Hinduism revolves around a central supreme ‘god’ or power of sorts known as Brahman, however Hinduism also has many lesser gods and deities who are known as a ‘deva’ or devi’. These ancient Hindu gods and goddesses represent many various characteristics such as creation, destruction, wisdom, success, or so forth, and are prayed to by millions of people in India.
The etymology of the term Hindu (or Indu) began with the Greeks. In ancient India there were many ancient nomadic and tribal religions, many of whom worshiped primarily singular or small subsets of Hindu deities. However, the Greeks apparently found the Hindu sub-sects to be quite similar and began referring to them all as Hindus.
Despite that being the case, among the many Hindu gods and goddesses allocated within the Hindu religion, three of them reign supreme and are deemed of significantly higher importance. They are known as the ‘Holy Triad of Brahma’ and include the deities Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the sustainer), and Shiva (the destroyer of worlds).
Below we are going to list some of the more prominent deities among the Hindu pantheon.
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Durga is considered a protector of the righteous and a destroyer of all which is evil in the world. She is often portrayed in a strong demeanor while riding a lion and wielding a plethora of formidable weapons among her many arms.
Ganesha is known as the son of the deities Shiva and Parvati. He is easily distinguished due to him having the head of an elephant. Ganesha is one of the more important god within the Hindu pantheon and is worshiped by most modern sects of Hinduism. His religious attributes include success, knowledge, and wealth. Ganesha is often seen riding a mouse, who helps him overcome barriers and achieve success within his endeavors.
Hamuman is perceived to represent strength, perseverance, and devotion. Physically, the deity has face of a monkey and the body of a human. These sorts of depictions with alternate faces are common among Hindu gods and goddesses. According to Hindu lore, Hanuman assisted Lord Rama in battles against evil. There is an ancient Indian poem known as Ramayana which tells the story of this ancient tale. When some religious Indian people find themselves in times of trouble it is common for them to sing a hymn known as ‘Hanuman Chalisa’. It is thought that this hymn would summon the spirit of Hanuman and help protect them from dangers. Temples dedicated to the Deva Hanuman are quite common in India.
Kali is often depicted as the devi of darkness. Her appearance is typically a blue-skinned, menacing four-armed woman. In paintings, she is often drawn with her red blood-soaked tongue sticking out. Kali is known as the goddess of death and her image represents our inevitable demise.
Krishna is one of the few Hindu gods which most people have probably heard of. He is known as the god of love and compassion and is often seen playing his flute, using it’s tranquil sounds to seduce those around him. Krishna is also one of the most prominent characters within the well-known Hindu scripture the ‘Bhagavad Gita’. Krishna’s followers are referred to as Vaishnavas.
Lakshmi is the devi of wealth and prosperity, both physical as well as religious. She is depicted as a four-armed women with a shining golden complexion. She is often depicted alongside lotus flowers and blossoms. The image of Lakshmi is a common home decoration among her many worshipers. She is also thought to hold the attributes of beauty and purity.
Lord Rama is known as the god of truth and virtue. He is another avatar of the supreme Lord Vishnu. Similar to Adam and Eve, Rama is considered to be quite similar to man-kind, defining the perfection of mental, spiritual and physical attributes. Many believe the figure Rama to have actually existed. The Hindu story ‘Ramayana’ centers around Lord Rama’s life and historical exploits. Many Hindu practitioners worship Lord Rama during Diwali, or the ‘Festival of Light’, one of India’s most important festivals.
Saraswati is the daughter of the Hindu gods Durga and Saraswati. She is also the mother of Vedas. Saraswati is known as the devi of knowledge and art. The flow of expression and consciousness are often attributed to the Hindu deity Saraswati. She was also known to empower humans she was fond of with gifts of wisdom and insight.
Shiva represents all which is death and dissolution. He is also popularly known as ‘The Destroyer of Worlds’. Within Hindu lore Shiva destroyed worlds so that the supreme god Brahma was able to recreate them into a new age. Due to his participation in these events, Shiva is also known as the god of regeneration. Shiva is one of three god-heads within the Hindu Trinity. He is known by many other names as well including Bhole Nath, Mahadeva, Nataraja, Pashupati, and Vishwanath. Shiva is most often depicted with blue skin, in a similar fashion to many other ancient Hindu gods and goddesses.
Vishnu is the third deity within the Hindu Trinity. He is known as the ‘Preserver of Life’. Order and truth are other characteristics often attributed to Lord Vishnu. Many Indians still worship Vishnu, particularly in times of chaos, when they hope he will descend and restore order on Earth.