Western Indologists say that Asuras were once good Devas that later rebelled against the Devas and became evil gods or anti-gods.

For example, Michael Witzel in his paper Autochthonous Aryans says:

The gods are depicted as engaging in constant and yearly contest with their --originally also divine-- adversaries, the Asura, a contest which the gods always win, until next time.

And many other Indologists:

Alain Daniélou states that Asuras were initially good, virtuous and powerful in Indian mythology. However, their nature gradually changed and they came to represent evil, vice and abuse of power. In Shiva Purana, they evolved into anti-gods and had to be destroyed because they threatened the gods.

A much-studied hymn of the Rigveda states Devav asura (Asuras who have become Devas), and contrasts it with Asura adevah (Asuras who are not Devas). - Wikipedia

Is there any evidence from Smriti, like the above mentioned Shiva Purana reference, that says that Asuras were once Devas who rebelled?


1 Answer 1


No, Asuras aren't the Devas who rebelled. Contrarily, Devas are the Asuras who got enlightenment. The word "Asura" doesn't only mean A-Sura (Non-God), but it means also he who is a Lord and mighty.

Monier-Williams traces the etymological roots of Asura (असुर) to Asu (असु), which refers to life of the spiritual world or departed spirits.[9] In the oldest verses of the Samhita layer of Vedic texts, the Asuras are any spiritual, divine beings including those with good or bad intentions and constructive or destructive inclinations or nature.

Asura is used as an adjective meaning "powerful" or "mighty". In the Ṛgveda, two generous kings, as well as some priests, have been described as asuras. One hymn requests a son who is an asura. In nine hymns, Indra is described as asura. Five times, he is said to possess asurya and once he is said to possess asuratva. Agni has total of 12 asura descriptions, Varuṇa has 10, Mitra has eight and Rudra has six.

That is why in many hymns the Devas are also called the Asuras.

Rigveda 1.35.10

हिर॑ण्यहस्तो॒ असु॑रः सुनी॒थः सु॑मृळी॒कः स्ववाँ॑ यात्व॒र्वाङ् । अ॒प॒सेध॑न्र॒क्षसो॑ यातु॒धाना॒नस्था॑द्दे॒वः प्र॑तिदो॒षं गृ॑णा॒नः ॥

May the golden-handed, life-bestowing, well-guiding, exhilarating, and affluent Savitā, be present (at the sacrifice); for the deity, if worshipped in the evening, it at hand, driving away rākṣas and yātudhānas.

Rigveda 5.63.3

स॒म्राजा॑ उ॒ग्रा वृ॑ष॒भा दि॒वस्पती॑ पृथि॒व्या मि॒त्रावरु॑णा॒ विच॑र्षणी । चि॒त्रेभि॑र॒भ्रैरुप॑ तिष्ठथो॒ रवं॒ द्यां व॑र्षयथो॒ असु॑रस्य मा॒यया॑ ॥

Imperial and mighty showerers, lords of heaven and earth, beholders of the universe, you approach, Mitra and Varuṇa, with variegated clouds to hear the sound (of your praises), and cause the sky to (send down) rain by the power of the emitter of showers.

Rigveda 2.30.4

बृह॑स्पते॒ तपु॒षाश्ने॑व विध्य॒ वृक॑द्वरसो॒ असु॑रस्य वी॒रान् । यथा॑ ज॒घन्थ॑ धृष॒ता पु॒रा चि॑दे॒वा ज॑हि॒ शत्रु॑म॒स्माक॑मिन्द्र ॥

Pierce, Bṛhaspati, with a radiant shaft, as with a thunderbolt, the sons of the asura guarding his gates; in like manner as you did formerly slay Vṛtra by your own prowess, so do you now destroy our enemy.

Devas and Asuras both are half brothers from the same father, Kāshyapa. From Aditi, he bore the Ādityas (lit. Son of Aditi) and from Diti, he bore the Daityas (lit. Son of Diti). Both are Asuras.

There is one story in the Chandogya Upanishad chapter 8 about how the Ādityas became the Devas. Here, the Upanishad talks about how Indra, the leader of Ādityas got to know about the true nature of The Self, thus becoming enlightened. Whereas, Virochana, the leader of Daityas, thought the body as The Self. Both of them returned to their families and explained whatever they understood about The Self. This, the whole clan of Ādityas became Spiritually Enlightened and semi-materialistic, while the whole clan of Daityas became totally materialistic. Thus, the Ādityas got a new title, Deva as well as Asura.

Devas literally means Illuminated ones, but this illumination is a metaphor of their enlightenment. You see, throughout the Pauranik Stories, never once the Devas attacked the Asuras. It's always the opposite, Asuras always want The Three Worlds all to themselves because of their materialistic greed. The Devas know their territory whereas The Asuras always try to conquer others lands.

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