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Gods and Goddesses in Hinduism
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Gods and Goddesses in Hinduism

What makes Hinduism different from other traditions is the presence of thirty-three Koti Gods and Goddesses. The thought that ‘why are there so many Gods and Goddess in Hinduism?’ must have crossed most of our minds, isn’t it? People’s perceptions, interpretations and understanding of the multitude of Gods differ. But if we look back and study our Vedas and Upanishads, which are our ancient holy scriptures, we will understand the concept of 33 Koti Devata. According to the many Vedic Scriptures and Shatpath Brahman, the 33 Koti does not mean 33 crores. In Sanskrit Koti refers to types. Hence, when we say 33 Koti devata it means 33 types of Gods.

The holy scripture of Yajnavalkya in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad states that there are 33 Vedic Gods, hence the number 33 Koti. These Gods comprise of the Indra, Prajapati, eleven Rudras, the twelve Adityas, and eight Vasus.

vastu purush directions




Indra

Lord Indra, God of Lightening, who rules the Heavens, is also known as the (all-pervading) electricity, as He is a God who can produce great force.



Prajaapati

God Prajapati is also referred to as the “Yajna” because He benefits the mankind by purifying the air, water, rains and vegetables. He also aids the developing various forms of arts.




12 Adityaas

The twelve months of the year are called the 12 Adityaas. These 12 Adityaas lapse in the existence of every living being and object (Also mentioned in Mahabharat)


Eight Vasu

As stated in (Chapter I, hymn 9, verse 2), the 8 Vasu are Sun, Moon, Earth, Fire, Water, Ether and Star




11 Rudras

The 11 Rudras comprises of the Praana, Apaana, Vyaana, Samaana, Udaana, Naag, Kurma, Krikal, Devadutta and Dhananjaya which are the 10 Pranas in the human body. The Soul of the human is the eleventh Rudra. According to the Vedas when these ‘Rudras’ leave the human body, the body dies and the relatives or the closed ones of the deceased begin to weep. The word ‘Rudra’ means one who makes a person to weep as mentioned in Harivansha 13/51-52



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Apart from the above mentioned deities there are many other prime Gods and Goddesses in Hinduism. The Gods and Goddesses are the manifestation of the Super Consciousness, it is also important to know that every deity has set of specific divine qualities. Also, the rituals of worshipping and performing pujas of each deity differ. Thus, every deity has a significant mantra or mantras, rituals and specific steps to worship. According to the Hindu calendar, each day of the week is associated to a certain deity and so are colour, flowers and offerings.

Let us now take a look at few Gods and Goddesses along with few of their attributes, qualities associated to them and how to worship them.

Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva is one of the highly revered principle deities in Hinduism. Lord Shiva is known as "The Destroyer" in the Holy Trinity, the other two Gods being Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. Shiva, the Supreme is the one who creates, protects and transforms the universe according to the Shaivism.

According to the iconographical attributes, Lord Shiva is portrayed as the God with a strong physic with whole body smeared in ash. Lord Shiva is the one who has three eyes with His third eye being on the forehead. He is seen adorning a crescent moon in His matted hair. Holy River Ganga is also seen flowing from his matted hair, with a snake coiled up around His neck. He wears Rudrakshas on his matted hair, neck, arms, wrists, and waist. Shiva is seen holding a Trishul, drum and Kamdalu in hand and wears a tiger skin. Lord Shiva is referred with various names such as ‘Mahadev’, ‘Shankar’, ‘Bhole’, ‘Neelkanth’, and ‘MahaYogi’. Lord Shiva is worshipped in form of Shiv Ling and dhatura fruit, Bel leaves, Sandalwood paste, milk, honey are offered to Him while worshipping. Observing fast for 16 Mondays and worshipping Lord Shiva on all these Mondays is said to appease Lord Shiva and He blesses the worshipper with the desired partner and brings Lagna Yog.




The story of Shiv Ling:

Once Bramha and Vishnu indulged into a dispute over who is superior. As they were fighting, an infinite bright column of light appeared in the centre, baffled by this strange incident Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu decided to find the start and the end of this strange light. The one who finds the beginning or root of this unnatural phenomenon would be superior. Lord Bramha took the avatar of a swan and flew up in search of the beginning while Lord Vishnu dug deep in the form of a bore to find the end of this light. After a very long period of search; the two came back and Lord Vishnu accepted that he failed to find the root or the bottom of this bright column of light. But Lord Bramha on the other hand, lied that he has seen the top of this light and it is a flower named ‘Ketki. Hearing this Lord Shiva became furious and the pillar of light burst. Out of this pillar emerged Lord Shiva and he cursed Lord Brahma that no one will ever worship him and the flower that Brahma lied about will never be used as an offering to any of the God’s or Goddesses. Thus, Shiva was worshiped in the form of Shiv Linga, which signifies truth, energy and divinity.




Goddess Parvati:

Daughter of the mountain king Himavan and queen Mena, Goddess Parvati is the goddess of love, fertility, devotion, beauty, marriage, and children. She is the symbol of divine strength and power. Believed to be the incarnation of ‘Adi Parashakti', Goddess Parvati is one of the prime deities in Hinduism. All the other goddesses are Her incarnations or manifestations. Goddess Parvati is the wife of Shiva and mother of Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya. Goddess Parvati along with Goddess Saraswati and Goddess Lakshmi form the trinity of Hindu Goddesses. According to the iconographic attributes Goddess Parvati is depicted as fair and beautiful, wearing a red sari. Goddess Parvati is depicted having four arms. Various paintings and idols of Goddess Lakshmi features Her holding any of the following things namely Lotus, sugarcane stalk, bell, conch, goad, rosary, crown, mirror, dish and flowers while Her front right arm would be seen in the Abhaya mudra blessing all. In the ancient temples, the sculpture of Goddess Parvati is often depicted near a calf or cow.




Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati:

Goddess Parvati was an incarnation of Goddess Sati and took birth on earth as the daughter of King Himavat and Queen Mena. Narad Muni visited King Himavat to see the baby and looking at infant goddess Parvati He declared that She was destined to marry Lord Shiva. Goddess Parvati grew up thinking about Lord Shiva. When She grew big, She went to the Himalayas to perform penance and appease Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva being the Supreme knew about the desires of Goddess Parvati but He was mourning for Goddess Sati. Goddess Parvati served Lord Shiva with utmost dedication and the Lord knew about this. Shiva thought that Parvati Maa will soon be discouraged due to the hardships and give up. But goddess Parvati served Lord Shiva with a true devotion.

Meanwhile, in Heaven and on earth all were terrorised by demon Tarakasur. All the Gods approached Lord Brahma for help on which Brahma said that the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati is the only one who can kill the demon. All the Gods were worried as Lord Shiva was engrossed in meditation and hence decided to help Goddess Parvati to win Lord Shiva’s affection. They sent Lord Kama, the god of love, to Mount Kailash. Lord Kama saw Goddess Parvati at Lord Shiva’s feet, and He immediately aimed an arrow at them which struck Lord Shiva.

Lord Shiva opened his eyes and fell in love with Goddess Parvati. But He realised that it was a trick played by Lord Kama. The much angered Lord Shiva banished Parvati from his abode.

Undeterred, Goddess Parvati went to the forest and performed severe penance for years. Finally, She remembered that She was a reincarnation of Goddess Sati. When Lord Shiva sensed that as well, he decided to test her.

One day, Shiva disguised Himself as an old brahmin and approached Goddess Parvati and asked her, “Why are you performing severe penance? What do you wish to attain? Parvati told him that She desires to marry Lord Shiva, on which the brahmin asked, “Why would a beautiful maiden like you wish to marry someone who wear a tiger skin and covers his entire body with ash?” Goddess Parvati got furious and said Do you know whom are you talking about? I am the reincarnation of Goddess Sati, and I am his better half. We are incomplete without each other.” On hearing this Lord Shiva revealed his true from and consented to marry Her. Thus, Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva got married in presence of all the Gods and retired to Mount Kailash to lead a happy married life.

Goddess Parvati is also known as the Mother Goddess in Hinduism. A devotee can offer flowers like Champa, Chameli, white lotus and Bela to the idol of Goddess Parvati. The flowers that are offered to Lord Shiva can also be offered to Goddess Parvati.




Goddess Lakshmi:

Goddess Lakshmi is one of the most revered and one of the prime Hindu Goddesses who is worshipped by every Hindu household. Goddess Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. She is the wife and shakti (energy) of Lord Vishnu, one of the principal deities of Hinduism. Goddess Lakshmi along with goddesses Parvati and Saraswat form the holy trinity of the Hindu Goddesses also known as Tridevi. In Jainism and Buddhism too goddess Lakshmi is highly worshipped. The statue of Goddess Lakshmi is always seen in Jain temples. Also, the oldest stupas and cave temples of the Buddhists have the sculptures of goddess of wealth, Goddess Lakshmi. Goddess Lakshmi is also known as Sri or Thirumagal as Goddess Lakshmi is endowed with six auspicious qualities or gunas.

According to the iconography, goddess Lakshmi is often depicted as sitting or standing on a Lotus flower with one hand in Abhaya mudra, and gold coins flowing from Her second palm, while Her other two hands are holding Lotus flowers. There are two elephants one on each side of Her showering water on Her. While in some pictures Goddess Lakshmi is depicted sitting on an owl, with wealth pouring out of one hand while She simply holds a jar of money in the other hand.




Birth of Goddess Lakshmi:

Once sage Durvaasa, saw a beautiful girl holding a garland while He was wandering on the earth. Sage Durvaasa approached that girl and she presented the garland respectfully to the sage. At the same time, Lord Indra was passing by on His Airaavat, the elephant from the same place Sage Durvaasa was. The sage Durvaasa immediately offered the garland to Lord Indra by putting the garland around the neck of Lord Indra. Indra removed the garland and put it around His elephant’s head on which the elephant pulled the garland away from his trunk and threw it on the ground. This whole episode made sage Durvaasa angry and he cursed Indra stating that Indra will lose all his wealth. Thus, Indra lost all his wealth with time as Goddess of wealth; Goddess Lakshmi had left his abode and made her abode in the depths of the sea. Soon, the demons launched an attack on the gods and drove them out of heaven. All the gods along with Lord Indra approached Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu was pleased by their prayers, and appeared before them and said ‘the only way to bring Goddess Lakshmi back from the sea is to churn the ocean with the help of demons. The gods reconciled and followed Lord Vishnu’s advice. They managed to convince the demons to churn the sea. As the gods and goddesses began the churning the mountain Mandaraachal, the mountain began to sink. Lord Vishnu quickly took the form of a Kachchhap (the great tortoise) and bore the weight of the mighty mountain on His back. During the churning, Kamadhenu, the wishful cow was the first to emerge. It was presented to the sages as an aid for their Yagyas. It was during the churning itself that Lakshmi appeared once again from the sea holding lotuses in her hands. All the sages prayed her. Then taking bath with divine water, goddess Lakshmi took her seat in the heart of Lord Vishnu. Thus, Goddess Lakshmi emerged once again and became the wife of Lord Vishnu. The Goddess of Wealth, prosperity and riches, Goddess Lakshmi is one of the prime deities of Hinduism. Goddess Lakshmi is a symbol of prosperity, self-knowledge, and spiritual liberation. Goddess Lakshmi is often offered Lotus.




Lord Ganesha:

The auspicious Lord Ganesh is referred to with many names like Sukha karta, Dukha Harta, Vinayak, Ganpati, Lambodar and many more. Before starting any new venture, or journey Lord Ganesh is worshipped. Son of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha is one of the most worshipped deities in Hinduism. With an elephantine countenance, Lord Ganesh has a curved trunk and big ears. Lord Ganesha has the body of a human and has a huge pot-belly. Known as the Lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles, Lord Ganesh is also worshipped as the god of knowledge, wit, education, wealth and wisdom. In fact, Ganesha is one of the five prime Hindu deities (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and Durga being the other four). He is known to bless His worshippers with good health, peace, brings happiness and wards of obstacles. Red Hibiscus is one of the most loved flowers that is offered to Lord Ganesha along with Durva grass.

The iconography of Lord Ganesh describes Him as a potbellied God with a face of an elephant He is seen in many postures such as the standing, dancing and the sitting positions. In some sculptures He is shown having 4 hands and in some He is shown having 6 hands. In these hands Lord Ganesh is seen holding a conch shell, a trident, a lotus, pasha, and a modak in one hand and the right lower hand is in Abhaya mudra.




The story of Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya:

Once it so happened that the gods gave one divine fruit to Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati and told them that anyone who consumes this fruit will be blessed with supreme knowledge and immortality. On hearing this both Lord Ganesh and Lord Kartikeya wanted to eat this fruit. This led to an argument hence in order to pacify the situation, Lord Shiva gave them a task saying whoever will circle the world three times and come back first will get the fruit.

On hearing this, the god of war, Lord Kartikeya sat on His vahana peacock and started His journey around the world immediately without wasting anytime in thinking. On the other hand, Lord Ganesha who is god of wisdom knew very well that He cannot match Lord Kartikeya in this race. Anything which is very dear to you becomes the centre of your life and so Lord Ganesh applied his intelligence and started taking pradakshina around His parents (Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati) three times. Perplexed, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati asked Lord Ganesh ‘what are you doing?’ to which Lord Ganesh replied that for Me my parents are My whole world. Moreover within you lay the whole universe; hence I am taking circles around you both. Listen to this, Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati were highly pleased and they declared Lord Ganesh as the winner and offered Him the divine fruit.Though there are so many Gods and Goddess in Hinduism, but remember all the deities are all avatars of the Supreme Divinity. It does not matter what you offer or how often do you pray to the Gods and Goddesses, what matters whether you pray with a true heart and a pure soul or not. Bhaav is very important while worshipping the deities.

Article Written by Neeta Singhal

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