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GODS OF INDIA ---- The Crowded Hindu Pantheon.
YOU HAVE PROBABLY HEARD OF THE PANTHEON OF GODS AND GODDESSES WORSHIPPED IN INDIA, THE LAND OF HINDUISM. You might be wondering, there sure are a lot of gods in the Hindu religion, aren't there (up to 330 million, according to one famous story.) You might be thinking: "What's up with all these spindly-fingered, multi-headed devis, that god with the elephant trunk and broken tusk, that blue bloke that seems to flirt with the milkmaids all day long? How do you make sense of such chaos, such bewildering diversity?"
Well, I can't say that I am an expert on the field, in fact I am not even Hindu... but I do know a little on the subject, and that is what this website is about. In the pages that follow I want to explain some of those weird deities that you see in Hindu shrines, or featured in Bollywood films. In a way, the pantheon of Indian gods can be compared with the panoply of gods which reigned over Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, or in pagan Russia and Scandinavia. Those civilisations were subsumed into Christianity, and converted to monotheism. In the case of India, however, polytheism survived, in all its garish glory. I wonder: if Christianity had never arisen, would Europeans worship a multitude of gods in the way Hindu Indians do today? It is an interesting thought.
SUBDIVIVIDING THE SUPREME ---- The 330 Million Faces of god.
WHILE CHRISTIANITY HAS DIVIDED CREATION INTO A PERFECTLY GOOD GOD AND AN ABSOLUTELY EVIL SATAN, WITH HUMANITY STRANDED SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE, THE HINDU UNIVERSE IS A LITTLE MORE CROWDED. The Pantheon of Gods represent every possible field of experience and endeavour, every natural and human process. Kuhu, for example, is the Hindu goddess of the new moon. The Krittikas, on the other hand, are a group of devis associated with the constellation Pleiades. It goes without saying that the River Ganges has its own deity, a goddess named Ganga. Budhi Pallien, on the other hand, is a forest goddess in who roams the jungle in the form of a tiger.
According to the Hindu Deities website: "A Hindu deity (god or goddess; note small g) represents a particular aspect of the Supreme Being. For example, Saraswati represents the learning and knowledge aspect of the Supreme Being. Thus, if a Hindu wants to pray for acquiring knowledge and understanding, he prays to Saraswati." The website goes to claim: "According to the Hindu scriptures, living beings are not apart from God, since He lives in each and every one of them in the form of atman (BG 10.39). Thus each living being is a unique manifestation of God. In ancient times it was believed that there were 330 million living beings. This gave rise to the idea of 330 million deities or gods."
New Agers are fond of saying that every living creature is a Spirit-Spark of the Great Central God. Hindus realized this a long time ago. Perhaps once, at the dawn of time, the present gods of India were humans who became enlightened and evolved to a higher level of being. This was in fact a spiritual realization I had one afternoon in the year 2001 in the Himalaya Mountains -- that we are all gods in the making, and that once we climb high enough we will ascend to the god plane and become the object of worship for other sentient beings. It could take millions of lifetimes to reach that spiritual height, of course. But it is the destiny of all of us, to become gods and let our wisdom shine upon the world!
Anyway, it was a pretty cool revelation.
BRAHMAN ---- The Absolute.
IT MIGHT SURPRISE WESTERNERS TO KNOW THAT HINDUS DO ACTUALLY BELIEVE IN A SUPREME GOD, ONE MORE ULTIMATE THAN ALL THE OTHERS -- CURIOUSLY, THIS IS THE ONE GOD THAT YOU HEAR LEAST ABOUT. Brahma (or Brahman), the Absolute Reality, has neither form, nor gender, nor attributes of any kind, but nonetheless brings the cosmos into being. All of the millions of Hindu gods, therefore, are manifestations of this Supreme Being. It goes to show that at it deepest level Hinduism is not so different from Christianity, Islam, or Judaism in its realization of the inexplicable Oneness of the Universe. In many ways, however, I consider Hinduism to be the superior religion because its breadth is so vast, it can accommodate all other religions inside it. It is the Master Network, in other words, as well as the gateway to Buddhism. There can be as many gods as there are devotees to suit the said devotees' various moods, feelings and social backgrounds. In fact, we could conceive of the Hindu pantheon as a pyramid, with Brahman at the top, formless and majestic... then slightly beneath Him/Her the Holy Trinity of Brahma (not be confused with Brahman), Vishnu, and Shiva, and below them the myriad other gods, all the way down to the most specialized, and mundane (for example, Shitala the Goddess of Smallpox.)
At least that's my understanding!
TRIMURTI ---- The Holy Trinity.
CHRISTIANS OFTEN CLOSE THEIR PRAYERS WITH THE MANTRA, "GOD THE FATHER, GOD THE SUN, GOD THE HOLY GHOST". Hindus have a Trinity too, but theirs could be summarized as "God the Creator, God the Preserver, God the Destroyer". Each of these tasks are fulfilled by a separate deity: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Brahma has four faces, and sits on top of a lotus flower. His son, Lord Vishwakarma, is said to be the divine architect of the whole universe, as well as the builder of all the gods' palaces, flying chariots, and their weapons. If you are a craftsman perhaps you should consider praying to Him every September 17 to gain some higher inspiration! In the center of the Trinity stands Vishnu, the Preserver, the Protector. To complicate issues, Vishnu has 10 incarnations, or avatars, namely Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Vamana, Krishna, Kalki, Buddha, Parshurama, Rama and Narasimha. Pretty confusing, hey? Of course, two of these incarnations went on to found their own religions, but that is another story.. On the right hand of the Trinity there is Shiva, Bearer of the Trident, the Great Transformer, and father of one of the most beloved Hindu gods, Ganesha. Hanuman, the Monkey God, was born from Shiva's semen after he looked upon the most beautiful form Mohani, Krishna's female aspect. The sperm was given as a potion to Mata Angani, Hanuman's mother, by the Wind God Vayu. I met a Nepali guy once who said that Shiva was his favourite god because he smoked marijuana. Everyone in the Hinduverse has their own personal god, that is the cool thing about it. As one of my readers commented once, "I could never focus on any hindu God for long because others were also appealing. (Sort of like beautiful women). Each God had his/her own beauty and personality. At the very end I fell in love with Hanuman. Only because my Guru said that he was supreme over Krishna and Durga. WOW I thought I have finally found the supreme..."
CHOOSE YOUR OWN MESSIAH ---- Freestyle.
AS STATED ABOVE, THE DIFFERENT GOFS OF THE HINDU PANTHEON HAVE UNIQUE GIFTS WHICH YOU CAN CALL UPON TO ENHANCE OR ADVANCE YOUR LIFE. For example, many Hindus worship the elephant-headed Ganesha before beginning any religious, spiritual or worldly activity, as he is said to remove obstacles and ensures success. With her necklace of skulls and near permanently poked out tongue, Kali (the Dark Mother) is one of the more fearsome Hindu deity. This goddess, however, can provide devotees with a very loving and intimate bond, in spite of her fearful appearance. In this relationship, the worshipper becomes a child and Kali assumes the form of the ever-caring mother. I used to live with an American girl who worshipped Kali, and she faithfully wore a skull necklace wherever she went.
Former Indian state government advisor M.P. Bhattathiry wrote: "In Hinduism it is believed that the Gods are living, thinking, dynamic beings who live in a different world, in an inner world in the microcosm within this world in which there exists a greater macrocosm than this visible macrocosm. The Hindu believes that these beings guide our experiences on earth, actually consciously guide the evolutionary processes. Therefore, he worships these beings as greater beings than himself, and he maintains a subjective attitude toward them, wondering if he is attuned with these grand forces of the universe, if his personal will is in phase with what these great beings would have him do." He didn't say that we can become gods ourselves, but that is one of my unorthodox Hindu ideas. The first step is to learn about the many different gods and what they represent. The second step is to pray to them in some way and thus integrate some of their energies into your own life. Whether the Hindu gods are real beings or only Jungian archetypes, they can help you get more out of your own life. They are here to teach you a lesson. They have certainly taught me a lot, and I am grateful to them!
Contact the author Rob Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anticopyright June 2005-March 2017.
f e e d b a c k
Anshul Sehgal (email@example.com) says: "Hi. I m from india. I belong to family that is almost praying a thousand times a day. They are the most spiritual people i have ever seen. But i am begining to have doubts on my gods now. My family is getting crazzier every day. Especially my Dad. They often think that my Girl friend has done some
WitchCraft(Black Magic) Kaala jadu over me, where i simply am in love with her. They are making my life a living hell. Blaming everything on her, they are the ones not letting me study and they are blaming her for this fact as well. My family reads a whole lot of story Books(Katha's) for certain indian gods like vishnu and BALAK NATH. in order to make them happy. I want to know the truth about these Kathaa's. Are they for real? cause there are stupid things written in these books done by the gods. And if that is for reall! Then indian people are supposed to be in a lot of trouble by now. Ithink there is no god at all. No one ever saw or heard him. but every one has a different one. I think human himself is the god. I think we have the power to create and destroy at the same time and thats what gods are all about..."
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