Saturday, 30 October 2010

Symbolism in stories in Hinduism

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"In Hinduism, while the stories are interesting by themselves, the hidden concepts behind them are phenomenal"

You might have heard the famous story of Vishnu's Kurma avatar. If you have not, here it is. If you have, you can skip it (or read it again, just to refresh your memory)

Vishnu's Kurma Avatar
The Devas lost their strength and prowess due to a curse by the sage Durvasa because Indra, the king of the Devas, had insulted the sage’s gift (a garland) by giving it to his elephant which trampled upon it. Thus, after losing their immortality and kingdom, they approached Lord Vishnu for help.

Vishnu suggested that they needed to drink the nectar of immortality to regain their lost glory. However, they needed to strive hard to acquire the nectar since it was hidden in the ocean of milk. After declaring a truce with their foes (Asuras), Indra and his Devas together with the Asuras, use the serpent Vasuki as a churning rope and the mount Mandara as the churning staff.

When they began churning, the mount began sinking into the ocean. Taking the form of a turtle (Kurma), Vishnu bears the entire weight of the mountain and the churning continues and various objects are thrown out including the deadly poison Halahala, whose fumes threaten to destroy the Devas and the Asuras. Lord Shiva then comes to their rescue and gathers the entire poison in his palm and drinks it. His consort, Parvathi, clasps his throat and the poison remains there. Hence he became known as “Neelakanta” (literally: “the blue-throated one).

“Fourteen precious things” come out of the ocean, culminating with Dhanvantari, the physician of the gods, appearing with the nectar of immortality. The Asuras immediately rush and grab the nectar while quarreling among themselves.

Vishnu again comes to the rescue in the form of a beautiful damsel, Mohini and tricks the Asuras and retrieves the potion which is distributed to the Devas. Though the Asuras realize Vishnu’s tricks, it is too late, as the Devas regain their renowned prowess and defeat them.

Symbolism:
Although you might think that this is a myth, there is a great deal of philosophy hidden behind it. In Hinduism, most of the stories are symbolic. For example, a snake represents time in Hinduism. That's why the most important snake is Ananthashesha (eternal time?) in whose coils relaxes Vishnu. The mountain, represents space. In Hindusim, there is always a balance, a symmetry. The Devas and Asuras are always equal and opposite, and never is one fully destroyed. The Devas have Amrit, the nectar of immortality, while the Asuras have Sanjivani Vidya, the knowledge of bring the dead back to life. The interactions of Space and Time brings out different treasures, but this requires some kind of action, that is brought about by the counteracting forces of Devas and Asuras - With no action, nothing will be yielded.

With every good, there is a bad associated (again, equal and opposite). With all the good that came out, so did the bad (Halahala). The fact that Vishnu balanced the mountain, indicates that the supreme Lord is the one who can stabilise ALL actions. Why turtle? There is another explanation for that which I will put up later.

Did you know?
Vishnu's Avatars are in the order of evolution - from fish, to amphibian, and so on....

Note:
This is just a very small post illustrating how Hinduism can be symbolic. Of course, this post was written by a small person like me. But I can assure you that you will be awestruck when you read the actual explanations (from knowledgeable people) behind each and every story, including the forms of God - why Vishnu has four arms, what does each of what he holds in each arm represent, why Shiva has three eyes, why Shukra has only one eye, why Ganesh has an elephant head and so on. Simply brilliant I'll say.

Do you want to read some more stories?
I have made a very small, but slowly growing collection of stories in this website [Visit Swami Gulagulaananda's website] If you have stories to share, please read further.

Do you have short Hindu mythological stories to contribute?
If you have any stories to contribute, short or long, please send me a mail (you can comment also). You don't have to type them out. If you can send me a link to a web site that allows sharing of material (No copyright violation encouraged) then, do let me know.

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