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Hindu Pantheon - The Hindu Trinity

Hindu Pantheon

The Hindu Trinity

The Hindu Trinity comprises of Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver and Siva the destroyer. Brahma creates the worlds and the beings. He is the creative intelligence of the manifest worlds. Saraswathi, the goddess of learning is his consort. He is generally shown with four heads standing for the four yugas and the four quarters of the universe. Hamsa, the swan, is his vehicle. He is known by several other names such as Visvakarma, Pitamaha, Lokesa, Nabhija and so on. 


Vishnu is the preserver. He is the solar God, the very sun, who brings sunshine into the worlds and lives of every one and assists the survival of every being. Blue in color, he is referred with many names and attributes by his devotees. Some of his popular names include, Mahavishnu, Narayana, Anantasayana, Chakradhari, Srinivasa, Padmanabha, Varadaraja, Panduranga, Venkatesa and so on. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is his consort. He rides Garuda, the big bird. The mace (gada)  and the fiery disc (chakra)  are his weapons with which he destroys evil and protects the weak and the good. He is also credited with many incarnations, the most important among them being 10 in number. He incarnates on earth from time to time to restore order and destroy evil. Nine of his principal incarnations have already taken place, which include the incarnations of Rama, Krishna and the Buddha. The incarnation of Kalki, the tenth and the last one in this cycle of creation, is yet to come.


Lord Siva is the third god of Hindu trinity. He is the destroyer of the worlds. He in fact destroys all that is evil and unwanted in order to enable the divinity to enter the world and replace the ordinary human consciousness characterized by evil passions and animal instincts. Siva is known by many names. His most popular names include, Rudra, Jatadhara, Shankara, Iswara, Maheswara, Pasupathinath, Nilakanteswara, Dakshinamurthy and so on. He dwells among the snow clad Himalayan mountains and rules his world known as Kailas. He is prone to fits of anger and sometimes hurts those who annoy Him. He spends most of his time in deep meditation. He possesses the third eye, the eye of wisdom. Undoubtedly he is one of the most popular and powerful gods of Hinduism and inspires people to indulge in acts of courage, devotion and spiritual wisdom. 

330 million Gods

It is said that Hindus believe there are 330 million deities (Hindu Gods). In the Vedas, Thirty-three gods are listed. This is followed by the Sanskrit word koti, which is used for "class" but can also be used for a number equal to 10 million. According to one view, some scholars misinterpreted the word koti - which is meant to mean "class", claiming that there are 330 million gods within Hinduism. Another view contends that 330 million is a figure symbolizing infinity, indicating infinite forms of God.



Popular deities

In most Hindu philosophies there is only one ultimate reality. Also known as Brahman (the infinite manifestation the universe - not to be confused with Atman, the manifestation of god within a body; somewhat comparable to a soul), all others are considered his aspects, or avatars, - Vishnu, the protector or preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer, are the main examples of this, due to them being more popular aspects of the Ultimate Reality. In their personal religious practices, Hindus may worship primarily one or another of these aspects, known as their "Ishta Devata" or "Ishvara" (chosen deity). The particular Gods worshipped are a matter of individual preference, although regional and family traditions can play a large part in influencing this choice.[13] Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and the Ganapatya sects of Hinduism states that Vishnu, Shiva, Devi, and Ganesha respectively equate to Brahman, and that all other deities are aspects of their chosen deity. Some popular Hindu deities and avatars include Vishnu and his form as Jagannath, Venkateshwara and his Avatars: Narasimha, Krishna, Rama and others, Shiva (Hanuman worshipped as his aspect), Shakti, the feminine principle (and her aspects Durga, Kali, Saraswati, Lakshmi and others), Ganesha, Murugan.

Mother goddesses

PopularGoddesses worshiped in Hinduism are Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, Durga, and Kali. Shaktism recognizes Shakti as the supreme goddess. The concept of Mahadevi as the supreme goddess emerged in historical religious literature as a term to define the powerful and influential nature of female deities in India. Throughout history, goddesses have been portrayed as the mother of the universe, through whose powers the universe is created and destroyed. The gradual changes in belief through time shape the concept of Mahadevi and express how the different Goddesses, though very different in personality, all carry the power of the universe on their shoulders. Jagaddhatri and Mariamman are other significant female deities.


Devi is the shakti, the strength and potency of her male counterpart. As one individual goddess, Devi may be seen as subordinated to Shiva as one of his wives. Or, as Mahadevi (the “great mother goddess”), she is Shiva’s equal, or she may even be held to be the supreme deity of the universe and the ultimate source of everything that has life, consciousness, power, or activity. When subordinated as a wife and mother, her “cool” (orthodox) nature manifested in beautiful, obedient wives such as Parvati for Shiva, Lakshmi or Shri for Vishnu, and Sarasvati for Brahma. In her aggressive manifestation as Durga she is a slayer of evil, personified as a buffalo demon, Mahisha. In her most fierce aspect, she is Kali-Chamunda, who drinks up the blood of the demon Raktabija (bloody seed), whose blood was the seed of more demons.

Lesser Gods

As well as Vishnu, Shiva and Durga, many other gods are worshipped. Brahma rose to importance in the late Vedic period of the Aranyakas and Upanishads. In the Brahmanas he was associated with Prajapati and later replaced him as the creator. His creations, however, came to be seen as re-creations. It was Shiva, Vishnu, or Devi who was said to be the ultimate origin of the universe. Brahma was only its current creator (or re-creator).see lesser Gods
Some gods are associated with specific elements or functions: Indra or Shakra (the king of gods, the ruler of the lower heaven Amaravati, the wielder of the thunderbolt and the rain-god), Varuna (the god of the waters), Yama (the death-god), Kubera (the lord of precious metals, minerals, jewels and wealth), Agni (the fire-god), Surya (the sun-god), Vayu (the wind-god), and Chandra or Soma (the moon-god). Yama, Indra, Varuna and Kubera, are known as Lokapalas, or Guardians of the Universe. The sons of Shiva and Parvati are Skanda and Ganesha. The former is the war-god while the latter is the ‘Lord of the Obstacles’ and is worshipped at the beginning of all undertakings to remove hindrances. Kama is the Indian love-god who was burnt to ashes by Shiva and then revived once again.
Among the goddesses, Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu, is the goddess of good luck and temporal blessing. Sarasvati, the wife of Brahma, is the patron of art, music and letters.


As well as these gods there are an infinite number of creatures that inhabit the world of Hindu mythology. The Nagas (snake-spirits) are half-human, but with a serpent’s tail, dwell in the beautiful underground city of Bhogavati and guard great treasures. The Yakshas, associated with the god Kubera, are a sort of gnome or fairy, worshiped by country people. The Gandharvas, all male, are servants of Indra and heavenly musicians. Associated with them, are the Kinnaras, the Indian centaurs. The female counterparts of the Gandharvas are the Apsarases. They are beautiful and libidinous, and specially delighted in tempting ascetics in their meditations. A further group of demigods is that of the Vidyadharas or heavenly magicians, mysterious beings who live in magic cities in the high Himalayas and the Vindhyas.
The Rishis (sages or seers) were composers of the Vedic hymns and other legendary wise men of olden times. Chief of these were the ‘Seven Rishis’, identified with the stars of the Great Bear – Marichi, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu and Vashistha. Other important rishis include Kashyapa and Daksha, the progenitors of gods and men; Narada, who invented the vina; Brihaspati and Shukra, the preceptor of the gods and the antigods, respectively; and Agastya, who taught the Southerners religion and culture. The Pitrs are the “fathers” or “ancestor spirits” connected with the ritualistic offerings to the spirits of the dead.


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