In my last two posts, I covered a short introduction with the three main male Hindu gods and the three main female goddesses. Of course, it is mission impossible to write about all the massive Hindu pantheon of gods. But my goal is to make it possible for every traveler in India to recognize at least the main correctors. For this purpose, I will now describe some more very important deities in Hinduism. These are not the main gods like the previous, but they enjoy great popularity among Hindus as they symbolize values that are considered to be noble. One can argue that these are more ‘down to earth’ deities, a combination of gods and folk legendary heroes. Each one of those deities has a direct linkage to one of the main gods, but they have numerous temples and statues in their honor all around India as they are considered to be more accessible and communicative with their devotees. Let’s see who they are:
The son of Shiva and Parvati is Ganesh – the god with the Elephant head. He is one of the best-known and most widely worshipped deities in Hinduism and is worshipped on many religious and secular occasions. He is known as the Lord of Beginnings, God of the intellect and the remover of obstacles. If you are buying a new car, start a new business or starting a religious ceremony (Puja), Ganesh is the one that gets the first honor. An annual festival honors Ganesha for ten days, starting on Ganesh Chaturthi, which usually takes place in late August or early September and is highly popular in the state of Maharashtra particularly in Mumbai.
Krishna is one of the incarnations (or avatars) of Vishnu. Arguably, he is the most beloved god in Hinduism He seen by his devotees as the supreme god and even arrived in western shores in the ’60s by the founders of the Hari Krishna movement. He appears in a few popular forms as an adorable and naughty infant (in blue color), a young boy playing the flute and as youthful prince from the Indian great epic of the Mahabharata. Krishna’s massive popularity made him connected to many pilgrim sites, temples, arts, philosophy, celebrations and festivals all around India and beyond.
Rama is another avatar of Vishnu and also an all-time favorite among Hindu deities. He symbolizes chivalry and virtue, the ideal king. He is widely believed to be an actual historical figure from the great Hindu epic of the Ramayana. Rama is also celebrated publicly in many villages, towns and cities around India in The Ram Leela performances. Rama’s return to his capital Ayodhya and his coronation are celebrated as Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights (between mid-October and mid-November). The latter two are the most important and popular festivals in India and for Hindus across the world.
Kali is the goddess of death and destruction. She is the wife of Shiva (and therefore another form of Parvati), but she is far more frightening than her partner (who usually is not so pleasant, to say the least). Kali’s function is to destroy the demons that threaten the cosmic order. She is considered more powerful than her husband, one of the three main gods in Hindu mythology and perceived by her devotees as the supreme deity. Her practice is foul with wild violence, blood, and sacrifice, even a human sacrifice in the past that was banned by the British. In any case, this is a very interesting form of the practice of the Shakti (feminine energy) and can be seen mostly in West Bengal, where Shakti practices are common.
The ape-like deity is known as the greatest devotee of Rama in the Hindu epic of Ramayana. Therefore he represents ideals of devotion, friendship, and loyalty. Hanuman participated in Rama’s war against the demon king and is the leader of the army of monkeys. He is the reason why monkeys are considered sacred in India.