Recently this morning I watched a somewhat odd video on youtube that was attempting to correlate the Hindu and Hellenic pantheons, though unfortunately I felt that they failed miserably largely because the creator of this little video knew little about the Hellenic gods, and apparently just as little about the Hindu ones (judging from comments). But in the end this led to a rather relaxing couple of hours looking at videos (some of them rather informative) of Vishnu and Shiva. So I have to say that in the end, I have a great appreciation as a follower of Apollon for both Vishnu and Shiva as they relate to my god. While I may agree that there is alot of Vishnu to seems like it would reasonably bear some commonality with Zeus, what I did find striking was a reference in which Vishnu is essentially a destroyer of imbalance, and a destroyer of darkness, as well as a master of order which tie in a great deal with my understanding of Apollon as the god who is the head of the Muses, the god who orders the seasons by the chords of his lyre, and a god who is the destroyer of darkness, and conqueror of Pytho. On the other hand Shiva relates to other principles which are connected with Apollon, though I do understand that many appreciate Shiva in relation to Dionysos…but it seems even more relevant to me for Apollon as the name of Apollon is given from “destroyer” and Shiva too is the destroyer. Here is a quote from the Sanatan Society website:
Shiva is responsible for change both in the form of death and destruction and in a positive sense of destroying the ego…..All that has a beginning by necessity must have an end…..Thus the power of destruction associated with Lord Shiva has great purifying power….Destruction opens the path for a new creation of the universe, a new oppertunity for the beauty and drama of univeral illusion to unfold. As Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram or Truth, Goodness and Beauty, Shiva represents the most essential goodness.
While I can see how that would relate to Dionysos, it is also very in line with the character of Apollon…the god who has cultus that included presiding over the graveyards where he protected the soul for 30 days before the soul is escorted by Hermes (in which we can also see in the aspect of Shiva called Aghora—god who resides in the cremation grounds)….who according to the Orphic Hymn cast round the seasons and who Euripedes refers to through Thanatos more or less as a god who is keeper of the law which governs death. But even the image of the dancer (that image of Shiva which I saw at a very young age when I went to a small neighbor Indian store when I visisted my father) is one that resonnates very strongly….and again while I can see how those who adore Dionysos may see this is in association with Dionysos, it speaks more primordialy to me of Apollon, the beautiful dancer who leads forth with his high dancing step…and the very image of Shiva with his leg lifted in dance is very evocative to me of this imagery that I imagine in my head of the dancing step of Apollon and he leads about the progression of seasons to freedom. And that in the dance Shiva is crushing the daemon ignorance is quite telling for Apollon is crusher of ignorance, supersition and darkness. Especially poignant in this imagery is that this demon is one that is caused by forgetfulness, the opposition Mnemosyne (memory) and her daughters that delight in Apollon’s company. And that Shiva’s raised hand is said to indicate a release of a devotee from mortal bondage…sounds like Apollon to me in his domain of freedom. Let us not forget that the Mahamrityunyaya mantra is chanted to remove death and disease, and this form of Shiva is the bringer of bliss (some images of Apollon depict him holding the three Graces) and offerer of the divine elixir. Therefore I have profound appreciation for the icons of Shiva representing this principles.
On the other hand I do like Vishnu’s imagery upon the serpent, for obvious reasons because it makes me think of an image I saw once of an ancient painting in which Apollon was in dragon-drive chariot. The great-serpent/dragon connection with Apollon is not one that can be ignored. And nevermind the fact that Vishnu opperates largely within peace, as the embodiment of mercy and goodness, but according to the above website doesn’t tolerate ego (which also resonnates with Apollon) and has a bow and sword, club and disc…three of these are items intimately connected with Apollon who slays by his bow, and is called the god of the golden sword, and delights in the disc (by which he accidentally killed Hyakinthos).
So whereas it would be too greatly difficult I think for anyone to draw direct parrallel syncretic lines (and I am not attempting to do so, I merely got started thinking because the video I mentioned above related Apollon to Ganesha which I just couldn’t see very well) I think that there is something appreciate in both Vishnu and Shiva through the lens of Apollon’s domain. Just as I can see how someone would find something to appreciate of either of these gods through a lens of worship of Dionysos. So while I don’t think direct syncretism would really work I do think that there are lovely iconographic things that can be appreciated and enjoyed and would contain some level of meaning.