Asura

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

Asuras are mythological lord beings in Indian and Persian (Ariæns) texts who compete for power with the more benevolent devas (also known as suras).[1] Asuras are described in Indian texts as powerful superhuman demigods or demons with good or bad qualities. The good Asuras are called Adityas and are led by Varuna, while the malevolent ones are called Danavas and are led by Vritra.[2] Other specific sections of Asuras exist, and they are known as Daityas, Anavayas, and Raksasas.

In the earliest layer of Vedic texts Agni, Indra and other gods are also called Asuras, in the sense of them being "lords" of their respective domains, knowledge and abilities. In later Vedic and post-Vedic texts, the benevolent gods are called Devas, while malevolent Asuras compete against these Devas and are considered "enemy of the gods" or demons.[3] Even in post-Vedic times, some of the Asuras were renowned for their devotion to the Hindu religion by their asceticism. Also, while they were later known for their militancy, some of their ethical customs were admired, such as not touching meat when at war, and not allowing anyone else to wash your feet, both of which Karna adhered to during the Kurukhshetra War. Further, Maya Danava had shown his devotion to Hinduism by writing the Vastu Shastra on how to design temples.

Asuras are part of Indian mythology along with Devas, Yaksha (nature spirits) and Raksasas (ghosts, ogres), and Asuras feature in one of many cosmological theories in Hinduism.[4][5]

Etymology and history

Monier-Williams traces the etymological roots of Asura (असुर) to Asu (असु), which means life of the spiritual world or departed spirits.[6] In the oldest verses of the Samhita layer of Vedic texts, the Asuras are any spiritual, divine beings including those with good or bad intentions, and constructive or destructive inclinations or nature.[6] In later verses of the Samhita layer of Vedic texts, Monier Williams states the Asuras are "evil spirits, demon and opponent of the gods". Asuras connote the chaos-creating evil, in Hindu and Persian (Arians) mythology about the battle between good and evil.[6]

Bhargava states the word, Asura, including its variants, asurya and asura, occurs "88 times in the Rig Veda, 71 times in the singular number, four times in the dual, 10 times in the plural, and three times as the first member of a compound. In this, the feminine form, asuryaa, is included twice. The word, asurya, has been used 19 times as an abstract noun, while the abstract form asuratva occurs 24 times, 22 times in each of the 22 times of one hymn and twice in the other two hymns".[7]

Asuras and Devas

The Titan [asura] is potentially an Angel [deva], the Angel still by nature a Titan. — A. K. Coomaraswamy

As the Rig Veda names Asuras that are also termed 'Devas' within the same scripture, it is possible for an Asura to be a Deva. The Asuras themselves are called 'Purva-Devata' (Old Gods.) Further, the Asuras that are recognized as Devas were labelled 'Devav Asurā'. The Asuras that are not Devas are termed 'Asura Adevah'.

Some post-Vedic scriptures, such as the Mahabharata[8] and the Satapatha Brahmana,[9] mention that the Asuras were the elder brothers of the Devas.

Asuras versus Raksasas

As an Asura meant "god" in the earlier portion of the Rig Veda, they are involved for help in keeping away the Raksasas (demons against the principle of Ahimsa) and Yatudhanas.

Asura is used as an adjective meaning "powerful" or "mighty". In the Rig Veda, two generous kings, as well as some priests, have been described as asuras. One hymn requests a son who is an asura. In nine hymns, Indra is described as asura. Five times, he is said to possess asurya, and once he is said to possess asuratva. Agni has total of 12 asura descriptions, Varuna has 10, Mitra has eight, and Rudra has six. Bhargava gives a count of the word usage for every Vedic deity. The Book 1 of Rig Veda describes Savitr (Vedic solar deity) as an Asura who is a "kind leader".[10] and help is asked from him against Raksasas and Yatudhanas.[11]

हिरण्यहस्तो असुरः सुनीथः सुमृळीकः स्ववाँ यात्वर्वाङ् ।
अपसेधन्रक्षसो यातुधानानस्थाद्देवः प्रतिदोषं गृणानः ॥१०॥[12]

May he, gold-handed Asura, kind leader, come hither to us with his help and favour.
Driving off Raksasas and Yatudhanas, [he] the god is present, praised in hymns at evening.
– Translated by Ralph Griffith[10]

May the golden-handed, life-bestowing, well-guiding, exhilarating and affluent Savitri [Asura] be present;
for the deity, if worshipped in the evening, is at hand, driving away Raksasas and Yatudhanas.
– Translated by HH Wilson[13]

Rig Veda 1.35.10

Interestingly, Savitur, is also identified in the verse as "suparno", which means nicely-winged, and is akin to the Zoroastrian Amesha Spentas (Faravahars.) RV 10.177 conceives of "Asura" as the divine Suparna and father of all creation.[14]

In later texts, such as the Puranas and the Itihasas with the embedded Bhagavad Gita, the Devas represent the good, and the Asuras the bad.[15][16] According to the Bhagavad Gita (16.6-16.7), all beings in the universe have both the divine qualities (daivi sampad) and the demonic qualities (asuri sampad) within each.[16][17] The sixteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita states that pure god-like saints are rare and pure demon-like evil are rare among human beings, and the bulk of humanity is multi-charactered with a few or many faults.[16] According to Jeaneane Fowler, the Gita states that desires, aversions, greed, needs, emotions in various forms "are facets of ordinary lives", and it is only when they turn to lust, hate, cravings, arrogance, conceit, anger, harshness, hypocrisy, cruelty and such negativity- and destruction-inclined that natural human inclinations metamorphose into something demonic (Asura).[16][17]

Asko Parpola traces the etymological root of Asura to *asera- of Uralic languages, where it means "lord, prince".[18]

Discussion about transformation of 'Asura' into 'demon'

Scholars have disagreed on the nature and evolution of the Asura concept in ancient Indian literature. The most widely studied scholarly views on Asura concept are those of FBJ Kuiper, W Norman Brown, Haug, von Bradke, Otto, Benveniste, Konow, Rajwade, Dandekar, Darmesteter, Bhandarkar and Raja, Banerji-Sastri, Padmanabhayya, Skoeld, SC Roy, Coomaraswamy, Shamasastry, Przyluski, Schroeder, Burrows, Hillebrandt, Taraporewala, Lommel, Fausboll, Segerstedt, Thieme, Gerschevitch, Boyce, Macdonnell, Hermann Oldenberg, Geldner, Venkatesvaran, and Jan Gonda.[19]

Kuiper calls Asuras a special group of gods in one of major Vedic theories of creation of the universe.[20] Their role changes only during and after the earth, sky and living beings have been created. The sky world becomes that of Devas, the underworld becomes that of Asuras. Deity Indra is the protagonist of the good and the Devas, while dragon Vrtra who is also one of asuras is the protagonist of the evil.[20] During this battle between good and evil, creation and destruction, some powerful Asuras side with the good and are called Devas, other powerful Asuras side with the evil and thereafter called Asuras. This is the first major dualism to emerge in the nature of everything in the Universe.[20][21] Hale, in his review, states that Kuiper theory on Asura is plausible but weak because the Vedas never call Vrtra (the central character) an Asura as the texts describe many other powerful beings.[22] Secondly, Rig Veda never classifies Asura as "group of gods" states Hale, and this is a presumption of Kuiper.[22]

Many scholars describe Asuras to be "lords" with different specialized knowledge, magical powers and special abilities, which only later choose to deploy these for good, constructive reasons or for evil, destructive reasons. The former become known as Asura in the sense of Devas, the later as Asura in the sense of demons. Kuiper, Brown, Otto and others are in this school; however, none of them provide an explanation and how, when and why Asura came ultimately to mean demon.[23]

Ananda Coomaraswamy suggested that Devas and Asuras can be best understood as Angels-Theoi-Gods and Titans of Greek mythology, both are powerful but have different orientations and inclinations, the Devas representing the powers of Light and the Asuras representing the powers of Darkness in Hindu mythology.[24][25] According to Coomaraswamy, "the Titan [Asura] is potentially an Angel [Deva], the Angel still by nature a Titan" in Hinduism.[26][27]

Indo-Iranian context

In the 19th century, Haug pioneered the idea that the term Asura is linguistically related to the Ahuras of Indo-Iranian people and pre-Zoroastrianism era. In both religions, Ahura of pre-Zoroastrianism (Asura of Hinduism), Vouruna (Varuna) and Daeva (Deva) are found, but their roles are on opposite sides.[28] That is, Ahura evolves to represent the good in pre-Zoroastrianism, while Asura evolves to represent the bad in Vedic religion, while Daeva evolves to represent the bad in pre-Zoroastrianism, while Deva evolves to represent the good in Vedic religion. This contrasting roles have led some scholars to deduce that there may have been wars in proto-Indo-European communities, and their gods and demons evolved to reflect their differences.[28] This idea was thoroughly researched and reviewed by Peter von Bradke in 1885.[29][30]

The relationship between ahuras/asuras and daevas/devas in Indo-Iranian times, was discussed at length by F.B.J. Kuiper.[31] This theory and other Avesta/Assyrian-driven hypotheses developed over the 20th century, are all now questioned particularly for lack of archaeological evidence.[32][33] Asko Parpola has re-opened this debate by presenting archaeological and linguistic evidence, but notes that the links may go earlier to Uralic languages roots.[34]

Ahura Mazda and Asura Medhira

See also: Zoroastrianism and Hinduism

Ahura Mazda, whom the Zoroastrians worship as the Supreme Lord is the Avestan equivalent to Vedic Sanskrit's Asura Medhira.

These phrase mean "Wise Lord", and in the Rig Veda it appears in a few places. In RV XXIV.14 "kṣayannasmabhyamasura" appears in the sentence, "With bending down, oblations, sacrifices, O Varuṇa, we deprecate thine anger: / Wise Asura, thou King of wide dominion, loosen the bonds of sins by us committed."[35] There are several passages in the Vedas (especially the Atharva Veda) and Avesta that are identical, except that they are in the different languages of Avestan and Vedic Sanskrit.

Scripture Sanskrit Avestan English Translation
Rig Veda / Avesta (Gatha 17:4 Yashna 29) Vakshanah Asuramedhasya idam kshethram avayam. Vashna Ahuramazdaaha imam kshathram akunavam. By the grace of Ahuramazda I made this city/realm.
Rig Veda (10:87:21) / Avesta (Gatha 17:4 Yashna 53:4) mahaantaa mitraa varunaa samraajaa devaav asuraaha sakhe

sakhaayaam ajaro jarimne agne martyaan amartyas tvam nah

mahaantaa mitraa varunaa devaav ahuraaha sakhe ya fedroi vidaat

patyaye caa vaastrevyo at caa khatratave ashaauno ashavavyo

O Ahura Mazda, you appear as the father, the ruler, the friend, the worker and as knowledge.

It is your immense mercy that has given a mortal the fortune to stay at your feet.

Norse gods context

Some scholars such as Asko Parpola suggest that the word Asura may be related to proto-Uralic and proto-Norse history. The Aesir-Asura correspondence is the relation between Asura of Vedic Sanskrit to Æsir, an Old Norse that is – old German and Scandinavian – word, and *asera or *asira of proto-Uralic languages all of which mean "lord, powerful spirit, god".[34][36] Parpola states that the correspondence extends beyond Asera-Asura, and extends to a host of parallels such as Inmar-Indra, Sampas-Stambha and many other elements of respective mythologies.[34]

Areas of Asura control

Patalaloka

These are the chief capitals of the Asuras. Some are purely of a certain Asuras section, such as Rasātala, which is inhabited by Daityas.

In the Brahma Purana, returning from these regions, Narada said that they are more pleasant than heaven.[37]

On most accounts, the domains of Patalaloka are 7 but in some they appear as 8. The Shiv Purana lists 8, with Tala, Tāla, Vidhi-pātāla, Sakara-bhumi, Vijaya being mentioned and they are difficult to match with 4 of the named realms. There are also a few differences of who lives in some of the realms. For example, the Vayu Purana mentioned Vasuki in Sritala, while in Linga Purana he is mentioned in Mahatala.

Kingdom Alternative Names Major Cities Inhabitants Ruler Other Significance Location
Atala It contains the abodes of Namuci, Mahanada, and Kabandha.[38] The cities Sankukarna, Niskulada, Dhanamjaya, Kaliya, Naga, and of Kalasa. Mahamaya (Bala), the son of Danava Maya
Vitala Anuttara Amnaya

Ematala[39]

Here are the cities of Prahlada, Anuhlada, Taraka, Sisumara, Cyavana, Khara, and others. Hatakeshwara The Hatakeshwara Stotra declares that Hatakeshwara is the ruler of Vitala.
Sutala The cities of Daityas such as Mahajambha, Hayagriva Krsna, Nikumbha, Sankha, Gomukha, Nila, Megh, and Krathana, and of Nagas such as Kambala and Takshaka. Daityas
Nagas
Mahabali Here is where Mahabali reigned after being offered the position Indrahood after Vamana had taken back lands won by him and given it back to Devas, and so Bali relocated from Patala to here.
Rasātala Nitala Its capital was Bhogavati, which was ruled by Vasuki. The Mahabharata claims that Varuna governs Rasatala, and that Mainmayi is a major city within the region. Nagas
Daityas
Danavas
Vasuki
Varuna
Rasa means earth, soil, moisture.[40]
It was in Rasatala that the first battle between Daityas and Devas erupted, between Hiranyaksha and Varaha. The next battle here was between Hayagriva and the brothers Madhu and Kaitaba. (Varaha and Varahi have since been worshiped in Tibet, even after Tibetan having becoming Buddhist the deities were recognized as Ubhayavarahanana and Vajravarahi.)
Also, in the Mahabharata, Vasu was exiled to Rasatala but was later allowed to return to Brahmaloka on basis of his ethical personality and piousness. It is also known as Rijisha (meaning expelled because many people, such as the Vasus, were exiled here.)
Sumati is said to have left Rasatala for the plains[41], a statement that shows Rasatala was a mountainous area.
RV[42] discusses the Rasa being "filled with flood-waters." It[43] also connects it with the sea when it declares that Bhujya has both the Rasa and the sea." Bhujya is also spoken[44] of as traveling "to the opposite shore of the sea." Because Meru or Mount Kailash is in between Himachal Pradesh and the Rasa River (Brahmaputra), one would expect the scriptures to link the sacred mountain with Rasatala and it being chiefly Asura-controled, and they do. As Indo-Aryan 'R' sounds convert to 'L' in Tibetan languages, the Rasa is know in Tibet as 'Lhasa'.
Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Western Tibet west of the Brahmaputra
Mahatala Here are the cities of Hiranyaksha, Virocana, Mahamegha, and others. Multan
(Kashyapapur),
Punjab
Sritala Here are the cities of Kesarin, Puloman, Mahisa, Naga, Vasuki, and others. Eastern Gujarat
Pātāla Here are the cities of Mahabali, Muchukunda, and others. Vasuki Thalla,
Sindh
Talatala Gabhastala Here are the cities of Kalanemi, Gajakarna, Sumalin, Vainateya, and others. Maya There is a village named Tala in the Jamwa Ramgarh Tehsil. The Linga Purana mentions that the Patala is composed of sands. Jamwa Ramgarh Tehsil,
Rajasthan

Characteristics of Asuras

File:Asura Vayuphak Thailand Ramayana Hindu mythology.jpg
The concept of Asura-Devas migrated from India to southeast Asia in 1st millennium CE. Above Vayuphak Asura, from the Hindu epic Ramayana, represented in Thailand.

All powerful beings, good or evil, are called Asuras in the oldest layer of Vedic texts. A much studied hymn of the Rig Veda states Devav asura (Asuras who have become Devas), and contrasts it with Asura adevah (Asuras who are not Devas).[20][45] Each Asura and Deva emerges from the same father (Prajapati), share the same residence (Loka), eat together the same food and drinks (Soma), and have innate potential, knowledge and special powers in Hindu mythology; the only thing that distinguishes "Asura who become Deva" from "Asura who remain Asura" is intent, action and choices they make in their mythic lives.[27][46]

Militancy of Asuras

"Asuras who remain Asura" share the character of powerful beings obsessed with their craving for ill gotten Soma and wealth, ego, anger, unprincipled nature, force and violence.[47][48] Further, when they lose, miss or don't get what they want because they were distracted by their cravings, the "Asuras who remain Asuras" question, challenge and attack the ""Asuras who become Devas" to loot and get a share from what Devas have and they don't, in Hindu mythology.[47][48] The hostility between the two is the source of extensive legends, tales and literature in Hinduism; however, many texts discuss their hostility in neutral terms and without explicit moral connotations or condemnation.[46] Some of these tales are the basis for myths behind major Hindu Epics and annual festivals, such as the story of Asura Ravana and Deva Rama in the Ramayana and the legend of Asura Hiranyakashipu and Deva Vishnu as Narasimha,[46] the latter celebrated with the Hindu spring festival of Holika and Holi.[49]

Resolving conflicts with Asuras

The term "Asura" in the latter portion of the Rig Veda came to mean "demon." Asuras (as demons) were involved in several conflicts with Devas. Gaining power is a clear motive for Asuras, in the story of Madhu and Kaitaba wherein they would declare, "Give battle now, or say, I am your dasa (slave.)"[50] In some instances, the Daityas are told to abide by the customs of war. For example, Vishnu used the conciliatory method ('sama-purva') and reminded Madhu and Kaitaba that it is not the 'dharma' of heroes to fight with those who are tired, frightened, weaponless, fallen, or too young, recalling a similar set of rules in the Manu Smriti.[50]

Normally, nonviolence (ahimsa) as a method is tried to prevent any wars with the Asuras. When they prove ineffective, war is fought. In one instance, the Devas had said to Brahma, "You should pacify the vighnas by the conciliatory method (saman.) this method is to be applied first, and secondly the offering of gifts (dana), and these (proving futile) one should afterwards create dissension (among enemies) and this too proving unsuccessful, punitive force (danda) should be resorted to (to curb them.)"[51] One common tactic of the Daityas was to abduct the wife of an enemy. This is true in the cases of Hiranyaksha who had kidnapped Bhudevi, Hiranyaksha's son Andhaka who tried to kidnap Parvati, Jalandhara who had tried with Parvati, and Sanghra who tried with Saci. (Some other Asuras such as Ravana had abducted Sita.) Diti was always furious of the influential powers of the Devas and she had taken the vow to annihilate them, the Madanadvadasi-vrata.[52] Certain lineages within the Daityas and Danavas were known for being highly militarized, and the Andhakas (from Andhaka) and Pulomans (from Pulomans) had participated in the Kurukhshetra War. Other militarized Daitya and Danava groups include Kalakeyas, Nivatakavacha (from Prahlada), and Sarabhas.

The Asuras were out to dominate kingdoms, and so their name is used by Kautalya in his Arthasastra to refer to invasion and conquest by a demonic ruler. Of the three types of conquests, the first one is (dharmavijaya) when the ruler is satisfied with submission of conquered kingdoms, the worse is (the lobhavijaya) when the ruler plunders wealth after conquest, and the worst is (asuravijaya) when the ruler deprives the conquered kingdom(s) of women, children, and its monarch is captured or slain.[53]

Piousness of Asuras

Many Asuras have been known to have had some very great spiritual values, while being fighters. Vrtra had practiced penance for 60,000 years.[54] Further, it is said that Vritra's offspring were Raksasas and yet were "brahmavid" (knowledgeable of Brahman) and "dharmika" (spiritual.)[55] Madhu, the father of the Asura race practiced great penances and possessed very high spiritual values.[54] Dhundhu, his son, was a great "Tapasvi" (mendicant) sage.[54] These two brothers were named Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu. Both of them performed so many religious practices and austerities that in course of time they gained unlimited powers.[56] Asuras also had priests. Bhargava Brahmins were purohitas (ceremonial priests) to Hiranyakasipu, and that Vasistha was his hotra (fire ceremony priest.)[57] The Dasyu of the Rig Veda too had Brahmin priests of their own, whom Indra also fought; "nir brahmabhir adhamo dasyum Indra." Some Asuras were the children of Devas. For example, Varaha, the slayer of Hiranyaksha, had married Chhaya (also known as Varahi)[58], and they had Narakasura together, and he was made by Varaha as the ruler of Pragjyotisa[59]. Andhaka was adopted as the son of Shiva, and later when Hiranyaksha wanted a male progeny, Lord Shiva had given Andhaka to him. Ravana was the son of Sage Vaishrava, Danava Kalayavana of Sage Garga. Although there are Asuras who are at odds with some sages in their eras, such as Muchukunda slaying Kalayavana and Sambara by sagely King DIvodas, the Asuras had practiced great penance (tapasya.)

Temples Associated with Asuras

Asuras were usually devout Hindus and had even established temples dedicated, which were normally dedicated to Lord Shiva although Prahlada had built one for Vishnu at Multan. Ravana is known to have built temples from stretching from the regions of Haryana down to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. He build

Baijnath is a Shaiva temple in Himachal Pradesh state is also known as Ravankhola (Place of Ravana.) Many people believe that Baijnath is not where Ravana descended to the earth, and that either the Baidyanath Temple in Jhkarkhand state or Vajinath in Maharashtra state is the actual site. Somanath - The second version of the Shaiva temple in Gujarat state is said by tradition to have been renovated by Ravana.[60] Two Hemadpanti temples were built by Ravana's demons in Kuntalapur within Maharashtra state. Mahabaleshwar is a Shaiva temple in Gokarna, Karnataka is also said by tradition to have been build by Ravana.[61] Murudeshwara is a Shaiva temple in Karnataka state is said by tradition to have been built by Ravana. It lies in the holy beach town in the Bhatkal Taluk of Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka state.[61] Dharashwara is a Shaiva temple in Karnataka is said by tradition to have been built by Ravana.[61] Gunavanteshwar is a Shaiva temple in Karnataka is said by tradition to have been built by Ravana.[61] Shejjeshwar is a Shaiva temple in Karnataka is said by tradition to have been built by Ravana.[61] Kakinada is a Shaiva temple in Andhra Pradesh containing a huge Shivalinga, supposedly installed by Ravana himself, with a statue of Ravana near by. Both Shivalinga and Ravana are worshiped by the fishermen community there. The Daityas also have temples associated with them, as do the Danavas.

Commemoration of Asuras

Danava Maya was rescued by Shiva's chief attendant Nandikesvara,[62] and similarly Shiva has rescued some of his Daitya devotees. Shiva rescued Andhaka to be spared from being slain by Vishnu.[63] Shiva (and his son Skanda) had taken Bana's side when he had captured Aniruddha, and Krishna, Balarama, and Pradyumna were on Aniruddha's side to defeat Bana.[64] Even after Gaja the Shaiva was defeated, his head was preserved in Kailasa, honoring it.[65] Daksharam is the place where Taraka was slain by Skanda,[66] and so he is honored there. In one instance, Kali Devi had worshiped Shiva at Ambar city (Tamil Nadu) in the Mahakalam for atoning the sin of slaying Amba and Ambasura.[67]

Symbolism

Edelmann and other scholars state that the dualistic concept of Asura and Deva in Hinduism is a form of symbolism found throughout its ancient and medieval literature.[68][69] In the Upanishads, for example, Devas and Asuras go to Prajāpati to understand what is Self (Atman, soul) and how to realize it. The first answer that Prajāpati gives is simplistic, which the Asuras accept and leave with, but the Devas led by Indra do not accept and question because Indra finds that he hasn't grasped its full significance and the given answer has inconsistencies.[70] Edelmann states that this symbolism embedded in the Upanishads is a reminder that one must struggle with presented ideas, learning is a process, and Deva nature emerges with effort.[70] Similar dichotomies are present in the Puranas literature of Hinduism, where god Indra (a Deva) and the antigod Virocana (an Asura) question a sage for insights into the knowledge of the self.[70] Virocana leaves with the first given answer, believing now he can use the knowledge as a weapon. In contrast, Indra keeps pressing the sage, churning the ideas, and learning about means to inner happiness and power. Edelmann suggests that the Deva-Asura dichotomies in Hindu mythology may be seen as "narrative depictions of tendencies within our selves".[70]

The god (Deva) and antigod (Asura), states Edelmann, are also symbolically the contradictory forces that motivate each individual and people, and thus Deva-Asura dichotomy is a spiritual concept rather than mere genealogical category or species of being.[71] In the Bhāgavata Purana, saints and gods are born in families of Asuras, such as Mahabali and Prahlada, conveying the symbolism that motivations, beliefs and actions rather than one's birth and family circumstances define whether one is Deva-like or Asura-like.[71]

Terms Asuri and Āsuri

Asuri is the feminine of an adjective from asura and in later texts means belonging to or having to do with demons and spirits.[72] Asuri parallels Asura in being "powerful beings", and in early Vedic texts includes all goddesses.[73][74] The term Asuri also means a Raksasi in Indian texts.[75]

The powers of an Asuri are projected into plants offering a remedy against leprosy.[76][77]

Āsuri was the most well-known of disciples of Kapila the Samkhya philosopher, and he was male. He not only had taught the Asura Daitya King Prahlada, but also a sage named Bharadvaja.

First, before all, the strong-winged Bird was born, thou wast the gall thereof. Conquered in fight, the Asuri took then the shape and form of plants. The Asuri made, first of all, this medicine for leprosy, this banisher of leprosy. She banished leprosy, and gave one general colour to the skin.

|A charm against leprosy, Atharva Veda, Hymn 1.24|[78]

In Book 7, Asuri is a powerful female with the special knowledge of herbs, who uses that knowledge to seduce Deva Indra in Atharva Veda. A hymn invokes this special power in Asuri, and this hymn is stipulated for a woman as a charm to win over the lover she wants.[79]

I dig this Healing Herb that makes my lover look on me and weep, That bids the parting friend return and kindly greets him as he comes. This Herb wherewith the Asuri drew Indra downward from the Gods, With this same Herb I draw thee close that I may be most dear to thee.

Thou art the peer of Soma, yea, thou art the equal of the Sun, The peer of all the Gods art thou: therefore we call thee hitherward. I am the speaker here, not thou: speak thou where the assembly meets. Thou shalt be mine and only mine, and never mention other dames.

If thou art far away beyond the rivers, far away from men, This Herb shall seem to bind thee fast and bring thee back my prisoner.

|A maiden's love-charm, Atharva Veda, Hymn 7.38|[79]

Similarly, in the Atharva Veda, all sorts of medical remedies and charms are projected as Asuri manifested in plants and animals.[73] Asuri Kalpa is an abhichara (craft) which contains various rites derived from special knowledge and magic of Asuri.[80][81]

Hindu mythology

Vishnu Purana

According to the Vishnu Purana, during the Samudra manthan or "churning of the ocean", the daityas came to be known as asuras because they rejected Varuni, the goddess of sura "wine", while the devas accepted her and came to be known as suras.[82]

Shiva Purana

Alain Daniélou states that Asuras were initially good, virtuous and powerful in Indian mythology. However, their nature gradually changed and they came to represent evil, vice and abuse of power. In Shiva Purana, they evolved into anti-gods and had to be destroyed because they threatened the gods.[82][83]

The asuras (anti-gods) were depicted to have become proud, vain, to have stopped performing sacrifices, to violate sacred laws, not visit holy places, not cleanse themselves from sin, to be envious of devas, torturous of living beings, creating confusion in everything and challenging the devas.[82][83]

Alain Daniélou states that the concept of asuras evolved with changing socio-political dynamics in ancient India. Asuras gradually assimilated the demons, spirits, and ghosts worshipped by the enemies of Vedic people, and this created the myths of the malevolent asuras and the raksasa. The allusions to the disastrous wars between the asuras and the suras, found in the Puranas and the epics, may be the conflict faced by people and migrants into ancient India.[83]

Buddhism

Asuras also appear as a type of supernatural being in traditional Buddhist cosmology.

In popular culture

  • In Asura: Undead War, the Asuras are responsible for raising the dead and command an army of demon spawn.
  • In the manga/anime series Kinnikuman, the character Asuraman is the Prince of the Demon Realm and a prominent villain/anti-hero whose appearance is derived from the Buddhist Asura, using his 6 arms to perform wrestling holds impossible for other Chojin.
  • Asura is a powerful attack from Roronoa Zoro in the manga and anime One Piece, where he creates an illusion of himself with 9 swords and 3 heads. Despite being an illusion the blades still feel very real.
  • Asura is the past life of the main character, Ruca Milda, in the portable DS game Tales of Innocence
  • In the popular MMORPG, Ragnarok Online, Asura Strike is a powerful attack able to be performed by the Monk Class of character.
  • In the manga/anime series Toriko, the intimidation used by the character Mansam takes the form of an asura. One of the animals in the Gourmet World is also called the Asura Tiger due to having three heads reminiscent of an asura's common depiction.
  • The Shura (a Japanese derivative of asura) are a nationality that live in the Land of Shura, an island located near China in the manga/anime series Fist of the North Star and its sequel, Fist of the Blue Sky.
  • Kishin Asura is the main antagonist in the manga and anime Soul Eater.
  • Asura is the main character in the Japanese arcade video game Samurai Showdown: Warrior's Rage.
  • Asura is the main character in the Capcom video game Asura's Wrath. In the game, he's a former god whose daughter was kidnapped and was betrayed by his fellow god's and now seeks revenge on those who betrayed him.
  • The asura is a subclass of the slayer in Dungeon Fighter Online. He is a blind swordsman who trades his sight for more power, turning him into a magic warrior. Several of his attacks have Hindu references such as 'Agni Pentacle'. The Asura awakens as a Mahakala and then an Indra.
  • In the popular Elder Scrolls video game series, one of the Daedra is named Azura. The Daedra and the Aedra within the games lore draw parallels to the concept of suras and asuras, having the aedra, similar to suras, are the main gods whom are revered, in contrast to the daedra, who are often considered chaotic or evil, though they are not always so.
  • Asura is a playable race in the MMORPG "Guild Wars 2".
  • Asura is a fictional deity in Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age stories of Conan the Cimmerian.[84]
  • In a Japanese manga series Naruto, Asura was the youngest son of Hagoromo Ōtsutsuki and heir to his teachings who became a mortal enemy of his older brother Indra. He is also the ancestor of the Senju clan and the Uzumaki clan.
  • Asura is the most one of the most powerful demons in the Megami Tensei series and the final persona of the The Sun (Tarot card). It is also used as a classification attributed to the alternate demon forms of the plot-relevant characters, including the player's character, in the Digital Devil Saga games, which are derivatives of the Megami Tensei franchise.
  • Asura is the Queen of the Feymarch and an optional boss and summon in Final Fantasy 4.
  • Asura is the Third Job Path of Ara Haan in MMORPG Elsword
  • The Asurans in Stargate Atlantis are a race of self-replicating machines.
  • In "Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry" the main character Ikki Kurogane uses an attack, 'Ittou Shura,' which translates to 'Single-strike Asura'.

See also

List of Asuras
Related Beings

References

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  2. Wash Edward Hale (1999), Ásura in Early Vedic Religion, Motilal Barnarsidass, ISBN 978-8120800618, page 4
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External resources