Colonial Discourse and the Suffering of Indian American Children Book Cover.webp

In this book, we analyze the psycho-social consequences faced by Indian American children after exposure to the school textbook discourse on Hinduism and ancient India. We demonstrate that there is an intimate connection—an almost exact correspondence—between James Mill’s colonial-racist discourse (Mill was the head of the British East India Company) and the current school textbook discourse. This racist discourse, camouflaged under the cover of political correctness, produces the same psychological impacts on Indian American children that racism typically causes: shame, inferiority, embarrassment, identity confusion, assimilation, and a phenomenon akin to racelessness, where children dissociate from the traditions and culture of their ancestors.

This book is the result of four years of rigorous research and academic peer-review, reflecting our ongoing commitment at Hindupedia to challenge the representation of Hindu Dharma within academia.


From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Himanshu Bhatt

The Asuras' kingdoms or Pātala-loka. Sutala and Rasātala were the most important politically significant ones. The regions of Sindhudesh, Maru Desert, Mithila prevented their expansions.

Asuras are mythological lord beings in Indian and Persian texts who compete for power with the more benevolent devas.[1][2] Asuras are described in Indian texts as powerful superhuman demigods or demons with good or bad qualities. The good Asuras are called Adityās and are led by Varuṇa, while the malevolent ones are called Danavas and are led by Vritra.[3] 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.[4] 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 Karṇa adhered to during the Kurukṣetra War. Further, Māyā Dānava had shown his devotion to Hinduism by writing the Vāstu Śāstra on how to design temples.

Asuras are a part of Indian mythology along with Devas, Yakṣa[5] and Rakśasas[6] and Asuras feature in one of many cosmological theories in Hinduism.[7][8]

Etymology and history[edit]

Monier-Williams traces the etymological roots of Asura (असुर) to Asu (असु), which refers to life of the spiritual world or departed spirits.[9] 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.[9] 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 the good and evil.[9]

Bhargava states the word, Asura, including its variants, asurya and asura, occurs "88 times in the Ṛgveda, 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, asurya, 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".[10]

Asuras and Devas[edit]

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

As the Ṛgveda 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-Devatā'.[11] Further, the Asuras that are recognized as Devas were labelled as 'Devav Asurā'. The Asuras that are not Devas are termed 'Asura Adevah'.

Some post-Vedic scriptures, such as the Mahābhārata[12] and the Śaṭapatha Brāhmana,[13] mention that the Asuras were the elder brothers of the Devas.

Asuras versus Rakṣasas[edit]

As an Asura meant "god" in the earlier portion of the Ṛgveda, they are involved for help in keeping away the Rakṣasas.[14] Asura is used as an adjective meaning "powerful" or "mighty". In the Ṛgveda, 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, Varuṇa 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 Ṛgveda describes Savitr[15] as an Asura who is a "kind leader".[16] and help is asked from him against Rākṣasas and Yatudhanas.[17]

हिरण्यहस्तो असुरः सुनीथः सुमृळीकः स्ववाँ यात्वर्वाङ् ।
अपसेधन्रक्षसो यातुधानानस्थाद्देवः प्रतिदोषं गृणानः ॥१०॥[18]

May he, gold-handed Asura, kind leader, come hither to us with his help and favor.
Driving off Rākṣasas and Yatudhanas, [he] the god is present, praised in hymns at evening.
– Translated by Ralph Griffith[16]

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[19]


Interestingly, Savitur, is also identified in the verse as "suparṇo", which means nicely-winged and is akin to the Zoroastrian Amesha Spentas (Faravahars.)[21] conceives of "Asura" as the divine Suparna and father of all creation.[22]

In later texts, such as the Purāṇas and the Itihāsas with the embedded Bhagavad Gitā, the Devas represent the good and the Asuras the bad.[23][24] According to the Bhagavad Gitā,[25] all beings in the universe have both the divine qualities (daivi sampad) and the demonic qualities (asuri sampad) within each.[24][26] The sixteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gitā 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.[24] According to Jeaneane Fowler, the Gitā 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.[27][24][26]

Asko Parpola traces the etymological root of Asura to "asera- of Uralic languages, where it means "lord, prince".[28][29]

Discussion about transformation of 'Asura' into 'demon'[edit]

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.[30]

Kuiper calls Asuras a special group of gods in one of major Vedic theories of creation of the universe.[31] 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.[31] 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.[31][32] 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.[33] Secondly, Rig Veda never classifies Asura as "group of gods" states Hale and this is a presumption of Kuiper.[34]

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.[35]

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.[36][37][38] Ananda Coomaraswamy,[39][40] According to Coomaraswamy, "the Titan [Asura] is potentially an Angel [Deva], the Angel still by nature a Titan" in Hinduism.[41][42]

Indo-Iranian context[edit]

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,[43] Vouruna (Varuṇa) and Daeva (Deva) are found, but their roles are on opposite sides.[44] 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.[44] This idea was thoroughly researched and reviewed by Peter von Bradke in 1885.[45][46]

The relationship between ahuras/asuras and daevas/devas in Indo-Iranian times, was discussed in details by F.B.J. Kuiper.[47] This theory and other Avesta/Assyrian-driven hypotheses developed over the 20th century, are all now questioned particularly for lack of archaeological evidence.[48][49] 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.[50]

Ahura Mazda and Asura Medhira[edit]

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 means "Wise Lord", and in the Ṛgveda 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."[51] There are several passages in the Vedas, especially the Atharvaveda and Avesta that are identical, except that they are in the different languages of Avestan and Vedic Sanskrit.

Scripture Sanskrit Avestan English Translation
Ṛgveda / Avesta[52] Vakshanah Asuramedhasya idam kshethram avayam. Vashna Ahuramazdaaha imam kshathram akunavam. By the grace of Ahuramazda I made this city/realm.
Ṛgveda[53] / Avesta[54] 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[edit]

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".[50][55][56] 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.[50]

Areas of Asura control[edit]

The realms of the Asuras and their neighbors


See also: Ravana's Sutala-loka includes districts of Kinnaur, Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh, Rulership in Hinduism, Political History

These are the chief capitals of the Asuras, and are also known as Patālasvarya and as Adho-loka. Some are purely of a certain Asuras section, such as Rasātala, which is inhabited by Daityas.

It is unclear why these regions are referred to as Pātalas, but likely it's due to them having the tala trees. Pātala itself is a type of this tree species. According to ancient Greek historian Arrian, the Indians' word for 'delta' is patala. The ancient city of Pātaliputra was so-named because it was built on the site of a pātala tree.

In the Brahma Purāṇa, returning from these regions, Narada said that they are more pleasant than heaven.[57]

On most accounts, the domains of Pātala-loka are 7 but in some they appear as 8. The Shiv Purāṇa 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 Vāyu Purāṇa mentioned Vāsuki in Sritāla, while in Linga Purāṇa he is mentioned in Mahātala.

The original capital for Asuras was Mahitala (Mahātala-loka.)

Other places outside of the scripturally-known seven Pātalas include places spread out in the northern part of the Indian Subcontinent, such as Pātala (modern Thalla) in Sindh, which was very near to Talātala-loka. Pātaliputra was the original name of modern-day Patna in Bihar. Asurainagar or Asuraitekar (Haritekar) is also in Assam.

There were also other regions in India that weren't described as Pātalas but were ruled by Asuras. For example, Daityas are known to have ruled places along the west coast. Nandur Nimba Daitya village in Pathardi tehsil within Ahmednagar is wherein the Daitya Nimba is the village patron and is offered puja. Talāja in Gujarat is named after Tālav Daitya. The Karusha Dynasty is believed to have had its capital at modern-day Datia in northern Madhya Pradesh and was linked to the Krodhavesha Asuras. Kamarupa (Assam) was associated with Narakasura, the illegitimate son (born through rape) of Bhu Devi and Hiranyaksha that was raised by her and Varaha. Although he was born in Mahātala, he had moved to Pragjyotisha city where he overthrew the existing Asura regime known as Danava Dynasty.

Kingdom Alternative Names Major Cities Inhabitants Ruler Other Significance Location
Atala-loka Ratna-prabhā It contains the abodes of Namuchi, Mahānāda, and Kabandha.[58] The cities Sankukarna, Niskulada, Dhanamjaya, Kaliya, Nāga and of Kalaśa. Svairiṇī
Mahāmāyā (Bala), the son of Dānava Māyā
Vitala-loka Anuttara Amnaya


Here are the cities of Prahlada, Anuhlada, Taraka, Sisumara, Cyavana, Khāra and others. Hātakeshwara
The Hātakeshwara Stotra declares that Hātakeshwara is the ruler of Vitāla.

The Srimad Bhagavatam specifies that the river named Hāṭakī is generated from Hātakeshwara (Shiva) here.[60] Bhairava or Kirtimukha was said to be created by Shiva to destroy the Danava Rahu.[61] His tribe of people are known as Vetals.


As the Shiva Purana states that Shiva resides in Vitala-Loka, the Kurma Purana mentions that Kedaranatha (a pilgrimage in Uttarakhand) as an abode of Sambhu.
Apart from the tribal connections, that this region is Vitala is further supported by the place names both Asur and Kaliya Patal in Uttarakhand.

Sutala-loka Valuka-prabhā The cities of Daityas such as Mahājambha, Hayagriva Kṛṣṇa, Nikumbha, Śankha, Gomukha, Nila, Megh, Krathana, Kālanemi, and Purogan, and of Nāgas such as Kambala and Takśaka. Daityas
Mahābali Here is where Mahābali reigned after being offered the position Indrahood after Vāmana had taken back lands won by him and given it back to Devas and so Bali relocated from Pātāla to here. Uttar Pradesh (Unnao and Kanpur westwards.)

Himachal Pradesh (Kinnaur district.)

There are also several Jats of Bana (Mahābali's son) gotra in modern Sutala Haryana and western U.P.
Balia village in Unnao district (just south of Lucknow), according to local legend was a capital of Mahābali.
According to local legend Raja Bal had founded the town of Bawan in Hardoi district, before the time of Dasaratha's and Rama's reign Ayodhya.[62]
According to one local legend, the town of Soron is where Varaha slew Hiranyaksha, and it being known them as ‘Ukala-kshetra’ became ‘Sukara-kshetra’[63]

Mahātala-loka Dhuma-prabhā Here are the cities of Hiranyakṣa, Virocana, Mahamegha, Vāsuki, Narakasura, and others. Nāgas[64]
Kesarin Kashmir Valley.

Pothohar Plateau.

As Prahlada's father Hiranyakashipu ruled this domain, logically Prahlada would have lived there too. Today there is even a village named after Prahlada here; Pahlad Pur in Jammu district.[2]

Kalhana mentions 2 persons named Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu in his list of Gonandiya Dynasty rulers.[65] This dynasty ruled all of Kashmir at its peak. Kashmir's earliest capital city was Pandrenthan (Pandrethan or Gupkar), which is in Srinagar district, just south of Srinagar city.

The Hiranya-purvasis are mentioned as living in Hiranyapur. The Katha Sarit Sagara mentions it as a city in Kashmir.[66]

Kaleyas (Kekayas) were said to rule between the Sindhu and Vitasta (Jhelum) rivers. The first king of the Chandravarma Kamboja Dynasty was Asva (Asvapati Kekeya.)

Rasātala-loka Rijisha

Sunalidvipa Suryasidhéinta Tamaha-prabhā

Its capital was Bhogavati, which was ruled by Vāsuki. The Mahabharata claims that Varuna governs Rasātala, and that Mainmayi is a major city within the region. Vibhavati is another 1 of his cities. Nāgas
Rasā means earth, soil, moisture.[67]

It was in Rasātala that the first battle between Daityas and Devas erupted, between Hiranyakṣa and Varāha. The next battle here was between Hayagriva and the brothers Madhu and Kaitaba.[68]

Also, in the Mahābhārata, Vasu was exiled to Rasātala but was later allowed to return to Brahmaloka on basis of his ethical personality and piousness. It is also known as Rijisha[69]

Western Tibet, west of the Brahmaputra (within Ngari and Singatse prefectures.)


RV[70] discusses the Rasā being "filled with flood-waters." It[71] also connects it with the sea when it declares that Bhujya (son of Ashwins) "has both the Rasā and the sea." Bhujya is also spoken[72] of as traveling "to the opposite shore of the sea." Because Meru or Mount Kailash is in between Himachal Pradesh and the Rasā River (Brahmaputra), one would expect the scriptures to link the sacred mountain with Rasātala and it being chiefly Asura-controlled and they do. As Indo-Aryan 'R' sounds convert to 'L' in Tibetan languages, the Rasā is known in Tibet as 'Lhāsā'.
In fact, the city is recorded having been known as Rasa and its main temple as Rasā Trulnang Tsulagkhang[73].
Going beyond Krauncha (Mt. Nanda Devi), (ye shall see) the mountain, named Mainaka. There is the residence of the Danava, Maya, reared by himself.

Uttara-Gokarna is at entrance of Rasātala wherein a lingam was placed that Ravana couldn't move. This has been the most sacred mountain in Shaivism.

Sumati is said to have left Rasātala for the plains[74], a statement that shows Rasātala was a mountainous area.

Pātāla-loka Nāgaloka Here are the cities of Mahābali, Muchukunda, and others. Mahātamaha-prabhā Vāsuki
The Matsya Purana mentions that the goddess Parmeshvari is worshiped in Pātāla.[75] The performance of sraddha is also recommended to be to be executed here.[76]

Notable people that lived here were Śaṅkha, Kulika, Mahāśaṅkha, Śveta, Dhanañjaya, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Śaṅkhacūḍa, Kambala, Aśvatara and Devadatta.

The region between Sindhu and Sutlej west of Himachal Pradesh and south of Pothohar Plateau and Chaj Doab (between Jhelum and Chenab) region.

There are very strong affiliations between cities in this region and Asuras. For example, Multan on the Chenab and Ravi is where the Prahladpuri Temple dedicated to Narasimha was, which was said to have been built by Prahlada himself. Then, only 184km away from Multan is Harrand city, which, according to local legend was a capital of Hiranyaksha. Jalandhara of course, is named after the Asura son of Varuna and Ganga. His feet are said to be buried in Multan.

Sritala-loka Nitala[77] Here are the cities of Kesarin, Puloman, Mahisa, Nāgas, Vāsuki and others. Nepal (west of Gandaki and Marshyangdi rivers.)

This is the location because Nepal is affiliated with the persons listed in the Puranas that have their cities in Sritala.

Before the Kirati dynasties of 625 BCE the Mahisapalas (Buffalo-hearders) were the rulers. Even a form of Tibetan Buddhist saint Chakrasamvara is known as Mahisa Samvara and he has the head of a buffalo to symbolise his totemic lineage from the Mahisapalas. It makes sense that Sritala would adjacent to Vitala, the birthplace of Durga, because she was specifically chosen to combat Mahisa, and so she would have to have knowledge of the general area and customs to succeed in her mission.

There is event a Mt. Puloma here.[78]

Vāsuki and Nāgas an general have a strong presence in the local legends.

'Daitya' dances are still performed in parts of Nepal.

Mahābali of Sutala-loka is still revered in Nepal wherein he is revered for his generosity in the ancient times wherein he gave people wealth.[79] Even the story of Bali Hang is of him.

There is also the Padma Sambhava Cave, which is associated with Asura-legends, in Nepal.

Talātala-loka Gabhastala


Here are the cities of Kālanemi, Gajakarna, Sumalin, Vainateya and others. Māyā
Thar Desert.

The Linga Purāṇa mentions that the Pātala is composed of sands. Thar Desert not only has plenty of sands and is on the same latitude as other Pātalas, but it has has strong affiliations with Asuras throughout ancient history. Pushkar is the tirth at which both Asuras and others offered worship to Brahma. Even today, the royal family of Jaisalmer claim ancestry from Vajra, the son of Usha and Aniruddha (Krishna's grandson.) There are also several Jats of Bana (Mahābali's son) gotra, as there are in adjacent part of modern Sutala (Haryana and western U.P.)

Migration southwards[edit]

Pagodas of Uttarakhand and south India.

Mass migrations have not been uncommon in Indian history. The Vaishnava and Jain shastras discuss the Yavavas moving to Gujarat. The Yadavas descended from King Subahu of Gujarat had then migrated south of the Dakshin Mountains and established the Sevuna Yadava Dynasty.

The Danavas who stayed in the southern ocean, made great effort in the south. The mountain Trikuta formerly belonged to the rasksasas; they, too, met them at the southern ocean. The place of their coming together was Malaya; this region also beloned to the enemies of the gods.

Brahma Purana

The verse above clearly describes Asuras settling in the south by the Western Ghats range. There is even a Banasura Hill in Kerala, named after the son of Chakravarti Mahabali.

In Keralan legends, the Nairs and Nambuthiris are said to have migrated there [later than it was already settled by previous people's.] How we can tell that this migration coincided with that of the residents of Patalis is that the pagoda structures of Nairs have said to resemble those of the Newars. Apart from migrations described towards the southwest coast, descendants of Mahabali and Nagas settled by the southeastern shoreline too. The descendants of Mahabali call themselves Balijas (while those who claim ancestry in north India are usually Jats.) In fact, in southern Indian history, Killi-Valavan had married Peelivalai a Naga princess of Sri Lanka, and later Sithathakai princess of Mysuru was believed to be a descendant of Mahabali. Cities named after Mahabali are spread over the states Tamilnad, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka.

The Naga tradition and legends are strongest in Kerala out of all of the south. On Naga Panchami, Nagas are are prayed to. Kanakasabai Pillai, "the father of Tamil history", mentions the Maravars, Eyinars, Oliyars and Parathavars as Nagas.

The fact that we have stories of Bhairavas and Asuras being local to places in Maharashtra reflects that not only did Vitala-lokis and Sutala-lokis move, but that they continued their quarrels. This also explains why the worship of Ganesh the Vitala-loki is so popular in Maharashtra.

That waves of migrations south of the Dakshin Range occurred is undeniable as even many southern dynasties claimed northern lineage. For example, Samanta-Rama.

Characteristics of Asuras[edit]

All powerful beings, good or evil, are called Asuras in the old Vedic texts. A much studied hymn of the Ṛgveda states Devav asura,[80] and contrasts it with Asura adevah.[81][31][82] Each Asura and Deva emerges from the same father,[83] share the same residence,[84] eat together the same food and drinks[85] 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.[42][86]

Militancy of Asuras[edit]

"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.[87][88] 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.[87][88] 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.[86] Some of these tales are the basis for myths behind major Hindu Epics and annual festivals, such as the story of Asura Rāvaṇa and Deva Rāma in the Rāmāyaṇa and the legend of Asura Hiranyakashipu and Deva Viṣṇu as Narasimha,[86] the latter celebrated with the Hindu spring festival of Holika and Holi.[89]

Resolving conflicts with Asuras[edit]

The term "Asura" in the latter portion of the Ṛgveda came to mean "demon." Asuras 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 dāsa."[90][91] In some instances, the Daityas are told to abide by the customs of war. For example, Viṣṇu 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 Smṛti.[91]

Normally, nonviolence (ahiñsa) 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.[92] this method is to be applied first and secondly the offering of gifts,[93] and these proving futile one should afterwards create dissension among enemies and this too proving unsuccessful, punitive force,[94] should be resorted to curb them."[95] One common tactic of the Daityas was to abduct the wife of an enemy. This is true in the cases of Hiranyakṣa who had kidnapped Bhudevi, Hiranyakṣa'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 Rāvaṇa 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.[96] Certain lineages within the Daityas and Dānavas were known for being highly militarized and the Andhakas and Pulomans had participated in the Kurukṣetra War. Other militarized Daitya and Dānava groups include Kālakeyas, Nivatakavacha from Prahlada and Sarabhas.

The Asuras were out to dominate kingdoms and so their name is used by Kautalya in his Arthaśastra 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.[97]

Piousness of Asuras[edit]

See also: Religious beliefs of Daityas, Religious beliefs of the Danavas

Many asuras have been known to have had some very great spiritual values, while being fighters. Vrtra had practiced penance for 60,000 years.[98] Further, it is said that Vritra's offspring were Rakṣasas and yet were "brahmavid"[99] and "dharmika" spiritual.[100] Madhu, the father of the Asura race practiced great penances and possessed very high spiritual values.[98] Dhundhu, his son, was a great "Tapasvi" mendicant sage.[98] These two brothers were named Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakaśipu. Both of them performed so many religious practices and austerities that in course of time they gained unlimited powers.[101] Asuras also had priests. Bhargava Brahmins were purohitas[102] to Hiranyakaśipu, and that Vaṣisṭha was his hotra.[103][104] Kilata and Akuli were priests of Asuras that collaborated with Manu. The Dasyu of the Ṛgveda 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 Hiranyakśa, had married Chhaya, also known as Varahi,[105] and they had Narakāsura together and he was made by Varāha as the ruler of Pragjyotiṣa[106]. Andhaka was adopted as the son of Śiva and later when Hiranyakṣa wanted a male progeny, Lord Śiva had given Andhaka to him. Rāvaṇa was the son of Sage Vaishrava, Dānava Kalayavāna 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 (tapasyā).

Temples Associated with Asuras[edit]

Asuras were usually devout Hindus and had even established temples dedicated, which were normally dedicated to Lord Śiva although Prahlada had built one for Viṣṇu at Multan. Rāvaṇa is known to have built temples from stretching from the regions of Haryana down to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. He build Baijnath is a Śaiva temple in Himachal Pradesh state is also known as Rāvaṇkhola.[107] Many people believe that Baijnath is not where Rāvaṇa descended to the earth and that either the Baidyanath Temple in Jharkhand state or Vajinath in Maharashtra state is the actual site. Somanath - The second version of the Śaiva temple in Gujarat state is said by tradition to have been renovated by Rāvaṇa.[108] Two Hemadpanti temples were built by Rāvana's demons in Kuntalapur within Maharashtra state. Mahabaleshwar is a Śaiva temple in Gokarṇa, Karnataka is also said by tradition to have been build by Rāvaṇa.[109] Murudeshwara is a Śaiva temple in Karnataka state is said by tradition to have been built by Rāvaṇa. It lies in the holy beach town in the Bhatkal Taluk of Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka state.[109] Dharashwara is a Śaiva temple in Karnataka is said by tradition to have been built by Rāvaṇa.[109] Gunavanteshwar is a Śaiva temple in Karnataka is said by tradition to have been built by Rāvaṇa.[109] Shejjeshwar is a Śaiva temple in Karnataka is said by tradition to have been built by Rāvaṇa.[109] Kakinada is a Śaiva temple in Andhra Pradesh containing a huge Śivalinga, supposedly installed by Rāvaṇa himself, with a statue of Rāvaṇa near by. Both Śivalinga and Rāvaṇa are worshiped by the fishermen community there. The Daityas also have temples associated with them, as do the Dānavas.

Commemoration of Asuras[edit]

Dānava Maya was rescued by Śiva's chief attendant Nandikesvara[110] and similarly Śiva has rescued some of his Daitya devotees. Śiva rescued Andhaka to be spared from being slain by Viṣṇu.[111] Śiva and his son Skanda had taken Bāna's side when he had captured Aniruddha, and Kṛṣṇa, Bālarāma, and Pradyumna were on Aniruddha's side to defeat Bāna.[112] Even after Gaja the Śaiva was defeated, his head was preserved in Kailāśa, honoring it.[113] Dakṣaram is the place where Tāraka was slain by Skanda,[114] and so he is honored there. In one instance, Kali Devi had worshiped Śiva at Ambar city[115] in the Mahakalam for atoning the sin of slaying Amba and Ambasura.[116] The historical Khanjanaka Tirtha in Dwaraka is named after the Asura Khanjanaka.[117]


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.[118][119] 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.[120] 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.[120] 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.[120] 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".[120]

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.[121] 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.[121]

Terms Asuri and Āsuri[edit]

Asuri is the feminine of an adjective from asura and in later texts means belonging to or having to do with demons and spirits.[122] Asuri parallels Asura in being "powerful beings", and in early Vedic texts includes all goddesses.[123][124] The term Asuri also means a Rākṣasi in Indian texts.[125]

The powers of an Asuri are projected into plants offering a remedy against leprosy.[126][127]

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

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, Atharvaveda, Hymn 1.24

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.[129]

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

Similarly, in the Atharva Veda, all sorts of medical remedies and charms are projected as Asuri manifested in plants and animals.[123] Asuri Kalpa is an abhichara[130] which contains various rites derived from special knowledge and magic of Asuri.[131][132]

Hindu mythology[edit]

Viṣṇu Purāṇa[edit]

According to the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, during the Samudra manthan or "churning of the ocean", the Daityas came to be known as Asuras because they rejected Varuṇi, the goddess of sura "wine", while the Devas accepted her and came to be known as Suras.[133]

Śiva Purāṇa[edit]

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 Śiva Purāṇa, they evolved into anti-gods and had to be destroyed because they threatened the gods.[133][134]

The asuras[135] 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.[133][134]

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 worshiped by the enemies of Vedic people, and this created the myths of the malevolent asuras and the rakṣasa. The allusions to the disastrous wars between the asuras and the suras, found in the Purāṇas and the epics, may be the conflict faced by people and migrants into ancient India.[134]


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

In popular culture[edit]

  • 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[136] 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 Mahākāla 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.[137]
  • 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[edit]

List of Asuras
Related Beings


  1. They are also known as suras.
  2. Wash Edward Hale (1999), Ásura in Early Vedic Religion, Motilal Barnarsidass, ISBN 978-8120800618, pages 2-6
  3. Wash Edward Hale (1999), Ásura in Early Vedic Religion, Motilal Barnarsidass, ISBN 978-8120800618, page 4
  4. Wash Edward Hale (1999), Ásura in Early Vedic Religion, Motilal Barnarsidass, ISBN 978-8120800618, pages 5-11, 22, 99-102
  5. They are the nature spirits.
  6. They are the ghosts and ogres.
  7. Don Handelman (2013), One God, Two Goddesses, Three Studies of South Indian Cosmology, Brill Academic, ISBN 978-9004256156, pages 23-29
  8. Wendy Doniger (1988), Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism, Manchester University Press, ISBN 978-0719018664, page 67
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Monier Monier-Williams, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary” Etymologically and Philologically Arranged to cognate Indo-European Languages, Motilal Banarsidass, page 121
  10. PL Bhargava, Vedic Religion and Culture, South Asia Books, ISBN 978-8124600061
  11. Purva Devatā means Old Gods.
  12. Shanti Parva XXXII; P. 244 Book of the women edited by Johannes Adrianus Bernardus Buitenen, James L. Fitzgerald
  13. The Śaṭapatha Brāhmana; P. 63 Studies in proto-history of India Dvārakā Prasāda Miśra
  14. They are the demons against the principle of Ahiñsā) and Yatudhanas.
  15. He is the Vedic solar deity.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Mandala 1, Hymn 35 Ralph T Griffith, Wikisource
  17. RV XXXV.10-11
  18. Rigveda Sanskrit text, Wikisource
  19. Rigveda First Ashtaka 1.35, Hymn 10 HH Wilson (Translator), Trubner & Co, pages 99-100
  20. Ṛeda 1.35.10
  21. RV 10.177
  22. The Book of Demons By Nanditha Krishna
  23. Nicholas Gier (2000), Spiritual Titanism: Indian, Chinese, and Western Perspectives, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791445280, pages 59-76
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 Jeaneane D Fowler (2012), The Bhagavad Gitā, Sussex Academic Press, ISBN 978-1845193461, pages 253-262
  25. Bhagvad Gitā 16.6-16.7
  26. 26.0 26.1 Christopher K Chapple (2010), The Bhagavad Gitā: Twenty-fifth–Anniversary Edition, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-1438428420, pages 610-629
  27. It refers to Asura properties.
  28. name is asko>Asko Parpola, 2015
  29. The Roots of Hinduism: The Early Aryans and the Indus Civilization, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0190226923, pages 114-116
  30. Wash Edward Hale (1999), Ásura in Early Vedic Religion, Motilal Barnarsidass, ISBN 978-8120800618, pages 1-37
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 FBJ Kuiper (1975), The Basic Concept of Vedic Religion, History of Religion, volume 15, pages 108-112
  32. Wash Edward Hale (1999), Ásura in Early Vedic Religion, Motilal Barnarsidass, ISBN 978-8120800618, pages 1-2
  33. Wash Edward Hale (1999), Ásura in Early Vedic Religion, Motilal Barnarsidass, ISBN 978-8120800618, page 3
  34. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named hale3
  35. Wash Edward Hale (1999), Ásura in Early Vedic Religion, Motilal Barnarsidass, ISBN 978-8120800618, pages 2-4, 10
  36. Wash Edward Hale
  37. He lived in 1999.
  38. Ásura in Early Vedic Religion, Motilal Barnarsidass, ISBN 978-8120800618, page 20
  39. He lived in 1935.
  40. Angel and Titan: An Essay in Vedic Ontology, Journal of the American Oriental Society, volume 55, pages 373-374
  41. Ananda Coomaraswamy (1935), Angel and Titan: An Essay in Vedic Ontology, Journal of the American Oriental Society, volume 55, page 374
  42. 42.0 42.1 Nicholas Gier (1995), Hindu Titanism, Philosophy East and West, Volume 45, Number 1, pages 76, see also 73-96
  43. He is the Asura of Hinduism.
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  45. P von Bradke (1885), Dyaus Asuras, Ahura Mazda und die Asuras, Max Niemeyer, Reprinted as ISBN 978-1141632251
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  51. RV XXIV.14
  52. Gāthā 17:4 Yashna 29
  53. Ṛgveda 10:87:21
  54. Gāthā 17:4 Yashna 53:4
  55. Douglas Adams, He lived in 1997.
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  68. Varāha and Varāhi have since been worshiped in Tibet, even after Tibetan having becoming Buddhist the deities were recognized as Ubhayavarahanana and Vajravarahi.
  69. It means expelled because many people, such as the Vasus, were exiled here.
  70. Rig Veda 1.112.12a
  71. Rig Veda X.121.4a
  72. Ṛgveda 1.116.4
  73. P. 19 Lhasa in the Seventeenth Century: The Capital of the Dalai Lama By Françoise Pommaret
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  76. Matsya Purana 22.33
  77. Vishnu Purana
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  80. They are the Asuras who have become Devas.
  81. They are the Asuras who are not Devas.
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    For original Sanskrit, see Ṛgveda hymns 8.25.4 and 8.96.9 Rigveda - Wikisource
  83. It refers to Prajapati.
  84. It refers to Loka.
  85. It refers to Soma.
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  87. 87.0 87.1 Nicholas Gier (1995), Hindu Titanism, Philosophy East and West, Volume 45, Number 1, pages 76-80
  88. 88.0 88.1 Stella Kramrisch and Raymond Burnier (1986), The Hindu Temple, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120802230, pages 75-78
  89. Wendy Doniger (2000), Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions, Merriam-Webster, ISBN 978-0877790440, page 455
  90. Dāsa means Slave.
  91. 91.0 91.1 P. 90 The Triumph of the Goddess: The Canonical Models and Theological Visions of By C. Mackenzie Brown
  92. It is called as saman.
  93. It means dāna.
  94. It means danda.
  95. P. 257 Ancient Indian Literature: An Anthology By Sahitya Akademi (New Delhi, Inde).
  96. P. 42 Studies in the Puranic Records on Hindu Rites and Customs By Rajendra Chandra Hazra
  97. P. 129 The Mauryan Polity By V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar
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  100. Va 68.34-36, Bd iii iii.6.65-37; P. 443 The World's Major Languages edited by Bernard Comrie
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  102. It means ceremonial priests.
  103. Hotr means fire ceremony priest.
  104. P. 307 The World's Major Languages edited by Bernard Comrie
  105. (Brahma Purāṇa 219. 1 14-15; P. 136 Origin and Growth of the Purāṇic Text Corpus: With Special Reference to the edited by Hans Bakker
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  107. It is the Place of Rāvaṇa."
  108. P. 77 Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency ..., Volume 15, Part 2
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  115. It is in Tamil Nadu.
  116. P. 22 Hindu Vishva, Volume 27, Issues 4-11
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  128. Hymns of the Atharvaveda, Ralph T. H. Griffith (Translator), Luzac and Co., London, pages 28-29
  129. 129.0 129.1 Hymns of the Atharva Veda, Ralph T.H. Griffith (Translator), Luzac and Co., London, page 344
  130. It means craft.
  131. Magoun, Herbert William (1889). The Āsurī-Kalpa: a witchcraft practice of the Atharva-Veda
  132. Goudriaan, Teun & Gupta, Sanjukta (1981). Hindu Tantric and Śākta Literature, p.114. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 3447020911
  133. 133.0 133.1 133.2 Roshen Dalal (2011). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide, p.46. Penguin Books India. ISBN 0143414216 [1]
  134. 134.0 134.1 134.2 Alain Daniélou (1991). The Myths and Gods of India: The Classic Work on Hindu Polytheism from the Princeton Bollingen Series, pp. 141–142. Inner Traditions / Bear & Co. ISBN 0892813547.
  135. They are the anti-gods.
  136. It is a Japanese derivative of asura.
  137. Hour of the Dragon

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