We should now understand what a myth is.
Myth is the imaginative fiction of the minds of the ancient natives of a
country who believed that there were some kind of nature gods who were
involved in the creation, maintenance and destruction of the world, and in
some way they also influenced the social life of the people. Thus,
they formulated imaginative stories about them and started worshipping
them in their own style by offering sacrifices of such animals which they
themselves used to eat.
There are thousands of mythologies. Every country in
the world has a number of mythologies. Their imaginations about the shape
of god also differ from country to country. For example, Greek gods are
portrayed in human form, whereas the Egyptian gods are portrayed as having
a human body with a human or an animal head and with a peculiar dress.
There are all kinds of mythologies: cosmogony or creation myth, myth about
the last judgement and death, myth of the destruction of the world, myth
of human generation like of Adam and Eve, myth about the period of
creation, just like the Zoroastrians of ancient Persia believed in four
periods of 3,000 years (12,000 years) only, myth about the soul leaving
the body after death, just like the Egyptians believed that the soul flies
out from the body like a bird after death, and many more.
Characteristics: There are eight main
characteristics of the myths. (1) They have no philosophy of any kind. (2)
They have no exact time of the births of gods. It means they have no real
history of their imagined gods. (3) They have no scientific description of
any kind regarding the creation and destruction of the world, or birth of
souls and their karmas etc. (4) The number of their gods and
goddesses is flexible. It means that during various periods of time new
gods and goddesses have been created and added to the mythology. (5) There
is no definite place or dimension for their gods to live in. Just some
vague imaginations like the Greek gods are supposed to live on Mount
Olympus in Greece. (6) There is absolutely no description of the
Divineness of gods. (7) Their gods and goddesses are filled with human
weaknesses like lust, greed, jealously and anger etc., and (8) their gods
and goddesses have never been visualized in actual life because they are
just the fiction stories of primitive minds. These are the common
characteristics that are found in all the mythologies of the world. These
mythologies assume the shape of the religion of that country and people
keep on worshipping these imaginative figures for their whole life, just
like Alexander worshipped Heracles and his mother worshipped Dionysus.
The source of mythological imaginations.
If someone studies these mythologies carefully he will
find that in spite of great descriptional differences there is some kind
of basic similarity among them which makes one think that they might have
come through some common source, and it is a fact that they did come from
one common source.
All these mythologies describe about the creation of
the world from the void or the sky. They also describe about the
destruction of the world. They describe about the beginning of human
civilization from some original couple like Adam and Eve. They also tell
about gods and demons or evil spirits. Some mythologies (like that of
Germanic people) tell about a huge ‘world serpent’ holding the earth, and
about a certain distant land of happiness where good people go after
death. Some mythologies tell about a certain region where all the dead
people go, and so on. These are the general descriptions of the
mythologies of the world. These descriptions are vague, bear no
philosophical details and have no preciseness of the number of gods or
goddesses or their living abodes etc., yet they have a general similarity.
They also tell about the god of rain and thunder, god of fire, god of
water, god of wisdom and god of arts etc.
The prime source from where these ideas originated was,
of course, the stories of the Puranas of Bharatvarsh which travelled
through the trade routes from word of mouth and reached the other
countries in a broken form because they travelled from mouth to mouth.
Then, from there, they travelled to other far-off countries of the world.
As a general instinct, the primitive people also thought that certain
invisible super forces might exist somewhere in the space which cause or
control the natural happenings like disastrous rain, hail, strong
thundering clouds, stormy wind or brush fire etc., which affected their
daily life. When the stories of god of fire or god of rain and thunder
etc. reached these people it supported their basic imaginations, and thus,
all such stories of gods and goddesses that reached these places were
incorporated in their folk tales with their added imaginations. In this
way the mythologies started. They prevailed in the society for a long
time. Later on, when the writing system started, they were written down in
a book form. Thus, among the variations of the descriptions of the
mythologies of different countries, there remains a similarity because the
basic stories of creation, destruction and gods and goddesses came from
one single source, India (Bharatvarsh).