The Hindu pantheon has, in a famous example of hyperbole, over 330 million deities.
In a sense India is God-intoxicated, there is god everywhere, in all things: within/without,
above/below, in the six degrees of separation and in the three planes of existence.
There are gods for vegetation, gods for weather, gods for nature, gods for geographical
areas, gods for villages, gods for the house, gods in the temples, gods in running
water, gods in deepest forest and in icy mountain heights. There is no situation,
environment and place that the Indian does not have a god for. Gods inspire, gods
infuse art and creativity and gods provoke destruction too. Gods in heaven are many,
for the heavens also are many with contending claims as to which is the supreme
heaven. Even hell has a God presiding , the god of justice and death, in a pretty
astute psychological characterization about the typical fears of the afterlife.
However, it would be simplistic to think this is just chaos run riot. There is indeed
an order and structure behind this apparent endless profusion of divinity, far more
than any reasonable mind would require.
For one there, is the concept of the Ishta devta - the god you like. (See our glossary
for a more detailed exposition). As long as you have some god to worship, it does
not matter very much which one.
For another, there is the famous Vedic verse "Ekam Sat, Viprah Bahudha Vadanti"
again) or, "That which is the sole truth, the wise (and by implication, the unwise)
call by many names". Even the most unsophisticated and unintellectual Hindu will
tell you that all the gods are the same Power. His version of it may be a bit more
Then there is a cultural acceptance of an aspect of Vedanta that also allows these
gods to comfortably exist in the imagination. If the Absolute is Brahman and it
is superior to the Personal God, if even the gods finally merge into that Brahman,
then three or three hundred million are all the same. indiayogi will attempt to
provide a new perspective on the seemingly endless deities of India, keeping this
truth in mind. Rather than endlessly reiterate the obvious theological and mythological
material about the well known Great Gods, we will attempt to focus on the lesser
known aspects, the more intriguing aspects, the spiritually valuable aspects of
these manifestations of the divine. The big names will be covered but not in a perfunctory
manner. We value insight, not just information.