Cain, Abel and the Hindu Pantheon

I should explain the reference to Cain that was in the first version of the [intlink id=”6″ type=”post”]Patriarchy[/intlink] article, and which I left out of this version. I wrote that in the Old Testament story Cain sinned because he forced the ground, which was how it was presented in “Mythology Among the Hebrews.” At the time I also thought it was meaningful that Cain was male. I think that approach may have created unnecessary confusion about the meaning of the myth. I suspect that the assumption that the Hebrew patriarchs are the model for modern patriarchy is incorrect, although the story of Cain and Abel wasn’t the best way to argue that point.

In Mythology Among the Hebrews, the story had more to do with the age-old strife between nomads and city-dwellers. Cain, a solar figure was a builder of cities and an agriculturalist. Abel was a nomad. Their mutual animosity was a fact of life.

I found another version of the story in Edward Moor’s “Hindu Pantheon.” Moor cites Mr. Wilford, who argued that the following is similar to the death of Abel.  It provides an interesting perspective on the Hebrew interpretation.

“Iswara attempted to kill his brother Brahma, who, being immortal, was only maimed; but Iswara finding him afterwards in a mortal shape, in the character of Daksha, killed him as he was performing a sacrifice.” (Iswara is Siva or Mahadeva.)

“There had subsisted for a long time some animosity between Brahma and Mahadeva in their mortal shapes; and the latter, on account of his bad conduct, which is fully described in the Puranas, had, it appears, given much uneasiness to Swayambhuva (Adam) and Satarupa (Eve); for he was libidinous, going about with a large club in his hand. Mahadeva was the eldest, and was indignant at seeing his claim as such disregarded in favour of Brahma, which the latter supported by such lies as provoked Mahadeva to such a point, that he cut off one of his heads in his divine form.”

Later, Brahma, in his human shape, or Daksha, was found boasting that he ruled over mankind.

“One day in the assembly of the gods, Daksha coming in, they all respectfully arose except Mahadeva, who kept his seat and looked gloomy, which Daksha resented; and reviled and cursed Mahadeva in his human shape, wishing he might ever remain a vagabond on the face of the earth; and ordered that he should be avoided, and deprived of his share of the sacrifices and offerings. Mahadeva, irritated, in his turn, cursed Daksha; and a dreadful conflict took place between them: the three worlds trembled, and the gods were alarmed.”

The conflict escalated to the point that the gods separated them and effected a reconciliation. Eventually Daksha gave one of his daughters to Mahadeva in marriage. But later when this daughter, Devi, was treated disrespectfully by Daksha, she threw herself into the sacrificial fire. The battle between Daksha and Mahadeva resumed, and Mahadeva killed Daksha by cutting off his head. But before that, several of the gods were wounded in the battle, “particularly the Sun and Moon: heaven, hell, and the earth, trembled.”

Sources:

Moor, Edward. “The Hindu Pantheon”. T. Bensley, London. 1810.

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