In the Indian pantheon, the gods are worshiped as Murti. These beings are either aspects of the Supreme Brahman, avatars of the Supreme Being, or substantially powerful beings known as Devas. Terms and epithets in various traditions of Hinduism also include Ishwara, Ishwari, Bhagavan, and Bhagavati.
Hindu deities evolved from the Vedic era (second millennium BC) to the medieval era (first millennium AD). At the regional level, in India, Nepal and Southeast Asia. The exact nature of faith in relation to each deity varies between different Hindu denominations and philosophies. In total, there are 330,000 such supernatural beings in various traditions.
The similarities between Kama and Cupid, Vishvakarma and Vulcan, Indra and Zeus lead many to the hasty conclusion that the gods of Indian mythology are similar to the Greek celestials. But Greek mythology is completely different from Hindu mythology. It reflects the subjective truth of the Greeks, who believed in polytheism.
Most often, the Indian pantheon of gods is depicted in humanoid forms, complemented by a set of unique and complex iconography in each case. Illustrations of the main deities include Parvati, Vishnu, Shri (Lakshmi), Shiva, Sati, Brahma, and Saraswati. They have different and complex personalities, but are often viewed as aspects of the same Supreme Reality called Brahman.
Since ancient times, the idea of equivalence has been cherished by all Hindus. In the texts and sculptures of those times, the main concepts are:
- Harihara (half of Shiva, half of Vishnu).
- Ardhanarishvara (half of Shiva, half of Parvati).
The myths claim they are the same. The gods of the Indian pantheon inspired their own traditions: Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism. They are united by a common mythology, ritual grammar, theosophy, axiology and polycentrism.
In India and beyond
Some Hindu traditions, such as the ancient charvakas, denied all deities and concepts of God or Goddess. During the 19th century British colonial era, religious societies such as Arya Samaj and Brahma Samaj rejected celestials and adopted monotheistic concepts like the Abrahamic religions. Hindu deities have been adopted in other religions (Jainism). And also in regions outside of it, such as Buddhist Thailand and Japan. In these countries, Indian gods continue to be worshiped in regional temples or arts.
The concept of a person
In the ancient and medieval texts of Hinduism, the human body is described as a temple, and the deities as the parts inside it. Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva are described as Atman (soul), which the Hindus consider to be eternal in every living being. Deities in Hinduism are as varied as its traditions. A person can choose who he is: polytheist, pantheist, monotheist, monistoist, agnostoist, atheist or humanist.
Dev and Davy
The gods of the Indian pantheon are masculine (Devas) and feminine (Devi). The root of these terms means "heavenly, divine, anything superior." The etymological meaning is "shining".
In the most ancient Vedic literature, all supernatural beings are called asuras. Towards the end of this period, the benevolent celestials are called Devas-asuras. In post-Vedic texts such as the Puranas and Ichihas of Hinduism, the Devas represent good and the Asuras represent evil. In medieval Indian literature, the Gods are referred to as Suras.
Brahma is the Hindu god of creation from Trimurti. His consort is Sarasvati, the goddess of knowledge. According to the Puranas, Brahma is a self-born lotus flower. It grew from the navel of Vishnu at the beginning of the universe. Another legend says that Brahma was born in water. In it, he placed a seed, which later became the golden egg. Thus was born the creator, Hiranyagarbha. The rest of the golden egg expanded into Brahmanda, or the universe.
Brahma is traditionally depicted with four heads, four faces and four arms. With each head he constantly reads one of the four Vedas. He is often depicted with a white beard, which indicates the almost eternal nature of his existence. Unlike other gods, Brahma has no weapons at all.
Shiva is considered the supreme deity in Shaivism, the denomination of Hinduism. Many Hindus, such as the followers of the Smarta tradition, are free to accept various manifestations of the divine. Shaivism, along with the Vaishnava traditions that focus on Vishnu and the Sakta traditions that worship Devi, are three of the most influential denominations.
Shiva worship is a Panindu tradition. Shiva is one of the five main forms of the Divine in Smartism, which places particular emphasis on the five deities. The other four are Vishnu, Devi, Ganesha and Surya. Another way of thinking about deities in Hinduism is Trimurti (Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva). The first personifies the creator, the second - the keeper, the third - the destroyer or transformer.
God is usually depicted with the following attributes:
- The third eye with which he burned desire (Kama) to ashes.
- Garland with a snake.
- Crescent moon of the fifth day (punchami). It is placed near the fiery third eye and shows the power of soma, sacrifice. This means that Shiva has the power of reproduction along with the power of destruction. The moon is also a measure of time. Thus, Shiva is known by the names of Somasundara and Chandrashekara.
- The sacred river Ganges flows from his matted hair. Shiva brought purifying water to people. Ganga also denotes fertility as one of the creative aspects of God.
- The small hourglass-shaped drum is known as the damaru. This is one of the attributes of Shiva in his famous dance performance Nataraja. To hold it, a special hand gesture (mudra) is used, called damaru-hasta.
- Vibhuti are three lines of ash painted on the forehead. They represent the essence that remains after all Malas (impurity, ignorance, ego) and Vasan (sympathy, antipathy, attachment to one's body, worldly fame and pleasures). Vibhuti is worshiped as a form of Shiva and means the immortality of the soul and the manifested glory of the Lord.
- Ash. Shiva stains his body with it. This is an ancient tradition of cremation asceticism.
- Tiger, elephant and deer skins.
- The trident is Shiva's special weapon.
- Nandi, the Bull, is his Wakhana (Sanskrit for chariot).
- Lingam. Shiva is often worshiped in this form. Mount Kailash in the Himalayas is his traditional abode.
- Shiva is often depicted immersed in deep meditation. He is said to eradicate Kama (sexual desire), Moha (material desire) and Maya (worldly thoughts) from the minds of his devotees.
God of prosperity
The Indian god Ganesha is the most famous and beloved not only in Hinduism, but also in other cultures. The Lord of Fortune, he bestows success and prosperity on everyone. Ganesha is the remover of any spiritual and material obstacles. He also puts obstacles on the life path of those of his subjects who need verification.
Thanks to such qualities, his image is present everywhere, having many forms, and he is called to help in the performance of any task. Ganesha is the patron saint of literature, art and science. Devotees are confident that he will bestow protection from adversity, success and prosperity. Ganesha's lesser-known role is as a destroyer of vanity, pride and selfishness.
Ganesha's attributes have evolved over the centuries.He is popularly considered the son of Shiva and Parvati, although the Puranas disagree about his birth. Its original form is a simple elephant. Over time, she transformed into a person with a round belly and an elephant's head. He is usually depicted with four arms, although their number can vary from two to sixteen. Every item of Ganesha has an important spiritual meaning. They include:
- broken tusk,
- water lily,
- a bowl of sweets,
- musical instrument,
- staff or spear.
God of thunder and storms
In the Hindu creation myth, the god Indra was born from the mouth of the original God or the giant Purusha. He sits on a throne in the thunderclouds of Svarga, or the third heaven, is the ruler of the clouds and heavens along with his wife Indrani. In Indian mythology, clouds are equated with divine cattle, and the sound of thunder during storms is Indra fighting demons who are always trying to steal these heavenly cows. Rain is equated with God milking his flock. Indra embraces and controls the universe, balancing the earth in the palm of his hand and manipulating it according to his whim. He created rivers and streams by shaping mountains and valleys with his sacred ax.
The Indian god Hanuman is strong, full of valor, with various skills and abilities. He had only one thought - to serve Lord Rama with the greatest humility and devotion. Like many Indian gods, Hanuman has several origins. One of them suggests that the monkey god is the son of Shiva and Parvati.
Thanks to his courage, perseverance, strength and devotional service, Hanuman is considered the perfect symbol of selflessness and loyalty. Worshiping him helps a person resist the bad karma generated by selfish actions. He gives the believer strength in his own trials as he travels through life. Hanuman is also invoked in the fight against witchcraft. Protective amulets with his image are extremely popular among devotees.
The Indian god of wealth is feminine. Lakshmi is the consort and active energy of Vishnu. She has four arms, which symbolize the right goals in a person's life:
Lakshmi is the goddess of fortune, wealth, beauty and youth.
The Indian epic "Mahabharata" describes the birth of a goddess. Once demons and gods stirred the primeval Milky Ocean. Brahma and Vishnu tried to calm the stormy waters. Then Lakshmi appeared from the ocean. She was dressed in white robes and radiated beauty and youth. In the depictions, Lakshmi is usually standing or sitting on a large lotus flower. She is holding a blue or pink flower and a pot of water. The other two hands bless the believers and shower them with gold coins. In temple decorative sculptures, Lakshmi is depicted along with her consort Vishnu.
The Indian god of death Yama is the king of the ancestors and the final judge of the appointment of souls. He is also known as the "restraining", Pretaraja (King of ghosts), Dharmaraja (King of justice). By virtue of his responsibility to make correct decisions based on the records of human deeds, God is especially associated with the rule of law.
Yama is the son of Vivasvata, the sun god. His mother is Saranya-Samjna (conscience). He is not a punisher of sinful souls, unlike the gods of the underworld and the dead, described in other cultures. However, the believers are afraid of Yama. Fear is inspired by his two giant hounds. They are scary creatures with two pairs of eyes. They are called to guard the path that leads the dead to God. Sometimes dogs take the guilty or lost souls from the human world.
In the images, Yama appears with green or blue skin, dressed in a red robe. Its crew is a buffalo (or elephant). In the hands of the Yama there is a mace or a rod made by the Sun, and a noose that indicates the capture of souls.
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