Lord Skanda-Murugan

Synopsis: "The Myth of Deification of Alexander and its alleged influence on the cult of Skanda-Murukan-Karttikeya"

by K. V. Ramakrishna Rao

The British historians, who collaborated with the East Indian Company Rulers, have decided to fix the invasion of Alexander as a sheet anchor of Indian history. They decided that before 327 BCE, no incident of India could be considered historical. They wrote that the advancements of Indian arts and sciences were also only outcome of Alexander's invasion and adapted and adopted from the Greeks. The alleged intrusion of Alexander myth in the Hindu pantheon is one of such suggestions. Indian scholars immediately pointed out the fallacies involved in such hypotheses put forward. However, as some scholars have tried to resurrect such myth recently, the background is critically analyzed in the context. As it delves around the Greek source materials and accounts, they are examined minutely first.

The Greek Classical accounts about Alexander's invasion on India Arrian, Quintus Curtius, Plutarch, Justin and Diodorusand critically analyzed and pointed out the differences and contradictions in their accounts. First the origin of word Skanda from the Sanskrit literature and Kanda from the Tamil literature is discussed. Then, the origin of the name Alexandar is discussed. The uncertainly about is pointed out. Names like Alexandros might be from pre Greek mythology is also discussed.

To compare with the myth of Skanda/Kanda, the birth and death of Alexander, deification of Alexander, his knowledge about India etc are discussed. His ignorance about geography of India and as well as that of the contemporary Greeks are abundantly revealed in the classical accounts. Thus, the difference between the Greek and Indian geographers is pointed out. Then, the Alexander Romance is discussed. The different stories, particularly, connecting Alexander with India are discussed and pointed out the recording of sufferings of Alexander underneath such myth and romance.

The effect and influence of Alexander and Alexander's invasion on India are discussed. The least or no effect as has been confessed by Vincent Smith is pointed out. The methodology adapted and adopted by the Greeks in the Alexander's romance, the reliability of the Greek classical accounts and histories and discussed critically. As the original sources were long back lost and the available ones are nothing but the translations from the secondary and other Greek sources, it is suggested that they have to be relied upon cautiously and not exclusively or conclusively for research purposes.

Coming to the archetypes of Greek Alexander and Indian Skanda, the following conditions are applied to find out the truth:

  1. Conceptualization and evolution of myth/archetype.
  2. Conceptualization and evolution leading to development of myth/archetype.
  3. Indigenous literature containing such processes of conceptualization, evolution and development of myth/archetype
  4. Local tradition about the existence of myth/archetype
  5. Living and continuous tradition about the myth/archetype
  6. Following of such living and continuous tradition about the myth/archetype.
  7. Continuous following of ceremonies, rituals and rites connected with such myth/archetype
  8. Continuous deification of such archetype
  9. Codification and canonization of worship.
  10. Consistent with believers throughout the world.

It is pointed out that in the case of Alexander, none of the conditions are satisfied, whereas in the case of Skanda all are satisfied. Therefore, it is concluded that Alexander Romance resurrected in the medieval period is myth and not like the myth of Skanda/Kanda-Karttikeya-Murukan developed around c. 2500 BCE based on Sanskrit literature and c.1000 BCE based on Sangam literature. The origin of Skanda/Kanda is older than Alexander himself. It was conceived, evolved and developed in phased manner consisting with the people. Therefore, Alexander or the name or the Romance cannot be an archetype for Skanda/Kanta. Comparing or imposing latter-day myth on the ancient myth is nothing but historical idiosyncrasy and fallacy.

K.V. Ramakrishna Rao, B.Sc., M.A., A.M.I.E., C.Eng. (I)., B.L.,
9, Venkatachala Iyer Street
West Mambalam
Chennai - 600 033
Ph : 471 6580 (Res.)
626 3360 (Off)

See also synopsis of Skanda-Iskandar and the Alexander Romance: History and the Diffusion of Mythic Archetypes presented by Patrick Harrigan at the First International Conference Seminar on Skanda-Murukan