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Were there any contacts between the ancient Egyptian, Keralan (South Indian), and Vietnamese civilizations that may have been significant enough for these people to have borrowed elements from each other's mythos?

In Kerala (Malayalam), the most important festival is Onam. King Maveli (or Mahabali) made Kerala better than heaven, and was defeated through fraudulent means. He will come back once an year. He is in netherworld now. While he ruled, everybody was honest, happy and equal. A god (Vamanan) did the deception to defeat the king.

In Egypt, the myth of Osiris is similar. The king visits his subjects yearly. Osiris is a likely cognate of Asuran, the tribe of Maveli.

In Vietnam, the story is reversed in the sense that the god (Buddha) uses dishonest means (using a robe which changes its surface area) to get rid of a bad supernatural being. But otherwise, the story is similar.

I did find an article on Tet that says:

The story of Vishnu and Mahabali may have traveled to Vietnam when Hinduism was widely prevalent in the country. There are quite a few ancient Hindu temple complexes in the Southeast Asian country. As is the case in nearby Thailand, Vietnamese believe that Buddha was an avatar of Rama (and hence an avatar of Vishnu). The story of Mahabali probably underwent changes when most of the country adopted Buddhism.

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That's a definite "no" as far as an Egyptian connection is concerned. A much more plausible explanation is that in creating myths, humans follow a limited number of patterns, regardless of their cultural background. This field of study is called Comparative Mythology. This has uncovered a number of parallels, or archetypes, between the myths of different cultures, including some very widespread recurring themes and plot elements, like:

  • Creation of mankind from clay
  • Acquisition of fire for the benefit of humanity
  • Flood myths
  • Dying/Mortal gods & resurrection
  • Creative sacrifice
  • Axis mundi
  • Titanomachy
  • Giants
  • Dragons and serpents

As to your specific example regarding an "Egyptian connection":

  • there is an almost 2000 year span between the origin of the Osirian myths and Buddhism.
  • Tết corresponds to the lunar new year. The Egyptians used a lunisolar calendar.
  • Osiris is most definitely not a cognate of Asuran, the tribe of Maveli. The origins of the Osirian myths (24th century BCE) are well documented and entirely situated in pre-dynastic Egypt. Mahabali, also known as Bali or Māveli originates in Hindu texts like Shatapatha Brahmana (8th to 6th centuries BCE), Ramayana (7th to 4th centuries BCE), Mahabharata (9th and 8th centuries BCE) and Puranas ( 3rd- and 10th-century CE).
  • The mainstream Osirian myths actually do not mention Osiris returning once a year: after his murder by Seth and his subsequent resurrection by Isis, he rules the underworld and his son Horus rules the world above.

The influence of Hindu mythology on Buddhism on the other hand is abundantly documented in Eastern philology. Hinduism predates Buddhism by two millennia and is the substrate from which Buddhism emerged. Buddha himself was born a Hindu.

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  • This answer is useful. But did story of Vamanan and Mahabali influence the story of Mara and Buddha? – Jayadevan Vijayan Aug 22 at 8:03
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    Unlikely. The word Māra comes from the Sanskrit form of the verbal root mṛ. Māra is a verbal noun from the causative root and means 'causing death' or 'killing'. Vāmana means 'Dwarf', 'small' or 'small or short in stature'. In addition, even in the eraliest Buddhist texts we find both a literal and psychological interpretation of Mara, so this entity was understood to be symbolic from the earliest era of Buddhism, unlike Vamana in Hindu myth. – Codosaur Aug 22 at 9:25

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