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.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Twins – A case of peaceful co-existence.

The last few articles have been focusing on twins in mythology. It must be mentioned at the onset, that the theory of twins in mythology is a subject by itself. But we will avoid the intricacies of the theory and discuss the concept from a mythical perspective.

Twin birth was an intriguing subject for the mythologists of yore. Explanations for the normal itself were a task, and over that something out of the line taxed ones capabilities to the hilt. However daunting the task be, they did try to explain the phenomenon.

Nearly all the mythologies of the world have instances of twins. The Greeks had Artemis and Appolo, Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome,Castor and Pollux who went on to represent the Gemini twins, to name a few. The Bible hasEsau and Jacob, Cain and Abel. The Sumerians had Utu and Innana, while the Egyptians had the twin brothers Danus and Aegyptus. The Hindu myths have a host of twins, in the form of the Ashwins the twin gods of healing; Yama and Yami, Lakshaman and Shatrughan, and Luv Kush from Ramayan are just a few of them.

The concept of twin births was complicated and not understood well. This brought up the confusion of either double paternity or divine paternity. Divine paternity led to an element of mystery and magic, but at the same time it also gave a sort of sanction or rather a divine sanction.

In the earlier series, we have seen instances of conflict and rivalry; let us now examine a few cases of harmony and peaceful co-existence.

Castor and Pollux
A good example of the above is seen in the Greek myth of the twin birth of Castor and Pollux who go on to become the Gemini twins. Castor and Pollux were the result of two impregnations, one by Zeus who fell in love with the mortal and the married Leda. Leda on the same night got impregnated by her husband and thus the offspring were twins, one being divine and the other being a mortal. This reiterated the belief of the times of dual paternity and thus the offspring bearing the traits of the father. However, this myth is not quite of conflict as they two brothers were quite devoted to each other, to the extent that when the mortal brother was wounded the divine one asked for immortality for the other. The request was granted in a manner that when one brother was in Mount Olympus, the abode of the gods, the other brother would in Hades, the underworld, and thereafter they would exchange their positions.

Some Greek mythologists have explained the myth of Narcissus in the theory of twinship (refer to the article The Romance of Echo and Narcissus dated December 15, 2010, in this Blog). According to this interpretation, Narcissus had a twin sister who he lost and he would keep looking for her everywhere. After she died Narcissus would keep consoling himself by looking at his own reflection in the water, to keep her memory alive; it was not his love for himself as is better known! The myth of the more famous twins of Greek Mythology, Apollo and Artemis is also that of love and harmony and not that of hatred and jealousy

Horse-faced Ashwins
A similar situation is found in the Hindu myths too. Amongst the most famous of the twins are the Ashwins – the twin gods of healing. Ashwins were Vedic gods, portrayed as divine horsemen and there are more than 400 references of the god in Reg Veda. They were supposed to be the children of Sun god and an there is an interesting myth of their birth. It is said that the Sanjana the wife of Sun god could not bear the luminosity of her husband and to avoid the heat and the glare, she took the form of a mare and ran away to a shaded area. Sun god decided to change himself to a horse and followed her to the shaded area. The offspring of this mare and horse were the divine horsemen, the Aswins. This is also seen as an act of accommodation and benevolence on the part of the Sun god towards his wife. The Ashwins are thus also depicted as horse-faced gods. The Ashwins are thus seen as benevolent gods who are known for their medical feats and the ability to cure and give life to anyone who needs it, much to the chagrin of the other gods of the pantheon. (Here we can compare the acts of the Ashwins with the Greek Prometheus who goes against the gods to give the art of fire to mankind). The Ashwins are also considered to be the fathers of the twins Nakul and Sahadev in the epic Mahabharata, where Nakul was the most handsome of all and Sahadev was the most knowledgeable of all. Again we see that the offspring have the traits of the father as we have seen in the earlier myth of Castor and Pollux.
Besides the Ashwins the other twins in the Hindu myths, i.e. Lakshaman and Shatrughan, and Luv Kush from Ramayan amongst the few of them are too not at loggerheads. There is no rivalry in such myths but seem to share a harmonious relationship.

Thus we can conclude that the issue of twins was not just of confusion, but also divine in some case. The divinity in some of them avoided the evil aspect as we have seen in some of the cases above and this is critical. This could be both cultural as well as a sense of accepting the unacceptable, inherent in the cultural milieu. What cannot be understood, need not necessarily have an evil connotation. So an amicable and an acceptable solution was arrived at, as we see in the above myths. In some of the Hindu myths, either one of the twin brother does not have a significant role (like in the case of Shatrughan) or the twins have an equal role to play (like that of Luv and Kush in Ramayan), but the conflict is not there.

Though this is a contradiction to some of the myths of conflict and rivalry as we have seen before, the issue of divine intervention runs as a common aspect in all of the myths.

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