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10 Most Important Hindu Gods: Hindu Beliefs About God

The Hindu gods have their origin in India, the birthplace of Hinduism , one of the oldest religious systems in the world. In its various traditions there are hundreds of gods , and their importance varies depending on the region or the philosophical doctrine of the different Hindu currents.

10 Most Important Hindu Gods You Should Know:

Below is a list of the most distinguished gods in their sacred texts. Here is the list of 10 most important and famous Hindu Gods:

1. Brahman: omniscient eternity

More than a deity, in Hinduism Brahman is the eternal essence, the ultimate reality of existence, which manifests itself in the universe and everything that lives in it. Brahman is thus the supreme being and from which spring all other gods and things that exist.

The word “Brahman” should not be confused with “Brahma”, since the latter refers to the personification of the god who created the world. Brahman manifests the energy of it through the trimurti, the three primordial deities: Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the protector) and Shiva (the destroyer and renewer).

2. Brahma: the creator of the world

Brahma is the first manifestation of trimurti. He is the creator of the universe and the beings that inhabit it. Brahma is often described in Hindu art as a man with four faces and four arms, probably representing the four Vedas, or sacred texts.

The god Brahma has his residence in the Satyaloka, the place of eternal truth, occupying the upper sky in the 14 existing planes.

Brahma

Image of Brahma on a 19th century medal. The old man Brahma is sitting on a lotus flower and has a white beard. He is a symbol of wisdom and the knowledge that he gives to people.

3. Vishnu: the great protector

Vishnu is the protector and preserver of the cosmos. Being the second manifestation of the trimurti , he is the god who is responsible for maintaining universal order. For followers of the Vaishnava Hindu movement, Vishnu is the main god.

It has been represented in multiple ways in art. It is common for him to appear as a handsome young man, with a calm face and four arms that each hold a mallet, a chakra disc , a snail shell, and a lotus flower.

In the Vaishnava tradition, Vishnu is considered to have been present in the world by incarnating in avatars (from the Sanskrit avatâra , meaning “descent of the god”). Two of Vishnu’s most notable manifestations were described in the epic poems of the 3rd century BC, as Krishna in the Bhagavadgita , and in the form of Rama, in the Ramayana .

Vishnu

Image of Vishnu in an ancient edition of the epic poem Mahābhārata.

4. Shiva: destroyer and renewer

As the third manifestation of the trimurti, Shiva is the god of destruction, but at the same time, he is the renewing and regenerating god. Thus, in Shiva the necessary powers are gathered so that a new temporal cycle periodically flourishes. The idea of ​​time cycles is central to the Hindu way of understanding the universe.

Just as a life has birth, growth, decline and death; or just as in nature winter is followed by spring, summer and autumn, to return to winter; Likewise, the entire world is created, preserved, and then destroyed so that it can be reborn.

Shiva is considered the supreme god in the Shivaist branch of Hinduism. Parvati is his wife and is the one who gives balance to his manifestations. One of his mythical earthly residences is Mount Kailash, in the Himalayas.

In art, Shiva has been represented in various ways. Some of his frequent traits are:

  • The blue-gray skin of his body. In one of her arms she carries the trident, and in the other a drum.
  • He has a third eye, which represents his wisdom.
  • He wears a collared cobra, demonstrating his power over dangerous creatures.

shiva

Shiva statue at Murudeshwara temple, Karnataka state, India. Courtesy of: Nkodikal. (CC BY 3.0)

5. Krishna: the revealer of divine song

Krishna is one of the most popular and revered gods in Hinduism. Vaishnavas consider him to be the most perfect avatar (reincarnation) of Lord Vishnu. That is why Krishna is the god who descends to the world whenever it is necessary to restore dharma (the order of the universe).

Krishna is the protagonist of the Bhagavadg ita (the song of the lord) and the hero of the epic poem Mahabharata (poem of the great Bharata dynasty). As a child, Krishna was a shepherd, performed miracles and defeated the demons he faced.

The young Krishna played the flute, making those who listened to him dance and reach ecstasy. He is commonly described as a handsome young man, with blue skin, holding a flute in his hands.

In the Gaudiya branch of Vaishnavism, as well as the followers of the international Hare Krishna movement, they consider Krishna to be the supreme god among all deities.

Lord Krishna & Arjuna

Illustrated manuscript of the Bhagavad Gita (c. 1824). Krishna accompanies the warrior Arjuna in his chariot and teaches him the sacred song.

6. Ganesha: the one who grants good fortune

Another of the most beloved deities in India is Ganesha, also known as Ganapati. Ganesha’s name means “lord of the people”, and he is considered to offer his blessings to all who are righteous and follow the right path.

Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Parvati. It is easy to distinguish him, since he has an elephant’s head and a human body. He is invoked to remove obstacles, give abundance and to help in new beginnings. Thus, Ganesha is the deity of good fortune.

In art, Ganesha is often depicted with a smile on his face, even though he is missing one of his tusks. He also usually appears with candy in his hands.

A legend says that Ganesha lost his tusk while receiving dictation from sage Vyasa and copying the Mahabharata. As the pen with which he wrote failed, he removed a tusk and used it to continue his work. Since then, he has also been a patron of students.

Ganesha

Ganesha statue in Rajasthan

7. Saraswati: patron of knowledge

Saraswati is the protector of art, letters and learning. In this way, she is worshiped by artists before their performances and also by students before their exams.

The goddess Saraswati in many legends is recognized as the wife of Brahma, the creator of the world. Since the times of the ancient Vedas, Saraswati was considered the personification of the mythical river with which she shares her name.

Saraswati is often depicted in art holding a musical instrument in her hands and riding a white goose that carries her.

Sarasvati

Painting showing the figure of Saraswati (c.1700).

8. Lakshmi: the one who gives prosperity

Lakshmi is revered in Hinduism as the goddess of prosperity, well-being and beauty. She is the consort of the god Vishnu, so in each of his avatars, she also reincarnates to fulfill a role in the restoration of dharma (universal order).

Thus, when Vishnu has descended into the world as Krishna, Lakshmi has taken form as his wife Rukmini. When Vishnu reincarnated as King Rama, Lakshmi reincarnated as his wife Sita, etc.

Along with Ganesha, Lakshmi is one of the most worshiped deities during Diwali (Indian festival of lights). She grants wealth and prosperity, thus she is very important to the vaisya (merchant) caste and to the followers of Jainism.

9. Parvati: the one who inspires devotion

Parvati is another benevolent goddess of Hinduism. She personifies love, devotion and motherhood. Her name means “daughter of the mountain”, she is the wife of the god Shiva and mother of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god.

In the pantheon of Hindu deities, Parvati is one of the personifications of Shakti, the all-powerful goddess according to the branch of Hindu Shaktism .

Parvati can also take other forms. Among her avatars or reincarnations of her are:

  • Durga, the warrior who defeats demons and protects humanity.
  • Kali, deity with a fearsome appearance that represents destruction and transformation.

Parvati and Ganesha in arms

19th century miniature showing the goddess Parvati holding her son Ganesha in her arms.

10. Rama: the virtuous king

Rama is the hero of the epic poem Ramayana. He was the prince of the Ayodhya kingdom, who was described as an ideal son, brother and man. However, he had to live in exile for years due to family disputes.

Vaishnavas consider Rama to be the seventh incarnation of the god Vishnu. Which makes him a strict follower of the dharma (eternal and correct path). From the 15th century AD, Rama was considered the supreme god among the followers of the priest Ramananda.

In Hindu art, Rama is often depicted holding a bow and arrow in his hands. He is a strong man who had to fight the demon Ravana to rescue his wife, the goddess Sita. For this he had the help of the monkey Hanuman.

Rama and Hanuman

Illustration from the end of the 18th century. Rama is seen sitting next to Sita. Rama speaks with his faithful follower and companion, the monkey king Hanuman, who helped him in the adventures and combats narrated in the Ramayana .

Indian religion

More than a religion with a generalized creed, in Hinduism various interpretations of the sacred books coexist, among which are the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Puranas.

The Hindu gods that you have learned about are part of the beliefs common to a set of traditions, sects and philosophies encompassed by the term Sanatana Dharma (the eternal path), which is what the Hindus themselves call their religious system.

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