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Myth / Hindu Mythology

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Hindu mythology is all the myths and religion of both Ancient and Modern India, used as moral allegory to convey spiritual truths. There are as many myths originating from Hinduism as there are people, so it is impossible to describe every single one.

Hinduism developed over millenia, and includes concepts and stories from many eras and cultures. The oldest stories and deities come from the numerous tribal communities who first settled the subcontinent. Most of these were transmitted only by word of mouth, but carved inscriptions have been found in the ruins of the Indus Valey civilisation, in Bhimbetka in Central India, and in Kupgal in Southern India.

The documented history of Hinduism really took off after a nomadic Central Asian people known as the Aryansnote  settled in what is now Pakistan and northwestern India. Their ‘Vedic’ Gods — the Devas — were mostly nature deities. There are strong parallels among the Vedic gods to the gods of Classical, Celtic, Norse, and Slavic Mythology as the ancient Greeks, Romans, Celts and Norse shared a common ancestral mythology with the Aryans. Indra is the leader of the Gods, and he controls lightningnote ; Varuna controls waternote ; Agni controls fire; Vayu controls the wind; and Surya is the god of the Sunnote .


The Vedic Gods live in Heaven and continuously fight the Asuras, their evil cousins, to prevent them from obtaining immortality or dominance. note  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 (two competing lists of ten gives eleven due to Balarama versus Buddha and the Bhagavata Purana lists 26 avatars). Shiva is known for his unorthodoxy, fierce anger, and fierce forgiveness. There is also a trinity of Goddesses – Laxmi (or Lakshmi) is Vishnu’s consort, and is the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity; Shiva is married to the goddess Parvati, the Goddess of Strength and Courage; and Brahma to Saraswathi, Goddess of Wisdom and Knowledge. Both Shiva and Parvati show similarities to several pre-Vedic deities, such as the Indus Valley Pashupati Seal and various mother goddesses.

In addition, there are a large number of regional, local and community deities. For example Kali, the fierce form of Durga/Parvati, is most commonly associated with the state of West Bengal.

The oldest Hindu sacred texts are the four Vedas note . Other ancient texts are the Puranas (literally ‘ancient texts’) and the two famous epics - the Mahabharata (which includes the Bhagavad Gita) and the Ramayana. The Upanishads, the final part of the Vedas, include ontological and philosophical arguments between the different schools of the day, such as idealism, dualism and materialism.

Contrast with Zoroastrian Mythology, where the roles "daevas" and "ahuras" are the opposite. Romani Mythology is technically an offshoot of Hindu beliefs, though centuries of interaction with Christianity and other belief systems have made it relatively unrecognisable. Scythian Mythology is probably the closest to the archaic Indo-Iranian religion all of these spawned from, and indeed their queen of the gods, Tabiti, is etymologically connected to the Hindu goddess Tapati.

As a note: Mythology can be a misnomer as Mythology implies fictional stories but many Hindus believe that the literature is more historical. It's similar to how many of the stories in the Bible are considered historical by Christians as well- (i.e. Jonah and the Whale, Noah's Ark). But then again the line between a mythology and a religion has never been clear-cut or widely agreed-upon to begin with.


  • Above Good and Evil: Kali is Brahman in its most pure state; she existed before the universe and will continue to exist after it ends. As a result, she is above not only concepts like good and evil but things like color and light as well (hence why she's often shown as a pitch-black figure in art.)
  • The Ace:
    • Krishna. Whether it comes to war, statesmanship, love, philosophy, or religion, Krishna is peerless. Yes, he is an avatar of one of the Hindu pantheon's most active gods, but even among the avatars, he is pretty awesome. Rama from the Ramayana fits the bill as well, being described as possessing all the attributes that man aspires to, but can never attain. Both are also All Loving Heroes with a 100% Adoration Rating to boot.
    • The son of Ravana, Meghanada, later called Indrajit for his feat of defeating Indra, defeated Rama and his brother in battle more than once, and they only survived because of various interventions. He also mastered the art of sorcery, something that very few could claim, and on top of all that he was the only human who once possessed the ultimate Astras of the Trinity.
  • Achilles' Heel: Demons and evil emperors can attain great powers through meditation and training, but they always have some weakness. Duryodhana had his thighs, and Ravana had his heart.
    • To be clear, Duryodhana's thighs were unprotected by armor.
    • Durvasa, the Hot-Blooded sage, blessed Krishna with partial immortality except for his heel. Krishna dies because a hunter shot his heel, mistaking it for a deer/parrot (depending on the version you hear).
  • Achilles in His Tent: In the Mahabharata, Karna walks out of the war because he did not respect Bhishma enough. Bhishma's death changes his mind.
  • Action Girl: Durga and Kali are two of the most prominent examples:
    • Kali is frequently worshipped holding a sword, a trident, a severed head (which most myths say is from an enemy she slew) and a cup to drink the blood from the severed head. There's also a frequently seen depiction of Kali stepping her foot on her husband Shiva's chest - one of the Hindu trinity and her consort, which most myths explain as a Wounded Gazelle Gambit to calm her bloodlust.
    • Durga, while lacking in bloodlust, makes up for it by the number of battles she participates in. Most stories involve Durga tend to show how much ass she kicked and which enemies she vanquished to preserve the natural order and protect her people. Her iconography is of a woman riding a tiger / lion and holding a weapon in each of her six hands and one of her titles is "the undefeatable goddess".
  • Adaptation Species Change: In some tellings, Durga rides on an Asiatic lion. In others, she rides on a tiger. Either way, an epic mount.
  • Agent Peacock: All of the royal princes are depicted wearing a lot of gold plate, peacock feathers, and flower garlands.
  • All Amazons Want Hercules: Parvati. Part of the reason that Parvati falls for Shiva is because he is stronger than her. And Hidimba, a Rakshashi, falls for Bhima, the strongest man in the Mahabharata.
  • The Almighty Dollar: Several deities of wealth and money.
    • Lakshmi is the Hindu Goddess of Good Fortune and Beauty. In artwork, she has coins pouring from her hands. She is also a case where Love Goddess, female beauty, and wealth overlap.
    • Inverted: Alakshmi is a Hindu goddess of the opposite of fortune, misfortune, and poverty due to malicious emotions like jealousy and envy. Alakshmi's title translates to "Not-Lakshmi".
    • Inverted: Jyestha was another Hindu goddess of misfortune opposed to Lakshmi. Jyestha was associated with sloth, poverty, sorrow, ugliness, unlucky places and crows.
    • Ganesha is a popular Hindu god with an elephant-head. Ganesha is the god of wisdom, intellect, removal of obstacles, and artists and scientists. Some sects, such as the Jains, see Ganesha as a god of wealth also.
    • Kubera is another "Lord of Wealth" with several other names: Kubera, Kuvera, Kuber or Kuberan. Kubera was also the god king of "Yaksha", semi-divine natures spirits, and not just another minor lord. Associated with the chief of China's Four Heavenly Gods.
  • Alternate Mythology Equivalent:
    • Indra and Zeus/Jupiter 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. Indra is also the Hindu god of thunder akin to Thor and Perun.
    • Ushas and Eos/Aurora (Greco-Roman) are the goddesses of dawn.
    • Pushan and Pan/Faunus have religious motifs related to goats.
    • Ratri is the personification of the night much like Nyx (Greco-Roman) and Nott (Norse).
    • Anahita and Saraswati are both river divinities who bring fertility to the land, and probably derived from the same goddess in proto-Indo-Iranian religion. Additionally, the latter is associated with knowledge, learning and the arts similar to Athena/Minerva.
  • Always Save the Girl: Inverted in the dice game in the Mahabharata, where it is Draupadi who saves the honor of her five husbands.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Some of the otherwise humanoid Hindu gods have colorful skins such as the blue Vishnu and Shiva or the red Indra and Ganesha.
  • 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 transformational weapon. The Brahmastra, a weapon that is described in a manner reminiscent of a modern tactical nuke, is always proven useless through some contrived mechanism.
  • 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: According to some groups, the last avatar of Vishnu, Kalki, will 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.
  • Ax-Crazy: Kali isn't called another name for death for being a paragon of self-control (although to be fair, she only focuses said craziness on the truly wicked). The only time she exists is when Durga loses her composure completely. Subverted when Kali is worshipped as "Ma Kali", or the Mother. She is viewed as the Universe and the consciousness of the Universe itself, destructive and nurturing in turn. She also destroys concepts (and things) that hold back spiritual progress, making her an example of The Sacred Darkness.
  • Beast Man: Narasimha (Sanskrit for "man-lion"), one of Vishnu's avatars, has the body of a man and the head and claws of a lion.
  • 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 or 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.
    • One hilarious example is with Kumbakarna, who after a major yagna and penance, wanted to ask Brahma for Nithyatvam meaning immortality. He ended up asking for Nitratvam meaning the state of sleep, due to Goddess Saraswati messing with his tongue.
    • 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, as she could only be happy with her husband alive. But then again, she is pretty clever and Yama sometimes bends the rules. Also see Because Destiny Says So below.
    • 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. (Note: women during the time period the story was written in were not permitted to remarry after their husbands' death.)
  • Because Destiny Says So: Subverted with Markandeya, a boy who was fated to die at eight, but whose devotion moved Shiva to step death aside.
  • Bed Trick: Devyani tries to pull this on Yayati. He proceeds to cheat on her almost immediately after marriage.
  • Benevolent Mage Ruler: Krishna is the cultural equivalent. Being a Physical God, he stands out among the cast of the Mahabharata by having various powers, whereas the rest of them are decidedly normal, albeit highly skilled Warrior Princes. He is also one of the nicest characters in Hindu mythology, and one of the most reasonable kings.
  • 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 anyone under the age of 11.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Saraswati in one tale. When Brahma decided to marry another goddess because Saraswati refuses to go to the fire ceremony without him, she flies into a rage, cursing all the gods (including Vishnu and Shiva) that attended the wedding. After Lakshmi, Parvati and the wife of other gods leave her, she curses them too. It was only after Brahma's new wife, Gayatri fell to her feet and apologized that she reduced the potency of the curse.
  • Blood Lust: Kali's most famous symbol is a bowl which she used to drink the blood of her kills.
  • 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 a thousand eyes instead.
    • Also, in earlier myths, Indra was credited to have a thousand testicles.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Shiva and Parvati has this dynamic with Shiva being the Brooding Boy. Hilariously, when Parvati is in her Kali aspect, the dynamic between them is flipped. David Kinsley put it best:
    "Parvati calms Shiva, counterbalancing his antisocial or destructive tendencies; she brings him within the sphere of domesticity and with her soft glances urges him to moderate the destructive aspects of his tandava dance. Kali is Shiva's "other wife," as it were, provoking him and encouraging him in his mad, antisocial, disruptive habits. It is never Kali who tames Shiva, but Shiva who must calm Kali."
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: With his habit of going to cremation grounds to meditate, and turning up afterward wearing ash and snakes and little else, Shiva can come across this way, a fact he himself lampshades when trying (in disguise) to discourage Parvati from marrying him.
  • 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
  • Crossover: Due to its syncretic nature, Hindu mythology can include characters and storylines from other cultures, and vice-versa. Note that these stories and characters are often matters of dispute, and so some schools do not accept them as canonical.
    • Hanuman is a popular folk-hero and demi-god in many parts of South-east Asia.
    • Some Hindus see the Buddha as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Others see him as a reformer.
    • Many schools of Buddhism borrow characters, terms and ideas from Hindu mythology and philosophy, and so Indic terms can be seen as far away as Japan and Singapore.
    • The Sufi mystical tradition, while nominally Muslim, borrows heavily from Hindu mythology and philosophy.
    • Bonbibi, the protector goddess of the Sunderbans region of West Bengal and Bangladesh, is supposed to have been sent by Allah to protect the local people from tigers. She is thus worshipped by both Hindus and Muslims. This is also a reverse cross-over, as Islam does not canonically recognise any such deity.
    • Vavar was a Muslim chieftain or scholar who competed in either an archery competition or a debate with the Hindu god Ayyappan. He was so impressed with Lord Ayyappan's skill that he became his friend.
    • Many Hindu deities, such as Mariamman, may have been assimilated from older traditions.
    • There's even a temple to a motor-bike - a Royal Enfield Bullet, to be precise.
  • Curse: Anyone who has been genuinely wronged can place a curse on the offender. The offender can apologise and ask for the curse to be softened, but a curse cannot be completely removed. For example, Ahalya's adultery with Indra resulted in her being turned into a small stone (as opposed to "turned to stone"), but she was forgiven and changed back to her natural shape when Rama in the Ramayana steps on her by chance.
  • Daddy's Girl: Devayani.
  • Dark Action Girl: Kali shows some shades of this.
  • 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.
  • Default to Good: In the Padma, Linga and Garuda Purana, Lakshmi emerged from the ocean and has the choice to go Devas or Asura. She chose Devas.
  • Destroyer Deity: Shiva is the "destroyer" in the main trinity (the others being Brahma the creator and Vishnu the preserver). Interestingly, because Hinduism has a lot of focus on cycles and reincarnation, Shiva's also the god of change/rebirth (and since you can't kill someone without making them reincarnate, one of his symbols, the Lingam, represents ... fertility).
  • Don't Fear The Reaper: Shiva's temper can lead to instant immolation — just ask Kama the love god — but Yama is another story. Despite his fearsome appearance, he is a Reasonable Authority Figure, in part because he only reaps special humans and is sometimes relieved when they pass a Secret Test of Character he sets. When Savitri followed him and asked for her husband back, Yama kept reiterating that he cannot do so and he refused to reap her because it was not her time. However, he liked her spirit and offered her a wish (that could not be related to her husband's death). She asked to bear a child, so Yama allowed her husband to return to her. In another case, he tests one of Vishnu's devotees by posing as a thirsty Chandala, and pointing out that he is an untouchable and would pollute the old king by sharing anything with him. When the devotee said that all are equal in the eyes of the gods and gave him water, Yama was happy that he passed the test.
  • Doppelgänger: Surya's wife, Saranyu creates a copy of her own self, Chhaya (or literally Shadow) to stay with Surya while she nurses her wounds.
  • Dragons Are Demonic: Vritra is a serpentine dragon and a personification of drought, who was slain by Indra.
  • Driven to Suicide: Sati, and later Madri, who kill themselves for insults to or the death of their husbands.
  • Elixir of Life: Amrita — the nectar of life that grants immortality to those who drink it — was created when the gods and demons churned the ocean with a mountain, using the king of the nagas as a rope to move the peak. Amrita was brought to the surface by the churning, and the gods drunk it and obtained eternal life. The demons would have drunk it as well, but the gods managed to trick them and deny them the elixir of immortality.
  • Even the Guys Want Him:
    • Almost all the gods tend to be Pretty Boys. 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.
  • Fertile Blood: The demon Raktabija note , whose blood spawns clone Raktabijas when it stains the ground.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Hiranyakashipu refuses to believe in the omnipresence of Vishnu.
  • 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.
    • This of course depends on your view of whether the gods actually have genders like that of humans, or whether they merely choose to take on gendered human forms for our benefit.
    • Said child was the boy diety Murugan / Skanda / Ayyappan, specifically born in order to get past various loopholes that made a demon undefeatable, something of a Running Gag in Hindu myth.
    • In fact, this is a predominant theme in Hinduism; most deities have opposite gender forms. Vishnu has Vaishnavi alongside Mohini; Brahma has Brahmi; Shiva (also known as Maheshvara) has Maheshvari.
  • Gilded Cage: When Sita is kidnapped by King Ravana, he holds her in the palace of Lanka for an entire year.
  • God of the Dead: Yama is the Hindu god of death, and wields a noose with which he seizes those who are about to die.
  • God of Fire: Agni is described as not just the god of sun and lightning but the god of fire as well. He is second only to Indra himself in the Vedic myths.
  • The Great Flood: Manu escapes this on the back of a fish, along with the seven sages and all the grain and foods in the world.
  • 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.
  • Healer God: Dhanvantari was physician of the gods and god of Ayurvedic medicine.
  • Hero Antagonist: A very common trope - the Mahabharata has Bhishma, Karna and Madra, and the Ramayana has Vali and Indrajit.
  • Hijacked by Jesus: Or rather by Buddha. Much of Buddhism's cosmology is modified from Hindu's.
    • The Buddhist myths state that Indra is merely a title for the deva chief. Mara was the previous Jerkass God Indra, and his steed elephant has become the demonic Girimehkala, while the current Indra, Sakra, is a paragon of virtue.
    • The Hindu hijack back, claim that Buddha himself is Vishnu's avatar.
  • 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.
    • Well, when you consider the fact that that guy was also the only prince who was willing to become friends with him and speak out for his talents despite his social status, it does kinda make sense.
    • Krishna's entire message in the Mahabharata is to consider both honor and reason, and to never let either come in the way of doing good.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass:
    • Sage Vishwamitra can suck when he's testing kings, even if he claims it's for a divine purpose. At one point, King Harischandra interrupts his meditation because he thought he heard someone crying for help, and he apologizes for the intrusion. Vishwamitra in response demands Harischandra's kingdom, as well as a large number of gold coins the dakshina. To pay the debt, Harischandra has to sell himself and his family into slavery, resigning himself to never seeing his son or wife again while working for a chandala undertaker. It comes to a head when Harischandra has to demand part of his wife's clothing to pay for their child's funeral, to honor the wishes of his master. While he passed the test, which made Harischandra and his people able to ascend to heaven, sage Vashishtha took offense on his behalf and nearly fought Vishwamitra over his cruelty.
    • The short-tempered sage Durvasa had a habit of going around and cursing people who he thought disrespected him even if it was not disrespecting or they had good reason. People either went out of their way to avoid him, get him to leave as quickly as possible, or beg the supreme being of the story for aid. One or twice it came back to bite him.
  • 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.
  • Light Is Good:
    • Surya, the Sun God. In addition to typical good deed of giving light to the world, he's also The Mentor to Hanuman.
    • The sisters, Usha (Dawn) and Ratri (Nightnote ), share a duty of protecting people from danger of the night. At night, Ratri give rest to people while keeping demons at bay, until her sister wakes mankind up and drives demons away.
    • Although Shiva is known as the Destroyer, he is pretty much considered to be the god of light, his essence being the Parakasa, the divine light from which the tattvas were created, and being associated with both the Sun and the Moon (depending on who you ask, Agni, Surya and Chandra are all aspects of him as light bearers). That said, Light Is Not Good sometimes ensues, thanks to his role as the Destroyer.
  • Liminal Being: One of Vishnu's avatars was a half-lion, half-man born at dusk and known as Narasimha (which literally means man-lion in Sanskrit), to deal with a demon that could not be defeated by man or beast or god, during the day or at night.note 
  • Loophole Abuse: Every time someone asks for immortality, there is always a means they can die, with Vibeeshana, Markandeya and Hanuman being among the few exceptions. Vikramaditya, for example, asked for his death to come from the hands of a two-year-old girl's son. Such a child was born and managed to stab the king fatally with a toy sword. Ravana said he wanted protection from all beings except humans, whom he did not fear; Vishnu took the form of mortal Rama and eventually slew Ravana in combat. And far too many demons gloat that no man can kill them ...
  • Love Goddess: There are three deities who claim this role:-
    • Kama or Manmatha is the god of love and lust.
    • Ditto his wife Rati.
    • Lakshmi for a more refined sense of 'love'. It's worth noting that she is also associated with fortune, wealth and wisdom. In other words, she's what you got when you combine the good parts of Aphrodite, Hera and Athena into a single goddess.
  • Mama Bear: Durga/Parvati. She created a son to serve as her guard while she bathed; Shiva did not take kindly and set an army of ganas and devas on the boy. Parvati got angry when Shiva used trickery to kill her son and created dozens of 'shaktis' (energy beings) to wipe out the devas. Vishnu and Brahma had to plead with her to call off the massacre, and Shiva had to revive the son, albeit with a elephant head (said son thus became Ganesha, a revered deity among Hindus in his own right and the remover of obstacles). Moral: Do not cross a divine mother.
  • Mental Fusion: Nirvana, becoming One with the Cosmos, and thus all who have achieved it before.
  • Multi-Armed Multitasking: The tendency of depicting Hindu gods as having multiple arms is actually just an artistic representation of their divine omnipotence.
  • Multiform Balance: Possibly the oldest example. Parvati is usually The Chick, but she may take form of Durga or Kali as well.
  • 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).
  • Non-Human Head: Ganesha, who has the head of an elephant (reasons for this vary across stories, but see Mama Bear above for the most widely accepted origin).
  • Plucky Girl: Lakshmi's main characterization. She is worshipped not only as a prosperity goddess, but also for her ability to work, move and prevail in uncertainty.
  • 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.
  • One-Steve Limit: Usually not much of a problem, since individuals or places with the same name tend serve pretty much the same purpose. Tripurasura the demon fortress that doubled as three cities or Tripurasura the monster whom only Shiva could destroy? The name is bad news either way. Some cases, such as the demon named Kali (they're spelled and pronounced differently in Sanskrit, but transliterated the same so the difference is really semantic in this context), probably do not help the goddess' reputation outside India.
  • Original Man: Ayyavazhi tradition gives us Kali, father of this evil age. He is not the progenitor of human kind but is an older creature that happens to be similar to us. Other traditions just make him Rakshasa (people eater) or some other variety of demon/asura.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Brahma may be the creator god, but he has the least followers, compared to Vishnu and Shiva.
  • Pals with Jesus: Sudama, a poor and starving farmer who was Krishna's childhood friend. When they meet years later, Krishna is overjoyed to see him and impressed by his moral behavior, so he magicks a golden palace in Mathura where Sudama's family can live. What a guy.
  • 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 his palace, neither by celestial or human hand or by any weapon made under the sun. He dies due to the avatar Narasimha, 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.
    • The monkey king Vali had wished that any foe who appeared before him would lose half their strength, and he would gain the same amount. Long story short, Lord Rama wanted to kill him so that his friend Sugreeva could take over Vali's kingdom. This was achieved, simply enough, when Rama shot him in the back while he was busy fighting Sugreeva. Vali managed to deliver a decent What the Hell, Hero? speech, but died anyway.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Sati enjoyed a blossoming romance with Shiva before her father Dakshi attempted to drive a wedge between them, leading to Sati immolating herself after the situation went too far. She later reincarnated as Parvati and yet again became Shiva's wife.
    • On a meta level, Kama, the god of love, was killed by Shiva for distracting him. He and his wife Rati were reborn as the warriors Pradyumna and Mayavati.
  • Rescued from the Underworld: Princess Savitri marries Prince Satyavan, but he is soon claimed by Yama, the God of Death. Savitri immediately starts following Yama, and when he tries to convince her to turn back, she offers successive formulas of wisdom. Impressed at each speech, Yama offers her any wish except Satyavan's life. She makes several requests, finally asking for a hundred sons for herself. As Hindu law forbids widows from remarrying, Yama is forced to restore Satyavan to life.
  • Romantic Fusion: There is the half-male, half-female deity Ardhanarishvara, who is the combined form of the god Shiva and his wife Parvati.
  • Sacred Bow and Arrows: The rainbow is referred to as ‘Indra’s bow’Sanskrit . He later gives this bow to Prince Rāma, an avatar of Viṣnu. This bow is now used as a symbol of the far-right Hindu nationalist party Shiv Sena in India.
  • The Sacred Darkness: Shiva, one of the three co-Top Gods alongside Brahma and Vishnu, embodies the death and renweal stage of the cycle of reincarnation.
  • 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.
  • Showy Invincible Hero: Vishnu, especially as Rama and Krishna; and Shiva in particular, are credited with several acts of unmitigated spiritual badassery.
  • Snakes Are Evil: Played with. If some random Nagas appear in a story, then expect them to be evil. But prominent Nagas like Shesa and Vasuki are good.
  • 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.
      • Ancient Tamil poetry, such as the Silappadhikaram and the Sanskrit work, Kadambari by Banabhatta, describes women in exquisite drapery or sari. The ancient stone inscription from Gangaikonda Cholapuram in old Tamil scripts has a reference to hand weaving. In ancient Indian tradition and the Natya Shastra (an ancient Indian treatise describing ancient dance and costumes), the navel of the Supreme Being is considered to be the source of life and creativity, hence the midriff is to be left bare by the sari. The texts imply that not going Bare Your Midriff is potentially blasphemy. In South India and especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, it is indeed documented that women from many communities wore only the sari and exposed the upper part of the body till the early days of the 20th century. Poetic references from works like Silappadikaram indicate that during the Sangam period in ancient Tamil Nadu, a single piece of clothing served as both lower garment and head covering, leaving the breasts and midriff completely uncovered. In Kerala there are many references to women being bare-breasted, including many paintings by Raja Ravi Varma.
      • Tripura Sundari (Lalita is one letter away from Lolita, Meaningful Name, if you understand Sanskrit). Numerous other examples are also provided by Wikipedia.
  • Son of a Whore: The Chandogya Upanishad relates that the sage Satyakama Jabala was the son of the whore Jabala, who did not know who Satyakama's father was. As a child inherits the caste of the father, this meant that Satyakama did not know his own caste. When Satyakama wished to study the sacred knowledge, although only Brahmins are allowed to study the Veda, Jabala advises him to call himself Satyakama Jabala (Satyakama son of Jabala), which conceals that Jabala is a woman. When Satyakama goes to the teacher Haridrumata, Haridrumata asks from what family he came. Satyakama replies that his mother had been a prostitute and does not know who his father is, and that therefore she has advised him to call himself Satyakama Jabala. To which Haridrumata replies that only a Brahmin could have told the truth so openly, and therefore agrees to teach Satyakama.
  • 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 Earth-Shattering 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.
    • However, it is said that the world as we know it ends and is renewed at midnight, Brahma's time. True reality shatters with Brahma's expiration.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: The female Trinity has this dynamic, which Lakshmi and Saraswasti took the role of girly girl (frequently depicted in elegant clothing and imagery) while Parvati took the role of tomboy (two of her most prominent aspects are Action Girl Kali and Durga but is also worshipped as a fertility goddess).
  • Too Dumb to Live: Shisupal. During Yudhistir's coronation as King of Indraprastha, he barges in and denounces Krishna as a fraud. Apart from being outrageous behavior in the presence of kings and a Physical God, and in clear violation of Sacred Hospitality, he continues insulting him even as everyone, Pandava and Kaurava alike, wants him dead. Krishna had sworn to Shishupal's mother that he would tolerate a maximum of one hundred insults from him each day without retaliating, and informs him of this. Naturally, he takes the bait, insults him one more time, and gets his head cut off by Krishna's chakra.
  • Top God: Split three ways between Brahma, god of birth and creation; Vishnu, god of life and preservation; and Shiva, god of destruction and renewal. Brahma's duty is to ensure things are born at the proper time, Vishnu's is to ensure they live for the proper duration, and Shiva's is to ensure they die at the proper time so Brahma may reincarnate them.
  • Trick Arrow: Astras, usually in the form of Elemental Powers. Some of the milder effects include flash floods, thunderstorms and falling mountains.
  • Twincest: As par mythology, Yami, the sister of Yama fell deeply in love with Yama and entreated him to sleep with her. He flatly refused.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Dattreya and Silavati. Ahalya and Gautama Maharishi.
  • Vertebrate with Extra Limbs: Naga are snakes with human bodies from the waist up where the snakes' heads would be. (However, they can take completely human forms and even interbreed with humans.)
  • Verbal Weakness: Rakshasa, a type of demon, will apparently be banished if someone says 'uncle' in their presence.
  • Water Is Womanly:
    • Saraswati is the goddess of rivers, arts, and knowledge. Often depicted as a beautiful woman dressed in pure white, she is celebrated for her healing and purifying powers of water.
    • The apsaras are water spirits in Hindu lore. Appearing as beautiful young women, they use their beauty to seduce ascetic men and dance for the gods. The apsaras are often the wives of the Gandharvas, the court musicians of Indra.
  • Worf Effect: Indra suffers from it badly. F Or a king of the gods, he gets dethroned quite easily.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Indra killed Mandorai, a female intent on destroying all the worlds, when she set her sights on Earth.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: One of the most prominent iconography is Kali stepping on Shiva's chest with her foot. Most versions of the myths told that he intentionally put himself in harm's way to snap Kali out of it after she went too far in hunting down the enemies of her children.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Rama in the Ramayana; the Pandavas for quite some time. Actually, scratch that, the Pandavas forever.