Indian Mythology

Post-Vedic Hinduism

Who were the Hindu myth-makers?

Traditionally, the compiler of the Vedas, the Puranas, and the Mahabharata was Vyasa, or Veda Vyasa. As he would have had to live for more than a thousand years to accomplish this task, we can assume that Vyasa is a generic name for all those hearers of sruti, the divine texts. In a sense, then, Vyasa is the representative of a whole class of hearers known by various terms: rishis, seers, sages, yogis, priests, brahmins, gurus. Among the best known of the ancient seers were the Seven Sages, the Saptarishis or Maharishis, whose yogic power gave them particular insight. A whole mythology is attached to Vyasa.

Vyasa is said to have been born of the brahmin Parashara and the famous fisher-woman Satyavati. Satyavati had been born of a fish, rejected by a king because of her smell, and impregnated by the Brahmin Parashara. After the lovemaking, the child Vyasa was immediately born and his mother’s virginity restored, establishing her as a member of the large group of miraculous birth-givers to mythological heroes. Because his complexion was dark (krishna) and he was born on an island (dvaipa), he was also known as Vyasa Krishna Dvaipayana. Vyasa was the progenitor of the two families who struggle against each other in the Mahabharata. A popular legend has it that Vyasa dictated the events of the epic to the elephant-headed god Ganesha, who wrote it down with one of his tusks.

Whoever Vyasa was, his name can be seen as the collective name for the primary myth-makers of the remarkable cosmology, creation stories, pantheons, and heroes of Hindu mythology.

Another of the “Homers” of Hindu mythology was Valmiki, the legendary author of the epic, the Rāmāyana. It is said that Valmiki invented poetry; when deeply moved by the killing of a mating bird by a hunter, he broke into emotional poetic song.


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