Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, Rama, Ganesha, Ganapati, Hanuman, are just some of the names of Hindu deities one will encounter shortly after opening any book or website on Hinduism. Thus it is fully justified to ask how many Gods there are in Hinduism. The answer is simple although it might disappoint those who would prefer to have more than one.

The Christian doctrine of the Holly Trinity teaches the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one. The doctrine, one of the most important in the Christian faith, states that God exists as three persons but as one being. Thus, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, infinitely wise, infinitely holy, infinitely loving. Three, but one, not dissimilar to the Trinity found in Hinduism where it is called Trimurti (Sanskrit – Three Forms).

Hindus believe there is only one God who can manifest Himself in many forms. Three principle forms of God in Hinduism are Brahma (The Creator), Vishnu (The Maintainer or Preserver) and Shiva (The Destroyer or Transformer). They together are called Trimurti.

Although each of the three forms of God in Hinduism is assigned different roles, each one of them is able to perform any of those functions – creation, preservation, destruction – on his own.

Different Hindu denominations worship different form of the Supreme Being. Vaishnavas (Vaishnavism) worship Lord Vishnu, Saivits (Saivism or Shaivism) – Lord Shiva, Shaktas (Shaktism) – Divine Mother, Shakti or Devi in her many forms, while Smarti (Smartism) followers can choose their preferred deity between Ganesha (also called Ganapati), Surya, Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti and Kumara.

Elephant-head God called Ganesha, also known as Ganapaty, is one of the best known and most worshiped deities in Hinduism. He is son of Shiv and Godess Parvati, the Divine Mother. Although generally known as Lord of beginnings and Remover of Obstacles, he is also worshiped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. Ganesha is usually shown having only one tusk, as the legend said he used his tusk to write famous Indian epic Mahbaharata.

In Hinduism, as well in some other religions as well, God can take a human form to come down from heavens to perform a divine mission or a task as he finds appropriate. Incarnation of God in human form is called Avatar, from Sanskrit word meaning “descent” (as in descent from heavens to Earth).

It could be said that in Christianity Jesus Christ was an Avatar of God – God in human form. In Hinduism the God who had most avatars is the Lord Vishnu. His most famous Avatars are Rama and Krishna.

By Jura Nanuk

One comment on “GOD OR GODS?

  1. Pingback: a story about the beginning of the universe « Admiring the Universe

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