Angkor Wat's marvelous bas relief - 37 Heavens and 32 Hells
Sources: Vedas, Puranas
Vedic mythology: Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda
Epics: Ramayana, Mahabharata
Cosmology: Hiranyagarbha, Swarga, Prthivi
Deities: Trimurti, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Parvati, Ganesha, Murugan
People of the Epics: Sapta Rishis, Bhrigu, Angira, Atri, Gautama, Kashyapa, Vashishta, Agastya, Pitrs, Bharata, Krishna, Kauravas, Pandavas, Rama, Sita, Lakshman, Hanuman
Hindu mythology is the large body of traditional narratives related to Hinduism, notably as contained in Sanskrit literature, such as the Sanskrit epics and the Puranas. As such, it is a subset of Indian mythology.
The four Vedas, notably the hymns of the Rigveda, contained allusions to many themes (see Rigvedic deities, Rigvedic rivers).
In the period of Classical Sanskrit, much material is preserved in the Sanskrit epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Besides theology proper, the voluminous epics also provide a plethora of information about ancient Indian society, philosophy, culture, religion and ways of life.
The Puranas deal with stories that are older than the epics (Purana is Sanskrit for 'ancient'). The date of the Puranic texts as preserved however mostly post-dates the epics, dating to the Early Middle Ages. The epics themselves are set in different Yugas (epochs) or periods of time. The Ramayana, written by the poet Valmiki, describes the life and times of Lord Rama (the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu) and occurs in the treta yuga, while the Mahabharatha that describes the life and times of the Pandavas, occurs in the Dwapara yuga, a period associated with Lord Krishna (the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu). In total, there are 4 Yugas. These are the Satya Yuga (or Krita Yuga), the Treta Yuga, the Dvapara Yuga and finally the Kali Yuga.
The Bhagavata Purana is probably the most read and popular of the puranas. It chronicles the story of the god Vishnu and his incarnations (avataars) on earth.
Vedic mythology / Vedic theology
The roots of theology that evolved from classical Hinduism come from the times of the Vedic civilization, from the ancient Vedic religion. The characters, theology, philosophy and stories that make up ancient Vedic myths are indelibly linked with Hindu beliefs. The Vedas are said to be four in number, namely RigVeda, YajurVeda, SamaVeda, and the AtharvaVeda. Some of these texts mention mythological concepts and machines very much similar to modern day scientific theories and machines.
The two great Hindu Epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata tell the story of two specific incarnations of Vishnu (Rama and Krishna). These two works are known as Itihasa. The epics Mahabharata and Ramayana serve as both religious scriptures and a rich source of philosophy and morality for a Hindu. The epics are divided into chapters and contain various short stories and moral situations, where the character takes a certain course of action in accordance with Hindu laws and codes of righteousness. The most famous of these chapters is the Bhagavad Gita (Sanskrit: The Lord's Song) in the Mahabharata, in which Lord Krishna explains the concepts of duty and righteousness to the hero Arjuna before the climactic battle. These stories are deeply embedded in Hindu philosophy and serve as parables and sources of devotion for Hindus. The Mahabharata is the world's longest epic in verse, running to more than 30,000 lines.
Hinduism presents a number of accounts pertaining to cosmology, and several explanations have been given as regards the origin of the universe. The most popular belief is that the universe emerged from Hiranyagarbha, meaning the golden womb. Hiranyagarbha floated around in water in the emptiness and the darkness of non-existence. Ultimately, this golden egg split and the, whereas Prithvi came out from the silver coloured lower half part.
Wars of Hindu mythology
Apart from the traditional human weapons like swords, daggers, spears, clubs, shields, bows, arrows and maces, and the weapons used by the Gods (such as Indra's thunderbolt Vajrayudha), the texts mention the utilization of various divine weapons by various heroes, each associated with a certain God or deity. These weapons are most often gifted to semi-divine beings, human beings or the rakshasas by the Gods, sometimes as a result of penance.
There are several weapons which were believed to be used by the Gods of the Hindu theology, some of which are Agneyastra, Brahmastra, Chakram, Garudastra, Kaumodaki, Narayanastra, Pashupata, Shiva Dhanush, Sudarshana Chakra, Trishul, Vaishnavastra, Varunastra, and Vayavastra.
Some of these weapons are explicitly classified ( for example, the Shiva Dhanush is a bow, the Sudharshan Chakra is a discus and the Trishul is a trident), but many other weapons appear to be weapons specially blessed by the Gods. For example, the Brahmastra, Agneyastra (Sanskrit: Astra = divine weapon, especially, one thrown at an opponent) and the other astras appear to be single use weapons requiring an intricate knowledge of use, often depicted in art, literature and adapted filmography as divinely blessed arrows.
Sometimes the astra is descriptive of the function, or of the force of nature which it invokes. The Mahabharata cites instances when the Nagastra (Sanskrit: Nag=snake) was used, and thousands of snakes came pouring down from the skies on unsuspecting enemies. Similarly, the Agneyastra (Agni) is used for setting the enemy ablaze, as the Varunastra (Varuna) is used for extinguishing flames, or for invoking floods. Some weapons like the Brahmastra can only be used (lethally) against a single individual.
Apart from the astras, other instances of divine or mythological weaponry include armor (Kavacha), crowns and helmets, staffs and jewellery (Kundala).
The story of a great flood is mentioned in ancient Hindu texts, particularly the Satapatha Brahmana. It is compared to the accounts of the Deluge found in several religions and cultures. Manu was informed of the impending flood and was protected by the Matsya Avatara of Lord Vishnu, who had manifested himself in this form to rid the world of morally depraved human beings and protect the pious, as also all animals and plants.
After the flood the Lord inspires the Manusmriti, largely based upon the Vedas, which details the moral code of conduct, of living and the division of society according to the caste system.
The peoples of the epics
Hindu theology is not only about Gods and men, but classifies a host of different kinds of celestial, ethereal and earthly beings.
Lord Brahma, out of his thought, creates seven sages, or Sapta Rishis, to help him in his act of creation. Sapta Rishis (sapta means seven and rishis mean sages in Sanskrit). They are Bhrigu, Angira, Atri, Gautama, Kashyapa, Vashishta, and Agastya. The other meaning of Saptarishis is constellation of Great Bear (Ursa Major).
The Pitara, or fathers, were the first humans. The word 'Pitara' comes from the word Pitri or Pita(In Hindi and Sanskrit) meaning Father. So it is about paternity and paternal relations, and ancestors.
Hindu theology defines fourteen worlds (not to be confused with planets) - seven higher worlds (heavens) and seven lower ones (hells). (The earth is considered the lowest of the seven higher worlds.) The higher worlds are the seven vyahrtis, viz. bhu, bhuvas, svar, mahas, janas, tapas, and satya (the world that is ruled by Brahma); and the lower ones (the 'seven hells' or paatalas) are atala, vitala, sutala, rasaataala, talatala, mahaatala, paatala.
All the worlds except the earth are used as temporary places of stay as follows: upon one's death on earth, the god of death (officially called 'Yama Dharma Raajaa' - Yama, the lord of justice) tallies the person's good/bad deeds while on earth and decides if the soul goes to a heaven and/or a hell, for how long, and in what capacity. Some versions of the theology state that good and bad deeds neutralize each other and the soul therefore is born in either a heaven or a hell, but not both, whereas according to another school of thought, the good and bad deeds don't cancel out each other. In either case, the soul acquires a body as appropriate to the worlds it enters. At the end of the soul's time in those worlds, it returns to the earth (is reborn as a life form on the earth). It is considered that only from the earth, and only after a human life, can the soul reach supreme salvation, the state free from the cycle of birth and death and the place beyond the fourteen worlds where the eternal god lives.
There are many deities in Hinduism. At the top are the trimurti: Shiva (the destroyer), Vishnu (the protector), and Brahma (the creator), and their wives (goddesses in their own right): Shakti (also known as Paarvathi, Ambicaa) the goddess of courage and power, Lakshmi the goddess of all forms of wealth, and Saraswati the goddess of learning. The children of the Trimurti are also devas, such as Ganesha and Skanda or Kartika.
Brahma is considered the ruler of the highest of the heavens (the world called Sathya), so in one sense, Brahma is not beyond the fourteen worlds as Shiva and Vishnu are.
Some gods are associated with specific elements or functions: Indra (the god of thunder and lightning; he also rules the world of Swarga), Varuna (the god of the oceans), Agni (the god of fire), Kubera (the treasurer of the gods), Surya (the sun god), Vayu (the god of wind), and Soma (the moon god).
Swarga also has a set of famous heavenly dancers: Urvasi, Menaka, Rambha, and Tilottama (all female), whose job is to entertain the heavenly court, and upon orders from the heavenly kings, to distract people on the earth from accumulating too much good deeds so as to become a threat to the heavenly kings.
Other notable inhabitants of the heavens include the celestial sages, and Narada the messenger of the gods.
Yama (the god of death and justice) is said to live in Kailash along with his master Shiva. He rules the lower world of Naraka with a band of emissaries called the Yama doota (messengers of Yama), who bring the souls of dead persons to Yama for evaluation. Chitragupta is one of those lower level celestial beings who functions as the karmic accountant of all the actions of the human beings on earth.
Several gods are believed to have had incarnations (avatars). As the protector of life, one of the duties of Vishnu is to appear on the earth whenever a firm hand is required to set things right. The epic Bhagavatha Purana is the chronology of Vishnu's ten major incarnations (there are in total twenty six incarnations): Matsya (fish), Kurma (turtle), Varaha (boar), Narasimha (lion-faced human), Vamana (an ascetic in the form of a midget), Parasurama (a militant Brahmin), Rama, Krishna,Gautam Buddha(later buddhists separated themselves from Hindus), Kalki (a predicted warrior on a white horse who would come in this yuga ) whose appearance also signals the beginning of the end of the epoch.
House of Ikshvaku
Ikshvaku was the son of Manu, the first mortal man, and founder of the Sun Dynasty.
The first king to conquer all of the world was Bharata, son of Dushyanta and Shakuntala. All of this world, Vishwa, is named Bharatavarsha, or The Land of Bharata, or The Cherished Land. King Bharata's conquests are described to have stretched over all of modern India, and Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, as well as the ancient Gandhara region of Afghanistan. No account has been known to exceed these geographical boundaries.
Name: Angkor Wat
Creator: Suryavarman II (ruled 1113 – c. 1150).
Date built: first half of the 12th century Primary deity: Vishnu
Architecture: Khmer style
Location: Angkor Thom, Cambodia
Coordinates: 13°24'45?N 103°52'0?E
History of Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat (or Angkor Vat) is a temple complex at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation-first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist.
The temple is the epitome of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple mountain and the later galleried temple, based on early South Indian Hindu architecture, with key features such as the Jagati. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of towers. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west; scholars are divided as to the significance of this. The temple is admired for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs and for the numerous devatas (guardian spirits) adorning its walls.
Wat is the Khmer word for temple. Prior to this time the temple was known as Preah Pisnulok, after the posthumous title of its founder, Suryavarman II.
Angkor Wat lies 5.5 km north of the modern town of Siem Reap, and a short distance south and slightly east of the previous capital, which was centred on the Baphuon. It is in an area of Cambodia where there is an important group of ancient structures. The initial design and construction of the temple took place in the first half of the 12th century, during the reign of Suryavarman II (ruled 1113 - c. 1150). In 1177, approximately 27 years after the death of Suryavarman II, Angkor was sacked by the Chams, the traditional enemies of the Khmer.
The new King decided to convert the official religion of the empire from Hindu to Buddhist. Angkor Wat was converted from Hindu to Theravada Buddhist use, which continues to the present day. Angkor Wat is unusual among the Angkor temples in that although it was somewhat neglected after the 16th century it was never completely abandoned, its preservation being due in part to the fact that its moat also provided some protection from encroachment by the jungle. One of the first Western visitors to the temple was Antonio da Magdalena, a Portuguese monk who visited in 1586 and said that it "is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. The temple was popularised in the West only in the mid-19th century on the publication of Henri Mouhot's travel notes. Mouhot, like other early Western visitors, was unable to believe that the Khmers could have built the temple, and mistakenly dated it to around the same era as Rome. The true history of Angkor Wat was pieced together only from stylistic and epigraphic evidence accumulated during the subsequent clearing and restoration work carried out across the whole Angkor site.
Suryavarman II (posthumous name Paramavishnuloka) was king of the Khmer Empire from 1113 A.D. to 1145-1150 A.D. and the builder of Angkor Wat, which he dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu.
His reign's monumental architecture, numerous military campaigns and restoration of strong government have led historians to rank Suryavarman as one of the empire's greatest kings.
The king appears to have grown up in a provincial estate in the area of present-day Lopburi in Thailand, at a time of weakening central controls in the empire.
An inscription lists his father as Ksitindraditya, his mother as Narendralashmi.
As a young prince, he maneuvered for power, contending he had a legitimate claim to the throne.
states an inscription, he approved the desire of the royal dignity of his family.
Bounding on the head of the elephant of the enemy king, he killed him, as Garuda on the edge of a mountain would kill a serpent.
Scholars have disagreed on whether this language refers to the death of the southern claimant or King Dharanindravarman.
Suryavarman was inaugurated in 1113 A.D. An aged Brahman sage named Divakarapandita oversaw the ceremonies, this being the third time the priest had officiated for an incoming king.
The priest embarked on a lengthy tour of temples in the empire, including the mountaintop Preah Vihear, which he provided with a golden statue of dancing Shiva.
During his decades in power, the king reunited the empire, reversing many of the benign policies of his predecessor, historians believe.
In the west and north, his soldiers expanded the borders to cover new parts of present-day Thailand, Laos and Peninsular Malaysia.
As is common in reconstructing Khmer history, there is plenty of room for debating these and other precise events.
Khmer inscriptions, a major source of information, may exaggerate the empire's accomplishments, while accounts from rival states may do the same with its shortcomings.
Inscriptions in the neighboring Indianized state Champa and accounts left by writers in Dai-Viet, a Vietnam precursor state, say that Suryavarman staged three major but unsuccessful attacks on Dai-Viet, sometimes with the support of Champa.
In 1128 A.D., he is said to have led 20,000 soldiers against Dai-Viet, but they were defeated and chased out.
In 1145, A.D., Suryavarman appears to have invaded Champa, defeated its king and sacked the capital Vijaya.
In subsequent fighting, Cham forces recaptured the capital and killed Harideva.
In addition to war, Suryavarman practiced diplomacy, resuming formal relations with China in 1116 A.D. A Chinese account of the 13th Century says that the Khmer embassy had 14 members, who after reaching Chinese soil were given special court garments. The embassy went home the following year.
Another embassy visited in 1120 A.D.; in 1128 A.D., the emperor conferred high dignities on the Khmer ruler, deeming him great vassal of the empire. Problems concerning commerce between the two states were examined and regulated.
The king's reign saw great innovations in art and architecture.
He presided over construction of Angkor Wat, the largest temple ever built in the capital, and in many modern minds the ultimate masterpiece of Khmer architecture.
Other temples dating to his reign include Banteay Samre, Thommanon, Chau Say Tevoda and, east of the capital, the huge Beng Mealea complex.
Suryavarman married, but no record exists of his wives' names.
Suryavarman II was unusual among Khmer kings in making Vishnu rather than Shiva the focus of court religious life.
Scholars have long debated whether his association with Vishnu helps explain why Angkor Wat faces west, the cardinal direction with which Vishnu is associated, rather than the common orientation for Khmer temples of east.
For reasons unknown, Suryavarman II is the first Khmer king to be depicted in art.
A bas relief in the south gallery of Angkor Wat shows him seated on an elaborate wooden dais whose legs and railings are carved to resemble naga snakes.
His right hand holds what seems to be a small dead snake-its meaning is unclear.
His torso curves gracefully, his legs folded beneath him.
Kneeling attendants hold over His Majesty a profusion of fans, fly whisks and parasols that denoted rank.
Whiskered Brahman priests look on, some of them apparently preparing things for a ceremony.
An ark bearing the royal fire, symbol of power, is carried on shoulders.
Further on in the gallery is a display of Suryavarman's military might.
Commanders with armor and weapons stand atop fierce war elephants, with ranks of foot soldiers below, each holding a spear and shield.
One of the commanders is the king himself, looking over his right shoulder, his chest covered with armor, a sharp weapon in his right hand.
Inscriptional evidence suggests that Suryavarman II died at some point between 1145 A.D. and 1150 A.D., possibly during a military campaign against Champa.
Suryavarman was given the posthumous name Paramavishnuloka, He Who Has Entered the Heavenly World of Vishnu.
Angkor Wat appears to have been completed only after his death.
A modern sculpture that adapts his court image in the Angkor Wat bas reliefs today greets visitors arriving at the Siem Reap airport.
Parasols shelter this image of the king, as real ones did the real Suryavarman almost nine centuries ago.
Suryavarman II is a civilization leader in the 2007 PC computer game Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword.
In the game, Suryavarman is the leader of the Khmer Empire and has the leader traits Creative and Expansive (these traits were previously used for Cyrus of Persia in the original Civilization IV game).
Yasovarman II was the ruler of the Khmer empire from 1160 to 1166. He succeeded Suryavarman II. His rule was ended when he was assassination by one of his subordinates.
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia Map
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