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Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 203

HINDU MYTHOLOGY

The religion of the Hindus is professedly founded on the Vedas. To these books of their scripture they attach the greatest sanctity, and state that Brahma himself composed them at the creation. But the present arrangement of the Vedas is attributed to the sage Vyasa, about five thousand years ago.

The Vedas undoubtedly teach the belief of one supreme God. The name of this deity is Brahma. His attributes are represented by the three personified powers of CREATION, PRESERVATION, and DESTRUCTION, which, under the respective names of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, form the TRIMURTI or triad of principal Hindu gods. Of the inferior gods the most important are, 1. Indra, the god of heaven, of thunder, lightning, storm, and rain; 2. Agni, the god of fire; 3. Yana, the god of the infernal regions; 4. Surya, the god of the sun.

Brahma is the creator of the universe, and the source from which all the individual deities have sprung, and into which all will ultimately be absorbed. "As milk changes to curd, and water to ice, so is Brahma variously transformed and diversified, without aid of exterior means of any sort. The human soul, according to the Vedas, is a portion of the supreme ruler, as a spark is of the fire.

"BRAHMA, at first a word meaning prayer and devotion, becomes in the laws of Manu the primal God, first-born of the creation, from the self-existent being, in the form of a golden egg. He became the creator of all things by the power of prayer. In the struggle for ascendancy, which took place between the priests and the warriors, Brahma naturally became the deity of the former. But, meantime, as we have seen, the worship or Vishnu had been extending itself in one region, and that of Siva in another. Then took place those mysterious wars between the kings of the Solar and Lunar races, of which the great epics contain all that we know. And at the close of these wars a compromise was apparently accepted, by which Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva were united in one supreme God, as creator, preserver, and destroyer, all in one.

It is almost certain that this Hindoo Triad was the result of an ingenious and successful attempt, on the part of the Brahmans, to unite all classes of worshippers in India against the Buddhists. In this sense the Brahmans edited anew the Mahabharata, inserting in that epic passages extolling Vishnu in the form of Krishna. The Greek accounts of India which followed the invasion of Alexander speak of the worship of Hercules as prevalent in the East, and by Hercules they apparently mean the god Krishna. The struggle between the Brahmans and Buddhists lasted during nine centuries (from A.D. 500 to A.D. 1400), ending with the total expulsion of Buddhism and the triumphant establishment of the Triad as the worship of India.

"Before this Triad or Trimurti (of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva) there seems to have been another, consisting of Agni, Indra, and Surya. This may have given the hint of the second Triad, which distributed among the three gods the attributes or Creation, Destruction, and Renovation. Of these Brahma, the creator, ceased soon to be popular, and the worship of Siva and Vishnu as Krishna remain as the popular religion of India. . . ..


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