Contrast and Comparison Between the Sumerian, Homeric and Hindu Religions





Contrast and Comparison Between the Sumerian, Homeric and Hindu Religions

The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Mahabharata are great epics that represent the Sumerian, Greek, and Hindu cultures and provide a look into the religious practices of these people. The Mahabharata includes useful information on the development of the Hindu religion from 400 BCE to 200 BCE and discusses the influence on Hindu moral law. The Epic of Gilgamesh, on its part, provides an account of superhumans in Enkidu and Gilgamesh who interact with the gods painting a picture of the Sumerian religion in the mind of the reader. The Iliad and The Odyssey, although the former more than the latter, the ritualistic aspects of the Homeric religion are found. In comparing and contrasting these cultures, this paper looks at the ritual practices and other characteristics of the deities in question.

The one common thing between these religions is animal sacrifices. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the two characters Enkidu and Gilgamesh at one point offer the sun god a sacrifice in the form of the heart they have slaughtered from the Bull of Heaven (George). In The Iliad, in an attempt to appease the goddess Artemis, Agamemnon offers his daughter Iphigenia as a sacrifice. Odysseus, the main character in The Odyssey, offers several animal sacrifices, including sheep, during his time in Hades. The Hindu people also did offer animal sacrifices as indicated by Emperor Bharata horse sacrifice in a ritual referred to as Ashvamedha that was reserved for nobles (Narayan).

There were, however, numerous contracting features and practices between these three religions. The Hindu religion is the only one practiced to date among the three. The Sumerian and Greek religions have, for a long time, been extinct. The former especially eroded with the extinction of the Mesopotamian culture and way of life. Hinduism, which is considered the oldest religion by many scholars, is still a dominant world faith with several divisions. The most of the Hindu branches still worship Brahman as the single deity, although they still pay homage to other gods and goddesses.

Another contrasting aspect of these religions is the role of the supernatural in the lives of the people. In The Odyssey, the people did not rely on the gods for provision or help but rather had the primary purpose of appeasing them and showing respect to avoid attracting their rage (Ready). In the Hindu religion, the various deities have roles beyond protecting the people. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and purity who has the ability to bless with material possession. The Sumerians believed that Enlil, the chief of the gods, looked after the wellbeing of the people.

It is essential to mention that all these religions did not believe in a single deity as it is in most modern religions but rather had triages of heaven. In ancient Mesopotamia, various deities acted as patrons for multiple cities. For example, Uruk had a patron deity in the name of Ishtar, who resided in the city walls and was fed through offerings from the residents (Sazonov). The Greeks had the twelve Olympians who demigods who took care of human affairs, particularly for exceptional people. The Greek gods, similar to Hindu gods, had different roles, and each dealt with a different aspect of the world and society. For the Greeks, especially, no single god was all-powerful.

In conclusion, ancient religions, as depicted in the various respective epics, had quite a lot in common. They did not rely on a single deity and spread their needs across different gods. They had standard practices such as animal sacrifices but differed in the animals they offered, which may be influenced by the animals available to each. Although these they had many gods, they each relied on them for a specific reason and had distinct roles. The Sumerian and Homeric religions now remain as myths, while Hinduism remains widespread in certain parts of the world.

Works Cited

George, Andrew. “The epic of Gilgamesh. A new translation.” (1999).

Narayan, Rasipuram Krishnaswami. The Mahabharata: A shortened modern prose version of the Indian epic. University of Chicago Press, 2016.

Ready, Jonathan L. “Omens and Messages in the Iliad and Odyssey: a Study in Transmission.” Between Orality and Literacy: Communication and Adaptation in Antiquity. BRILL, 2014. 29-55.

Sazonov, Vladimir. “On the Epic of Gilgamesh in Estonian.” Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore 53 (2013): 193-197.