Hinduism is one of the oldest religions that still survive, in the world. With high religious talrorance, Hindu tradition embraces and respects all other religions equally. This is a very beautiful characteristic of the Hindu tradition to believe in all religion as Hindu believes in – One supreme power ( Oneness of God) in the world . As we believe this Supreme Power – God, is known by different names around the world in different religions, for example there is only one Sun that everybody can see in the sky—But the same Sun is known by different names in different languages and cultures , throughout the world. Sun is called Surya in India in Hindi language, Zon in Dutch language, Soleil in French, Taiyou in Japneese, Shemesh in Hebrew , Shams in Arabic, Sonne in German, Solnce in Russian etc. etc. All these different names for the Sun do not mean that there are different Sun for different people or religion , but as you know there is only one sun in the sky and is known by different names around the world…!
Hinduism simply believes “The Jesus of Christianity and the Allah of Islam is as same as the God’s of Hindus”. So there is only one supreme divine power in the world (GOD), known by different names in different religions…!
There are around 330 million Gods, demigods, deities, in Hindu belief . The trinity of Hindu Gods Brahma (the creator of universe), Vishnu (the preserver of the universe) and Shiva (the destroyer of the universe so that new life is created once again) are the three principal deities in Hinduism. The Hindu Gods have over ages taken birth (incarnation) in human form, whenever the need arose and when evil superseded good.
Lord Ganesha – the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati (Shakti) — with the head of an elephant – represents the power of the Supreme Being that removes obstacles and ensures success and good luck in human life. For this reason, Hindus worship Ganesha first, before beginning any religious, spiritual or worldly activity.
In Hindu belief a man is incomplete without the involvement of woman in his life. Most of the Hindu gods are hence seen with their consorts, to reinstate this belief and are known as Devis. In the Hindu Scriptures, the “Devi” has always acquired a prominent position. Hindu religion has a vast range of Goddesses, who symbolize different aspects of nature and qualities. The feminine aspect of the divine is most pronounced in Hinduism, with female deities being worshipped in large numbers across India and beyond. The supreme divine being in Hinduism is believed to be the “Shakti”, from whom nine forms of the female divine emerged. The worship of the different forms of Shakti is the most common way of praying to the female divine. For the Indian woman, Shaktism has in fact become a symbol of the strength a woman enjoys. Goddess Lakshmi is hailed as the goddess of wealth, Goddess Saraswati as the goddess of learning and Goddess Kali as the destroyer. The goddesses in Hinduism have always earned the place of a mother and are hailed as the ‘mother of the Universe’.
Popular Hindu Deities.
1. God Brahma, “the creator of universe”— Brahma is believed to be self-born out of a lotus flower which grew from the navel of Lord Vishnu (the preserver of the universe). In order to help him create the universe, Brahma gave birth to the 11 forefathers of the human race called ‘Prajapatis’ and the seven great sages or the ‘Saptarishi’. These children or mind-sons of Brahma, who were born out of his mind rather than body, are called the ‘Manasputras’. After meditation Brahma created 14 planetary systems and many living beings came there in 8400000 kinds of material bodies according to their past desires.
Brahma is traditionally depicted with four heads, four faces ( in four directions), and four arms. Brahma is believed to gave birth to the four Veda. With each head, he continually recites one of the four Vedas( a large body of religious Hindu texts originating in ancient India which are composed in Vedic Sanskrit language). He is often depicted with a white beard (especially in North India) and holding Vedas in his hands. Unlike most other Hindu gods, Brahma holds no weapons. One of his hands holds a scepter. Another of his hands holds a book. Brahma presides over ‘Brahmaloka,’ a universe that contains all the splendors of the earth and all other worlds Brahma also holds a string of prayer beads called the ‘ak?amala’ (“garland of eyes”), which He uses to keep track of the Universe’s time. In Hindu cosmology the universe exists for a single day called the ‘Brahmakalpa’. This day is equivalent to four billion earth years, at the end of which the whole universe gets dissolved / destroyed
White swan or Goose is the vehicle of Brahma. After meditation Brahma created 14 planetary systems and many living beings came there in 8400000 kinds of material bodies according to their past desires.
Though almost all Hindu religious rites involve prayer to Brahma, very few temples are dedicated to His worship. His popularity is no match to that of Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is to be found to exist more in scriptures than in homes and temples. In fact it is hard to find a temple dedicated to Brahma. Lord Bhrama ‘s temple in Pushkar (Rajasthan state of India ) is the most prominent temples of Bhrama.
Goddess Saraswati is consort of Bhramha and is the Goddess of knowledge, good speech, music, arts, wisdom and nature.
2. Vishnu, “the preserver of the universe”— Lives under the Oceans and is also known as Narayana and Hari Vishnu is often depicted as reclining on a Sheshanaga – the coiled, many-headed snake floating on cosmic waters that represents the peaceful Universe. This pose symbolizes the calm and patience in the face of fear and worries that the poisonous snake represents. The message here is that you should not let fear overpower you and disturb your peace. Vishnu is usually described as having the divine pale blue color of water-filled clouds and as having four arms. He is depicted as holding a padma (lotus flower) in the lower left hand, Kaumodaki ghada– a unique type of mace used in warfare (a blunt mace with spike on the top) that indicates punishment for indiscipline in the lower right hand, a Panchajanya shankha ( a milky white conch) that spreads the primordial sound of Om -,in the upper left hand and a discus weapon Sudarshana Chakra (a spinning, disk-like super weapon with 108 serrated edge )in the upper right hand. Out of his navel blossoms a lotus, known as Padmanabham. The flower holds Brahma, the God of Creation.
The peace-loving deity of the Hindu Trinity, Vishnu is the Preserver or Sustainer of life with his steadfast principles of order, righteousness and truth. When these values are under threat, Vishnu emerges out of his transcendence to restore peace and order on earth. It is belived that Lord Vishu will incarnat himself 10 times in the form of humans on the earth to preserve the good and to destroy trhe evil. Out of ten the 9 incarnations have been completed and we are waiting for the 10th incarnation which will take another hundred thousands of Years. Some of his famous Vishnu’s earthly incarnations are Matsyavatara (fish), Koorma (tortoise), Varaaha (boar), Narasimha (half man & half man lion), Vaamana (the dwarf), Parasurama (the angry warrior), Lord Rama (the perfect human of the Ramayana), Lord Balarama (Krishna’s brother), Lord Krishna (the divine diplomat and statesman), the 10th incarnation called the Kalki avatar– yet to appear .Some sources consider Buddha as one of the avatars of Vishnu.
The vehicle of Vishnu is the Garuda ( Vulture), the king of the birds. Empowered with the courage and speed to spread the knowledge of the Vedas, Garuda is an assurance of fearlessness at the time of calamity.Vishnu is also known as Narayana and Hari.
Goddess Lakshmi is the consort of Lord Vishnu and is the Goddess of wealth, peace, prosperity (both material and spiritual), fortune, and the embodiment of beauty. She is also known as Mahalakshmi, she is said to bring good luck and prosperity in life and is believed to protect her devotees from all kinds of misery and money-related sorrows.
3. Shiva, “the destroyer of the universe” ,so that new life is created once again — Shiva also known as Mahadeva (“Great God”), is the most popular among Hindus. Main thing to know about him is that as his name Shiva—The destroyer of the universe, he only destroys the bad things or the evil inside the Humans. He does not destroy the good ones. He destroys the bad things or the evil to recreate or to generate new life.
Shiva has many benevolent and fearsome forms. At the highest level Shiva is limitless, transcendent, unchanging and formless. In benevolent aspects, he is depicted as an omniscient Yogi ( meditationer) who lives an ascetic life on Mount Kailash, in the Himalayas. The main iconographical attributes of Shiva are the third eye on his forehead, a snake around his neck, the crescent moon adorning, the holy river Ganga ( Ganges) flowing from his matted hair, the Trishula ( trident) as his weapon and the Damaru as his instrument. Shiva is also regarded as the patron god of yoga and arts. The dancing form of Lord Shiva is known as NATRAJAA ( The King of the Dancers).
Goddess Parbati also known as Durga , Kaali , Shakti is the consort of Lord Shiva and Ganesha ( God with the elephant head ) and Kartikeya are their two children.
Lord Shiva being represented by a ‘ Shiv Linga.‘ It is a representation of Lord Shiva, used for worship in Hindu temples. In traditional Indian society, the linga is rather seen as a symbol of the energy and potentiality of the God. The popular belief is that the Shiva Linga or Lingam represents the phallus, the emblem of the generative power in nature. In Sanskrit, Linga means a ‘mark’ or a symbol, which points to an inference. Thus the Shiva Linga is a symbol of Lord Shiva – a mark that reminds of the Omnipotent Lord, which is formless.
The lingam is often represented alongside the yoni (“vagina”), a symbol of the goddess or of Shakti ( divine feminine creative power ), female creative energy. The union of lingam and yoni represents the “indivisible two-in-oneness of male and female, the passive space and active time from which all life originates”. It also signifies the male and female powers of nature. Linga also signifies ‘Satya,’ ‘Jnana’ and ‘Ananta’, meaning Truth, knowledge and Infinity.
4. Lord Ganesha with the head of an elephant — Lord Ganesha, also known as Ganapati and Vinayaka is a widely worshipped deity in the Hindu religion. Lord Ganesha – the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parbati (Shakti) — with the head of an elephant – represents the power of the Supreme Being that removes obstacles and ensures success and good luck in human life. For this reason, Hindus worship Ganesha first, before beginning any religious, spiritual or worldly activity. Ganesha is often shown riding on or attended by a mouse., Ganesha’s marital status, the subject of considerable scholarly review, varies widely in mythological stories. One pattern of myths identifies Ganesha as an unmarried brahmacari ( bachelor). Another pattern associates him with the concepts of Buddhi (intellect), Siddhi (spiritual power), and Riddhi (prosperity); these qualities are sometimes personified as goddesses, said to be Ganesha’s wives.
5. Lord Rama-: Also called Sri Rama is belived to be the the seventh incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu. Rama is also the hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana, which narrates his supremacy. Born as the eldest son of the king of Ayodhya, Lord Ram is referred to within Hinduism as Maryada Purushottama, literally the Perfect Man or Lord of Self-Control or Lord of Virtue. His wife Sita is considered by Hindus to be an incarnation of Godess Lakshmi ( wife of Lord Vishunu- and the godess of wealth) and the embodiment of perfect womanhood. The legend of Rama is deeply influential and popular in the societies of the Indian subcontinent and across South East Asia. Rama is revered for his unending compassion, courage and devotion to religious values and duty. Lord Hanuman ( the monkey God) , is also associated to the same epic of Ramayana, and is the main hero of Ramayana along with Rama, Laxman the younger brother of Rama and Sita the wife of Rama.
Please Note-: You can type “Adams bridge” on the goolge search and can read the interesting article related to the Ramayana, which may prove that this is just not a story , but thesethings might have happened truly, once upon a time…!
6. Lord Krishna-: is easily recognized by his representations. Though his skin colour may be depicted as blue or dark in some pictures or images. Krishna is usually shown with blue skin, with a flute in the hands, a peacock feather in the crown/ hairs and cows around him. He is the main character of the epic of Mahabharata and is believed to be the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu on Often, Krishna is pictured with his gopi ( a girl friend)-consort Radha, and they are worshiped together as Radha Krishna. Krishna is also depicted and worshipped as a small child (Bala Krishna, meaning the child Krishna, crawling on his hands and knees or dancing, often with butter or Laddu 9 Indian Sweets) in his hand being Laddu Gopal.
7. Lord Hanuman-: In the western culture people even call him the Monkey God, as he is having the face of a monakey with the body of a human with a tail at the back. Lord Hanuman is also known by many names of Anjaneya, Anjani Putra, Bajarangabali, Hanuman, Mahaveer, Maruti, Pavanputra etc. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Rama ( one of the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu) according to the Indian epic Ramayana. He is a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and its various versions. Hanuman, worshipped for his strength, valor, agility, is a man of great learning. He is considered to be an avatar (incarnation) of Lord Shiva. Hanuman, a great devotee of Sri Rama, is the symbol of devotion and dedication. Hanuman was a bachelor and is worshipped in all the temples of India. He holds Gadha in his hands- a unique type of mace used in warfare (a blunt mace with spike on the top) that indicates punishment for indiscipline .
Hanuman is worshiped also to get rid or win over demons, evil spirits and other powerful negative energies On Tuesdays many people keep fast in honor of Hanuman and give special offerings to him. In times of trouble, it is a common faith among Hindus to chant the name of Hanuman or sing his hymn “Hanuman Chalisa” . Every year — on the full-moon day of the Hindu month of Chaitra (April) at sunrise — Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Hanuman. Hanuman temples are among the most common public shrines found in India.
8. Goddess Kali-: is the Hindu Goddess associated with empowerment, shakti ( power / cosmic energy). She is the fierce aspect of the goddess Durga (Parvati). The name Kali comes from kala, which means black, or Kaal which means the time – the time of “Death” (for the demons / evils). Kali is represented as the consort of Lord Shiva, on whose body she is often seen standing. Shiva lies in the path of Kali, whose foot on Shiva subdues her anger. The figure of Kali conveys death, destruction, and the consuming aspects of reality. Kali is portrayed mostly in two forms: the popular four-armed form and the ten-armed Mahakali form. In both of her forms, she is described as being black in color but is most often depicted as blue in popular Indian art. Her eyes are described as red with intoxication, and in absolute rage, her hair is shown disheveled, small fangs sometimes protrude out of her mouth, and her tongue is lolling. In her each hand, she is carrying variously a sword, a trishul (trident), a severed head and a bowl or skull-cup (kapala) catching the blood of the severed head. The other two hands (usually the right) are in the pose of abhaya (fearlessness) and varadan (blessing), which means her initiated devotees (or anyone worshipping her with a true heart) will be saved as she will guide them here and in the hereafter.
She is often shown naked or just wearing a skirt made of human arms and a garland of 108 human heads along her neck. She is also accompanied by serpents and a jackal while standing on a seemingly lying Shiva on ground, usually right foot forward.
In spite of her seemingly terrible form, Kali Ma is often considered the kindest and most loving of all the Hindu goddesses, as she is regarded by her devotees as the Mother of the whole Universe. And because of her terrible form, she is also often seen as a great protector. She is the protector of the good and destroyer of the Bad..!
There is a legend for the reason behind her standing on what appears to be Lord Shiva lying under her feet, which translates as follows:
Once Kali had destroyed all the demons in battle, she began a terrific dance due to her anger. The entire world began to tremble and sway under the impact of her dance. So, at the request of all the Gods, Shiva himself asked her to desist from this behavior. However, she was too angry and intoxicated to listen. Hence, Lord Shiva, lay like a corpse among the slain demons in order to absorb the shock of the dance into himself. When Kali eventually stepped upon Shiva, she realized she was trampling and hurting her husband and settled down slowly and forgets her anger.
Please note-: This is just a very brief introduction about Hindu Gods, our guide would be happy to provide you with the details regarding the culture and the stories related to the different religions of India and their Gods, each day on your tour journey, as per your interest.