A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.

This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mountains in Mythology.

Since time-immemorial, there has been an aura of mystery surrounding that of a mountain. It is visibly massive, evoking a sense of power and majesty, quite un-traversable by a layman. It is also a treasure trove, as in it, the mountains hold the source of rivers, rare plants and animals and layers of gold and silver.

But mythology does not have the trappings of science, so it takes the liberty of expressing mountains in its own way. Probably that is why a mountain is explained as an evidence of Earth's yearning for the Sky. For example, the ancient Egyptians showed the sky, Nut, as a female deity whose star-filled body arches over that of her consort, the earth. His desire is manifest in the way his body responds to hers, and an imposing mountain can remind us of this physical attraction.

While Egyptian mythology takes shelter in this artful expression, let us see how mythologies of different cultures have expressed mountains in their myths.

In Indian myths, mountains have always been regarded as holy beings, with its own sense of divinity. It is said that earlier mountains had wings and thus would keep flying here and there troubling and crushing creatures by sitting on them. Indra cut off the wings and made them stationary. The wings became clouds and till date they cling to the mountain tops, in a sense of celestial romance!

Indian mythology is replete with mountain gods all with their own myths and stories, like Himavan, Mainaka, Kailash, Vindhyas, etc. Of all, Mt. Meru has a special significance as it is considered to be a pivot to the three worlds around which all the heavenly bodies revolve. According to the epic Ramayana, all mountains are said to be created from the bones of the demons Madhu and Kaitabha who were killed by Vishnu.

In the Greek mythology, though there aren’t any mountain gods as such. Here the mountains were referred to as sacred places as they were regarded as “homes of gods”. Each and every mountain was said to have its own bearded god. Mountains were occasionally depicted in classical art as bearded old men rising up from behind their craggy peaks. Gaia is supposed to have created the mountains as ‘graceful haunts of the goddess Nymphai who dwell in the narrow valleys of the mountains.’

In the Egyptian system of writing mountains are depicted in the form of two peaks with a valley in between. Symbolically the mountain was an image of the universal mountain whose peaks were imagined to be holding the sky.

A number of other well known mythologies like the Judeo-Christian, Mayan, Sumerian, Chinese/Tibetan, and lesser known mythologies, like the Lithuanian, Romanian, Nordic, Bulgarian, Persian, etc. also have references to Mountains with a sense of awe and mysticism.

With some differences, nearly all the cultures have references of mountains in their mythology. Mountains are an integral part of every mythology. From the time when science had not given answers to natural phenomena’s to the times when mountains have become a part of landmark and subject of every child’s study, mountains continue to be a part and parcel of every culture and its lore. Its magnificence and its solidity and the resultant enormity makes it’s a subject of awe and mysticism which have been so well woven in mythology by the early thinkers.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting to note the way some people have incorporated their symbolism of mountains into their architecture. In Babylon, they built ziggurats: man-made hills with temples on top. (There's an interesting resemblance to them in the temple-topped pyramids of Meso-America.) Mountains and towers brought people closer to heaven physically, while temples were supposed to bring them closer spiritually. They were places to receive heavenly blessings, instruction, and enlightenment. These purposes of temples were lost or changed in many instances. The Tower of Babel was probably a ziggurat.

    In the Gothic period in Europe, they built huge cathedrals with soaring arches and many windows to let in light, symbolic of heavenly enlightenment.

    Since ancient times, the idea of worshiping in temples and receiving heavenly enlightenment there has been brought back in the LDS faith. LDS temples resemble mountains, in that they point to Heaven. the Salt Lake City Temple is a good example.