Hindu Mythology is the mythology of both Ancient and Modern India, used as moral allegory to convey spiritual truths. There are as many myths in Hinduism as there are people, so it is impossible to describe every single one.
Vedic Gods--the Devas--tend to be nature deities. There are strong parallels among the Vedic gods to the gods of Classical, Celtic, and Norse Mythology, as the Greeks, Romans, Celts, and ancient Germans shared a common ancestral mythology with the ancient Aryans of the Vedic Age. Indra is the leader of the Gods, and he controls lightning (he's considered to be roughly equivalent to Zeus/Jupiter and Thor). Varuna controls water (equivalent to Ouranos/Uranus and the Norse Ullr), Vayu controls the wind, and Surya is the god of the Sun (equivalent to the Classical Helios/Sol--whose attributes were later appropriated by Apollo--and the Norse/Germanic personification of the Sun, Sól).
The Vedic Gods live in Heaven and continuously fight the Asuras, their evil cousins, to prevent them from obtaining immortality or dominance. They tend to be considered subservient to the Hindu Trinity.
The Hindu Trinity is post-Vedic--and thus has few cognates abroad--and consists of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer. Brahma is rarely worshiped in comparison to Vishnu and Shiva, but is still considered equal within the Trinity. Vishnu is mostly known for his 10 Avatars and Shiva is known for his unorthodoxy, fierce anger, and fierce forgiveness. Vishnu is married to the goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity; Shiva is married to the goddess Parvati, the Goddess of Strength and Courage; and Brahma married to Saraswathi, Goddess of Wisdom and Knowledge.
Other important deities include Kali (a berserk form of Durga/Parvati), and Kanon. Maya is more akin to a lesser apsara that illustrates illusion.
Major Hindu sacred texts include the Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, and Upanishads. The above are Older Than Feudalism, but the four Vedas are Older Than Dirt, and the Puranas are only Older Than Print.
- Achilles' Heel: Duryodhana had his thighs, and Ravana had his heart. Every demon will have a weak spot. Every single one.
- Achilles in His Tent: In the Mahabharata, Karna walks out of the war because he did not respect Bhishma enough. Bhishma's impending death changed his mind.
- Adaptation Expansion: The Puranas.
- All Amazons Want Hercules: Parvati. Hidimba, a Rakshashi, falls for Bhima, the strongest man in the Mahabharata.
- Part of the reason that Parvati falls for Shiva is because he is stronger than her.
- All Men Are Perverts: Subverted with Janaka, Bharata, and Vashishta but confirmed with most royal princes in the epics.
- Alternate Mythology Equivalent: Indra and Zeus are very similar characters. Both were the Jerkass God chief god of their respective pantheons, wielding Bolt of Divine Retribution and enjoying pretty amusing sexual lives.
- Always Save the Girl: Inverted in the dice game in the Mahabharata, where it is Draupadi who saves the honor of her five husbands.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Shakuntala's husband Dushyant when he first sees her.
- Angry Dance: Shiva, when he gets angry, dances a dance called "Rudra Tandava" that can annihilate everything. The universe is described in Saivism (a branch of Hinduism) to be like a creation of the dance of God.
- Annoying Arrows: Archery was loved in the ancient world. Almost every single epic has one superspecialawesomesexy transformational weapon. The Brahmastra, a weapon that is likened to a nuclear weapon, is always proven useless through some contrived mechanism.
- Probably because a Brahmastra had the power to either obliterate a really powerful creature, or take out a solid chunk of the universe. You don't deploy a weapon like that without some seriously good failsafes...
- Anthropomorphic Personification: Almost every God appears as a human mostly 'cause humans are adorable.
- Anything That Moves: Indra falls in love with anyone who is remotely pretty. This role is later taken over by human kings, who keep falling in love with heavenly apsaras, lowly fisherwomen, and everyone in between.
- Apocalypse How: The job of the last avatar of Vishnu, Kalki, is to end mankind because they have turned so evil. Details in the Puranas.
- Arch Enemy: There are at least three versions of Vritra, depict it with different origin. All versions were killed by Indra.
- Attempted Rape: Attempted rape, especially of a virginal woman, is punished severely. See the story of Vedavati.
- Back from the Dead: Nala.
- Badass: Shiva, Vishnu and his Avatars, and Durga/Kali. Also the Winged Humanoid Garuda. In the process of stealing Amrita, he managed to kick most of the god's asses, and even Vishnu only managed to fight him to a draw. And he did it before gaining godhood.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: A beautiful man/woman never loses his/her beauty.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Applies to every single person in the universe, though mostly applicable if you happen to be an Evil Overlord/Demon/Tyrant trying to use your wish for evil. A loophole is always found to break your immortality, and it never turns out well for anyone, especially you.
- Though subverted in some tales, like the story of Satyavati who told Yama, the God of Death, that she wished to be happy. Since she is a married woman and her husband just died, the God of Death had no choice but to revive her husband, because she can only be happy with her husband alive. But then again, she is pretty clever and good.
- Another version of the story says that she wished to have sons, so Yama had to bring her husband back to life so that she could have the sons. Remarrying was apparently not an option.
- It wasn't.
- Because Destiny Says So: Subverted with Markandeya, a boy who was fated to die at eight, but whose devotion moved God to step death aside.
- Subverted with Satyavati as well.
- Bed Trick: Devyani tries to pull this on Yayati. He proceeds to cheat on her almost immediately after marriage.
- The Berserker: Gods go berserk easily, especially if you torture their devotees, especially if they happen to be little children with big hearts. Do not, under any circumstances, torture girls under the age of 11.
- See Narsimha (half-man, half-lion), Mahishasuramardini (aka Kali).
- Body Horror: When Indra assaults a sage's wife, the sage is so angry that he curses Indra to have a thousand vaginas, since he seemed to love them so much. Other devas come to beg the sage to lift this curse, since Indra is their chief. He refuses to lift the curse, but agrees to change it so that Indra has thousand eyes instead.
- Also, in earlier myths, Indra was credited to have a thousand testicles.
- Cain and Abel: Vibheeshna and Ravana in the Ramayana. Sugreva and Vali in the Ramayana. Arjuna and Karna in the Mahabharata. The Kauravas and the Pandavas in the Mahabharata.
- Cool Horse / Horse of a Different Color: Each and every god has a vahana (that is, a mount) that reflects his or her personality and character.
- Cosmic Egg: The Rig Veda and certain Puranas use this to describe the universe in its early stages
- Curse: Among other things, Ahalya's adultery with Indra resulted in her being turned into a small stone (as opposed to "turned to stone"). She is forgiven and changes back to her natural shape when Rama in the Ramayana steps on her by chance.
- Daddy's Girl: Devayani.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Yama, the God of the Underworld, is not evil, but a benevolent guy just doing his job. Shiva, though he can get angry, is usually calm, reasonable, and peaceful, though he is the God of Destruction. Kali is NOT evil. She is a "berserk" form of Durga reserved for only the wickedest of the wicked. Terrible imagery and power do not evil make.
- Death by Sex: Pandu. The previous king, Vichitravirya, also dies because of this.
- Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu??: Ananta Shesha, lord of all Nagas, is a gigantic serpent with a thousand heads. It can hold all the planets on its hoods. It's also one of the few beings that will remain after the destruction of the universe. While that sounds like a fearsome Eldritch Abomination, Shesha is a good deity. Shesha prefers to sing and praise the glories of Vishnu, who sleeps on its back, rather than cause destruction.
- Divine Date: Indra, as well as Krishna with the milkmaids.
- Double Standard: And how.
- Driven to Suicide: Sati, and later Madri, who kill themselves for insults to or the death of their husbands.
- Even the Guys Want Him: Almost all the gods tend to be Bishonen. One example of this would be Krishna, whose appearance changed the etymology of his name, which meant "black" or "dark," to "attractive".
- When reincarnated as Rama, Vishnu rescued some sages from a demon. The sages became sick with longing for Rama's beauty, so Vishnu promised he would return to them in another reincarnation (Krishna), and that the sages would be reincarnated as cowherdesses who would make endless love with him.
- One version of the myth of Shiva falling for Vishnu's female avatar, Mohini (mentioned below), has Mohini transform back into Vishnu when he/she is having sex with Shiva. This does not stop them from continuing.
- Flat Earth Atheist: Somehow, Demons with magical abilities that drive out the Devas disbelieve in the existence of a God.
- Gender Bender: Vishnu who becomes a very attractive and very female Mohini to either trick demons from the nectar of immortality or work out a prophecy to trick demons. One myth also has Shiva falling madly in lust with Mohini, and they have a child together.
- Gentle Giant: Gatokchana, the son of Bhima and Hidimbi.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Hindus interpret Krishna's act of playing his magic flute to get wives to leave their husband's beds and dance with him in the moonlight, as a metaphor of man leaving behind all earthly possessions to commune with God. Sure...
- Gilded Cage: When Sita is kidnapped by King Ravana, he holds her in the palace of Lanka for an entire year.
- The Great Flood: Manu escapes this on the back of a fish.
- Grand Theft Me: Yayati, after the curse of his father-in-law that he should become old and infirm, asked his sons to exchange their youthful body with his. All refused except the youngest son, Puru, who was crowned after his reign. Puru was the ancestor of the Kauravas and the Pandavas in the Mahabharata. His brother Yadu was the ancestor of the Yadavas - thus the ancestor of Krishna.
- Götterdämmerung: Hinduism states that there are four cyclical eras - Satya, Treta, Dwapara, and Kali. Satya Yuga is considered the best era, with most people oriented towards God. Treta Yuga sees the majority of mankind being good, but also a substantial increase in evil people. Dwapara Yuga sees most people in shades of grey, with very few good men. Kali is considered the wickedest age. We are currently in the Kali Yuga.
- Hartman Hips. See the Stripperiffic entry below.
- Honor Before Reason: Most of Karna's adulthood problems can be blamed on the fact that he swore allegiance to a guy who turned out to be with the bad guys, and Karna refused to go back on his word.
- Hot-Blooded: Durvasa. Don't ever piss off Durvasa.
- Vishwamitra could have easily been a Brahmarishi much sooner than he did if he were not so hotblooded.
- I Have Many Names: Several gods have been known to have over a thousand names. The ones with sahasranamas (lit. thousand names) have books that lit. list their thousand or more names, i.e. Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha, Lalita, etc.
- It Was a Gift: Arjuna is gifted a lot of weapons by Indra and Shiva.
- Lawful Stupid: Daksha hated his son-in-law, Shiva, for living a rather chaotic lifestyle. Shiva didn't mind that until his wife, Sati, committed suicide in grief of her father defiling and mocking her beloved. Shiva was infuriated; he later killed Daksha, then revived him, with a goat's head as punishment. In his humility and repentance for his graceless and sinful acts, Daksha became one of Shiva's most devoted attendants.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Some estimate put the total number of gods at 300 million. Of course, only a relatively small fraction of that number is widely known.
- Loads and Loads of Races: Rakshasas are demons who live on earth, Asuras are demons who live elsewhere, Yakshas are nature deities, Apsaras are beautiful nymphs, and Gandarvas are strong, beautiful and powerful creatures. Nagas worship snakes or are snakes, depending on the epic.
- Love Goddess: Lakshmi. It's worth to note that she's also associate with fortune, wealth and wisdom. In other words, she's what you got when combine the good parts of Aphrodite, Hera and Athena into single goddess.
- Mama Bear: Durga
- Mental Fusion: Nirvana, becoming One with the Cosmos, and thus all who have acheived it before.
- My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad: Devayani, the daughter of the chief mentor of the Asuras and Sharmishta, the daughter of the King of the Asuras, had a fight about whose dad is more powerful. This fight had more consequences than most: Devayani was abandoned in a well as a result, and she sought her revenge by complaining to her father that she would not be appeased until Sharmishta becomes her maid. This, like so many of her schemes, backfires when her husband Yayati cheats on her and has three sons with Sharmishta.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Devayani begged her father, Shukracharya, the mentor of the Asuras, to teach his pupil and son of his great adversary in the side of the Gods, Kacha, how to revive one's life after death so that he can return to life after his gruesome death at the hands of the Asuras. She did this because she loved him. He thanks her by leaving almost immediately with the mantra to the gods and saying that they are Like Brother and Sister now.
- In the Mahabharata, Jayadatta tried to carry away Draupadi in a chariot, was stopped by the Pandavas who spared his life because he married their cousin's sister Dushala. He proceeds to be instrumental in the death of Arjuna's teenage son, Abhimanyu.
- Karna is supposed to have learned his skills from Parasurama, a teacher who only took in brahmin pupils and despised kshatriyas. Karna as a pupil disguised himself as a brahmin. Parasurama took a nap on Karna's lap when a bee stung Karna's leg. He did not stir or move, even though he was bleeding and was in great pain. Parasurama woke up, and instead of thanking his diligent pupil, cursed Karna for deceiving him, suspecting him of kshatriya ancestry (he figured that a courageous man cannot be brahmin - great Fridge Logic).
- Older Than They Look: Notable for Usha, goddess of dawn, who remains a teenager.
- Krishna is supposed to be older than fifty at the start of the Kurushetra War. He looks perpetually 20.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: Brahma may be the creator god, but he has the least followers, compared to Vishnu and Shiva.
- Petting Zoo People: Ganesha, who has the head of an elephant (reasons for this vary across stories).
- Primordial Chaos: In fact, the gods even intentionally fished there once, just to see what they could pull out of it. And collected an impressive pile of weird things, some more useful than others. No boots, though.
- Prophecy Twist: An interesting variant which shows up frequently involves a character being granted some magical ability by the gods (interestingly, even villains like Ravana seem to receive divine gifts) which appears to make them unbeatable, and their enemies having to find a way to cheat that power. Some examples:
- Daitya King Hiranyakashyap wished that he would neither die during day or night, outside or inside, neither by celestial or human or by any weapon made under the sun. He dies due to the avatar Narsimha, who appears during twilight, on the steps of a house (which is neither inside nor outside), who is half-animal and half-man, and who uses his nails to tear open his stomach.
- Another villain had wished that any foe who appeared before him would lose half their strength, and he would gain the same amount. He was defeated, simply enough, when Rama shot him in the back from tree cover. The villain managed to deliver a decent What the Hell, Hero? speech, but died anyway.
- Self-Made Orphan: One myth on origin of Kamadeva (equivalent to Eros) has him test his magical bow on his father. This caused the man to fall in love with his own daughter; he doesn't give in to the desire, yet the Squick thought keeps tormenting him and eventually makes him commit suicide.
- Semi-Divine: Ganesh was a boy who was appointed by the Goddess Parvati to stop anyone from entering her bathroom while taking her bath. When Ganesh stopped her Husband Shiva from entering, Shiva cut his head off. After Parvati found out what happened, she became angry, and Shiva had to fix Ganesh by attaching an elephant's head to Ganesh. Ganesh was given demigod status in the Hindu pantheon, and is supposed to be a sort of door god.
- Spell My Name with an "S": There are tons of different ways to spell all the names you see here in English. Even beyond that, everyone has several alternate names that all have their own spelling issues. It can be quite confusing at times.
- Stripperiffic: The outfits of several goddesses and Mohini (the female avatar of Vishnu!).
- It also Lampshades the fact that Indian society has changed its values after being under both Islamic and British control. Outfits that had been acceptable for millennia are now taboo. Also, saris were topless before Islamic control (Sexy Backless Outfit and Bare Your Midriff), until British control.
- Taking the Bullet: When the Devas and Asuras churn the sea in order to obtain Amrita (the nectar of immortality), they use a naga (serpent) called Vasuki as the churning rope. The strain causes Vasuki to exhale Halahala (literally, "the most vicious and venomous poison") capable of killing all life. To save the world, Shiva swallows the Halahala himself, and it burns his throat blue.
- He does it again when his consort Kali finally kills the demon Raktabija and dances on the field of battle. Each step of her joyous dance causes a terrible earthquake. Shiva is aware this might cause an Earthshattering Kaboom, so he shields the earth with his body. This causes Kali to stop her victory dance, as she realizes that she's stomping on her husband.
- Time Abyss: Reality is said to last for as long as Brahma's lifetime. Brahma will live to be a hundred years old, except one day in the life of Brahma is four billion, three hundred and twenty million human years. The true end of reality will come about when Brahma dies at the end of 311 trillion human years. We've got a while to go, then.
- Trick Arrows: Astras, usually in the form of Elemental Powers taken Up to Eleven. Some of the milder effects include flash floods, thunderstorms and falling mountains.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Dattreya and Silavati. Ahalya and Gautama Maharishi.
- Unstoppable Rage: Shiva.
- Vishnu as Narsimha
- The Worf Effect: Indra suffers from it badly.
- World's Strongest Man: Bhima, Kumbarkarna.
- Woman Scorned: Devayani, Draupadi, Sita, Kannagi. No, not that Kannagi.
- You Can't Go Home Again: Rama in the Ramayana; the Pandavas for quite some time. Actually, scratch that, the Pandavas forever.
- All these also have fascinating common etymological connections to stuff further west. The evil Asuras are equivalent to the good Ahuras of Zoroastrianism, while the Daevas are evil; this may or may not have inspired Friedrich Nietzsche's thinking about the origins of good and evil. The Asuras are also equivalent to the major grouping of gods in Norse myth, the Aesir, who also fought gods--the Vanir--but eventually reconciled with and incorporated their rivals.
- The Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva Veda