Hinduism is one of the world’s biggest religions. It has over one billion followers worldwide. Although Hindus live all over the world, India has the biggest amount of Hindus living there than any other country. Most Hindus believe that there are many gods. This is called polytheism. It is different to Judaism, Christianity and Islam as these religions only believe in one God. Belief in one God is called monotheism. However, although there are many gods in Hinduism, they are often thought of as characteristics of one god, or life force, called Brahman. There are some descriptions of Hindu gods below.
Hindus call Lord Brahma the Creator of the universe. He is the first member of the Hindu Trinity (threesome) that also includes Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Brahma is usually depicted as a bearded, four-faced, four-armed god sitting on a Lotus flower. In popular images, he carries a rosary in the upper right hand, a book in the upper left hand, a kamandalu (water pot) in the lower left hand, and bestows grace with his lower right hand. The four faces represent the sacred knowledge of the four Vedas which are the four parts of the Hindu sacred texts. Brahma’s home is said to contain all the splendours of earth and of the heavens of the other gods.
Of the Hindu gods and goddesses, Lord Vishnu is about goodness and mercy. He is represented seated on the serpent Shesha. Vishnu never sleeps and is the Hindu god of peace. He has four weapons: the conch, disc, club and lotus. In the cosmos, good and evil forces are balanced. When this balance is disrupted, Vishnu takes a human form to set it right. However he takes on other forms too, such as a fish, turtle, boar, dwarf, lion and ram to name a few.
Lord Shiva is the third member of the Hindu Trinity (threesome). He is the Lord of destruction but also of mercy and compassion. He protects followers from evil forces such as lust, greed, and anger. He grants favours, bestows grace and awakens wisdom in his worshippers. Since the tasks of Lord Shiva are numerous, he cannot be symbolized in one form. For this reason the images of Shiva vary a lot.
Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. In Hindu mythology, Goddess Lakshmi, is the divine wife of Lord Vishnu and provides him with wealth for the maintenance and preservation of the creation. In her images and pictures, Lakshmi is shown in a female form with four arms and four hands. She wears red clothes with a golden lining and is standing on a lotus. She has golden coins and lotuses in her hands. Two elephants (some pictures show four) are shown next to the Goddess. Goddess Lakshmi is regularly worshipped in home shrines and temples by her worshippers. A special worship is offered to her each year on the special day of Diwali, with religious rituals and colourful ceremonies specifically devoted to her.
Lord Ganesha is a Hindu god in a human form but with the head of an elephant. He is one of the most popular Hindu gods and is widely worshipped. He represents the power of the Supreme Being that removes obstacles and ensures success in human endeavours. For this reason, Hindus worship Ganesha first before beginning any religious, spiritual or worldly activity. In Hindu mythology, Lord Ganesha is the first son of Lord Shiva and the Divine Mother Parvati.
Parvati is the Hindu Goddess of love, devotion, the household and motherhood and is also the wife of Lord Shiva. She is also believed to be the reincarnation of Lord Shiva’s first wife – Sati . Goddess Parvati is not worshipped as an individual entity but is always seen together with Lord Shiva in numerous shrines. Goddess Parvati is immensely respected by married women for her image as an ideal wife.
Kali is a Hindu goddess. She is associated with darkness, death, and destruction, but she can also represent renewal and cleansing as well as motherhood. She is certainly one of the most fearsome goddesses, and is the central figure in some rather gruesome tales and artwork. In most artwork, Kali’s skin is dark black or blue, and she has three eyes. One of her four arms traditionally carries a sword, while another bears the head of a demon. Her other two arms are arranged in symbols of blessing, and they may be painted or decorated with holy symbols. Finally, she has a necklace of human heads, and she may be wearing other human body parts as well. Occasionally, Kali is also shown with her tongue sticking out. She is often shown in the act of slaying demons and running amok on the battlefield, but Hindu mythology also paints her as a loving mother figure. In another aspect of her nature, Kali is the goddess of time, and as such most myths depict her as an eternal presence beyond good, evil, and human existence.