While working on my Savage Tide Adventure Path finale with Demogorgon, I created a cleric from Zindia named Eshana. If you’ve been following my work on the Savage Tide, you already knew that, but during the creation of Eshana I needed to come up with what god or goddess she worshipped. I couldn’t figure out something on the spot, so I gave her the Knowledge and Law domains and said she worshipped “The Goddess.” I’m obviously not too keen on letting that stay as it is, so I hunted for some India-themed religion for the people of Zindia.
My Greyhawk inquiries always take me to Joe Bloch’s Greyhawk Grognard blog, and he had happened to bring up the idea of creating a pantheon for the India-like nations of “Zindia,” but wasn’t actually finished with it. So, without an “official” source for my characters goddess, I decided to research Indian culture and religion in order to better prepare something.
I’ve been down that rabbit hole for quite some time, now. As someone who has wanted to incorporate Buddhism into my life for some time, I found myself fascinated by the concepts of Hindu religion. While researching, EN World released two articles about the portrayal of Africa and the Far East in gaming, and I found myself wondering if I should even bother with this endeavor. Should I actually attempt to make D&D versions of gods and goddesses who are actively worshipped in the world? Years of research wouldn’t prepare me for something like that, much less the weeks of reading that I’ve done to prepare for my work. Usually I would chat with another Dork about this, specifically Swatmaster B, who has a very thorough understanding about Indian culture and Hindu religions. I’m still waiting for him to get back to me, but I decided I could at least still give it a shot, and I tried to remember that this is a fantasy setting, and that it doesn’t have to be exactly like the real world (hence avoiding the problems outlined in the aforementioned articles).
So the basic idea is this: ancient tribes of humans (whom we’ll call Zindian for now, until I come up with a better name) lived in the lands south of the Suel Imperium on Oerik. They had a religion involving a pantheon of gods that represented natural forces, the celestial bodies, and the spirits that they believed lived in everything. They codified their practices and beliefs in a series of books they called the Zendhyas (based on the real-world Vedas). This religion dominated Zindian life until the coming of the Suel in the northern provinces of Zindia. The Suel migrations eventually ended with the Suel occupying the area now known as the Sea of Dust, but not before many Suel mingled with the Zindian peoples who lived in the northern provinces. With the Suel came some new gods, but the Zindians retained their dedication to the Zendhyas while incorporating some of the Suel beliefs.
Specifically, the god Lendor changed the Zindians the most. Even though they kept their belief in the Zendhyas, Lendor was added as the Grandfather of the gods, and, as the god of time, his role among the Zindians changed their cosmic outlook drastically. Great Zindian theologians and philosophers realized that if Lendor (whose name I’ll probably change for their religion) was the lord of time, he was around for all of time, and as such probably created the entirety of the multiverse. In his new role as creator of the multiverse, the Zindians reasoned that Lendor was of three minds, one as a creator, one a preserver, and one a destroyer. A three-fold god was created, and Lendor (as Brahman) became an uncaring deity who created everything but had no notion to interact with anything. He is the Supreme God who is present in all things.
Lendor’s three aspects become those of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, though I need to do some more work on creating a Greyhawk equivalent of those three. In the real world, Eshana would be a follower of Shakta, that is, where metaphysical reality is considered feminine and the goddess Devi is worshipped as the Supreme Goddess.
Lendor’s grandson Kord became an important part of the new pantheon, as well. He becomes associated with the King of the Gods and his followers established the first martial arts schools.
I’m in the process of incorporating the devils and demons into the cosmology, obviously inspired to have an in-game reason for Eshana to be involved in the struggle against Demogorgon. I think ultimately that it would upset the cosmic balance if Demogorgon were to combine his two personalities, and it is her dharma, or duty, to stop him from doing so. The story of Mahabali fits (sort of) with the fall of Asmodeus, and I think I’ll do some work on that aspect.
Overall, I still have a LOT of work to do, but I have some pretty solid ideas of how to incorporate Hindu religion into Greyhawk, especially with the Suel as a catalyst. I hope you enjoy my thoughts on the subject, and stay tuned to see the completed version of my Zindian pantheon.