The Matrikas have existed from as early as the Indus Valley civilization (3300–1700 BCE). The Rigveda (c. 1700–1100 BCE) merely refers to them a group of seven mothers who control the preparation of soma (the drink of the gods).
The two major Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, still appear widely in popular folk drama, tales and art all over Southeast Asia with slight adaptations in all the myriad cultures of the region. Scenes from the epics are illustrated in the relief sculptures of temples such as the Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Rama temple in Malaysia, and mural painting in Vat Oup Moung, a Buddhist monastery in Vientiane, Laos. The five Pandava brothers of Mahabharata especially became blue prints in many traditional cultures of the south and southeast Asia as the perfect heroes. Kings claim descendants of the brothers, and their names are used for temples and streets even to this day.
Stories of Hanuman’s heroic deeds have been passed down through generations for thousands of years. us monkey was born in East Asia through the first Chinese novel Hsi-Yu Chi (“Journey to the West”). The story is based on a Buddhist monk who journeyed to India in search of Buddhist sutras from 602-664 CE. Protecting him on his journey, according to the book, are four companions also led by a divine monkey, Sun Wu Kong.
The story of Adam or Eve is by no means universal. According to the Iroquois, Huron and Navajo people, the first human being was, in fact, a woman. Nevertheless, the role of the woman in many legends are the most intriguing as, varied as they are in the way in which they were created and in their circumstances, the first woman share many similar characteristics across cultures – they are beautiful, they change the course of the world through their mere existence and they provide us with glimpses of personalities that women around the world still inherit to this day.
In an ideal world, celebrating one gender should not come at the expense on another. But we are not living in an ideal world. The roles of the women in Mahabharate are defined by their relationships to the men, women are placed merely on the periphery of the epic – typecast as devoted mothers, virtuous wives and innocent maidens. Amba is a different character from the women in the epic. She had to pay the price for her courage to speak her mind against the most powerful man of the age.
Serat Rama is a composition of the old Javanese song Ramayana Kakawin, composed at around 870 AD. In the poem Rama, the seventh avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, explained the concept of leadership to Wibisana, the new king of Alengka. After watching his extended family die on the battlefield, Wibisana was unwittingly put in the unexpected and unwanted position of being the next king of Alengka. Seeing this Rama, who battled and killed Wibisana’s elder brother Rahwana, gave him a crash-course on leadership called Astabrata, a teaching about obligation of a great king.
We often hear something being dismissed as “just a myth” to imply that it is not true. In fact, “myth” and “truth” are often seen as opposites. If it is not analysed, written down in reports … Continue reading The Comfort of Mystery: In Defense of Mythology
In South Australia, a tribe in Encounter Bay tells this story: In remote time an old woman, named Wurruri lived towards the east and generally walked with a large stick in her hand, … Continue reading The More Languages You Know… : Learning Languages in the Ancient World
Although this month I have spoken about the Ancient Greek femme fatales starting from the sirens to Aphrodite herself, the trope did not stop there. We can also find an … Continue reading The Evolution of the Dangerous Woman
Long before the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus, other virgins also gave birth to divine sons. However, these sons were kept secret…