Orpheus and Adi Shankara

I have always had a fascination for mythology. Greek and Indian mythology have been my favourite mostly because they have everything that makes for great story telling regardless of your intentions. Be it allegories, or moral pontifications, or spiritual preaching, or even pulp fiction and good ‘ol smut: they have it all! Very few mythologies are as rich and diverse as the Greek and Indian.

Interestingly, there has been cross-pollination of stories between these two. I know of at least one instance where the ‘plagiarism’, if you will, is all too evident. The Indians plagiarized the Greek when telling a story from the life of Adi Shankaracharya. Specifically, the story of Adi Shakaracharya and Kollur Mookambika has been ripped off from the story of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Let us start with the story of Adi Shankar and Mookambika. The following has been quoted from the wikipedia article on the subject, dated Aug. 31, 2010:

It is believed that Adi Shankaracharya had a vision of Sri Mookambika Devi and installed the deity here. The legend goes that Adi Shankara mediated at Kodachadri hills and Devi incarnated before him asking for his wish. He revealed his wish to install the Devi idol in a place in Kerala to worship where he wanted. Devi agreed but put forward a challenge that she will follow Shankara and he should not look back till he reaches his destination. But to test Shankara, Devi deliberately stopped the voice of her anklets when they reached Kollur whereupon Shankara turned and looked back because of doubt. Devi then asked Shankara to install her vigraha, just as he sees her, at that very location in Kollur.

Here is Virgil‘s account of Orpheus and Eurydice copied from (again) the wikipedia article on the subject, dated Aug. 31, 2010:

The most famous story in which Orpheus figures is that of his wife Eurydice (also known as Agriope). While walking among her people, the Cicones, in tall grass at her wedding, Eurydice ran into a nest of snakes which bit her fatally on her heel. Distraught, Orpheus played such sad songs and sang so mournfully that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus traveled to the underworld and by his music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone (he was the only person ever to do so), who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following and in his anxiety as soon as he reached the upper world he turned to look at her, forgetting that both needed to be in the upper world, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever.

Now, who copied who? As it turns out Virgil lived in 1st century BCE whereas Adi Shakaracharya lived in 9th century CE. You do the math.

I love mythologies and the many dots you can connect with it.

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