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Indian Mythology

A. Berriedale Keith, Vedams, 2005, Reprint, vi, 347 p, 31 plates, figs, ISBN : 8179360156, $33.00 (Includes free airmail shipping)


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Indian Mythology/A. Berriedale Keith

Contents: Preface. Introduction. 1. The Rgveda--Gods of sky and air. 2. The Rgveda--Gods of earth, demons, and dead. 3. The mythology of the Brahmanas. 4. The great Gods of the epic. 5. Minor epic deities and the dead. 6. The mythology of the Puranas. 7. Buddhist mythology in India and Tibet. 8. The mythology of the Jains. 9. The mythology of modern Hinduism. Notes. Bibliography.

"The mythology of India claims unique interest by virtue of its unparalleled length of life. It is true that not even the discoveries at Boghaz Kyoi render it prudent for us to place the Rgveda at an earlier period than 1500 B.C., and in part at least that collection may come from three centuries later, so that as contrasted with the dates of Egyptian and Babylonian records the earliest monument of Aryan mythology is comparatively recent. In mass of content and in value for mythology, however, these cannot compare with the Rgveda. Of still more importance is the fact that from the period of the Rgveda to the present day, a space of some thirty-five hundred years, we have a mythology which is in constant but organic development. In India, though foreign invasion has often swept over the north-west of the land, though Islam has annexed souls as well as territories, though Christianity (especially in the south) has contributed elements to the faith of the people, still it remains true that the religion and the mythology of the land are genuinely their own and for this reason have in themselves the constant potency of fresh growth. Moreover, amidst the ceaseless change which is the heritage of human things, there is relative stability in the simpler thoughts of the human mind, and as in many parts of India the peasant still labours with the implements and in the mode of his ancestors in periods far remote, so his mind frames the same hypotheses to account for those phenomena of nature which in India more than elsewhere determine irrevocably his weal or his woe.

The rich variety of the mythology, despite its attraction for the student of the history of myths, renders the task of concise exposition one of peculiar difficulty. For the mythology of the present day available material is enormous: each part of the vast area of India has its own abundant store of myth and tradition, and to give detail for this period would be impossible. The same consideration applies with but slightly lessened force for the earlier epochs: the Veda, the epics, the Puranas, the literature of the Buddhists and of the Jains, each present data in lavish abundance.  It has been necessary, therefore, to circumscribe narrowly the scope of the subject by restricting the treatment to that mythology which stands in close connexion with religion and which conveys to us a conception of the manner in which the Indian pictured to himself the origin of the world and of life, the destiny of the universe and of the souls of man, the Gods and the evil spirits who supported or menaced his existence. Gods and demons were very present to the mind of the Indian then as they are today, and they are inextricably involved in innumerable stories of folk-lore, of fairy tale, and of speculation as to the origin of institutions and customs." (jacket)

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