8 Parallels between Hindu and Greek Mythology

shiva

Ever since I read The Trojan War in Class 6 and a condensed form of The Odyssey in Class 7, I’ve become life-long lover of Greek and Classical mythology. The one thing that strikes me as I dive deeper and deeper into these stories is how similar they are to Hindu myths. After all, the two civilizations shared many traits: they were both polytheistic, they encouraged debate and argument as a form of learning, and they nurtured a rich tradition of storytelling and art.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that our myths are similar. But some of the parallels are so striking that one cannot help but wonder whether maybe, just maybe, these stories came down from a common ancestor before they branched out into their respective versions. I’m not a historian, so I cannot say for sure, but sample these and make up your own minds.

There are three main Gods

Both Hindu and Greek mythology are centered around three main Gods that are the designated leaders. Just like we have our Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva, they have Zeus, Hades and Poseidon who respectively rule the heavens, the underworld and the seas. Curiously, Indra, the Hindu king of the Gods, is but a caricature and is often depicted in stories as vengeful and petulant. Zeus, in contrast, is all-powerful and feared by all his subjects.

The king of Gods is a womanizer

If there is one trait that Zeus and Indra share, it is their love of women. A complete list of Zeus’s lovers is going to occupy a post by itself, so I will just name a few here: Ganymede, Selene, Io, Callisto, Europa and Danae, all of whom were given a place in the cosmos as the planet Jupiter’s satellites. Indra’s most famous conquest is that of Ahalya, whom he seduces after taking the form of her husband, Sage Gautama. The modus operandi is also similar to Zeus’s: the latter once seduces Persephone after she becomes the queen of the underworld by assuming the form of her husband and his younger brother, Hades. (Does it get creepier than that?)

The weapons are the same

Indra is considered the God of rain, and his weapon, the Vajrayudha, is said to be a thunderbolt. Though there is no competing myth in the case of Zeus as to how the weapon came into being, his very voice carries a deep rumble, it is said, and he’s often depicted in art with a live streak of lightning trapped in his closed fist.

Poseidon, the second God of the trinity, wields the trident, much like Shiva. Hades doesn’t have the noose or the mace, but hey, two out of three ain’t bad.

The God of death is also the God of justice

Hades unfortunately gets cast as the villain in most contemporary retellings of the Classical myths, but he’s perhaps the most virtuous of the three brothers. He resides in the underworld and passes judgement on the souls that pass from one life to the next. He’s known for his sense of justice. In that sense he’s very much like our own God of Death, Yama.

The messengers of the Gods have similar characteristics

Hermes is the son of Zeus. He’s quick and cunning. He can move between the world of Gods and the world of men at will. He’s the messenger of the Gods. In many myths he’s a trickster who outwits the Gods for the good of humankind. Narada, the Hindu equivalent, shares all these traits, except that he’s the spiritual son of Vishnu, the most important God of the Trinity.

They’re mountain dwellers

The Gods of both cultures live on mountains. If Zeus presides over Mount Olympus, Indra rules over Mount Meru.

The god of love shoots arrows at people’s hearts

Like Manmatha, who revels at shooting flowery arrows at people’s hearts to make them fall in love, so does Cupid, son of Aphrodite, though it is not known what mysterious substance he dips his arrows into to make a heart long for another.

The Goddess of water sires the foremost hero of the age

In the Iliad, Thetis, the sea Goddess, mother of Achilles, does everything she can to prevent her son from embarking on the journey to Troy, because she knows he will die before its walls. At his death, she comes in a wave to take her son’s body deep into the sea before he could be cremated. In the Mahabharata, Ganga, the river Goddess, gives birth to Bhishma, who goes on to die in the great war of his age. And on his fall, too, his remains are returned to his mother. In both epics the most valiant and powerful hero of the age is sired by a Goddess of water.

I’m sure these are not the only parallels between the two mythologies. Can you think of some more?

Image Courtesy: Deviant Art

Comments

  1. Good analysis. very thoroughly researched & presented. Contrast is nice & loved the snap attached with the post. good wishes.

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  2. Hey Sharath, Nice comparison. Did you forget Heracles the Krishna? 🙂
    http://experiencehinduism.com/interesting-stories/heracles-derived-from-krishna

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    • Interesting. Though I think some of those ‘similarities’ are a bit far-fetched, at least a few (maybe a couple) make you sit up and take notice. I think it’s very likely that both mythologies had a common ancestor.

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  3. I am currently reading through Earth chronicles by Zecharia Sitchen, a comprehensive study on Sumerian mythology, alternate history and their evolution tales. There are many similarities between Indian mythological gods and those of the Sumerian. Many experts have surmised that most of the Greek mythology has stemmed from the Sumerian tales of – Anu, Enki, Enlil, Nara-Sim, Ninarta, Innana, Ishtar. That could be the common ancestor.

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    • Interesting theories there. I must say I am a skeptic of ancient alien theories myself. But the study of common history and mythology sounds interesting. I might just read this book, Sumeetha 🙂

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  4. Falguni srikanth says:

    Very very nicely done…I have not read Greek mythology much but I love indian mythology so going to read Greek…any suggestions?

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  5. Interesting! Mythology always piqued my interest, after reading this, I now want to read about Greek mythology. Thanks 🙂
    -Yogini

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  6. k ahmed ali says:

    I have read both illiad and odessyus nearly 45 years back & was dumbfounded with similarities with Ramayana Mahabharata & bhagvadgita; as you said same ancestors perhaps but good reading carry on.

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  7. You can probably add the theory of demigods.
    Ghanesh was half human and half animal so were demigods
    Just a theory

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  8. As it is said in religious books, there are over 33o crore demigods. I guess Greek gods had another planet to maintain. Anyways whatever it is, one thing is for sure that krishna is the supreme god.
    Nice article btw mate.

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    • Kusum budhwar says:

      Enjoyed reading your article. Mythology and its common origins interests me very much. I,ve just finished reading “illium” and plan to go on to “Olympus” Simmons writes fantasy well. What do you think?
      Kusum Budhwar

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      • Hi Kusum! Thanks for leaving a comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’d not heard of Ilium until now, but just Googled it and it sounds like such a novel idea. I’ve read some of Dan Simmons’s short stories before, so I will pick this up as soon as I can. And then we can compare notes. Thanks for the recommendation! 🙂

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  9. Bravin Ebanesh says:

    All the religions are interconnected, its we humans make them look different as time passes…….trinity of god is common in all religion….ite just one religion got splited according to peoples way of conveying it to therir next generation…we all were one few thousand years back…and following a COMMON religion….

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  10. Shubhendra says:

    Hey i know 2 facts .
    Cronos who imprisoned his overthrew his own father , for us he is kans …..
    Then greeks had ambrosia a nectar like substance which can immortalise any mortal and we know it has amrit

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  11. Prashant says:

    very casual analysis..! Title was way better than the text..!

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  12. Shiva and Poseidon use tridents

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  13. Parth Pandya says:

    a very lazy comparison, it is so easy to poke holes into this, for e.g. trinity is Brahma Vishnu Mahesh which is very different from Zeus Hades and Poseidon. Zeus is more comparable to Indra, yet Indra is not part of the trinity, plus the general tone of mythologies is just so different. Please read more before drawing such lazy comparisons.

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    • Hi Parth, thanks for your note. Since you’ve poked holes in my post, it’s only fair that I poke holes in your comment. Don’t you agree?

      ‘Trinity is Brahma Vishnu Mahesh which is very different from Zeus Hades and Poseidon.’ Correct. Where did I say the trinities were NOT different?

      ‘Zeus is more comparable to Indra, yet Indra is not part of the trinity.’ Again correct. Where did I say that Indra is part of the trinity? Or that Zeus is NOT comparable to Indra?

      ‘The general tone of mythologies is just so different.’ Correct. Where did I say the tone of the mythologies was the same?

      Now we’re even 🙂

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      • Parth Pandya says:

        nope not even, “Just like we have our Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva, they have Zeus, Hades and Poseidon who respectively rule the heavens, the underworld and the seas”, in Indian mythologies Vishnu does not rule the heavens like Zeus, or Mahesh the Underworld, by your logic why not compare it with the trinity of Father Son Holy ghost of christianity, its just world apart, just because number ‘3’ is used doesn’t mean anything. As I said it was a very lazy comparison.

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      • Fair enough. Thanks.

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      • Parth Pandya says:

        Appreciate your grace to agree 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Christabel says:

    Hi Sharath,
    With so much research that you have done and the fabulous analysis that you have prepared, I am sure you are a man of much wisdom to accept everyone’s point of view (both negative and positive) with such ease. You definitely have “The Grace”.
    Its always good to know about our history and culture, especially to find a single point of connect, which will make everyone realize the Ultimate Truth, “The Collective Unconscious”, as its called today.
    Keep up the good work. And like someone suggested earlier, you should also read about the Annunakis and Sumerians. Very uncanny and striking resemblance it is.

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    • Hi Christabel. Thanks for your kind words. Interesting that you mentioned Sumerians on the same day I watched a documentary on the Mesopotamians. Now I’m on the lookout for some good books. And yes, I will add the Annunakis to my list as well.

      Thanks for leaving a comment 🙂

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  15. I was reading about aryans being the common ancestors of Indians, Greek, Germans, English and out of curiosity tried to find the similarities between indian and greek mythology and stumbled upon your article. Keen analysis I must say. Also the goddess of love Aphrodite is the counterpart if Rati I think. So I guess every Hindu God has a counterpart in Greek mythology as well

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    • Hi Prathma! Thanks for leaving a comment. Yes, Rati can be seen as the counterpart of Aphrodite, because Cupid is Manmatha. In Classical Myth, though, Aphrodite gets the meatier role, with Cupid playing the subordinate son, heeding her mother’s wishes. In Indian myths, Rati is little more than a companion to Manmatha. Very few stories are told about her.

      Thanks again for stopping by 🙂

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  16. Hephaestus and Vishwakarma. Both of them are brilliant engineers.

    And Might Hera be simar to Sita? The ideal wife?

    Athena and Saraswati? The goddesses of knowledge.

    Ares and Agni. Both of them are gods of warriors and both have the same temperament.

    Callypso and Menka? Both of them were the most beautiful and both of them were exiled.

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    • Hi Gyan, Heph and Vishwakarma are probably not that similar, because Heph is more of a blacksmith, whereas Vishwakarma is often called an ‘architect’. However, not much is known about the latter, whereas Heph gets a lot of screen space in classical myths.

      Hera/Sita: too many dissimilarities for my taste. For instance, one is the wife of the king of Gods, wheres the other is ‘just a person’. And quite a few other temperamental differences too. Hera is quite the jealous wife, and in many myths comes across as petty and small (especially when it comes to the many demi-god sons of Zeus).

      Athena and Saraswati do have some similarities in that they’re both Goddesses of knowledge, but Athena is better known as the Goddess of wisdom, arts, crafts etc. So her ambit is wider than that of Saraswati. Also, not many characteristic similarities.

      Ares and Agni: I agree. They seem to be temperamentally very similar.

      Instead of Calypso and Menaka specifically, I think we can draw strong parallels between nymphs and apsaras, who seem to perform similar functions in both kinds of myths. However, there is no equal parallel to the dancing apsaras of Indra’s court: Menaka, Urvasi, Tilottama and Rambha. Zeus didn’t seem to approve of dancing girls, for some reason.

      These are, of course, my subjective opinions. You’re free to draw whatever parallels you wish 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Hello Sharath.
    The simarity between Hera and Sita is symbolic. Both of them are there to show idealism in a family. I agree that there is nothing else in common between them.That is the case for Vishwakarma and Hephaestus too. Only symbolism.

    Saraswati is not only the goddess of knowledge. She is also worshipped by musician, dancers and artist. Again my idea was for the role and the position they represent.

    The greek nymphs are similar to Apsaras, but they are of a wider variety, wind nymphs, Cloud nymphs, and dryads are too included while the Apsara is only a celestial nymph. What I meant about Callypso and Menka was their stories. Callypso was EXILED for supporting the Titans and Menka was EXILED for her disobedience. Both of them refused the Gods in power.

    But as you said, It depends upon the person who sees the similarities.
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Alok Prabhakar says:

    There are not just similarities between Greek mythology and Hindu Mythology. There are similarities between many mythologies like Greek, Roman, Christianity, Egyptian, Hindu, Islam and Jewish mythology’s.

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  19. Well drawn similarities, nicely observed.
    There is only one problem, i.e, Thetis was just a Nymph one of the daughters of the Sea she as an individual was not some major Goddess .

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  20. There’s a deeper basis for these similarities much more of it is still wanting. We need to unearth more. Can we?

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  21. There are resemblances between the historic epics of Greek: The Iliad and Odyssey and the India epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. The causes of the outbreak of the war and the result are almost matching perfectly.

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  22. abhyudaya rana says:

    greeks also had 3 FATES, like ours bramha, vishnu and mahesh.

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  23. Superb…

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  24. indianshringar says:

    Just made my “Quest of Gods” and “Percy Jackson” obsessed son read this post. How I wish there was a series for them such as these based on Indian deities 🙂

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    • Hi Indianshringar. Hope your son liked the post! Thanks for the idea. I think I better start working on this series before someone else does! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • indianshringar says:

        We were having a discussion on this topic and I remembered this post and made him read it. He did like it and I believe it has whetted his appetite for Indian mythological fiction. You definitely should get cracking on this before someone else does. 🙂
        Dollie

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  25. Really fascinating read. Yes, the gods in both are whimsical, and often personify the elements like the Sun and the Ocean. I remember being struck by how the fall of Patroclus was similar to the death of Abhimanyu in the Mahabharata, while reading Homer’s Iliad.

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  26. truth seeker says:


    Greek mythology have some similarities to much older Hindu mythology because even their language(Greek language) is derived from the Sanskrit.
    Don’t believe me, Google it.

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  27. In greek mythology there were demigods like Hercules Romulus Remus in hindu mythology there are pandavas

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  28. Vidya Aditi says:

    There were different yugas in Hindu mythology and in Greek mythology, we have different ages like the Golden age.

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  29. That Guy says:

    It’s no major breakthrough – sorry to burst your bubble – but it’s I think many people have already figured out all religions have a link to one common religion. It all probably originated in the making of life itself, where the first signs of living things had occured. If the word Pangea rings a bell, then you would know that people had kept their traditions as the world divided. Changes in the beliefs are due to the way humans chose to change it. This is why religions belonging from the Incans to the Mesopotamians have similarities, and the two civilizations are on opposite sides of the worlds. It’ll take time to gather info, but I can find similarities between Incans, Native Americans, Greeks, Romans, Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Jews, and Etruscan – all ancient civilizations with similar religions. For example, each religion has a character in which has the features of an animal.

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  30. Hi sharath….loved ur post..my two boys are into Percy Jackson series of books and We were just discussing all the similarities when we came across your post.

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  31. Interesting article thank you. I am a bit confused and am wondering if you can clarify.

    In comparing Hermes and Narada you mention that ” Narada, the Hindu equivalent, shares all these traits, EXCEPT that he’s the spiritual son of Vishnu, the most important God of the Trinity”

    That statement makes it seem that Vishnu and Zeus are not analogues, but your first paragraph states that they are.

    If you could please clarify, thanks.

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    • Hi Ned. Zeus is sometimes analogous to Indra, in that he is the king of the Gods, wields the thunderbolt, is a womanizer. Sometimes he is analogous to Vishnu, who takes over from Indra in later mythology as the unofficial king of gods. Zeus suffers no such ignominy.

      Fathering the messenger of the Gods is one similarity between Zeus and Vishnu, among others. That was what I meant when I pointed out that Narada is the son of Vishnu, who is NOT the king of the Gods, whereas Hermes is known to be Zeus’s son.

      Hope that clarifies?

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  32. Do you think there is similarities in Shiva’s Trishul and the trident like weapon in the hands of Hades. While travelling inn Athens one of he tour guide told us that He had a third eye in the middle of his forehead and it always remained open and people were feeling burning sensation so they requested him to close that eye and promised him that they will follow his commands.

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    • Hi Ranjana, I’ve always thought that the trident of Shiva was similar to the trident of Poseidon. But this third-eye myth of Hades also sounds similar to Shiva’s third eye. I’ve heard somewhere that many cultures around the world have this concept of a third eye which is supposed to be a means of looking into the spiritual realm. Thanks for your comment 🙂

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  33. Hi Sharath. I read your post and found it very interesting. In Mahabharat Karna uses bow and arrow and thats his weapon .The point here is that his father is the Sun(surya) and according to Greek mythology the sun god is Apollo and he uses bow and arrow.
    So I guess there is some connection what do u say

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  34. Mark Davis says:

    Hi Sharath, also if you notice the Trojan war happened cos of a women that is Helen of Troy and the Mahabaratha also started cos of a woman Draupati. The most knowledgeable person in warfare was Achilles in trojan war and was feared the most, he was a demigod
    (Son of Zeus). In Mahabharata it was Krishna who was an avatar of Vishnu. The most important part is when Achilles was a baby Thetis dipped him in the river of eternal life holding his heel cos of which his heel was the only weak point he had (Guess that’s why we have Achilles heel/tendon) and that was the cause of his death as he was shot in the heel by an arrow which is exactly what happened with Krishna too though in Krishna’s case it was curse given to him. there are a lot of other similarities I know bit for now I guess this should do. (Hindu, Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology all have a lot of similarities/in common) I Love mythology 🙂

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  35. Antarip Debnath says:

    Hey there all, I also discovered one theory about the resemblance between Hindu goddess Manasa (the goddess of snake) and Greek demon Medusa……what do u think about this….both of them having lots of snake by their head portion.

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  36. I have read all the above comments and the article. It appears to me that all the gods were of superior intelligence with human humours. They were aliens who came to earth to settle here or to colonise the earth. They might have bred a number of sons and daughters by mixing with humans. They paved the way smooth for humans by systematically removing the NEANDETRALS. Stonehenge, Easter Island rock figures, pyramids etc were the relics.

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  37. the wives of zeus and indra shows very similar traits…
    both of them (hera and indrani) are the goddesses of wrath and jealousy.

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  38. Reblogged this on Cauvery Life.

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  39. Ganymede was a man btw. Zeus was bisexual.

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  40. Both sun gods travel on flying chariots pulled by horses

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  41. Thanks for curating this.

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  42. Anster Axeion says:

    My name is Anster and I’m studying about the creation of human life. How this created and who are the people created us this question always get in my mind and sometimes I don’t get the correct answer but there is a time of understanding that hindu and greek are same and follow same pattern of religion. I keep on searching for answers about greeks and Hindus in Google but I don’t get the correct answers. After a long time I can see that someone has wrote the article about this. The way I thought same thing was written here and I thought there are people who can think same like me. Thank you for telling the truth.

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  43. Man….that was awesome …many simillarities striked me when reading mahabharata and illiad ..i think as hector is counterpart of karna..u know patron of apollo the sun god ..skilled warrior who knew what was right but still doing his duty ..also knew that he will be killed by the opponent achilles…same as karna and arjuna ..don’t u think…i am so much into this greek stuff lately and found out many striking resemblences..many which i have to agree with u..way to go buddy

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  44. also many rivers in the underworld like styx..phlegethon and vaitarini in hindu mythology

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  45. Raffaele says:

    It turns out that the shared root of these religions, as well as the othee old religions of Europe (Italic, Germanic, Slavic, etc) IS proven – linguists have demonstrated that these religions all stem from Proto Indo European Religion, just as how most of the languages of Europe and most of the languages of India stem from the Proto Indo European language. You can read a bit about the analysis of these religions here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Indo-European_religion

    Note that your comparisons point to the fact that often the role of a given got got transfered to or absorbed by another god. For instance, in Greek Religion Zeus is both the Sky Father and the weilder of lightnung but in other Indo European Religions those are two or more different deities.

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  46. Jheevanesh gunalan says:

    Omg, I was really into greek mythology after reading percy Jackson novels…so I decided to see the relations between hindu and greek mythology. MIND BLOWN….

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  47. pratik pandit says:

    Hades isn’t actually the God of Order, its the Almighty ZEUS who is also know as the God of Law and Justice.

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