In Hinduism, the Asuras (Sanskrit: असुर, sanskrit ásu - "life force". Compare: Æsir. Also see: Ahura Mazda) are non-suras, a different group of power-seeking deities besides the suras, sometimes considered naturalists, or nature-beings. They are the forces of chaos that are in constant battle with the Devas.
The Daityas and Danavas together were later used for the term Asuras. As time passed, the vedic Asuras began to be referred as the lesser beings while in Avestha, the Persian counterpart of the Vedas, the devas began to be considered as lesser beings. The Asuras were opposed to the Devas. Both groups are children of Kasyapa. Clearly, in early Vedic texts, both the Asura and the Devas were deities who constantly competed with each other, some bearing both designations at the same time.
In general, in the earliest text, the Rigveda, the Asuras preside over moral and social phenomena. Among the Asuras are Varuna, the guardian of Rta, and Aryaman, the patron of marriages. Conversely, the Devas preside over natural phenomena. Among the Devas are the Ushas, whose name means "dawn", and Indra, the leader of the Devas. However, by the time that the Brahmana texts were written, the character of the Asuras had become negative.
History and etymology 
In later texts, such as the Puranas and the Itihasas, the Devas are the good beings, and the Asuras are the bad ones. According to the Bhagavad Gita (16.6), all beings in the universe assume either the divine qualities (Daivi Sampad) or the material qualities (Asuri Sampad). The sixteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita describes the divine qualities briefly and the materialistic qualities at length. In summary, the Gita (16.4) says that the Asuric qualities are pride, arrogance, conceit, anger, harshness, and ignorance.
P.L. Bhargava says,
The word, Asura, including its variants, asurya and asura, occurs 88 times in the Rigveda, 71 times in the singular number, four times in the dual, 10 times in the plural, and three times as the first member of a compound. In this, the feminine form, asuryaa, is included twice. The word, asurya, has been used 19 times as an abstract noun, while the abstract form asuratva occurs 24 times, 22 times in each of the 22 times of one hymn and twice in the other two hymns.
Meaning and change 
Bhargava believes that, in most of the ancient hymns, the word, Asura, is always used as an adjective meaning "powerful" or "mighty". In the Rigveda, two generous kings, as well as some priests, have been described as Asuras. One hymn requests a son who is an Asura. In nine hymns, Indra is described as Asura. Five times, he is said to possess asurya, and once he is said to possess asuratva. Agni has total of 12 Asura descriptions, Varuna has 10, Mitra has eight, and Rudra has six. Bhargava gives a count of the word usage for every Vedic deity.
Moreover, Bhargava states that the word slowly assumed a negative connotation toward the end of the Rigvedic period. The Avesta, the book of the Zoroastrians, describes their supreme God as Ahura Mazda (compare Vedic Asura Medhira) – Mighty and Wise. For them, the word Deva (daeuua) is negative. Asura is therefore regarded as an epithet. Ravanasura means mighty Ravana. Ravana was a Brahmana—Rakshasa (powerful flesh-eating demon). There was no "Asura Jati" in the way that there were Rakshasas, Daityas, Devas, and Brahmanas.
Indo-Iranian context 
The term Asura is linguistically related to the Ahuras of Zoroastrianism, but has, in that religion, a different meaning. The term applies to three deities--(Ahura Mazda, Mithra, and Apam Napat). Furthermore, there is no direct opposition between the Ahuras and the Daevas: The fundamental opposition in Zoroastrianism is not between groups of deities but between Asha (truth) and Druj (falsehood). The relationship between the Ahuras and Daevas is an expression of that opposition: on the one hand, the Ahuras, like all of the other Yazatas, are defenders of Asha. On the other hand, the Daevas are, in the earliest texts, deities that are to be rejected because they are misled by "the lie" (see Daeva).
The supposition, regarding the existence of the dichotomy between Ahuras/Asuras and Daevas/Devas in Indo-Iranian times, was discussed at length by F.B.J. Kuiper. The dichotomy is evident in the earliest texts of either culture, though neither the Rigveda's Asuras nor the Gathas' Daevas are 'demons'. However, sometimes the deities cooperate. Nevertheless, the demonisation of the Asuras in post-Rigvedic India and the demonisation of the Daevas in Zoroastrian Iran took place "so late that the associated terms cannot be considered a feature of Indo-Iranian religious dialectology".
Originally presented in the 19th century but popularized in the mid-20th century, the idea of a prehistoric opposition between the *Asurás and the *Devás had already been largely rejected by Avesta scholars when a landmark publication (Hale, 1986) attracted considerable attention among Vedic scholars. Kuiper, and then Hale, discussed, "as no one before him" (so Insler's review), the attestations of ásura and its derivatives in chronological order within the Vedic texts, leading to new insights into how the Asuras came to be the evil beings that they are today and why the venerated Varuna, Mitra, Agni, Aryaman, Pusan and Parjanya are all Asuras without being demonic. Hale's work has raised further questions—such as how the later poets could have overlooked the idea that the RigVeda's Asuras are all exalted Gods.
Following Hale's discoveries, Thieme's earlier proposal of a single Indo-Iranian *Asura began to gain widespread support. In general (particulars may vary), the idea is as follows:
- Indo-Iranian *Asura became Varuna in India and Ahura Mazda in Iran.
- Those deities are the most closely related to that "Asura [who] rules over the Gods" (AV 1.10.1, cf. RV II.27.10) and inherit the epithet, Deva Asura (V 42.11).
Asuras also appear as a type of supernatural being in traditional Buddhist cosmology.
In popular culture 
- Asura is a powerful attack from Roronoa Zoro in the manga and anime One Piece.
- Asura is a powerful kishin and main antagonist in the manga and anime Soul Eater.
- Asura is the main character in the Japanese arcade video game Samurai Showdown: Warrior's Rage.
- Asura is the main character in the Capcom video game Asura's Wrath.
- The Asura is a subclass of the Slayer in Dungeon Fighter Online. He is a blind swordsman who trades his sight for more power, turning him into a magic warrior. Several of his attacks have Hindu references such as 'Agni Pentacle'. The Asura awakens as a Mahakala and then an Indra.
- In the popular Elder Scrolls video game series, one of the Daedra, the evil gods, is named Azura. The Daedra and the Aedra within the games lore draw parallels to the concept of Suras and Asuras, having the Aedra, similar to suras,are the main gods whom are revered, in contrast to the Daedra, their polar opposites, who are often considered chaotic or evil.
- Asura is a playable race in the MMORPG "Guild Wars 2".
See also 
|This article lacks ISBNs for the books listed in it. (April 2013)|
||This article has an unclear citation style. (April 2013)|
- in his book Vedic Religion and Culture
- F.B. J.Kuiper, Ancient Indian Cosmogony, Bombay 1983
- Herrenschmidt, Clarisse; Kellens, Jean (1993), "*Daiva", Encyclopaedia Iranica 6, Costa Mesa: Mazda, pp. 599–602
- Hale, Wash Edward (1986), ÁSURA in Early Vedic Religion, Delhi: Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass
- Insler, Stanley; Hale, Wash Edward (1993), "Review: ÁSURA in Early Vedic Religion by Wash Edward Hale", Journal of the American Oriental Society 113 (4): 595–596, doi:10.2307/605791
- Thieme, Paul (1960), "The 'Aryan' Gods of the Mitanni Treaties", Journal of the American Oriental Society 80 (4): 301–317, doi:10.2307/595878
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