Rahu and Ketu- the two Hindu mythological gods who ate up the Sun and the Moon! What’s the story?
When I escort my foreign guests on walks in the lanes of Delhi, they ask me several questions about our Hindu mythological gods. Some of the mystical gods like Vishnu and Krishna are quite well known abroad. Gods like Saraswati, Varun, Rahu, and Ketu are not well known abroad though.
Our Hindu mythological gods have the same qualities, strengths, and weaknesses as us. When I point out this thing to my guests, they are hugely surprised. This isn’t surprising because, in the West, God means somebody who doesn’t have any weakness.
A peek at the mystical gods of India
This mythological god is the king of snakes or Nagas. Vasuki is coiled on the neck of Lord Shiv and has 7 other brothers. He has a sister too, whose name is Mansa. There is a temple which is dedicated to Mansa in Haridwar, Uttarakhand.
Do you know that Bhishma of Mahabharat is one of the incarnations of one of the brothers of Vasuki?
The names of all the brothers of Vasuki are- Nanda (Nagaraja), Upananda, Sagara (Shakara), Takshaka, Balavan, Anavatapta, and Utpala.
During the great churning of the divine ocean, the Devas and the Asuras had coiled Vasuki around Mount Mandara.
Vasuki is also worshipped in China, Japan, and Thailand.
- Sheshnag- The King of all Serpents
Sheshnag is also a serpent but he is the favorite of Lord Vishnu. He is the King of all the Nagas and was born to Sage Kashyapa.
Vishnu, who is responsible for the preservation of this Universe, sleeps on the coil of Sheshnag. Actually, Vishnu doesn’t sleep in the literal sense of the word- He is in a state of contemplation.
Like Vasuki, Sheshnag also sometimes takes the form of humans. For example, Lakshman, younger brother of Lord Ram, was the avatar of Lord Vishnu.
This mystical god is quite good-hearted in nature and carries Earth and other planets on his head. When Sheshnag was very young, he could not bear to see the bad behavior of his other brothers. He soon left his home for the jungles where he started praying to Lord Bramha.
Years passed and Shesha became a pile of bones. Impressed by his devotion, Bramha appeared before Shesha and asked him what he wanted.
Shesha said that all he wanted was equanimity of mind, so Brahma said ok, you will have the necessary peace of mind so that you can bear Earth and other planets.
Apart from snakes, we also have birds as our mythological gods.
Garuda belongs to the eagle-kite-falcon family and is the carrier of Lord Vishnu. Garuda is also a brother of Sheshnaga.
If you go to some ancient Vishnu temples, you will see the image of Garuda outside the sanctum sanctorum. In some temples, there is a tall pillar which acts as the seat of this mystical god.
There is an interesting story behind why Garuda sits on a higher pedestal than Vishnu. It is said that the former had asked for this privilege from Vishnu.
Garuda is also associated with the Kumbha Melas in India. I guess I have written on this subject elsewhere in this blog.
Another great mythological god of Hindus is Jatayu.
He is the younger brother of Sampati and both the two brothers are the sons of Arun. Both are also vultures.
In the famous epic, Ramayana, Jatayu tries to save Sita while she is being abducted by Ravana. Unable to do so, Jatayu, the bird king, falls down to the ground after being grievously wounded by Ravana.
Rama considered Jatayu as a father figure because both the two brothers were personal friends of Dashrath, the father of Lord Rama.
In their young age, Jatayu and Sampati used to compete with each other in the art and science of flying.
One day, Jatayu went very close to Sun while flying and it seemed that his body will be reduced to ashes. Seeing this, Sampati covered his brother with his wings and brought Jatayu down. But in the whole process, Sampati lost his wings and feathers and lost the ability to fly.
If you want to visit some of the sites associated with these Hindu mythological gods, then wait for my blog post.
Please do not think that Hindus have only birds and snakes as their mystical gods. Take the case of Jambwant, who is a bear and is immortal.
Jambwant was a very important aide of Lord Rama during the latter’s war with Ravana. Many thousand years later, the same Jamwant fought a bloody battle with Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu.
After this battle, Jambwant married off his daughter, Jambwanti to Krishna.
There are only three characters in Hindu mythology who are immortal- Jambwant, Parashurama, and Hanuman. Oh yes, I also forgot to take the name of Ashwatthama who supposedly lives in an ancient Indian fort. Don’t you want to read his story?
Did you like this post on Hindu mythological gods? Do let me know please.