Hindu Gods and Goddesses

Hinduism has many Gods - some worshipped by all Hindus while others are local to a community or region. However all these local Gods are usually different forms of the basic main Gods worshipped by all. It is said that Hindus have 330 million Gods, but this is actually just some confusion between the beings of the angelic or devic evolution who are also referred to as devas, the same term as Deva or God but are not actually the same as Gods. The list given below only covers those Gods popularly worshipped through out India. Other Gods that are not included, can usually be equated with one of the listed ones. All these Gods have various myths associated with them. Deciphering the symbolism and meaning behind these myths is not easy. In many cases, these colorful myths added later by devotees, merely confuse the original meaning of the various Gods. Here only the myths that serve to illuminate the roles of these Gods are mentioned.

Essentially there are three main Gods (similar to the Christian Trinity) - Shiva - the Destroyer, Vishnu - the Sustainer and Brahma - the Creator.

Brahma, the Creator, then joins with primordial Matter to produce the various Goddesses, Ganesha and Hanuman (the half-'animal' Gods).

One way to understand the significance of the main personal Hindu Gods is to look at their relationship with the Chakra system in the human body:

7Sahasrara/CrownShivaSpirit (Paramatma)
6Ajna/EyebrowsVishnu (Rama, Krishna)Soul (Atma)
5Vishuddha/ThroatBrahma+His CreationSaraswatiMind+BodySpace/Aether (Akash)
4Anahata/HeartHanumanWind/Air (Vayu)
3Manipura/Solar PlexusLaxmiFire (Agni)
2Swadhisthana/SacralParvatiWater (Jala)
1Muladhara/RootGaneshaEarth (Prithvi)

In the Ramayana, Sita is the Kundalini Shakti that rises from the Muladhara Chakra to meet Rama at the Ajna center. The goal is of course to go beyond that to meet Shiva at the Crown Chakra for ultimate liberation.

According to Adi Shankaracharya (8th Century Hindu scholar, teacher, philosopher, leader), all Hindus should worship the five following Gods (Panchayatana/Pancha Devata) in order:

Others have added Kartikeya to the list to make six.

I have added some information based on Theosophical literature and clearly marked it in green color to indicate that it may not be main-stream Hindu thought (in my opinion, Theosophy is to Hindu Thought as Quantum Physics is to Newtonian Physics - there is no contradiction, one just expands on the other). Incidentally, the energies of the Chakras are referred to in Theosophy as the energies of the Seven Rays - however they are numbered in reverse. So Ray One, is the energy of the Crown or seventh Chakra and Ray Seven is that of the Muladhara or first Chakra.

Please click on each name to read more (or Expand All):

Incarnations that embody the energies of the Gods:

Celestial objects like planets, stars, comets etc, may appear to us, as dead objects without a will or a mind of their own or the ability to act outside their apparent fixed orbits. This is totally incorrect. Almost all celestial bodies are ensoled by a heavenly, living being. In fact all the beings that ensole each planet of our solar system can be considered to be like a 'God' with the Sun being the highest God in our solar system.

Human Incarnations (or as in the case of Hanuman- part human/part animal): Cosmic Incarnations:

There is another class of Divine Incarnations that take place in India - unlike the human incarnations listed above (where divinity descends into mortal humans). These are incarnations of Divine Beings, themselves, as mortal humans. To put it a bit glibly, in the previous case, a man becomes God and in this case a God becomes man, i.e. in one case a man like Rama becomes an Avatar when the divine spirit descends into him and in the other case, a God like Saibaba becomes a man by taking birth in a human body. To understand the difference better, please read this webpage. India and Hinduism have been very lucky and very blessed that these second type of divine beings (Gods from outside our system) take birth regularly in India as mortal humans (the first type of Avatars can occur in any country). The main task of these type of Avatars is anchoring of 'Good' on this planet and help balance out the 'evil'.

I have listed them below in the order of their importance (in my opinion). There are many of them, but I have just listed the most important and well known ones.

Brahman - The Absolute