In the Hindu universe, gods and goddesses play freely among human beings to help them, nudge them towards the right action and mete out justice. They may appear to us as avatars in human form or manifest themselves as forces of nature. The many myths of Hinduism become colourful and entertaining when Shiva, Vishnu and Devi take different forms to enact their rivalries, destroy demons and teach devotees with superpowers a lesson in humility.
From The Book of Avatars and Divinities, we quote some of the different characteristics of some of these Hindu deities.
“Ganesha is one of the most widely worshipped deities in India, regarded by millions with love and adoration. Simple everyday routines, a new business, a journey, even an examination—all are preceded by a prayer to Ganesha, beseeching his benediction. Ganesha, more than any other deity, satisfies human aspirations for worldly success and fulfilment. Ganesha is also a most accommodating deity, easy to please.”
“Shiva is the god of life and death, of destruction and rebirth. The whole life process is imminent in him, but he transcends it and inhabits a mental, emotional and spiritual space which is difficult to understand through intellectual processes alone. To embrace Shiva, to comprehend his power, involves an intuitive leap into our deepest inner selves.”
“In popular Hinduism, Vishnu is the Preserver, the protector of the good and the guardian of Dharma, the law of righteousness and the moral order…The most important aspect of Vishnu is his ability to incarnate himself on earth whenever Dharma is in danger, to save good from evil.”
“There are probably more forms of Devi than any other deity, for temples are dedicated to the goddess in every Indian village. She is energy and power, the ultimate destroyer of evil. She may be Shakti, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, or she may be a local village goddess with an unknown name, but all-powerful and commanding.”
“Hanuman is both an all-powerful god and the greatest devotee and there is no contradiction in this….Hanuman epitomizes piety, duty, discipline, strength, chastity, modesty, altruism, scholarship and simplicity.”
This book introduces us to the divinities and avatars of Hinduism, a great variety spread out all over the country but uniting to become a single mystical power for the triumph of good over evil.