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Hindu gods facts for kids

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Hindu deities montage
Hindu devas (from top): Brahma, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Maha Vishnu, Shiva, Durga, Harihara and Ardhanarishvara.

Primarily it must be understood that in Hinduism the concept of God or Goddess is unlike that of monotheistic religions. The Gods of most cultures in Asia are icons of excellence to be emulated. They are not absoluteles. They may be questioned. Each represents a strength of human character. In Hinduism there are many beliefs regarding different deities. But in most of them a god is in charge. Supreme divine power in Hinduism is Para Brahman as the sole ultimate truth, an entity that exists and gives life to all things which is formless and is referred to as Vishnu or Narayana, Adi Parashakti/Shakti or Durga and Shiva or Mahadeva among different sects of Hinduism. Different forms (Avatars) of the same entity or supreme Brahman is being worshipped depending on the versatile number of traditions and sects within Hinduism.

Hindus believe all it's devi-devas are different forms of that same formless Parambrahman. Devi-Devas in Hinduism are thought as highly advanced spiritual beings and are often represented in human form or partially human and partially animal forms. Sometimes they are also represented as non-living things and plants.

The three gods who started creation: Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva are called Bhagwans (also known as Bhagavān). Yakshas are all male gods created by the three Bhagwans.

The main god in Vaishnavite sect of Hinduism is Vishnu. Vishnu is revered as supreme Paramatman in Vaishnava tradition. Shiva is the Supreme, in Shaivite Traditions while in Shakti Traditions, Adi Parashakti is supreme. Other names such as Ishvara, Bhagavan, Bhagvati, Parmeshwara and Paramatamana also means Hindu gods and all of them mainly denote Brahman. Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma are the major gods and Lakshmi, Parvati and Saraswati are the major goddesses in Hinduism. Many Hindus believe that Brahma is the Creator, Vishnu is the preserver and Shiva or Maheshwar is destroyer.

Supreme God

Shiva is the supreme God of Hinduism. Most Hindus worship him as the Supreme Being, though by different names. This is because the peoples of India with different languages and cultures have understood the one God in their own distinct way.

Regional and family traditions can play a large part in influencing this choice. Through history four principal Hindu denominations arose —Vaishnavism, Shaktism, Shaivism, and Smartism.

For Vaishnavites, God Vishnu is God Of Supreme, For Shaktas, Goddess Shakti is supreme, For Shaivites, God Shiva is Supreme. For Smartas—who see all Deities as reflections of the One God—the choice of Deity is left to the devotee.

Most Hindus, in their daily devotional practices, worship some form of a personal aspect of God, although they believe in the more abstract concept of a Supreme God as well.

They generally choose one concept of God, and cultivate devotion to that chosen form, while at the same time respecting the chosen ideals of other people. The many different names given to the Supreme God in Hinduism encourage a multiplicity of paths, as opposed to conformity to just one.

The unique understanding in Hinduism is that God is not far away, living in a remote heaven, but is all-pervasive and energizes the entire universe. He is also inside each soul, waiting to be discovered. Knowing the one Supreme God in this intimate and experiential way is the goal of Hindu spirituality.

Other gods

Hindus also believe in many Gods (Devas) who perform various functions, like executives in a large corporation. These should not be confused with the Supreme God.

These deities are highly advanced beings who have specific duties and powers—not unlike the heavenly spirits, overlords or archangels that are mystical actors revered in other faiths. Each denomination worships the Supreme God and its own set of divine beings.

Devas (also called Devatās) constitute an integral part of the colorful Hindu culture. These various forms of God are represented in innumerable paintings, statues, murals, and scriptural stories that can be found in temples, homes, businesses, and other places.

In Hinduism the scriptures recommend that for the satisfaction of a particular material desire a person may worship a particular deity. For example, shopkeepers frequently keep a statue or picture of the devi Lakshmi in their shops.


The concept of Goddess Bhuvaneswari as the supreme goddess emerged in historical religious literature as a term to define the powerful and influential nature of female deities in India. Throughout history, goddesses have been portrayed as the mother of the universe, through whose powers the universe is created and destroyed. The gradual changes in belief through time shape the concept of Bhuvaneswari and express how the different Goddesses, though very different in personality, all carry the power of the universe on their shoulders.

Temple and worship

Along with Murti, Hindus use nature and aniconic symbols for deities. Linga(left) symbolizes Shiva- along with Parvati, Tulsi plant in a square base (center) is symbolism for Vishnu, and sunrise (or rivers) are revered as aspects of the spiritual everywhere.

In Hinduism, deities and their icons may be hosted in a Hindu temple, within a home or as an amulet. The worship performed by Hindus is known by a number of regional names, such as Puja. This practice in front of a murti may be elaborate in large temples, or be a simple song or mantra muttered in home, or offering made to sunrise or river or symbolic anicon of a deity. Archaeological evidence of deity worship in Hindu temples trace Puja rituals to Gupta Empire era (~4th century CE). In Hindu temples, various pujas may be performed daily at various times of the day; in other temples, it may be occasional.

The Puja practice is structured as an act of welcoming, hosting, honoring the deity of one's choice as one's honored guest, and remembering the spiritual and emotional significance the deity represents to the devotee. Jan Gonda, as well as Diana L. Eck, states that a typical Puja involves one or more of 16 steps (Shodasha Upachara) traceable to ancient times: the deity is invited as a guest, the devotee hosts and takes care of the deity as an honored guest, praise (hymns) with Dhupa or Aarti along with food (Naivedhya) is offered to the deity, after an expression of love and respect the host takes leave, and with affection expresses good bye to the deity. The worship practice may also involve reflecting on spiritual questions, with image serving as support for such meditation.

Deity worship (Bhakti), visiting temples and Puja rites are not mandatory and is optional in Hinduism; it is the choice of a Hindu, it may be a routine daily affair for some Hindus, periodic ritual or infrequent for some. Worship practices in Hinduism are as diverse as its traditions, and a Hindu can choose to be polytheistic, pantheistic, monotheistic, monistic, agnostic, atheistic, or humanist.


Six Hinduism deities. Surya, Parvati, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Vishnu, and Indra. All of them came from India, except Vishnu (from the Thai-Cambodian border). Various eras. National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
Six Hinduism deities. Surya, Parvati, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Vishnu, and Indra. All of these statues came from India, except Vishnu (from the Thai-Cambodian border). Various eras. National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Major deities have inspired a vast genre of literature such as the Puranas and Agama texts as well their own Hindu traditions, but with shared mythology, ritual grammar, theosophy, axiology and polycentrism. Vishnu and his avatars are at the foundation of Vaishnavism, Shiva for Shaivism, Devi for Shaktism, and some Hindu traditions such as Smarta traditions who revere multiple major deities (five) as henotheistic manifestations of Brahman (absolute metaphysical Reality).

While there are diverse deities in Hinduism, states Lawrence, "Exclusivism – which maintains that only one's own deity is real" is rare in Hinduism. Julius Lipner, and other scholars, state that pluralism and "polycentrism" – where other deities are recognized and revered by members of different "denominations", has been the Hindu ethos and way of life.

Trimurti and Tridevi

The Hindu Gods Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma LACMA M.86.337 (1 of 12)
A 10th century triad – Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma – from Bihar.

The concept of Triad (or Trimurti, Trinity) makes a relatively late appearance in Hindu literature, or in the second half of 1st millennium BCE. The idea of triad, playing three roles in the cosmic affairs, is typically associated with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (also called Mahesh); however, this is not the only triad in Hindu literature. Other triads include Tridevi, of three goddesses – Lakshmi, Saraswati and Parvati in the text Devi Mahatmya, in the Shakta tradition, who further assert that Devi is the Brahman (Ultimate Reality) and it is her energy that empowers Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The other triads, formulated as deities in ancient Indian literature, include Sun (creator), Air (sustainer) and Fire (destroyer); Prana (creator), Food (sustainer) and Time (destroyer). These triads, states Jan Gonda, are in some mythologies grouped together without forming a Trinity, and in other times represented as equal, a unity and manifestations of one Brahman. In the Puranas, for example, this idea of threefold "hypostatization" is expressed as follows,

They [Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva] exist through each other, and uphold each other; they are parts of one another; they subsist through one another; they are not for a moment separated; they never abandon one another.

—Vayu Purana, 5.17, Translated by Jan Gonda

The triad appears in Maitrayaniya Upanishad, for the first time in recognized roles known ever since, where they are deployed to present the concept of three Guṇa – the innate nature, tendencies and inner forces found within every being and everything, whose balance transform and keeps changing the individual and the world. It is in the medieval Puranic texts, Trimurti concepts appears in various context, from rituals to spiritual concepts. The Bhagavad Gita, in verses 9.18, 10.21-23 and 11.15, asserts that the triad or trinity is manifestation of one Brahman, which Krishna affirms himself to be. However, suggests Bailey, the mythology of triad is "not the influence nor the most important one" in Hindu traditions, rather the ideologies and spiritual concepts develop on their own foundations. The triad, with Brahma creating, Vishnu preserving and Shiva destroying, balances the functioning of the whole universe.

Avatars of Hindu deities

The ten avatars of Vishnu, (Clockwise, from top left) Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Vamana, Krishna, Kalki, Buddha, Parshurama, Rama and Narasimha, (in centre) Radha and Krishna. Painting currently in Victoria and Albert Museum.

Hindu mythology has nurtured the concept of Avatar, which represents the descent of a deity on earth. This concept is commonly translated as "incarnation", and is an "appearance" or "manifestation".

The concept of Avatar is most developed in Vaishnavism tradition, and associated with Vishnu, particularly with Rama and Krishna. Vishnu takes numerous avatars in Hindu mythology. He becomes female, during the Samudra manthan, in the form of Mohini, to resolve a conflict between the Devas and Asuras. His male avatars include Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and Kalki. Various texts, particularly the Bhagavad Gita, discuss the idea of Avatar of Vishnu appearing to restore the cosmic balance whenever the power of evil becomes excessive and causes persistent oppression in the world.

In Shaktism traditions, the concept appears in its legends as the various manifestations of Devi, the Divine Mother principal in Hinduism. The avatars of Devi or Parvati include Durga and Kali, who are particularly revered in eastern states of India, as well as Tantra traditions. Twenty one avatars of Shiva are also described in Shaivism texts, but unlike Vaishnava traditions, Shaiva traditions have focussed directly on Shiva rather than the Avatar concept.

Major regional and pan-Indian Hindu deities

Name Other Names Avatārs or Associated Deities Geography Image Early illustrative art
Vishnu Nārāyana,
Venkateshwara, Jagannatha Dattatreya, Hari, Other names of Rama and Krishna
Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Kalki, Vithoba, Perumal, Balarama, Mohini, Buddha, Hayagriva India, Nepal, Sri Lanka Vishnu Stands on Sivan.jpg KINGS of BAKTRIA. Agathokles. Circa 185-170 BC. AR Drachm (3.22 gm, 12h). Bilingual series. BASILEWS AGAQOKLEOUS with Indian god Balarama-Samkarshana.jpg
2nd century BCE
Shiva Mahādeva, Pashupati,
Tripurantaka, Vishwanatha,
Dakshinamurthy, Kālāntaka,
Bhairava, Rudra,
Nataraja, Sadashiva, Dattatreya
Batara Guru (Indonesia)
Achalanatha (Japan)
India, Nepal, Sri Lanka Shiva Kanachur MP.JPG Shiva temple with trident standard Audumbara State Punjab 1st century BCE.jpg
1st century BCE
Brahmā Aadi-Prajāpati, Virinci, Vaidyanaatha, Vakpati, Varishta-deva, Kamalaja, Srashtaa, Kartaa, Dhaataa Bonten (Japan),
Phra Phrom (Thailand)
India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia Thai - Seated Brahma - Walters 542555.jpg Shiva Linga Delhi National Museum 01-13.jpg
6th century CE
Ganesha Ganapati, Vināyaka, Lambodara, Gajānana Kangiten (Japan) India, Nepal, Sri Lanka Balinese Hindu Puja Offerings, Ubud Bali Indonesia 2010.jpg Ganesha, Lord of Obstacles LACMA M.84.67.jpg
7th century CE
Kārtikeya Skanda, Murugan, Mangal, Kumaraswamy, Subramanya, Shanmuga India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Nepal Balaskandha.jpg Skanda, from Kannuaj.jpg
2nd century BCE
Pārvati Uma, Devi, Gauri,
Durga, Kāli, Annapurna
Umahi (烏摩妃, Japan)
Dewi Sri (Indonesia)
India, Nepal, Sri Lanka Calcutta ei05-72.jpg
5th century CE
Lakshmi Sri Devi, Gajalakshmi, Kamalāsanā Sita, Radha,
Kisshōten (Japan)
Nang Kwak (Thailand)
India, Nepal, Sri Lanka Gajalakshmi.jpeg Coin of Azilises showing Gaja Lakshmi standing on a lotus 1st century BCE.jpg
1st century BCE
Saraswati Vāgishvari, Vīnāpāni, Sharda Benzaiten (Japan),
Biàncáitiān (China),
Thurathadi (Myanmar),
Suratsawadi (Thailand)
India, Nepal, Java, Bali, Sri Lanka A Saraswati Statue in park.jpg Indian - Sarasvati - Walters 2550.jpg
10th century CE
Durgā Pārvati, Kāli, Mahishāsuramardini
Betari Durga (Indonesia) India, Nepal, Sri Lanka Durga at Rewalsar Lake. 2010.jpg Aihole si05-1471.jpg
8th century CE
Kāli Durga, Parvati India, Nepal, Sri Lanka Kaliposter1940s.jpg
Mariamman Durga, Parvati India (mostly in South India),
Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka
Mariamman.jpg Tamil nadu, epoca cola, tridente con mariyammai, dea del vaiolo, x sec..JPG
10th century CE
Harihara (Half Vishnu - Half Shiva) ShankaraNarayana India, Sri Lanka, Nepal Indian god-sivakesava.JPG Harihara. Cave3Badami.jpg
6th century CE
Ardhanārīshvara (Half Shiva - Half Parvati) India, Nepal, Sri Lanka God marriage AS.jpg Kushana Ardhanareswar.jpg
1st century CE
Hanuman Anjaneya, Maruthi, Bajarangbali, Langura, Sankatmochan, Pavanasut India, Nepal, Sri Lanka Ravivarmapress.jpg StandingHanumanCholaDynasty11thCentury.jpg11th century CE

See also

  • Hindu denominations
  • Hindu iconography
  • Hindu mythology
  • Puranas
  • List of Hindu deities
  • Rigvedic deities
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