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Indian Myths

India has a long history of mythic imagination, and naturally the myths are varied and sometimes self-contradictory. These myths have been associated with various communities, and, as such, can today often be classified according the religious tradition in which it was invented.

The religious structure of the society, however, has changed over time; and myths have flown from one tradition to another. This is especially true of what we today think of as Hindu myths: even a cursory examination often reveals obvious differences in origin. Nevertheless, over the centuries, one has now an integration of the different themes into one body of narratives.

What I deal with here is this synthetic structure: the compositions are of relatively late origin (some pieces dating to about or beyond 1000 CE). And I will be concerned with only a small part of this: the geneologies of kings described in the Puranas.

Almost all the information here is from a book called ‘purANa pravesha’ by a certain girIndrashekhara in which an attempt was made to treat the puranic dynasties as historical. As is well known, most of the mythical dynasties have some historicity in their later parts: but the early parts cannot be trusted without confirming evidence. So also in this case, his conclusions as to the dates of various events are ridiculous, even though his methods are not completely arbitrary. (For a different synthesis, see Niraj Mohanka's site.)

He starts by deciding to focus on a small number of puranas, whose names I abbreviate in all these pages. He studies them to determine what the units of time in the puranas mean. I provide a summary of his conclusions. He then argues about the expected average generation time and makes some consistency checks.

Be that as it may, he then provides the genealogy as he finds it in the puranas. I list them here with a generation number, a date (in BCE) that he calculates for the person in question and the name. The first list contains a large number of ancient very mythological characters, and they are treated as the progenitors of all the dynasties treated in the puranas. In the second list I provide the very famous ikSvAku dynasty, as it is the longest. In the third list are provided the puru and ajamIDh.a dynasties. The kuru dynasty is the subject of the fourth list whereas all the late dynasties (pradyota, shishunAka, nanda, maurYya, shunga, kanva, andhra and andhrabhRtya) are presented in the fifth list. The names in this late list are very likely to based on history, though it is doubtful if these dynasties really ruled in succession: and the dates are therefore doubtful. Finally, a list of contemporaneous members of the dynasties ikSvAku, nAbhAga, anu, puru, nIpa, bRhadratha, Yadu, andhaka, vRSNi and janaka is also provided.

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