“Myth is at the beginning of literature, and also at its end” Jorge Luis Borges. Why there is a strange similarity between Indian & Greek mythology? Does this mean that both the myths evolved from a common origin? But how could this be possible, in an era where modern day transportation and internet facilities were not even a distant dream?
For ages historians and scientists have pondered the answer to these intriguing questions. Modern-day genetic research could throw light on this confusion which has been prevailing for ages. Recently a video titled Momondo – The DNA Journey, went viral across the internet. It featured a group of strangers from different background and nationalities undergoing a DNA test, which would reveal their true ancestral origin. Shockingly many of the DNA test results revealed that, for most of the participants, their true genetic ancestry would span across several continents.
Cultural link between India and Greece
Historians have observed a close similarity between Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin since the early modern period. Since Sanskrit being the oldest, made many scholars to conclude that all the three languages (and many more) share a common heritage from the much earlier Proto-Indo-European people. Credit can also be given to several Indian & Greek scholars, who were instrumental in acting as an intellectual bridge in spreading the knowledge between the two great nations.
Greek Gods VS Hindu Gods
Both the Greek and Hindu mythology have astounding Gods. Enigmatic characters with resounding stories revolved around them. Let us examine some of the strange similarities between Greek Gods & the Hindu Gods.
Zeus and Indra
It’s always better to start with the mighty God Kings, Indra & Zeus. You might be quite acquainted with the name Zeus, if you are an avid fan of the famous Marvel character Thor. Equipped with thunderbolts and lightning as their weapons, both these deities have full control over the weather. Monarchs among gods, they have immense & irresistible power.
The dwelling place of Indra and other Hindu gods are in Swarga , the sacred land located high above the mount Meru, while the Zeus and other Greek Gods lived in the majestic Mount Olympus. Both of them had two brothers and had performed valiant and noble deeds rescuing many.
It is interesting to note that like humans, both the God-kings have emotions of love and jealousy. Both had many affairs with goddesses and mortal women, often resorted to impersonating their husbands to seduce them.
Saptarishis & the Seven sisters
The seven great sages or the saptarishis , are the mind-born sons of Lord Brahma. They possess immense power, beyond the level of Gods . They serve as representatives to Lord Brahma.
The Seven sisters are married to seven goddesses known as Krittika(s). Interestingly in Greek mythology, these seven sisters are called as the Pleiades. The Pleiades were the seven daughters of Oceanid Pleione, who was the protectress of sailing and Atlas, a Titan who held up the sky.
Eros & Kamadeva
Both the Greek and the Indian culture have embraced love to its fullest extent. In Indian mythology, The God of love is known as Kamadeva who is young and strikingly handsome. Similarly, in Greek mythology, the position of love God was taken by Eros, the personable male figure with wings.
Eros shoots two kinds of arrows; the former is the gold-tipped arrows, which would make someone fall madly in love while the latter lead-tipped arrow will cause the person to run away from his lover. Eros is often known to use his powers for the sake of his own fun.
Kamadeva was created by Brahma, the creator God while Eros was born to Aphrodite and the god of war Ares. Both were personified in all kinds of love and were worshiped by the fertility cult of ancient Greece and tantric traditions of India.
Both of them are known to intoxicate people with the essence of love by shooting an arrow made out of flowers with a sugarcane bow.
Apollo & Surya
In Indian mythology, the sun is the lord of wisdom, light, and astrology. He is the benefactor of courage and leadership. Surya is portrayed as a magnificent person with three eyes and four arms, riding a chariot drawn by seven horses. Surya is also depicted as a benevolent deity capable of healing the sick.
The Greek God Apollo is the god of light, sun and prophecy. It is interesting to note that the great Indian astrologer Varāhamihira in his book on astrology credits lord Surya for granting him unique predictive powers.
Some believe that Helios and Apollo are one and the same, while other believe them to be different. Apollo is known to fly around in a golden chariot driven by horses just similar to how the Indian god Surya is depicted.
Hermes & Narada
In Indian mythology, Narada is one of the most highly evolved souls who is well known for his steady fast devotion to Lord Vishnu, the protector God. He is well versed in arts and music and is known to have invented the musical instrument veena. Narada is a great messenger and is often portrayed as guru figure to many eminent personalities like the Prahlada, in the Indian mythology. He is extremely fond of traveling and can appear instantaneously almost anywhere, bypassing the boundaries of space and time.
Although Hermes has many departments under his control, he is quite well known for his travels and role as a messenger. Hermes is known to travel to far off places in a short span of time and show up almost instantaneously. Just like Narada, Hermes is also known to have invented a musical instrument called Lyre, to quench the anger of Apollo. It is quite fascinating to know that both Veena & Lyre are string instruments, marking a striking similarity between both the characters,
Both of them were visionaries and known to play tricks on others, often triggering a bigger event, making their mark on several occasions.
Athena & Saraswati
Athena is popularly known as the Olympian goddess of warfare, wisdom, skill & strategy. She is also known to be the overlord of law, civilization, and inspiration. Widely known for her unique skills in warfare and strategy, she is often known to help several Greek heroes truly earning her the name, goddess of heroic endeavor.
Similar to Athena, Saraswati is the Indian goddess of wisdom, learning, music, and arts. Anyone can excel in knowledge and education by earning the blessings of goddess Saraswati. While Saraswati is portrayed as a youthful being dressed in white saree, carrying books and sacred veena in her hand, Athena is sometimes shown carrying weapons and her shield Aegis.
It is entrancing to know that both these beautiful icons of wisdom had a common origin. While Athena is known to emerge out fully grown when Hephaestus split open Lord Zeus’s skull on suggestion of Hermes, Saraswati sprang out from the mouth of God Brahma.
Achilles & Bhisma
Both the Indian warrior Bhisma & Greek combatant Achilles are undoubtedly icons of courage and heroism in the biggest wars of their respective mythologies. Bhisma fought in Mahabharata war while Achilles in the Trojan War.
While both of their fathers were kings, their mother was a river goddess. River goddess Ganga gave birth to Bhisma while River goddess Thetis was the mother of Achilles.
It is quite fascinating to know that, both these warriors had a similar tale of birth. River Goddess Thetis had six sons prior to Achilles; she burned them in the fire in an attempt to make them immortal beings. This would have been the fate of Achilles had his father, Peleus not showed up just in the moment to save his life. In the case of Bhisma, his mother Ganga had dipped all her six children prior to Bhisma. Bhishma’s father Shantanu had to break his wow just in time to save Bhisma.
Poseidon & Varuna
Both Poseidon & Varuna were prominent and highly powerful gods in the Greek & Indian mythology respectively. Both of them ruled over the aquatic world and had absolute control of rivers and oceans.
While Poseidon is the god of rivers, sea, earthquake, and drought, the Hindu God Varuna is the God of oceans, rivers and aquatic animals. Although their powers are strikingly similar, one could find a slight difference in their chariot. While Varuna is shown riding a chariot driven by Swan or crocodiles, Poseidon is seen with a chariot pulled by horses. Well, let’s suppose the Greeks wanted to add a pinch of realism in the way chariots work.
The parents of Poseidon were the Greek Titans, Kronos and Rhea, while Varuna was given birth by Kashyapa and Aditi. One fascinating thing which caught the attention of researchers was Poseidon’s Roman name is Neptune & the planet Neptune is called Varuna in the Hindu mythology.
Rhea & Aditi
Goddess Rhea is the mother of prominent Gods in Greek mythology such as Zeus & Poseidon. She is the Goddess of motherhood and a symbol of female fertility. The Hindu Goddess Aditi is known to have given birth to several of the prominent Hindu Gods including the mighty Indra & Varuna. On a spiritual side, Aditi is perceived as the unity of all things and the endless expansive nature of pure consciousness or the infinite self.
One could find a strange similarity in the literal meaning of both Rhea & Aditi. The literal meaning of Aditi is “expansive” or “Boundless” while Rhea means “Uninterrupted flow”. While Rhea was married to Kronos, the god of time; Aditi was married to the mighty Kashyapa.
Hades and Yama
The Greek God Hades, who was the oldest male child of Kronos & Rhea, is the lord of the dead and the underworld. He is known to bring judgment to the departed souls based on the merits of their earthly life.
According to the Vedas, the Hindu God Yama is depicted as a fiery deity with a unique ability to decide whether people should go to heaven or hell based on their merits and demerits in their earthly life. Although immensely powerful he is often compassionate and considered as a friend of humanity.
Both Yama & Hades are known to rule over the underworld located just below the earth plane. In Sanskrit, Yama means twin & is known to have a twin sister named Yami.