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Hindu Gods And Goddesses

The Vedic Gods

By vedic gods we mean those devas who are mentioned in the four Vedas. The principal Vedic gods are said to be 33 in number, namely eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Indra and Prajapathi Brahma. These gods belong to the three regions of the earth (prithvi), the heavens (Dyaus) and the intermediate space (Antariksha).

Brahma - The God of Creation

Brahma is the Lord of creation & is assisted in this process by his consort Saraswathi, who is the possessor of ultimate knowledge. Together, they thus introduce the soul into the cycle of life; Brahma was born from the navel of Lord Vishnu at the end of one cycle to begin a fresh creation. He has four heads (originally five), representing the four vedas which are said to have sprung from his heads. His four heads are also said to represent the four yugas. He is bearded & his eyes are closed in meditation. He sits on a lotus & his vahana is the swan. In his four arms he holds the vedas, the kamandalam (water pot), suruva (sacrificial spoon) & a mala. He is a serene soul and is the provider of all sources of knowledge & wisdom. There are very few temples for Brahma compared to those for Siva & Vishnu, for there has been no separate sect for Brahma as the Saiva or Vaishnava sects. According to mythology, he is supposed to have been cursed by Shiva (for his having uttered a lie & for his ego) that he would go without worship. Yet in all Siva & Vishnu temples, there is an image of Lord Brahma on the northern wall & he is one of the important Parivara devata (attendant deity).

Vishnu - The God of Preservation

The peace-loving deity of the Hindu Trinity, Vishnu is the Preserver or Sustainer of life with his steadfast principles of order, righteousness and truth. When these values are under threat, Vishnu emerges out of his transcendence to restore peace and order on earth. Vishnu’s earthly incarnations have many avatars. The 10 Avatars are:

    * Matsy avataram (Form of a fish)
    * Koorma avataram (Form of a tortoise)
    * Varaha avataram (Form of a boar)
    * Narasimha avataram (Form of a lion headed man)
    * Vamana avataram (Form of a dwarf)
    * Parasurama avataram
    * Rama avataram
    * Balaram avataram
    * Krishna avataram
    * Kalki avataram

Siva - The God of Destruction

Siva, the last of the Trinities is the God of destruction & he is assisted in this by his consort Parvathi, the Goddess of disintegration. Parvathi represents sakthi, to disintegrate perishable matter, in the absence of which true and complete destruction by Siva becomes impossible. This could possibly be the meaning of the idea that Siva becomes nothing in the absence of Sakthi.

Saraswathi - Goddess of Wisdom - Consort of Lord Brahma

Goddess Saraswathi is the consort of Lord Brahma (Lord of Creation) and is the Goddess of wisdom and learning. She is considered as the personification of all knowledge - arts, sciences, crafts and all skills. She is seen as a beautiful and elegant presence, pure white in colour, clad in a white sari, seated on a white lotus, representing purity and brilliance. She is depicted with four hands. In one hand she holds a book and in the other a rosary. With her other two hands, she is seen playing the veena. Her vahana is the swan and sometimes a peacock is shown accompanying her.

Lakshmi - Goddess of Wealth - Consort of Lord Vishnu

Goddess Lakshmi is the consort of Lord Vishnu (Lord of Protection Maintenance & Preservation). To go hand in hand with Lord Vishnu's act of maintenance and preservation, Goddesses Lakshmi is the possessor of every form of wealth. "Sri" is consdiered to be a pre-vedic deity associated with fertility, water and this deity was later merged with the vedic deity of beauty, Lakshmi.

Her mythical birth from the cosmic ocean, her marriage to Vishnu and her incarnations potray her as the preserver of the world. She is considered so auspicious that a beloved daughter or virtuous daughter-in-law is considered Lakshmi. In many sculptures and paintings, Lakshmi is shown as a beautiful woman sitting or standing in a red lotus signifying love,grace and peace.She is the Indian ideal of feminity.

Among all deities,Lakshmi has the most poetic origin. Born as a jewel of the cosmic ocean during its churning by the gods and demons, she is goddess of lustre and riches.Of beautiful countenance, she is considered fickle and does not remain with anyone who insults her merely as a goddess of money.In truth she represents wealth of every kind - material, emotional and spiritual.

Lotus - Ultimate Beauty Ancient manuscripts and iconography of India use the lotus extensively as a symbol of many abstract principes. Gods and goddesses are constantly potrayed as standing in or sitting upon a many splendoured and red or white lotus and carrying lotuses in their hands. Buddhist and Jain deities are also potrayed as sitting in repose with lotuses in their hands.In all eastern religions, the lotus is a symbol of beauty, grace, divine peace and total detachment from worldly qualities of greed, anger,lust,passion, jealousy and ego. The lotus, in nature, grows in a pool of weeds and dirt. In fact, its birth is only in dirt and slime.Yet, its beauty is unparalelled.The lotus thus lives in a pool of weed and dirt but does not really belong to it. It is detached,complete in itself, pure and beautiful. The many petals of the mythical lotus also symbolise layers of the human personality.As they open,the individual gradually reaches closer and closer to self realization.The cor eof the lotus therefore stands for release from earthly bondage and everlasting life. It is the national flower of India and a unique symbol of Indian culture. It is denoted by a variety of names. It is known as Padma and hence Lakshmi is also called Padma or Padmaja meaning 'born of a lotus". Sometimes,it is referred to as Kamal and hence Vishnu is referred to as Kamalnayan or 'lotus eyed". The image of a lotus and a bee is constantly repeated in devotional literature to potray God as the perfectly formed fragrant flower with the devotee's love being the bee tha hovers around it. The lotus is found in many colors and shapes - that which blooms during the day is called Nalin,Aravind or Utpala and that which blooms during the night is called Kumuda. The many names of the lotus are also used to describe aspects of divinity and th emercy of God.

Parvathi - Goddess Sakthi - Consort of Lord Shiva

Parvathi is Lord Siva's consort & like Lord Siva, she is portrayed in her roudra & serene aspects.In her serene aspect, she is depicted as Uma or Parvathi & is usually seen along with Siva & also their children Lord Ganesha & Lord Muruga. She is seen with only two hands, holding a blue lotus in her right hand.

Ganesha - Son of Shiva & Parvathi

Lord Ganesha is the most widely worshipped Hindu God. He is worshipped at the start of any action or venture, for he is considered to be the Lord who removes obstacles (vignam) and hence is also called Vigneshwara. He has an elephant head, four arms. In his upper hands he holds the paasam (noose) and ankusam. The lower two hands are held in the abhaya and varada mudras. He is also seen holding his broken tusk in his right lower hand and a modhakam in his left lower hand. He has a huge belly and is fond of various sweets and fruits. He wears a snake as an ornament round his belly. He is depicted in seated, standing and dancing postures.

Skanda / Murgan

Murugan is a son of Shiva and brother to Ganesha. While Ganesha symbolizes a spiritual attitude, Murugan is the scientist of the gods. Kartikay bears 31 names, among which are Karttikeya, Kumara, Guha… Murugan rides on a peacock, the killer of serpents.

Anjaneya

Hanuman, the monkey God is considered Chiranjeevi (will live eternally). He is stong, full of valour, with various skills and powers. At the same time , he is wise, a great gnani, a yogi, a brahmachari. He had the one thought only - that of serving his Lord Rama with utmost humility and devotion. He is known as Siriya Thiruvadi. He is considered to be an amsam of Lord Siva.

Navagrahams

The Navagrahas (including Surya) have great importance in Hindu Rituals. They are considered to play a major role in deciding the destiny of man.

All the nine grahams (planets) viz Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu (Snake's head) and Ketu (Snake's tail) give us pleasure and serenity and remove obstacles from our way. The names of the seven bodies (Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn) are still connected, in some languages, with the seven days of the week.

    * Surya Bhagavan
    * Chandra Bhagavan
    * Chevvai Bhagavan
    * Buda Bhagavan
    * Guru Bhagavan
    * Sukra Bhagavan
    * Sani Bhagavan
    * Rahu Bhagavan
    * Kethu Bhagavan

Guru (Jupiter)

The planet Jupiter in is known as GURU or BRIHASPATI meaning "guru to the gods."

Jupiter is considered to be the most auspicious of the planets. While the Sun is known as atma or soul, Jupiter is known as jiva, the consciousness of the soul.

Jupiter is a indicator of fortune, wealth, fame, luck, devotion and faith, spirituality, charity, morality, meditation, mantra, children, magistrates, ministers, lawyers and leaders in government and religion. Jupiter represents sacred scripture, wisdom, benevolence and philosophy.

Worship of Guru cures ailments affecting the stomach ,wards off sins, helps gaining strength, valor, longevity etc. He grants progeny to the childless and education or Vidya. He is revered as the Guru of Gods, protector of the world and is considered matchless among the wise. Kind-hearted he is considered the dispenser of justice. Thursdays are considered to be the best day for the worship of Jupiter.

There was a king who lived with his seven sons and their wives. Two Brahmins used to come there for alms but the wives sent them away empty handed. This displeased Jupiter and adversely affected the prosperity and wealth of the king. When the king neared poverty, the youngest wife asked for forgiveness from the Brahmins and gave them alms. However, the elder six denied alms to the Brahmins. The youngest wife asked the Brahmin the remedy to restore the lost glory of the kingdom.

The Brahmins advised her to fast for Brihaspati and feed Brahmins. They also told her that if her husband travelled far from home she should make two human figures behind her door and that would ensure the early and safe return of the husband. If the family is stricken with poverty then those figures should be made on a box. The king's seven sons had gone on a tour. The youngest wife observed the ritual as advised. Her husband had gone to a country whose king had recently died. The king had no successor.According to the tradition of the land a garland was hung around the trunk of a female elephant and whoever the elephant chose to garland would be accepted as king. The elephant went all around and ultimately chose to garland the youngest son and he became the king. He searched for his brothers but could not find them.Later, the new king decided to construct a tank. Thousands of laborers were engaged and he found his brothers among them.He called all of them took them to his palace and all lived peacefully ever after. The worship and alms by the youngest wife brought prosperity back to the family. After this all the women in the family followed this practise. No one was ever refused alms by them, anymore.

Another Legend on Shani

A different version of the legend is also popular. It is as follows: VkOnce there was a dispute between the nine planets as to who is superior among them. When they could not decide, they all went to Indra the king of gods, who was also as puzzled. So he advised that they should go to the just and benevolent king Vikramaditya. King Vikramaditya, after great thought got seven seats spread out, the first of gold and the last of iron. He then requested the deities to take their seats. Shani (Saturn) knew that his seat was iron seat viz. the last and as much, he was recognized as inferior to all. Therefore he cursed Vikramaditya and said "Surya stays on one Zodiac for one month, the moon for two days, Mangal (Mars) for one and a half month, Brihaspati (Jupiter) for thirteen months, Budha (Mercury) and Shukra (Venus) for one month each and Rahu, Ketu for eighteen months only; but I (Saturn) stay at one Zodiac for thirty months: I have made many gods suffer because of my power and influence. Due to my influence Rama and Lakshmana were exiled and Ravana suffered a defeat and his dynasty destroyed, so a king, you beware of my wrath". The king said, "whatever be my luck, I shall face it." After some time a merchant selling beautiful horses came to Ujjain, the capital of Vikramaditya. The courtiers praised the horses and requested the king to visit. When the king came, he took a fancy for the particular horse and to try the same,he got on the saddle. The horse took to its heels and flew into the forest, with none to accompany or follow the king. In the forest where no one knew him, desperate with hunger and thirst, he sought refuge in the house of a rich merchant. The merchant judging him as a good person allowed him (king) to stay in his house. At night, Vikramaditya saw that a pearl necklace hung on a peg, was being swallowed by the peg. The next day when the merchant found the necklace missing, he reported the matter to the kotwal who had king Vikramaditya's hands and legs amputated. The king was then left helpless. An oil crusher took pity on him and employed him to sit on the crusher and tend to the bull. While sitting, handicapped and helpless, Vikramaditya used to sing. One day, the princess of the kingdom heard the song and was charmed by it. She sent her maidens to find out who the singer was and made up her mind to marry him. Her parents tried their best to dissuade her but she did not agree. She was married to the handicapped person (Vikramaditya). At night Shani appeared in his dream and said that all his sufferings were because he (King) had decided that Saturn was inferior. The king begged for forgiveness, worshiped and sought his blessings. The king (Vikramaditya) then narrated his story of woe to his bride. Saturn blessed the couple so that they would lead a happy married life. His limbs were restored. The rich merchant invited them to his house and to the surprise of everyone present the lost necklace oozed out from the peg. The merchant felt ashamed and asked to be pardoned and offered his daughter in marriage to Vikramaditya. Then Vikramaditya returned to Ujjain with his two brides amidst a rousing reception.



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