suffrage of his devotees: hence he balances
on the back of a dwarf who symbolizes ignorance. His gestures and the attributes he is holding
symbolize aspects of his divinity; the drum in his back right hand [symbolizes creation],
the tongue of flame in his back left hand [symbolizes destruction], the gesture of protection
[of his front right hand symbolizes] protection and his raised leg symboliz[es] release.” Has Michael Flatley ever balanced on the back
of a dwarf? I rest my case. Now we’ve spent most of the episode discussing
the three key gods of the trimurti and their amazing dance moves, but Indian pantheons
feature goddesses, too, who usually have qualities that complement their husband’s powers. I mentioned Parvati and Uma and Sati, the
wives of Shiva, and Laskshmi, who is married to Vishnu. But other traditions describe the goddess
Devi, which translates to “goddess” or Mahadevi, the great goddess, who is occasionally
associated with these other consorts and sometimes seen as a world creator in her own right. In some traditions Devi is essentially the
same as Brahman. Like many of the deities we discuss, Devi
can be many things to many people. We haven’t seen too many female warrior
goddesses yet. So let’s wrap up with a story that features
one: Durga, also known as Kali, who is unapproachable to her suitors and invincible in battle. Also she rides a lion. So clearly – no one is cool enough to date
her. Thoughtbubble, do your thing. One of the main stories about Durga is that
of her killing the buffalo demon Mahisha. Mahisha conquered the other lesser gods, the
Devas, and then the Devas went to Vishnu and Shiva for help, who listened and grew angry. And you wouldn’t like Vishnu and Shiva when
they’re angry, because their anger takes the form of Durga, who confronted Mahisha
and the other demons. “The demons rushed towards the goddess who
killed them in hundreds, felling some with her club, catching others in her noose, slicing
others with her sword, and piercing others with her trident. Meanwhile, Mahisha himself, in buffalo form,
terrorized her troops. Then he attacked her lion, and Durga became
furious. She caught him in her noose, whereupon he
quitted his buffalo shape and became a lion himself. She cut off its head and he emerged as a man,
sword in hand. As she pierced the man, he became a great
elephant, seizing her lion with its trunk, but she cut off his trunk with her sword as
he resumed his buffalo form. Lightly tossing aside the mountains he hurled
at her, she leaped on him, pinned his neck with one foot and pierced him with her trident. Then she cut off his head with her mighty
sword.” Thanks, Thoughtbubble, that was… harrowing? I guess it’s always the second beheading
that sticks. CONCLUSION
This episode could only scratch the surface of the complexity of Indian mythology. Not only does it come from so many sources,
but for many people these are living myths, unlike the deeds of Egyptian gods that we
saw last week. These stories are complex because people associate
one god with one or two attributes or phenomena, like wisdom or storms. And these gods take many forms and are often
seen as versions of each other, or maybe of a single universal god. Hinduism is a fascinating religion and a rich
source of myths, but it’s also quite the web. Emoji. Thanks for watching. We’ll see you next week.

Posted by Lewis Heart

This article has 100 comments

  1. The Supreme Ultimate Godhead is Energy ( as science says ) and Hinduism says that the Supreme is Aadi Paraa Shakti ( lit. translation = Primordial Supreme Energy ). Aadi Shakti split Herself in Knowledge ( Saraswati ), Resources ( Lakshmi ) and Power ( Paarvati ). From these Energies the trimurti ( Brahmaa, Vishnu and Mahesh ) were created.

    Note : Hindu mythology goes back way more than the Vedas. Vedic Hinduism is very new. Study more about it.

  2. Thank you guys at crash course so much for what you do! So helpful for me and my month long, super crammed, mythologies summer class. Love you all

  3. Okay you need to do more research and study . Visit India 🇮🇳 then you’ll understand what exactly the Hinduism 🕉 is

  4. no mother earth and the father you mentioned were actually not the fathers and mothers of all..
    but it's simple cuz only 3 gods and their wives are considered to be great and creators (one can use this word cuz they are the creators of this world and other gods like earth itself.)

    a)lord shiva the destroyer and his wife goddess parvati( which actually a source of energy..a women..
    most importantly, she's got many a avatars that is almost impossible for me to mention them all )…
    b) lord brahma , the creator and his wife saraswati who is considered to be the goddess of learning.
    c)lord vishnu…he who maintains a balance and has taken many a avatars for the wellbeing of humanity
    and his wife lakshmi , goddess of wealth. .

    and ofcourse this religion has
    , i think , about thousands of gods but people actually don't need to remember ..
    shiva , brahma and vishnu are called tridev cuz they are sort of like everything …creator of everything..

    and it would a foolishnesa to actually find the origin of the lord shiva cuz he came from nowhere and her wife , a source of energyis actually the nature itself …she is present every where..

    indra is nothing in front of tridev..cuz he was assigned his job of ruling other gods (other gods like varun wind god etc.)

    many a gods aren't even worshipped …

    mainly people worship tridevs
    especially lord shiva and his wife .

  5. No, I don't remember it being uncomfortable, because it wasn't. Do you want to know why? THE BIBLE IS FICTIONAL!


  6. You need a lot of reading and a person who really understands Indian ancient culture. You were wrong in the video many times.

  7. To paraphrase Devdutt Pattnaik,
    The infinite ancient texts hide within them the Eternal Truth,
    Who has seen it completely?
    Varun has a thousand eyes,
    Indra has a hundred,
    You and I, just 2.

    Hinduism, Hindu, India, etc are words coined and popularized by European Colonists and Invaders, basically whoever was from the subcontinent and wasn't a Christian was a Hindu then. Hinduism (Sanatan Dharm – सनातन धर्म) is very inclusive, it is a diverse system of thought including monotheism, polytheism, atheism, pantheism and many others. One can find stories and characters related to almost every school of thought out there. This video is very poorly researched and misinformed about Indian Mythology.

    TL;DR: There is no crash course to what you call "Hinduism". Educate yourself, experience it and feel free to have your own opinions. I suggest the works of Devdutt Pattnaik.

  8. I’m a Hindu and Parvati took forms to protect the earth which is why she is Called Jagat Janani meaning mother goddess.😡😠

  9. Shiva didn't actually have many wives, technically he had two wives, the first wife one died, but later on she reincarnated again as Uma/Parvati and remarried Shiva, the other goddesses such as Durga, Kali etc. are her personas, like personalities.

  10. Durga was the mother of Trimurthi not wife of shiva
    Brahma is not worshipped due to a curse by the saints
    Kali is an avatar of Parvati not same as Durga

  11. I thought Brahman were 2 headed toxic wasteland cows

    Oh wait, the 2 headed toxic wasteland cows are called Brahmin, not Brahman XD


  13. suffrage = the right to vote.
    It's not a thing that particularly concerns Lord Shiva.
    Also, saying "female goddess" is kinda redundant. A female god = a goddess. There's no such thing as a male goddess.

  14. Buddha is never mentioned as an avatar of Vishnu although some Hindus claim that way.
    But among the ten avatars Buddha is never included

  15. i will give you 10/100 failed in your Hindu exam ..hahaha…lots of facts are incorrect ..first read "Vedas"

  16. Mahishasur the Buffalo demon was mischievous and ferocious had a boon that he could not be killed by any man, god. Not be killed in any of his forms. So Durga was created who’s not a man, a manifestation of all the strengths of other gods bestowed into one, essentially what we know as “women power” (with motherly devotion and lookup to for protection). She beheaded him multiple times only to realize it doesn’t work. Since that’s a boon he could not be killed in any one form. Finally what ‘sticks’ is that when Mahishasur was converting from a human back to buffalo, his head was cut off. Thus using the flaw in his boon. He was not in a particular single form. He was halfway.

  17. Indian Dungeon & Dragons. love the ancient indian dungeon master creating so much fascinating quest and stories

  18. Prajapati is not creator god but one of the sons of creator god – Brahma. He was created to take care of humanity and give social life and advancement of human civilization.

  19. Indian pantheons? This title justifies the credibility of the video. I wish he knew diversity of religions in India.


  21. There were just so many mistakes that I was really wondering that it was my mythology 😅. But it's ok how can someone know when there are so many people claiming that their version is the true one .

  22. Of course there's a god of awkwardness – his name is Zeus – and it gets very awkward during family get-together's.

  23. Nice try 🙂 In the beginning Shiva was married to Sati, who was the daughter of the Daksh )Father of Gods). His father didn't like Shiva for obvious reasons, Shiva unlike other Gods was not greatly embellished, roamed around the dead, was covered in ash, and was not particularly good looking. Then one day, there was a grand feast organised by Sati's father. Everyone was invited but Shiva. Sati got angry at such disrespect towards her husband. She went to the feast, argued with her father, and jumped into the fire because she couldn't tolerate the disrespectful behaviour of the Gods. The news reached Shiva, who sat silent. Then plucked a hair, which became Veerbhadra (the warrior). The warrior went to the feast, chopped and sliced, and diced all Gods. The Preserver Vishnu (the King of Gods) was disturbed, as it made the balance of existence uneven for all the Gods were dead. He asked Shiva to forgive the ignorance of Gods. Shiva due to his kind nature, undone what Veerbhadra had done. He replaced the head of Daksh with that of a ram. Took the burnt body of Sati and roamed around India from North to South in mourning. While he roamed, energy radiated out of him, manifesting the mystical sources of power. The decaying parts of Sati fell in 9 different places making 9 grand temples of Devi. Eons later, Sati was reborn as Parvati the daughter of Himalaya (the great mountain), and got married to Shiva again. Even though an incarnation, Shiva couldn't love her the same way as he did love Sati. Uff…. this is a long tale. And one of the many. Basically there are 18 puranas… which means atleast 18 different tales for creation. Sometimes Shiva is central, at others forms of Shiva, or Vishnu. But in general Shanmata (or 6 major Gods — Shiva, Durga, Vishnu, Murgan, Ganesh, and Surya, the sun God) is a loose simplification. One of the most important thing that is missed is probably the classification of Divinity into two major classes — The Sun Gods, and The Storm Gods. Pardon the grammatical errors, I typed this one super fast. 😀

  24. For, So, & to be? Something might be a less than appealing depending upon ones state of mind. Generally Something implies ignorance of the person trying to find a more specific title or "name"

  25. Dude all.sati durga parvati and kali are the one…sati is the form who sacrifice for his love…durga is the power especially women power…nd kali is so…too..nd parvati is his wife..uma..nd the durga …😶😶😶nd devi is not any close to brahma…she is extreme of female power which male fails …the story of the durga is famous in shkti beliefs…

  26. Brahm is a caste of heducation in the eastern sense. Jain is a caste of merchants who are upset because you said you'd tell us a story bout ganisha & didn't. Perpetuating myths about sinvsis just asking for a fight. Ask aghori. Btw. There is a God of awkwardness. More or less the son of Ganisha🕉🙌🏾

  27. Appreciate your work, the time and energy u spend in this. BUT, I think you got wrong sources or got confused with complexity.. people get offended if u publish this wrong statements like this.

  28. No no no your are wrong brother..Hinduism not worshipping need to know the truth..we not worship idols at temple..vedas has clearly written down that God has no image and god is one..i don't understand why people thinking we are workships idols at temple..yes we not worshipping but show respect to idols ..because you saw me use my hands up together and greeting pray idols,,correct?? So you must have seen if you go India,,everywhere you will see people will greeting you same post you see at temple. Correct?? So do this mean i worshiping you?? So what makes you said we worship idols??

  29. Female destruction idol name kali was the destroyer same like lord shiva ..sometimes she can more violence than lord shiva..she looks completely darkness ..and the most notorious one you can see more at dark side like at people used to burn the dead bodies around there we can see the kalimah..she is jihad style you know,,only cut the head of and drink his blood..yeah u think she is more violence than jihad..wakakaka..yes she is violence..when she come,,people know someone head gonna miss from body..


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