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The word was originally derived from Sanskrit asu which means “breath” or “life-energy” (plus ra, to possess and also to grant). The asura meant the possessor of the life-breath and its bestower, hence a creative god. In the Rig Veda this title was applied to the highest spiritual entities for their creative and ruling capacity as well as their magic power. VarunaSavitar, AGNI and Indra are described as “wise asura,” asura power having been granted to Indra because of his mighty deeds. The word “asura” becomes “ahura” in the Avestan language where the wise spirit is called Ahura Mazda. In later times at the end of the Rig Veda age the word came to mean demon or enemy of the gods and a different derivation was found: a was taken as the negative particle and sura was coined to mean god.

The many Hindu legends concerning the asuras are inextricably confused and Helena P. BLAVATSKY in her The Secret Doctrine tries to unravel some and give the key to the esoteric meaning. “Esoteric Philosophy,” she writes, “identifies the pre-Brahmanical Asuras . . . and all the ‘Adversaries’ of the Gods in the allegories, with the Egos, which, by incarnating in the still witless man of the Third Race, made him consciously immortal. They are, then, during the cycle of Incarnations, the true dual Logos — the conflicting and two-faced divine Principle in Man” (SD II:163-4). It may be that hidden in some of the allegories is the idea that some of the great beings allowed the self-assertive force which originally had propelled the spiritual into the material to dominate their lives until it became complete separativeness with all that this entails. This attitude is symbolized in the story told in the Satapatha Bramana (5.1.1 ff) that the asuras “even through arrogance went on offering into their own mouth,” while the gods “went on making their offerings to one another,” as a result of which PRAJAPATI gave himself up to the gods.



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