Mythological Spotlight #2: Shukracharya

 

Shukracharya as depicted by Pieter Weltevrede 

Description

In Indian mythology, Shukracharya is the guru and preceptor of the Asuras (the antigods of Hindu myth) and one of the Navagrahas of Hindu astrology. The Navagrahas are a group of deities associated with the planets, the Sun and Moon, and the north and south lunar nodes, and Shukracarya was the deity associated with the planet Venus, which is sometimes believed to be the most benevolent astrological influence. As the lord of the planet Venus, he was associated with pleasure, romance, wealth,  jewellry, reproduction, comfort, passion, art, music, dance, love, and the spring season, and he presides over Fridays. Shukracharya also goes by the name of Asuracharya, due to him being the guru of the Asuras. Shukracharya also seems to be a devotee of the deity Shiva, and by performing penances or austerities to Shiva he gained the power of the Sanjivani Mantra, a magical formula capable of resurrecting the dead. Shukracharya is described as handsome, as being of agreeable countenance, and as being proud of his knowledge and spiritual power, but also as having a hatred for the devas and the deity Vishnu, and as the guru of the Asuras he is at odds with a being known as Brihaspati, the guru of the devas associated with the planet Jupiter.

History

Shukracharya was said to have been the son of Bhrigu, who was one of the seven great sages or Saptarishi and is credited with being the father of Indian astrology. At some point in his life he went on to study the Vedas under a sage named Angirasa, but was repulsed by what he saw as favoritism towards Brihaspati, who happened to be one of his sons, and decided to study under a sage named Gautama (not to be confused with Siddhartha Gautama) instead. After the time in which Shukracharya learned the Sanjivani Mantra, Brihaspati become the guru of the Devas. Due to Shukracarya’s hatred of the devas, and his hatred of Vishnu (due to the latter’s killing of Shukracharya’s mother), he become the guru of the Asuras. In this capacity, Shukracharya would use the power of the Sanjivani Mantra to revive the armies of the Asuras. The Devas would kill the Asuras, but Shukracharya would revive them.

Shukracharya would come to be the advisor of many Asura kings, including Mahabali, Jalandhara, and Vishiparva. When Vishnu incarnates as Vamana in the story of Mahabali, Shukracharya instantly recognizes Vamana as Vishnu and tries to warn Mahabali about Vamana, but Mahabali did not listen and chose to grant Vamana’s request, leading to him being crushed by Vamana when he becomes gigantic in size. Shukracharya is also the one who appoints Jalandhara as king of the Asuras after seeing his power, and tells Jalandhara of how Vishnu deceived the Asuras out of their right to some gems that were churned out of the ocean, inspiring him to go to war with the devas.

The Devas were, naturally, feeling threatened by Shukracharya’s knowledge and power, particularly his power to resurrect the dead. After pressured their guru Brihaspati to come up with a way to resurrect their armies, but Brihaspati told them that he did not know any formula that could do this. Brihapati’s son, Kacha, offered to go to Shukracharya in order to learn the art of resurrection and the Devas allowed him to do so. Shukracharya could not send Kacha away for seeking to learn the Sanjivani Mantra, so he accepted him as his disciple and allowed him to stay in his ashram, and in return Kacha served Shukracharya with all his heart. However, over time, the Asuras knew of Kacha and became suspicious, sensing that Kacha was sent from the Devas so that they could learn the Sanjivani Mantra and resurrect their armies in battle. So they killed Kacha, but Shukracharya figured out this had happened and resurrected him, and every time Kacha was killed he would be resurrected. After six attempts, the Asuras killed Kacha again, this time powdering his bones and mixing it in Shukracharya’s favorite drink (somarasa), and so when Shukracharya drank it he unwittingly ingested the mortal remains of Kacha. Eventually, Shukracharya realized what had happened, and initially lamented that he could not resurrect him this time. But his daughter Devayani, who had fallen in love with Kacha, persisted, and eventually he chanted the Sanjivani Mantra and sprinkled water on his body. Kacha was resurrected, but he tore out of Shukracharya’s stomach in order to come back to life. Shukracharya died, but since Kacha had learned the Sanjivani Mantra, he was able to revive Shukracharya. Having completed his studies, and having become frustrated with the Asuras killing him constantly, he requested that Shukracharya allow him to leave, which he did. Kacha was now able to teach the Sanjivani Mantra to the devas, but he could not use it himself due to being cursed by Devayani for rejecting her offer of marriage.

There’s not much more for me to say other than there are some who believe that Shukracharya is the same as Allah, the supreme being of Islamic belief, but that seems like it’s basically the same as saying Freemasonry is the same thing as Baal worship, and there’s no evidence of any link between Shukracharya and Allah. Also, the people who make the claim also try to point out that the mythological Asuras are in fact referring to Muslims. You don’t need me to tell you that that’s down right nutty.

Conclusion

Shukracharya seems like an interesting character, and he seems to have been very powerful and influential among the Asuras. That he was able to see through Vishnu’s tricks is pretty telling with regards to how intelligent he must have been. I find it very interesting that a being associated with love and benefic influences is also a being intensely motivated by his hatred toward Vishnu and the devas, and he seems to have been happy to impart his knowledge to those who seek it in earnest, even when it was someone who was helping the enemy (though he may not have known that). It’s also funny that such a being was associated with Venus. I’m not saying Shukracharya was the Indian equivalent of Lucifer, but there’s a lot about Shukracharya that I think can be related to Lucifer, if perhaps superficially. All-in-all, I think there’s a lot about him to be interested in.

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