Churning the Ocean of Milk

In Hindu cosmology there are seven oceans. One of the is the Ocean of milk. In one of the most colorful episods of hindu scripture, the Samudra Manthana, the devas (gods) and asuras (demi-gods) team up to churn the ocean of milk to gain the nectar of immortality. The whole enterprise includes the uprooting of a mountain, a giant snake, lethal poison and an array of herbs and spices. Eventually the nectar of immortality is brought up from the sea and seized by the devas.

Devi – the universal truth resides deep in the ocean

The Devi Upanishad is one of 19 sanskrit texts that lay out the philosophical concept of Hinduism. Written somtime before 1400 CE, the text describes the goddess Devi as the highest principle, and the ultimate truth in the universe. According to this text the “highest principle” was born in the oceans and whoever wants to follow the “truth”, needs to “know the water”. These are the first seven verses of the text:

All the gods stood around Devi and asked: "Who  art  thou,  0  great  goddess?" to  which she  replied, "I  resemble  in  form  Brahman,  from  me  emanates the  world  which  has  the  Spirit  of  Prakrti  and  Purusa,  I  am empty  and  not  empty,  I  am  delight  and  non-delight,  I  am knowledge  and  ignorance,  I  am  Brahman  and  not  Brahman, I  am  the  five  perishable  and  imperishable  elements,  I  am the  whole  world,  I  am  the  Veda  and  not  the  Veda,  I  am knowledge  and  ignorance,  I  am  not  born  and  am  born,  I  am below,  above,  and  horizontal,  I  walk  about  with  the  Rudras and  Vasus,  and  the  Adityas  and  Visvadevas.  I  carry  both Mitra  and  Varuna,  Indra  and  Agni,  both  the  Asvins,  I  hold Soma,  Tvastr,  Pusan  and  Bhaga,  I  hold  the  broad-stepping Visnu,  Brahman,  and  Prajapati,  I  give  the  money  for  a  good  purpose  to  the  sacrificer  who  offers  oblations  and  pours out  soma-juice,  I  am  living  in  every  country,  I  confer wealth,  I  produce  at  first  the  father  of  this  world,  my  birth- place is  in  the  water  inside  the  sea,  who  knows  the water  obtains the  abode  of  Devi."

(Quotes from Gustav Oppert: The Original Inhabitants of Bharatavasa or India, 1893) 

Frazer: The flood myth

It might be time for a clarification. Since flood myths play quite a big role in cristian creationist ideology and since there is a lot of material online on the subject hosted on creatonist propaganda websites, I feel I need to distance myself from the creationist idoelogy once and for all. I am arguing in this blog that mythology and folklore are aesthetic reflections of natural events like tsunamis, high tides or other extreme weather phenomena. In othe words, most myths are most likely creative renditions of lived experience. This does however not mean that myths are true or – for that matter – that the bible is right. In fact I am opposed to any creationist ideology, particularly of the US-American Christian ultra-right, and fundamentally opposed to the idea of founding ethical codes of conduct on religious authority.

Having said that much, here is an online source of a chapter from Sir James George Frazer‘s book “Folk-Lore in the Old Testament” from 1918. (On a creationist website…)

The Scotish scientist Frazer is one of the founding fathers of anthropology and his study “The Golden Bough” (1928) became one of the most influential and popular texts in anthropology.

This is the section from “Folk-Lore in the Old Testament” on the flood myth. In it he gives a very detailed account of several flood myths from all continents:

The Sea Wall in the shape of a Bird

Image may contain Outdoors Nature Land Shoreline Water Ocean Sea Scenery Landscape Coast and Aerial View

While Jakarta has serious evacuation plans, there are apparently also plans to build a new and unique sea wall. Quote from an article from 2016:
“The National Capital Integrated Coastal Development consortium will build a new set of barrier islands and a sea wall that will guard the city from waves and storm surges. The extensive project will take the shape of the Garuda, a mythical bird and symbol of Indonesia. While construction is already under way (the first pile was planted in October 2014), KuiperCompagnons, the Dutch firm behind much of the design, estimates that the project will take 30 to 40 years to complete.”

Read the full article here.
And more info here and here:

And this is Garuda:

Quote from wikipedia:
“Garuda is described as the king of the birds and a  kite-like figure. He is shown either in a zoomorphic form (a giant bird with partially open wings) or an anthropomorphic form (a man with wings and some ornithic features). Garuda is generally portrayed as a protector with the power to swiftly travel anywhere, ever vigilant and an enemy of every serpent. Garuda is a part of state insignia of IndiaIndonesia and Thailand. The Indonesian official coat of arms is centered on the Garuda and the national emblem of Indonesia is called Garuda Pancasila.”

Thanks to Johanna Fischer for the lead!

climate change and human anger

Pak Permadi, an Indonesian expert for paranormal
events from Java made the following statement at a seminar at Jogjakarta University in 1995: »If people are not happy with their treatment by those in power but cannot defend themselves, their anger, which expresses itself as energy, is taken up by nature. If nature is angry, disasters such as a volcanic eruption occur because nature is not afraid of human rulers.«

In this oppinion, an animated nature or deity does not cause disasters directly and intentionally to comment, punish or influence human vices, but rather nature is the transmitor of a human justice. Interestingly enough, this view resonates with current climate change discourse, wherein it is human behaviour that has cuased nature to react in disastrous ways.

See: Hans-Rudolf Meier, The Cultural Heritage of the Natural Disaster: Learning Processes and Projections from the Deluge to the »Live« Disaster on TV (2007) and Judith Schlehe, Cultural Politics of Natural Disasters in Indonesia (2008)

Nyai Roro Kidul: The Queen of the Southern Seas

The legends around the mermaid goddess Kidul – also Ratu Kidul – are mostly linked to the 16th century Javanese Mataram Sultanate. However, anthropological studies suggest that the myth of the Queen of Java’s Southern Seas probably originated from older prehistoric animistic beliefs in the pre-Hindu-Buddhist female deity of the southern ocean. The fierce waves of the Indian Ocean on southern Java’s coasts, its storms and sometimes tsunamis, probably had raised in the locals awe and fear of natural power, and locals attributed it to the spiritual realm of deities and demons that inhabit the southern seas ruled by their queen, a female deity, later identified as “Queen Kidul”. (from wikipedia)

Matsya / मत्स्य

Vishnu, disguised as the fish Matsya, saves Manu from the flood.

When the flood begins, Manu boards the boat and then prays to the fish Matsya for assistance. The fish then appears and ties the boat to a horn that has grown on its head. It uses the serpent Vasuki as the rope to tie the boat to its horn. The fish then tows this boat to safety and takes Manu to the highest and driest point left on the earth.

There is also a yoga position called Matsyana, the fish:

India; approxamitely 3. Century AD; Hindu; Animals; Story

The Lord Krishna in the Golden City

The painting (circa 1585) depicts the blue-skinned Krishna, an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu, enthroned on a golden palace and surrounded by his kinsmen in the Golden City Dwarka.

The mythical city Dwarka, also known as Dvārakā or Dvāravatī (Sanskrit द्वारका “the gated [city]”), one of the seven holy cities for Hindus, is believed to have sunken beneath the Arab Sea. Since the late 1980s scientists have been searching for it’s remains off the coast of Gujarat. There is also a modern city on the coast with the same name, Dwarka.

द्वारका – Dwarka, the Gated City

The sea, which had been beating against the shores, suddenly broke the boundary that was imposed on it by nature. The sea rushed into the city. It coursed through the streets of the beautiful city. The sea covered up everything in the city. I saw the beautiful buildings becoming submerged one by one. In a matter of a few moments it was all over. The sea had now become as placid as a lake. There was no trace of the city. Dvaraka was just a name; just a memory.

Mausala Parva of Mahabharata

The sacred city appears in various Hindu and Budhist scriptures. It is believed to be the home of Krishna and have been submerged upon Krishna’s death. Today a modern city called Dwarka exists in the Arab Sea.

India; 3. Century BCE; Hindu, Hindu; Literature; City: Dwarka