Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world. Interestingly, it is also known as the “oldest religion” in the world. The followers refer to Hinduism as “the eternal law”. Brahman, the Supreme Being is the single universal god for Hindus. All the other gods and goddesses are the representation of Brahman.
Smartism, a tradition that was later on established by Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya allows one to worship more than one god. In this article, we’ll be looking at seven of the important Hindu deities and why people worship them. While there are numerous deities in the Hindu religion, these are the most important ones.
Lord Shiva is one of the godheads in the Hindu Trinity. Mostly referred to as Mahadev or Mahesh, Shiva is known as the destroyer of the universe. He is the third god in Hindu Trinity after Brahma and Vishnu. After the creation of Brahma, Shiva’s role is to destroy the entire universe for recreation.
Devotees believe Lord Shiva to be the guardian of yoga, and meditation. Pashupati, Nataraja, Viswanath, Bhole, and Shankar are some of the many avatars of Lord Shiva. The destruction and recreation also involve destroying the illusions and imperfections of the world, paving the way for a better world.
Ganesha, the lord of knowledge and success, is the beloved son of Shiva and Parvati. Lord Ganesha is considered the most important Hindu God. Thus, all the sects of Hinduism worship Ganesha. Generally, he is depicted riding a mouse ‘Mushak’ who is the assistant of his to help conquer whatever he endeavors.
There is an interesting story of Shiva cutting Ganesha’s head off not knowing Ganesha was his own son. After realization, Ganesha was revived with an elephant’s head and was granted the power as the most important Hindu God.
Lord Krishna, the god of love and compassion, is one of the most admired Hindu gods in Hinduism. Krishna is often depicted as a blue-skinned character with a flute. The flute emphasizes his seductive powers. In Bhagwat Geeta, Krishna is the central character around which the story revolves. In the book, he represents an avatar of Vishnu.
To mark his birth, Hindus celebrate Krishna Janmasthami annually. Lord Krishna was the son of Basudev and Devaki. However, he was raised by his foster parents, Yashoda and Nanda who kept him safe despite numerous attempts by his uncle to annihilate him.
Rama, an avatar of Vishnu and the lord of truth and virtue, is believed to be an actual historical figure. Rama is considered as the embodiment of mentally, spiritually, and physically ideal humankind. He is the oldest son of Kaushalya and Dasharatha, the ruler of the Ayodhya Kingdom.
In the Hindu religion, Lord Rama is also known as Ramchandra or Ram. To mark his birthday, devotees celebrate the blissful festival of Ram Navami. Lord Rama is considered the central protagonist of the epic Ramayana as well. Once, Kaikeyi, one of his stepmothers exiled him with his wife Sita so that her son could be the King. During the exile, Ravan intruded and abducted Sita, which eventually led to a war where Rama got victory over the evil Ravan.
Lord Hanuman is the representation of strength, devotion, and perseverance. As portrayed in the epic ancient poem “Ramayana”, Hanuman aided Lord Rama in his battle with the evil Ravan. In the Hindu religion, Hanuman is depicted as a monkey-faced character who is devoted to serving his master, Rama.
In the Ramayana, Hanuman plays a faithful devotee and one of Ram’s strongest allies. Widely famous for burning Lanka (Ravan’s Kingdom), Hanuman is also best known for carrying an entire mountain of Sanjiwani Buti (a herb) to save Lakshman’s (Ram’s brother) life.
‘Hanuman Chalisa’ is a common Hindu chant when people get in trouble to help boost confidence and inspire faith. Hanuman temples are one of the most visited Hindu shrines, this clearly predicts the followers of Lord Hanuman.
Lord Vishnu is known to be the sustainer of life. Vishnu is the second god in the Hindu triumvirate (Trimurti). Brahma and Shiva are the other two. According to Hindu belief, the three gods are responsible for the creation, upkeep, and destruction of the world.
Vishnu is one of the peace-loving Hindu deities and represents truth and honesty. While Brahma and Shiva are creator and destroyer of the universe in respective order. Lord Vishnu is the preserver and protector of our beautiful universe. It is also believed that in tough times, Vishnu will return to the earth and restore the good. The Vaishnavas, followers of Vishnu, only worship him as the greatest god. They consider other gods lesser or demi-gods as compared to Vishnu.
Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Her name is derived from the word lakshya which means a goal or an aim. Laksmi represents prosperity both in terms of material and spiritual. Depicted as a four-armed woman standing/sitting on a massive lotus blossom. The golden complexion of hers means wealth and the lotus represents beauty and purity.
According to Hindu mythology, worshipping Lakshmi brings fortune and success. It is believed that Lakshmi resides in paces of sincerity, hard work, and bravery. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped during Diwali, the festival of lights.
Goddess of knowledge, art, and music, Saraswati is depicted as a beautiful woman with four arms, two arms playing a musical instrument, and the other two carrying a book and a bangle in each. Saraswati is the daughter of Shiva and Durga. Representing the free flow of consciousness, goddess Saraswati is the mother of the Vedas.
Those who seek wisdom and musical skills worship Saraswati on the auspicious day of Saraswati Puja. Devotees often repeat Saraswati Vandana chants while praying in the hopes to receive the power of speech, wisdom, and blissfulness.
Each Hindu deity has its own purpose and strength. Unique in their own way, all of them inspire hope and faith within the followers. While the importance of a certain god may vary according to time and place, all the Hindu deities play an equally important role in the continuation of the Shristi (the universe).