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Some of the western religions have evil spirits like devils and demons. Does the concept or belief in evil spirits occur in Hinduism?

  • The concept of Satan as an adversary to Elohim is recent. This evolved over the years, particularly as the Hebrews interacted with neighbouring cultures (such as Kemetism & Zoroastrianism). Originally, it can be argued, "Satan" was the aspect of an all-pervading God. The aspect which challenges us. Through challenge our faith, knowledge, and abilities expand. Seeds cast on the surface, or buried too deeply, do not grow. But give the seed just enough resistance and it will proliferate. See how it even breaks up the sidewalk! This was the original role of "challenger" in early Judaism. – Rubellite Yakṣī May 6 '18 at 16:37
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There's no equivalent of Satan in Hinduism. Hinduism has a universal Brahman which pervades all things good as well as evil. Satan (an absolute evil) is a necessity in Abrahamic faith to explain all things bad because the Abrahamic God cannot do anything evil. Hindu God on the other hand pervades everything good as well as bad.

According to the Vedas, there are only three principles or entities that exist in reality, in sum total. These three are: Brahm (God), Jeevatma (the countless souls) and Maya (the material energy). Indeed, the universe is made up of these three entities alone. There never was a fourth being and there never will be a fourth being.

All the 'demons' in the Hindu religion are classified under the 'soul' category. Due to their Karmas (actions) they are born in those wicked races and have such sinful propensities. The Upanishads state that no one can be equal to God ("Eka mevadveeteeyam brahm"). He is unmatched in power, stature or opulence. Thus, there is no room for any independent being to work against the will/design of God in Hinduism.

Besides, Hindu scriptures state that any person performs actions only according to his will. Of course, these actions are shaped by his company and atmosphere, but there never is any inherently evil being whispering sin into his ears.

In fact, Hinduism denies the very idea of evil. Evil, according to the Hindu scriptures, is non-existent. There are three modes of nature - sattva, rajas and tamas. The demons and other cruel people are said to be possessed of tamas, but even they can overcome this darkness by purifying their mind through association with sattvic matter/personalities.

To quote Shri Ramakrishna,

The world consists of the illusory duality of knowledge and ignorance. It contains of knowledge and devotion, and also attachment to 'lust and greed'; righteousness and unrighteousness; good and evil. But Brahman is unattached to these. Good and evil apply to the jiva, the individual soul, as do righteousness and unrighteousness; but Brahman is not at all unaffected by them.

One man may read the Bhagavata by the light of the lamp, and another may commit a forgery by that very light; but that lamp is unaffected. The sun sheds its light on the wicked as well as on the virtous. You may then ask, 'How, then can one explain misery, and sin and unhappiness?' The answer is that these apply to the jiva. Brahman is unaffected by them. There is poison in a snake; but though others may die if bitten by it, the snake itself is not affected by the poison.

  • Not sure if I should create a whole new question for this - but I got really curious - where are suras and asuras classified among the 'Brahma', 'Jeevatma' and 'Maya' trinity? – Shisa Jun 19 '14 at 15:52
  • I guess, it's in there. Asuras are jivatman. Actually, every living being, except Brahman ofcourse is a jeevatman. – Vineet Menon Jun 19 '14 at 15:57
  • The trinity is Paramatma(Brahman), Jeevatma(countless souls) and Prakriti(material world). Only Adi Shankara termed it as maya. So it is not necessary that maya among the trinity. Prakriti is. Pishachas are a type of jeevas. But they nedd not to be evil. – Sarvabhouma Apr 21 '17 at 5:50
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Yes there is a concept of Evil spirits in Hinduism , but not similar with the concept of Satan of Abrahamic religions. Instead the evil spirits are grouped in classes like Bhoot (ghosts) , Pisachas( flesh-eating demons) Vetala , Preta etc.

One thing to note that the concept or Demons or Rakshasas is different from evil spirits. Evil spirits do not posses a material body but Demons or Rakshasas do posses a body. So These beings, in a limited sense, can be called demons.. Rakshasa also can assume the form of evil spirits. (invisible form).

There is a sukta in Atharvaveda called “Pishacha kshayan sukta” (पिशाच क्षयन सूक्त ) which requests Mother Goddess for protection from evil spirits or Pishacha.

अविष्क्रुणुष्व रूपाणि मात्मानमप गूहथा: |
अथो सहस्त्रचक्षो त्वं प्रति पश्या: किमीदिन ||५||

AvishKrnuShava Rupani MatMaNaMapa Guhatha
Atho SahastraChaksho Tvam Prati Pashya KimiDin

O Mother goddess bring out your that form which removes demons and evil spirits. Please do not hide yourself. O goddess with thousands of eyes , to protect us from the Pishacha's who Roam secretly ,look at them.(evil spirits).


दर्शय मा यातुधानान् दर्शय यातुधान्य: |
पिशाचान्त्सर्वान दर्शयेति त्वा रभ ओषधे ||६||

Darshaya Ma YatuDhaNaNaan Darshya YatuDhanyaha
PichachaNtasaRvaan Darshayeti Tva Rabha Aushadhe

O goddess ,Please show us the all the demonic forms , thus they could not harm us by remaining invisible. Show us the Yatudhani and all type of Pishacha’s to us.

(Atharvaveda Book 1 , Kanda 4 ,Sukta 20 shloka 5-6 , Pishacha kshayan sukta)

We also find mention of Evil spirits like Bhoot,Pishach ,Preta etc.in puranic literature. Garuda Purana , Preta Khanda ,describes various demonic forms and evil spirits.

भगवान उवाच-:

भूतप्रेतपिशाचैर्वा स चेदन्यै: प्रपीडयते |
पितृद्देशेन वै कुर्यान्नारायणबलिं तदा ||
विमुक्त: सर्व्वपीडाभ्य इति सत्यं वचो मम ||२४||

Bhagvan Uvacha -:

He is never affected by Bhutas and Pisccas or other sorts of ghosts. By performing rites of oblations to Narayana with the ancestors in view he shall be freed of all sort of affliction .This is my sworn. statement. GP Preta kanda chapter 22 ,Verse 24

Hanuman Chalisa a prayer to Lord Hanumana by poet saint Tulsidas also says that those who recite this stotra with devotion won’t get affected by evil spirits.

It is a very popular belief that chanting the Hanuman Chalisa invokes Hanuman's divine intervention in grave problems, including those concerning evil spirits.

भूत पिशाच निकट नहिं आवै।
महाबीर जब नाम सुनावै॥ २४ ॥

Bhoot Pisach Nikat Nahi Aavai
Mahavir Jab Naam Sunavai

All the ghosts, demons and evil forces keep away, with the sheer mention of your great name, O'Mahaveer!!

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The concept of the 'Devil' as the nemesis of 'God' and demons as fallen angels can possibly be equated with Daityas / Asuras, the counterpart to Devas / Suras.

In current tradition, Asuras or Daityas are pretty similar to how demons might be portrayed elsewhere, completely antagonistic, and mostly evil, but this was a change that only happened in post-Vedic literature (interestingly, at around the same time in Zoroaster, the similar group of deities called daevas became evil and ahuras became good) and

In early Vedic texts, both suras and asuras were half-sibling / cousin deities who were antagonistic and constantly competed with each other, some bearing both designations at the same time. The mother of the suras was Aditi and the mother of the asuras was Diti, both sisters-wives of the Rishi Kashyap (who incidentally is also the father of pretty much every thing else thanks to his other wives, the other sisters of Aditi and Diti)

Later texts introduce beings such as Vetalas (a kind of ghost-vampire thing), Pishachas (flesh-eating demons), Bhoot and Preta (types of ghosts) which can be referred to as the demon / devils cognate to the Western idea.

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    actually no. Dyaitas aren't comparable with Christian Satan. There's no counter to Christian Satan in Hinduism. – Vineet Menon Jun 19 '14 at 15:38
  • I'm definitely not considering them to be exact counterparts at all - but the idea of 'nemesis to the benevolent deity(ies) who were ex-benevolentish themselves' does seem to me, to be comparable? Why do think that comparison doesn't work? After all, the OP didn't ask for the Hindu version of Satan, they asked for 'evil spirits like devils and demons in Hinduism'. – Shisa Jun 19 '14 at 15:43
  • yes, sure. You can compare devas vs. dyaitas. – Vineet Menon Jun 19 '14 at 15:45
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Culturally those concepts did exist. Ramayana talks about demons trying to stop fire rituals. Many other literary works and chants do mention about them. Tamil epics and prayers do refer to them.

But there is no single book as a guiding authority for Hindus. So, it depends upon the sub-cultures and belief systems to have / not have evil spirits. For example, communities living closer to forests have more references to evil spirits.

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My answer is positive......i read a para somewhere that was like this-

"bhoot,pishach,pret,churail aur jinnh.....hamesha they aur hamesha rahenge kyonki bhagwaan hamesha they aur hamesha rahenge,aakhiri hisaab ke baad bhi."

I would like to expand it in my language as......yes, evil spirits/entities exist in hindu mythology and will continue to exist until dooms day but god always existed and will always exist after the doomsday.i also read an article somewhere that-

"agar manushya bure kaam karne lage ya uska bure kaam karne ka mann hone lage joki pehle ek achcha vyakti tha..........toh iska matlab hai ki uske saath koi pret aatma jud gayi hai jo apni ikshhaon(wishes) ko puri karna chahti hai.woh achche aur bure dono kaam karwa sakti hai"............but in my views'koi aatma ya keh sakte hain bhoot bure kaam hi karwaata hai kyonki agar woh achche kaam karwaana chahta toh usko pehle hi mukti mil jaati'.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    i read a para somewhere You need to cite sources when posting an answer on this site – AADHinduism Aug 8 '16 at 6:41

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