BLTC Press Titles

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The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh

The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely

Indian [mythology]

by Arthur Berriedale Keith


XXVIII Tirthakara 220

XXIX Dilwara Temple 226

XXX Shrine of Bhumiya 234

XXXI Bhairon 238

XXXII Iranian Deities on Indo-Scythian Coins 260

1. Mithra

2. Apam Napat

3. Mah

4. Vata or Vayu

5. Khvarenanh

6. Atar

7. Vanainti (Uparatat)

8. Verethraghna

XXXIII 1. Typical Representation of Mithra 264

2. Scenes from the Life of Mithra

XXXIV Iranian Deities on Indo-Scythian and Sassanian

Coins 272

1. Tishtrya

2. Khshathra Vairya

3. Ardokhsho

4. Asha Vahishta

5. Ahura Mazda

6. Fire Altar

7. Fire Altar

8. Fravashi

XXXV Ancient Fire Temple near Isfahan 284

XXXVI 1. Mithra Born from the Rock 288

2. Mithra Born from the Rock

XXXVII The Simurgh — Coloured 290

XXXVIII Tahmurath Combats the Demons — Coloured . . 302

XXXIX 1. Dahhak (Azhi Dahaka)— Coloured 310

2. Jamshid on His Throne — Coloured

XL Rustam and the White Demon — Coloured ... 328

XLI The Death of Suhrab — Coloured 332

XLII Kai Kaus Attempts to Fly to Heaven — Coloured 336


XLIII Gushtasp Kills a Dragon — Coloured 340

XLIV Sculpture Supposed to Represent Zoroaster . . . 342



1 Agni 42

2 The Churning of the Ocean 104

3 The Propitiation of Uma, or Devi 117

4 The Narasimha (" Man-Lion") Avatar of Visnu .... 123

5 The Matsya (" Fish ") Avatar of Visnu 167



Field Marshal The Right Honourable EARL KITCHENER OF KHARTOUM

K.G., K.P., O.M., G.C.B., G.C.S.1., G.C.M.G., G.C.1.E., LL.D.




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. The high mythic systems of Teuton, Celt, and Slav, of Greek and Roman, have perished before the onslaught of a loftier faith and survive in little else than folk-lore. In India, on the contrary, 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 Purdnas, 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. The task of selecting such myths as will best illustrate the nature of the powers of good and evil is one in which we cannot hope for complete success; and the problem is rendered still more hard by the essential vagueness of many of the figures of Indian mythology: the mysticism of Indian conception tends ever to a pantheism alien to the clear-cut creations of the Hellenic imagination.

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