Are the gods literate?

Allen W Thrasher athr at LOC.GOV
Mon Nov 1 15:58:41 UTC 1999

Does anyone have any evidence over whether it is clear whether in
Hinduism or other Indian religions the gods (or other supernatural
beings) are literate?  Are they ever represented as reading books, or
written messages of any sort?  Several of course are routinely
represented iconographically as holding books (Brahma and the Vedas,
Sarasvati and a book, etc.).  The only example of a god writing that
comes to my mind is the story of Ganesa taking down the Mahabharata by
dictation.  Mantras written down by themselves or as part of yantras
have power with the gods, but is that because the gods read the
messages and heed them or because they are overwhelmed by the power of
the spoken words of which the writing is a sort of coagulation, or
that the written mantras are themselves manifestations or forms of the
gods, or that they work on the gods the way they might work on human
beings or even inaminate objects?  Are some supernatural beings,
groups or individuals, literate, and others (e.g. females, or less
high class and more oafish beings, such as bhutapretapisacadayah)
illiterate?  Any comments would be appreciated.

Allen Thrasher

Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D.
Senior Reference Librarian
Southern Asia Section
Asian Division
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20540-4810
tel. 202-707-3732
fax 202-707-1724
email: athr at

The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the
Library of Congress.

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