Hindus worship various forms and names of one Supreme God, Brahman, who is regarded as a being with an independent existence and gives life to everything. In Hinduism, there exists the holy trinity or Trimurti. The trinity consists of three gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh (Lord Shiva), who are responsible for the creation, upkeep, and destruction of the world respectively.
Gods in Hinduism are often represented in human or partially animal forms. The deities in Hinduism are like different paths leading to the same destination. There are said to be many gods in Hinduism. But here are the 11 most powerful gods/goddesses
- Sai Baba
Vishnu is said to be present in every individual living on this earth. He is the preserver in the holy triad. The Veda recognized Vishnu as the highest maintainer of Order or Dharma.
Vishnu is called Vedavidh, which means “One who revealed Vedas”.
He is portrayed as having dark blue complexion and four arms. He holds a conch and a lotus in his left hands and a mace and the Sudarshan Chakra (discus) in his right hands.
The Garuda is the vehicle (vahana) of Vishnu.
He is depicted having four arms. His two hands in the front represent his physical existence while his two hands at the back represent his presence in the spiritual world. With his upper left hand, he holds a conch shell named Panchajanya. The conch shell represents the five elements – fire, water, air, earth, and sky. He always wears a garland of flowers. There are many avatars (incarnations) of Lord Vishnu.
Different Traditions list incarnations differently. The ten most famous and accepted incarnations of Lord Vishnu, also known as the Dasavatars are
- Matsya – Fish
- Kurma – Tortoise
- Varaha – Boar
- Narasimha – Lionman
- Vamana – Dwarf or Half-grown
- Parashurama – Angry man
- Rama – Simple and Peaceful
- Krishna – Romantic and Tricky
- Buddha – Enlighted
- Kalki – Horseman
The first four incarnations happened in Satya Yuga or Krita Yuga. The next three incarnations happened in Treta Yuga. The next two incarnations took place in Dwapar Yuga while the last incarnation will come in this Yuga (Kali Yuga).
He is the destructor in the holy triad whose role is to destroy the universe with the goal of recreating it. He is known to grant boons to his devotes easily, even if they are demons. That’s why he is called Bholenath. He is the lord of animals. He loves them and protects them from disease and destruction. That’s why he is known as Pashupatinath.
He is usually depicted as immersed in meditation or dancing the Tandava. He is illustrated naked except for a tiger-skin, he has snakes on his head, neck, and arms. He has fair complexion but has a blue throat. He has long hair and a crescent moon on it. He also has a holy river Ganga flowing from his head.
Nandi (bull) is the gatekeeper and vehicle of Shiva.
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Lord Shiva has many names. Some of his most famous names are
- Adinath – The first lord
- Bhaiarav – Formidable, one who removes fear
- Bholenath – Kind-hearted Lord
- Bhutapal- Protector of the ghosts
- Chakradhar – One who bears the chakra
- Chiranjeevi – Long-lived, immortal
- Gangadhar – Lord of river Ganga
- Kailashnath – Lord of Kailash
- Mahadev – Greatest God
- Triloknath – Lord of the three worlds
He is the first god of the Hindu triad. He is responsible for the creation of the universe.
He has four heads. It is believed that the four Vedas have come from these four heads. There are stories that say Lord Brahma actually had 5 heads and Lord Shiva cut one of his head. Some people believe that he is self-born while some believe that he came from Lord Vishnu.
He has two wives, Goddess Saraswati and Gayatri (Mother of Vedas). His hands hold no weapons. In one hand he holds Vedas, in the second he holds rosary beads which symbolizes time, in the third he holds a water-pot and with fourth he holds a lotus. Lord Brahma also holds a spoon in his hand, which is associated with pouring of ghee in the Yagya, which shows Brahma is the lord of sacrifices.
It is believed that he has resistance to any kind of injury. There are many stories that tell why Brahma is not worshipped as much as other gods.
Lord Ganesha is the son of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. He is depicted with an elephant’s head on a human’s body. Lord Shiva has blessed him with a boon that people would first offer their love and devotion to Lord Ganesha before starting any auspicious activity. You can read more about it in this article: Why is the son of Shiva, God Ganesha receives first prayers?
He is associated with wisdom, success, and prosperity. He is known as Vighnaharta or Remover of Obstacles. So, by worshipping Ganesha one can overcome obstacles. Devotion to Ganesha extends to Jains and Buddhists. He is worshipped in other countries like Japan, China, and Tibet as well. It is also believed that his presence brings good luck and removes all negativity, hence giving him the name, Mangal Murti. It is believed that Lord Ganesha is the original writer of Mahabharatha. Sage Vyas recited the Mahabharatha to Lord Ganesha and asked him to write it down. Laddus are Ganesha’s most favorite offering.
He is mostly depicted riding a mouse but Jain depictions of Ganesha show his vehicles variously as a mouse, elephant, tortoise or peacock.
Lord Ganesha also has many names. His most common names are:
- Buddhividhata: The God of knowledge
- Chaturbhuj: The four-armed lord
- Ekadanta: Single-tusked
- Gajanana: One who has an elephantine face
- Lambodara: One who has a big belly
- Vinayaka: The Supreme Lord
5. Sai Baba
Sai baba is regarded as a saint and fakir by his devotees. He is also believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Not only the Hindus but also the Muslims worship him. He helped many people to overcome distress through his blessings.
At the age of 16, he came to the village of Shirdi in Maharashtra and he stayed there till his death. Throughout his life, he lived in an abandoned Mosque and named it ‘Dwarkamayi’ while after his death his body was cremated in a Temple.
He lived an extremely simple life. He always used to wear a torn long robe (Kafni). He used to sleep on the floor and used bricks as his headrest.
He always got his food by only begging. He helped many people to overcome distress through his blessings. He used to preach people from religious books.
He used to preach people from religious books. He was the only saint who used to worship both, Allah and Eshwar (Shiva). All his teachings were sayings, there are no written teachings of him.
He always told everyone to do charity. He used to say ‘Be it an animal or a human, don’t let anyone go back empty-handed by from your door’.
According to him, there were only two features to reach godliness. Those features were Shraddha and Saburi (Faith and Patience).
He always preached two things:
- Always help the needy
- There is only one Lord for all the creatures
Lakshmi is known as the Goddess of wealth and purity. She is thus worshipped on Diwali to bless the devotee with good fortune, success, and prosperity.
In Hinduism, it is also believed that Sita, the wife of Lord Ram is an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi. In the ancient scriptures of India, all women are declared to be incarnations of Lakshmi.
Lakshmi has three close associations – the lotus, the owl and the elephant.
She is depicted having four arms and standing or sitting on a lotus. The white barn owl is the vehicle of Goddess Lakshmi.
There are 8 forms of Lakshmi, known as Ashtlakshmi. One of them is Gaja Lakshmi. In this form, Goddess is guarded by elephants from her sides, usually pouring water on Goddess. Most of the Vishnu temples will have this idol in Lakshmi’s shrine.
The eight forms of Lakshmi are:
- Adi Laksmi or Maha Lakshmi – for continuous wealth
- Dhana Lakshmi – for money and gold
- Dhanya Lakshmi – for the wealth of grain, food, and nourishment
- Dhairya Lakshmi – for patience
- Gaj Lakshmi – the giver of animal wealth
- Santan Lakshmi – the wealth of children
- Vijay Lakshmi or Jaya Lakshmi – the giver of victory
- Vidya Lakshmi – for the wealth of knowledge
Learn more about the 8 forms of Lakshmi in our article here
Many people consider Lord Hanuman as money but according to Valmiki’s Ramayana, he was a vanara (vana means forest and nara means man). He was the biggest devotee of Lord Ram.
The meaning of his name is ‘Disfigured Jaw’ (Hanu means jaw and Man means disfigured). Hanuman is said to be ‘Rudransh’ (a part of Lord Shiva). Lord Brahma gave him a boon that nobody will be able to kill him with any weapon in war.
He also obtained the power to be able to change his form and size according to his will and to be able to easily travel wherever he wished. He has the power to remove fear from the mind of his devotees. He also obtained boons from Lord Shiva. From Shiva, he obtained the boon of scriptural wisdom and the ability to cross the ocean.
According to Hanumat Sukhtam and other stories, Camel is the vehicle of Lord Hanuman. Camel can also be seen on the flag of Lord Hanuman.
Lord Hanuman has hundreds of names, some of his most common names are:
- Chiranjivi – Immortal being
- Bajrangbali – One with hands and legs powerful as that of lighting
- Ramaduta – The messenger of Rama
- Kabalikruta – The one who has swallowed the sun
- Pawanputra – Son of wind
Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge, wisdom, music, purity, and learning. She is the wife of Lord Brahma. She is also considered as the power of Brahma. She is usually depicted having four arms and wearing white saree (symbolizes purity). In her left hands, she has a ritual water vessel and a palm-leaf manuscript while in her upper right hand she holds a lotus flower and her lower right-hand shows the gift-giving gesture (varadha mudra). She can also be seen holding a veena (the classical Indian music instrument) which reminds of her gift of music to humanity. She is also believed to be the inventor of Sanskrit. She is said to be the sister of Lord Shiva, according to Skanda Purana. She rides a swan and that gives her the name, Hamsa-Vaahini (the one who rides on swan).
Hindus worship Goddess Durga for her guidance and divine blessings. She is among the strongest Gods in Hinduism. She is the source of all creations. She symbolizes the positive energy that is used against the forces of evil. She protects her devotees from evil.
She is typically depicted having 8 hands, which means 8 quadrants in Hinduism. Her 8 hands symbolize that she will protect her devotees from all 8 directions. She holds a Trishul or trident which is a symbol of 3 qualities:
- Rajas (energy associated with desires and ambitions)
- Satwa (Ideal state of mind characterized by purity of thoughts)
She is also considered as ‘Mother of the Universe’. She is said to be the other half of Lord Shiva. She possesses 3 eyes and hence, called Triyambake. Her three eyes symbolize the Fire, the Sun and the Moon.
Most of the time she is depicted riding a Tiger while sometimes riding a Lion.
Goddess Durga is known to have 9 forms (Navdurga). These 9 forms are:-
- Shailputri – Daughter of the mountain
- Brahmacharini – Unmarried form of Goddess Parvati
- Chandraghanta – Forehead resembling the shape of a temple bell
- Kushmanda – Creator of the universe
- Skandmata – Mother of Lord Kartikeya
- Katyayini – Warrior form of Goddess Parvati
- Kalratri – Most angry form of Goddess Parvati
- Mahagauri or Shwetambardhara – Wears white clothes only and have a fair complexion
- Siddhidatri – Supreme Goddess of power
Goddess Kali is a symbol of motherly-love. She is also known as the Goddess of time, death and bad days. She is also called ‘Preserver of nature’.
She is typically depicted having eight hands but in her ‘Mahakali’ form she is depicted having 10 hands. Her Mahakali form has 10 legs and 10 heads as well. Her complexion is black or dark blue, which represents the dark from which the universe was born. Her eyes are always illustrated red, which shows she is full of anger. With her hands, she holds a trident, a sword, a severed head and a skull which she uses as a cup to collect the blood of the severed head. She also wears a garland consisting of demon heads.
She is known as the mother of all mantras and languages. Her devotees also believe that she is the mother of the universe.
Image Source: Wiki
Goddess Kali has many incarnations. Her incarnations include:
- Bhadrakali – Protector of the good
- Dhumavati – Opposite of Goddess Lakshmi
- Matangi Kali – Violent incarnation of Goddess Saraswati
- Shamsana Kali – Form of Kali worshipped only in the crematorium
- Bagala Kali – Violent incarnation of Kali
- Bhairavi Kali – Announcer of death
- Dakat Kali – Goddess of Dacoits
Goddess Parvati is the wife of Lord Shiva. She is the reincarnation of Sati. Goddess Durga and Goddess Kali can be considered as other forms of Parvati.
Worshipping Goddess Parvati gives determination and strength. Also, the worship of Lord Shiva is incomplete without worshipping Goddess Parvati. She forms the trinity of Hindu Goddesses (Tridevi) along with Goddess Saraswati and Goddess Lakshmi.
She is said to be fond of flowers.
People also worship Goddess Parvati for fertility, parenting, marriage, and power. Sometimes she is depicted as a family woman with Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya in her lap while sometimes she is depicted as Goddess Durga. She is also illustrated holding a trident just like Lord Shiva.
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She has given more than 100 names in Hinduism. Some of her most famous names are:
- Gayatri – The mother of Vedas
- Annapurna – Goddess of food and nourishment
- Meenakshi – Goddess who has eyes shaped like fishes
- Durga – Form of Goddess Parvati who fights with the demons
- Kamakshi – Goddess of love