Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Floods Myths in Ancient Traditions of the world – amazing similarities

Floods Myths in Ancient Traditions of the world – amazing similarities

Water is very essential for the survival of mankind. Hence ancient civilizations sprang on the banks of big rivers. But these ancient civilizations also describe great floods.

There are over 500 Flood legends worldwide. Ancient civilizations such as Bharat (India), America, Babylonia, China, Hawaii, Peru, Polynesia, Russia, Scandinavia, Sumatra and Wales) all have their own versions of a giant floods. Strangely many of these flood tales have several things in common indicating a common source in the remote past.

Common Features in Flood Tales
1. the warning of the coming flood,
2. the construction of a boat in advance,
3. the storage of animals,
4. the inclusion of family, and
5. the release of birds to determine if the water level had subsided.
The overwhelming consistency among flood legends found in distant parts of the globe indicates they were derived from the same origin but oral transcription has changed the details through time.
Vedic India influenced Mitraism of ancient Persia which influenced Sumerian, Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations. They in turn influenced Biblical and Islamic versions. Many Indonesian tales and myths also have an Indian origin. The influence of Ramayan on Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam through the ages is truly amazing.

Hindu Matsya - The Fish Avtar of Lord Vishnu
The earliest extant of flood myth is contained in the ancient Indian group of scriptures called the Puranas. According to Matsya Puran, king Manu was washing his hands in a river when a little fish swam into his hands and begged him to save it. He put it in a jar, which it soon outgrew; he successively moved it to a tank, a river and then the ocean. The fish then warned him that a Great Flood would occur in a week that would destroy all life. Manu therefore built a boat which the fish towed to a mountaintop when the flood came, and thus he survived along with some "seeds of life" to re-establish life on earth.

Sumerian (Eridu Genesis)
The fragmentary Sumerian Eridu Genesis, datable by its script to the 17th century BC.
The story tells how the god Enki warns Ziusudra (meaning "he saw life," in reference to the gift of immortality given him by the gods), of the gods' decision to destroy mankind in a flood—the passage describing why the gods have decided this is lost. Enki instructs Ziusudra (also known as Atrahasis) to build a large boat—the text describing the instructions is also lost. After which he is left to repopulate the earth, as in many other flood myths.
After a flood of seven days, Zi-ud-sura makes appropriate sacrifices and prostrations to An (sky-god) and Enlil (chief of the gods), and is given eternal life in Dilmun (the Sumerian Eden) by An and Enlil.

Babylonian (Epic of Gilgamesh)
In the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, toward the end of the He who saw the deep version by Sin-liqe-unninni, there are references to the great flood (tablet 11). This was a late addition to the Gilgamesh cycle, largely paraphrased or copied verbatim from the Epic of Atrahasis (see above).
The hero Gilgamesh, seeking immortality, searches out Utnapishtim in Dilmun, a kind of paradise on earth. Utnapishtim tells how Ea (equivalent of the Sumerian Enki) warned him of the gods' plan to destroy all life through a great flood and instructed him to build a vessel in which he could save his family, his friends, and his wealth and cattle. After the Deluge the gods repented their action and made Gilgamesh immortal.

Jewish / Christian Myth taken from Babylonian Myth
Jewish / Christian deluge myth is contained in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 6–9).
God selects Noah, and commands him to build an ark to save Noah, his family, and the earth's animals and birds from the deluge. After Noah builds the ark, "all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened". Rain falls for 40 days, the water rises 150 days, and all the high mountains are covered. The ark rests on the mountains, the water recedes for 150 days, until the waters are gone and Noah opens up the ark. Noah and the animals leave the ark, Noah offers a sacrifice to God, and God places a rainbow in the clouds as a sign that he will never again destroy the Earth by water.

Islamic Myth taken from Jew Christian Myth
The Quran, written in the 7th century AD, tells a similar story to the Judeo-Christian Genesis flood story, the major differences being only Noah and his wife and few believers from the laity enter the arc. The Quranic flood is local to punish only the people of Noah who worshipped Idols. In the Islamic version, Allah sends the Flood to punish those who refuse to listen to Noah's preaching of the oneness of Allah. The Quranic ark comes to rest on Mount Judi, traditionally identified with a mountain near Mosul in modern Iraq;
Take the seed of all creatures aboard the ship
Gen. 6:19 And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring.
I boarded the ship and closed the door.
Gen. 7:1 Come into the ArkGen. 7:16 The Lord shut him in.
I sent out a dove . . . The dove went, then came back, no resting-place appeared for it, so it returned.
Gen. 8:8 He sent out a dove...But the dove found no resting-place . . . and she returned.
Then I sent out a raven. It saw the waters receding, it ate, it flew about to and fro, it did not return.
Gen. 8:7 He sent out a raven, which kept going to and fro until the waters had dried up from the Earth.
I made a libation on the peak of the mountain.
Gen. 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord (on the mountain) and offered burnt offerings.

In Batak traditions, the earth rests on a giant snake, Naga-Padoha. One day, the snake tired of its burden and shook the Earth off into the sea. However, the God Batara-Guru saved his daughter by sending a mountain into the sea, and the entire human race descended from her. The Earth was later placed back onto the head of the snake.

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