I grew up in India hearing fascinatic stories of Gods and Demons. Of good and evil. Of spells and miracles. Of curses and boons. Of the Brahmastra and the Sudarshana Chakra. Over time, the student of science in me started questioning the veracity of the stories. My love thoughf for these stories continues undiminished. From the time I perstered my dad to tell me the same stories over and over again to reading them all over again recently, the joy in reading and hearing to these stories has never gone away.  Now I am a dad and would like to pass on the baton, so to say. Turns out it is easier wanted than done.

Indian mythology is vast and interesting. It also happens to be twisted, bloody and really adult when you think about it. There is polygamy all over the place. There are murderers revered and idolized in the name of good. Karma is the oft cited reason for any act- good or bad. Explanations are far too easy. Evil is plain black and the good is plain white. Lines and shades of gray, while omnipresent is not given due respect atleast in material targeted at kids.

How do I tell my son that Krishna was OK to kill Kamsa?. How do I tell him that Dasharatha had all of three legal wives?. Is it OK to set fire to an entire country as Hanuman did to Lanka to justify the injustice Ravana meted out to one woman?. And Mahabharata is a minefield of treachery, lust, and every one of the seven sins, magnified in all glory as the the Vishwaroopa darshana. Someday, he will know of all this. But at the age that he is, is this the right material?. If no, then what else do I tell him about Indian Gods and Goddesses?

In the next post, I will continue on the top with a more detailed perspective on the immensely popular Amar Chitra Katha. I will also introduce some interesting material I found that could potentially bridge the gap. In the meantime, if you have thoughts on the matter, feel free to chime in.

Part 2 of this three part article is here.

Part 3 of this three part article is here.

Update (August 2013): I took things in my own hands and wrote a very kid friendly version of the Mahabharata. If you are interested, check out the official website of the book and find out how you can buy the version (digital or print) that appeals to you.

19 thoughts on “Introducing Indian mythology to kids- Part 1”

  1. Oh.. this is something I often think about. Growing up with ACKs and having bound volumes at home, I really want to pass them on to the kid. But how do you explain Shiva beheading Ganesha and then killing an elephant to give him another head? For now it is all a modernized version – when the crocodile bites Gajendra, Vishnu gives the crocodile a time-out! And yes, this does not answer your question 🙂

  2. Actually its not all black and white…Ravana was a good man..Good king..pious and even loved by Shiva…Its his greed and lust that transformed him into an evil man..Just a note that devas and asuras are just facets of the human psyche..Any human can have a deva and an asura in him..but for the time being..Vishnu hopefully wont fully understand all the nuances of the stories..:D Amar chitra katha is great..I loved them as a kid..

  3. Maybe burning lanka was symbolic of burning all the bad things in it…:D ya I agree its quite one sided..atleast the ones that are amarchitra katha..I would encourage you to read the actual mythological books..They would have to be censored..:D I came across one such story in in the world famous series..about shiva and parvathy..I was scandalized beyond belief..:D

  4. Prabhu, I think I started around 3, kept it very simple-Ravana is the bad guy, Rama, the virtuous. Winning of good over evil, the part which is hard in Ramayana is Valee and Sugriva’s part.good luck with that! Asuras are the bad people. Period.

  5. Anjana Iyer I am hoping to start with one soon. We have tried hard to keep “bad”, “dead”,”kill” type of language out of his dictionary. He has picked up the words without getting the real meaning. I am having a tough time thinking Ill have to introduce it to him. It is as if the innocence of his childhood will be corrupted with it.

  6. Been there, done that 🙂 I totally picture the parental stage you are in. Even certain commonly “allowed” and “used” words are banned over here. But you”ll grow with him, and that’s the best part of being a dad or mom…..so enjoy!

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