The belief that all cultures descend from an ancestral culture and evolve from experiences and beliefs holds an essential place in mythology. According to Carl Jung, myths express the core ideas that are a part of the human species and help in finding meaning and order in the world. All the folklores and stories go back to the time when people used to worship nature. Celestial objects such as the sun, moon, Saturn, and terrestrial objects like rain, water, and fire were revered as powerful entities. Interestingly, the parallelism of this tradition can be seen in the Greek and Indian mythology as well.
As the three Hindu gods- Lord Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva hold paramount importance in the Indian culture; Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon are referred to as the "Big Three" in the Greek culture. Lord Zeus, the ruler of all the gods, bears an uncanny resemblance to Lord Indra, also known as the chief of all the devas and the god of rain in Indian mythology.
According to Greek mythology, Zeus became the supreme ruler by dethroning his father and superseding all his brothers. God Indra, too, usurped his father's throne. The primary weapon wielded by both Zeus and Indra is a thunderbolt called 'Vajra’ in Sanskrit. Both are said to have charmed the wives of other men by disguising as their husbands. They even share the key emotions of love, anger, and jealousy. Soma juice, which is loved by Indra, is said to provide immortality to the gods. On the other hand, Ambrosia, the Olympian gods' drink, is also said to bring immortality and long life. Additionally, both Indra and Zeus are associated with wisdom, power, and the trait of helping other gods in need. Furthermore, both are said to have the power to take different shapes. Agni and Vayu were the brothers of Indra, and Hades and Poseidon were of Zeus.
Although both of them possess similar characteristics, Lord Indra is described differently in the Vedas and Puranas. He is referred to as the most popular god in the Vedas, where he is portrayed as a courageous and noble god, whereas in the Puranas, he is known as an insecure god who is afraid to lose his throne and is lustful. When he seduced Ahalya, the wife of Brahmin Gautam, he was cursed to have 1000 wounds similar to female organs all over his body. Later, he repented for his sins, and these wounds were transformed into eyes. Therefore, Indra is also known as "Sahastrayoni" (a thousand vaginas).
As myths and stories have an inherent tendency to evolve and diversify with changing times, it is common to observe multiple versions of the same characters and their stories in different regions and cultures. There is a lot of speculation on whether Indra or Zeus are the same or not, which becomes a subject of comparative mythology. All said it would be fair to say- the existence of cultural differences alongside mythical similarities is what connects this massive world.
Pratha Content Writer and Researcher