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Principal deities of Hinduism

The Hindu deity Vishnu, 300-400. India; Mathura area; Uttar Pradesh state. Sandstone. The Avery Brundage Collection, (Asian Art Museum. B73S17).
Enlarge this image. The Hindu deity Vishnu, 300–400. India; Mathura area; Uttar Pradesh state. Sandstone. Courtesy of the Asian Art Museum, The Avery Brundage Collection, B73S17.
There are many Hindu deities, some with great and others with limited powers. Most Hindus focus their devotion primarily on one of these, whom they regard as supreme. The greatest deities have complex natures and are shown in art in a variety of forms and situations from narratives. They are sometimes attended by spouses or their particular animal mounts. They are often identified by physical characteristics and symbolic implements they hold or wear.
While there are many gods with myriad forms, those most popularly worshiped by Hindus in India are Vishnu, Shiva, the Goddess in her various aspects, and Shiva’s sons Ganesha and Karttikeya. According to some interpretations, all divinities are in fact a manifestation of a single godhead, divine force, or abstraction.
The Trimurti, or “triple form” explains basic beliefs about the roles of Hindu gods, but is largely a Western interpretation of the main deities that has an obvious basis in the idea of the Christian Trinity. The Hindu Trimurti consists of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer.
Most Hindus are principally devoted to the god Vishnu, the god Shiva, or the Goddess. These categorical practices are sometimes described as, respectively, Vaishnavism (Vishnu), Shaivism (Shiva), and Shaktism (Shakti being another term for the female creative energy). The predominance of these three deities evolved over several centuries, crystallizing in the early part of the first millennium, when a renewed Hinduism centering on devotion made them increasingly popular. It is believed that each of these divinities incorporated elements of other or earlier deities that existed in the pre-Hindu context, and that express beliefs and practices existing at high and low levels of culture. Thus, mainstream Hindu deities relate to figures appearing in Vedic literature, as well as to worship practices involving nature spirits, fertility, local tutelary gods, shamanism, malevolent spirits, and ghosts.

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  • blobby green style avatar for user Christie Runnels
    Do Hindu's fear there God's?
    (3 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user kulkarniajinkya11
      All of our gods give us 'Abhaya' that is do not fear we are with you. So, we don't fear of our gods. It is same as do you fear of your mother or father? Obviously not. but if you are doing anything wrong then you have to fear from your mother since they will punish you. Same as it is the fear of god. Not because if you don't worship them then they will punish you but because if you do harm society they will punish you.
      (16 votes)
  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user magda
    It's interesting to me that Brahma isn't one of those most popular gods worshipped in Hinduism. I would've thought that as the creator (and the name of the priestly caste) he would have more devotees. Does anyone know why he isn't as popular?
    (3 votes)
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    • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user S. Rajesh
      There is a story in which Vishnu and Brahma were debating who was greater and to put the debate to a resolve, Shiva staged a competition. He grew in size, reaching far above the heavens and far below the ground and told Brahma and Vishnu to find his beginning and end. Vishnu chose to dig deep into the ground to find Shiva's feet. In the Hindu culture, touching someone's feet is a sign of humility and respect. Brahma became a swan and seeked the top of Shiva's head. In Hindu culture, to touch the head is the sign of a superior blessing someone younger in spirituality. This act actually shows Brahma's arrogance in believing himself superior to Shiva. Since Shiva's form kept growing, neither of them were able to reach their respective ends, but while Vishnu admitted this in submission, Brahma did not. A flower fell from Shiva's head and Brahma picked it up and lied to Shiva that he reached the head. Shiva saw through the lie, and as a result cursed that Brahma would not be widely worshipped anymore. In addition, that flower that Brahma picked up is actually not used to do rituals or offer to God anymore.
      (9 votes)
  • winston baby style avatar for user Tanvi
    Isn't there also the Gita?
    (3 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Christopher Hall
    I do not understand if how are men seen superior to women in a society or religion rather than worships not only Gods but Goddess. Is there any rationale for that by any chance?
    (2 votes)
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    • piceratops tree style avatar for user Arthur Smith
      Here's a guess. Since most of human history was violent, and men are typically, on average, bigger and stronger than women, and expected to fight in times of war, men saw themselves as crucial in creating a strong, stable society. Since they felt they were risking and sacrificing more, they deserved more power. Plus, many men are bullies. It continues today, with big, macho men cutting in line at grocery store checkout lines. Some people just enjoy being bigger and taking advantage of the weak.
      (1 vote)
  • leafers sapling style avatar for user 2028113
    Does Hindu mythology have any ties to Buddhism?
    (2 votes)
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  • leafers tree style avatar for user Chelsea Germany
    Isn't there about 2,000 Hindu dieties with every one having the ability to change form?
    (1 vote)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user gaur.iitd
      There are probably more than even 2000 deities who are worshipped in Hinduism but they are mostly considered incarnations or forms or associates of the main Gods discussed above... Also there is a central belief that they represent the Supreme being hence all are equally respected/revered by almost everyone.
      (2 votes)
  • marcimus pink style avatar for user Izzy
    What is shiva the god of?
    (1 vote)
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  • marcimus pink style avatar for user Izzy
    what is the god shiva about/ what is he the god of?
    (1 vote)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Demian Choi
      Shiva is the destroyer and god of destruction(this includes evil and non evil). Even though he is the destroyer, he keeps the world in balance and is in charge of reincarnation. Shiva has many forms and is also the Lord of Dance. From this forms is Nataraja which is Shiva's dance form and destructive form. Other destructive forms include Rudra.
      (1 vote)
  • blobby green style avatar for user jxc3799
    Why do many Hindu families require all people who enter their home to take off their shoes?
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user maciasrosabel01
    Some Hindu deities have different power and it sounds like you could do good things using your powers and not everyone has the same great power? Can you do things that help benefit other people? The deities have complex natures and show it in art? Godhead has divine force, or abstraction? There is a lot of responsibilities as you posses powers and have several followers of people who expect to get miracles occur for you? The proud who have powers and live in a world of magic allow other people to come forward and ask for what they are needing to have their lives. The Trimurti or "Triple form" expresses how Hindu gods it is a Western interpretation of the main deities of the idea of Christian Trinity? Hindu Trimurti consists of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. There are three deities? It is unusual that the destroyer Shiva would be allowed to live and allowed to be a destroyer? But all three deities are probably able to collaborate with each other and destroyer buildings that need to be destroyed and rebuild? Needing to create? After places are created it is then preserved? Things created by creator?
    (1 vote)
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