Asura, the Enlightened One
Most people of the great Eastern nation of Vendhya worshipped Asura, who taught that life was illusory and the only final truth came after death, in the light of the soul. The cult of Asura devoted itself to “penetrating the veil of illusion of life.” Asura’s doctrines taught that all living beings reincarnate, and that the purpose of life was the paying of the karmic debt against the soul. Each evil act extended the cycle of reincarnation; each good act shortened it. Those who suffered earned their trials in previous lives; they were not to be pitied or aided and deserved the burdens they carried in this life.
According to his priests, Asura had no true form, but was a part of all the cosmos. When the god wished to send messages to his followers, he did so by the reincarnated birth of an exceptional mortal. Some priests of Asura wandered the land as beggar-priests, while others were members of the upper caste of Vendhyan society, the Brahma, who were their society’s scholars and rulers. All Brahma participated in rituals of meditation and purification, including ritual baths in the holy rivers of Vendhya.
The Brahma priests commanded the lowest Vendhyan caste, the Untouchables, during cremation ceremonies, where the dead were burned to dust on great funereal pyres, their ashes blessed and spread on the winds. Anyone not properly cremated could rise as one of the feared undead of Vendhya.
Unlike the sinister and hated Stygians, Vendhyans established Asuran worship centers in other lands where they traded in large numbers, including in Aquilonia. But because the Asurans’ rituals were a secret and the very location of their temples often were unknown to the local populace, they were wrongly believed by many Aquilonians to be cannibals who prayed to the Stygian god Set, a deity whose worship was illegal in Aquilonia, as were all other faiths save that of Mitra before the time of King Conan. This belief was apparently bolstered by the Asurans’ excessive clannishness and their customary black clothing. But in a surprising turn of events, the fugitive King Conan once found succor in the hidden temple of Asura in the Aquilonian capital city of Tarantia while he was fleeing those who sought to overthrow his rule of Aquilonia. When the Cimmerian reclaimed his throne, he repaid the Asuran sect by ending its outcast status in Aquilonia, a move that enraged the powerful Mitraic priesthood in that kingdom.