Hinduism, the Asura ( Sanskrit: असुर) are a group of power-seeking deities, sometimes referred to as demons or sinful. They were opposed to the devas. Both groups are children of Kashyapa. The views of Asuras in Hinduism vary due to the many deities who were Asuras then later became known as Devas. The name is cognate to Ahura—indeed, the " Oxford English Dictionary" recognises the use of the term in reference to Zoroastrianism, where "Ahura" would perhaps be more appropriate—and Æsir, which implies a common Proto-Indo-European origin for the Asura and the Æsir. In entry 48 of his Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, Julius Pokornyreconstructs this common origin as *"ansu-".The negative character of the asura in Hinduism seems to have evolved over time. In general, the earliest texts have the asuras presiding over moral and social phenomena (e.g. Varuna, the guardian of "IAST| Ṛtá", or Bhaga, the patron of marriages) and the devas presiding over natural phenomena (e.g. Ushas, whose name means "dawn", or Indra, a weather god).
In later writings, such as the
Puranasand Itihasas, we find that the "devas" are the godly persons and the "asuras" the demonic. According to the Bhagavad Gita(16.6), all beings in the world partake either of the divine qualities ("daivi sampad") or the demonic qualities ("asuri sampad"). The sixteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita describes the divine qualities briefly and the demonic qualities at length. In summary the Gita (16.4) says that the asuric qualities are pride, arrogance, conceit, anger, harshness and ignorance.
Padma Puranasays that the devotees of Vishnu are endowed with the divine qualities ("unicode|viṣṇu-bhaktaḥ smṛto daiva") whereas the asuras are just the opposite ("unicode|āsuras tad-viparyayaḥ").
In an Indo-Iranian context
The term "asura" is linguistically related to the
ahuras of Zoroastrianism, but has in that religion a different meaning.
For one, the term applies to a very specific set of divinities, only three in number (Mazda, Mithra and Apam Napat). For another, there is no direct opposition between the "ahura"s and the "daeva"s: The fundamental opposition in Zoroastrianism is not between groups of divinities, but between "
asha" "Truth" and "druj" "Lie/Falsehood". The opposition between the "ahura"s and "daeva"s is an expression of that opposition: the "ahura"s, like all the other "yazata"s, are defenders of " asha"; the "daeva"s on the other hand are in the earliest texts divinities that are to be rejected because they are misled by "the Lie" (see " daeva" for details).
The notion of an "inverted morality" and the supposition that a dichotomy between "ahura"s/"asura"s and "daeva"s/"deva"s already existed in Indo-Iranian times is not supportable from either the Iranian or Indian perspective. Not only is such a dichotomy not evident in the earliest texts of either culture, neither the RigVeda's "asura"s nor the Gathas' "daeva"s are demons. The demonization of the "asura"s in India and the demonization of the "daeva"s in Iran both took place "so late that the associated terms cannot be considered a feature of Indo-Iranian religious dialectology." [citation |last=Herrenschmidt |first=Clarisse |last2=Kellens |first2=Jean|chapter=*Daiva |title=Encyclopaedia Iranica |volume=6 |year=1993 |pages=599–602 |publisher=Mazda |location=Costa Mesa]
The idea of a prehistorical opposition between the *asurás/*devás, originally presented in the 19th century but popularized in the mid-20th century had for some time already been largely rejected by Avesta scholars when a landmark publication (Hale, 1986 [citation|last=Hale|first=Wash Edward|title=ÁSURA in Early Vedic Religion|year=1986|location=Delhi|publisher=Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass] ) attracted considerable attention among Vedic scholars. Hale discussed, "as no one before him" (so Insler's review [citation|last=Insler|first=Stanley|title=Review: ÁSURA in Early Vedic Religion by Wash Edward Hale|journal=Journal of the American Oriental Society|volume=113|issue=4|year= 1993|pages=595–596] ), the attestations of ásura and its derivatives in chronological order of the Vedic texts, leading to new insights into how the "asura"s came to be the demons that they are today and why the venerated Varuna, Mithra, Indra, Rudra, Agni, Aryaman, Pusan and Parjanya are all "asura"s without being demonic. Although Hale's work has raised further questions—such as how the later poets could have overlooked that the RigVeda's "asura"s are all exalted gods—the theory of a prehistoric opposition is today conclusively rejected.
Following Hale's discoveries, Thieme's earlier proposal [citation|title=The 'Aryan' Gods of the Mitanni Treaties|last=Thieme|first=Paul|journal=Journal of the American Oriental Society|volume=80|issue=4|year= 1960|pages=301–317 ] of a single Indo-Iranian "*Asura" began to gain widespread support. In general (particulars may vary), the idea runs as follows: Indo-Iranian "*Asura" developed into Varuna in India and into Ahura Mazda in Iran. Those divinities closest related to that "asura [who] rules over the gods" ("AV" 1.10.1, cf. "RV" II.27.10) inherit the epithet, for instance, Rudra as "devam asuram" ("V" 42.11).
Asuras also appear as a type of supernatural being in traditional
List of Asuras
*Æsir-Asura etymological connection
Asura (trance ambient artists)
* [http://angkorblog.com/_wsn/page17.html Photos] related to the depiction of demons at the Angkorian temples in Cambodia.
* [http://angkorblog.com/_wsn/page8.html Photos] of the depictions at Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom in Cambodia of the Devas and Asuras churning the Ocean of Milk for the elixir of immortality.
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