various forms of Divine manifestations of God as deities are derived
form the scriptures called Agamas and based on the Ithihãsãs
and Purãnãs. The idea that every deity whom men
worship is the embodiment of a limited ideal, and that the deity
is a symbol of some aspects of the Absolute is one of the most
fundamental characteristics of Hinduism. It is this idea that
makes Hinduism the most tolerant of religions accepting alternate
beliefs and averse to proselytization.
three important functions of the Supreme are Creation, Protection
and Destruction or Dissolution. These came to be established in
popular imagination as the Hindu Trinity - Brahma (NOT the Supreme
Brahman of the Upanishads), Vishnu and Shiva. The power associated
with these gods came to be personified as their respective consorts.
So Creator Brahma's consort is Saraswati (the goddess of Speech
and Learning), Protector Vishhnu's consort is Lakshhmi (the goddess
of wealth and prosperity), and Shiva's consort is Shakti (the
goddess of power).
simple equation here is that creation needs knowledge, protection
and preservation needs wealth and prosperity and destruction and
power or energy are linked together. Since Vishnu is the protector,
He is the One who can take on an avatãra, taking human
form whenever the world order is disturbed by a colossal form
of evil. So, whenever the evil forces show ascendancy, God manifests
Himself in various forms to protect the humanity and preserve
the righteousness in the society.
gods were then provided with their own heavens, attendants, vehicles
and even progeny. The more intelligent among the people understood
this symbolism, but to the masses, the symbols formed an end in
themselves. So, the various levels of understanding is accepted
and the faith provides the proper level of devotion to the people
the way they can understand them for a peaceful life. The symbolism
is common to all Hindus, but the exclusive emphasis on a particular
god or goddess in this scheme at a later time gave rise to the
four major sects in Hindu Religious practice.
are Shaiva (worshipers of Shiva), Vaishhnava (worshipers of Vishnu)
and Shaakteya (worshipers of Shakti). Those that do not belong
to these three sects nor go by their sectarian scriptures (Ãgamã),
but go by the ancient traditions (Smrutis) and worship all gods
without any exclusive preference came to be known as Smãrtas.
However, all sects teach that the particular name and form of
their deities are limitations, just one aspect of the Supreme
Divinity, which we, in our weakness, impose on the all-pervading
the highest theism is regarded only as a sort of glorified anthropomorphism.
The worship of a personal god is taught to be only a halfway house
in a man's journey to the Ultimate Reality. However, the idea
of a personal god is the most important prop for the mind to contemplate
upon it. Hinduism acheives unity in diversity by cherishing the
many ways in which men have represented and worshipped the various
aspects of the Supreme as various Deities manifesting to perform
a specific activity.