The Hindus believe in many gods and goddesses. At the same time
they also believe in the existence on one Supreme God, whom
they call variously as Paramatma (Supreme Self), Parameshwar
(Supreme Lord), Parampita (Supreme Father). Iswara,
Maheswara, Bhagawan, Purusha, Purushottama, Hiranyagarbha
and so on.
Is it not tantamount to accepting many gods? As If in approval of this tenet, don't we see these gods competing and conflicting with one another, if we are to believe the stories in our books?
Though Hinduism concedes the existence of several gods or deities, it accepts only one God, the Supreme. Out of these deities, Indra and others are actually ordinary souls like us, who rose to those positions in the cosmic scheme as a result of the extraordinary religious merit they had acquired in the previous cycle of creation.
It should be noted here that these deities who rule over certain aspects of the powers of nature, are like the officers of the government, who exercise their powers delegated to them by the Head of the State. Once their merit gets exhausted, they have got to vacate their positions and try for Moksha or liberation.
Next, we take up the case of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. They are not three independent and separate deities, but three different aspects of the same Supreme God, while engaged in the processes of creation, sustenance and destruction of the universe, in that order. It is similar to the role played by the same person as the father at home, as the boss in the office and as a customer in a shop.
Other deities also should be considered in the same light, as different aspects of the Supreme God, manifesting themselves for specific purposes. The powers of these deities which are inseparable from them even as the power of fire to burn cannot be separated from it, have been conceived of as their consorts and called Sarasvati, Parvati (or Sakti) and Lakshmi.
This does not amount to saying that all these deities are imaginary creations. All of them, without exception, are different modes and aspects of Paramatman, the Supreme Self or God, even as all dolls made of sugar are sugar itself. Since it is difficult for common people like us to worship God as He is, the ancient Rishis have given these forms and their names after receiving them from God Himself through Tapas or austerities.
Hence, the realization that one gets through meditation on these is identical with God experience. Now a word about the incongruities found in some of the Puranas. Since they have evolved over several centuries, it is difficult to separate the earlier original from the later accretions. It is reasonable to surmise that quite a few of the latter might have been interpolations introduced during the periods of conflicts among the various cults and sects, to establish the superiority of one over the other. Hence the incongruities deserve to be ignored.