The varieties of Divine forms in Hindu Religious worship and rituals!
Various forms of God in Hinduism!
Interesting facts about various forms of worship!
Probably, Hindu religion is the only religion in which several forms of Divine are adored and worshiped. This aspect has raised a hue and cry among other religious sects. Hindus also believe in the oneness of God. Worshiping various forms is like adoring various dresses on various occasions. We do not wear the same cloth for all day long. There are casual wears suited for home, some special and specific dresses for attending office, and yet another for attending parties. Likewise, though God is One, Hindus enjoy worshiping different aspects of God in different forms. Also, there is a natural attraction to certain forms. Some worship God as Vishnu or Narayana; yet some other worship the form of Shiva, both in a formless shape (linga), an ellipsoidal representation with a base. Some worship Krishna, some other Rama. Some propitiate Anjaneya, the obedient servant of Rama. In South India, there is a prominent worship of Lord Muruga or Subramanya who is considered as the son of Lord Shiva!
Also, the worship of Sakthi aspect is prevalent all over India. Goddess Durga is famous in Bengal and Assam region. Parvathi, the consort of Lord Shiva, Lakshmi, the consort of Mahavishnu and mother Saraswathi, the goddess of learning are prominent deities and forms. In addition there are myriads of forms like Lord Ayyappa, or Dharma Sastha is one famous deity. In South India, in the villages, there are protecting deities like Mariamma which resembles mother Mary! Separate days and months are earmarked for the worship of various forms of God and goddess.
In Andhra Pradesh, there is the famous Balaji temple which attracts pilgrims from all over the world. This temple is considered as the richest one because of the collection of offerings by devotees by ways of gold, silver and other precious metals. Currencies and coins are offered by all the devotees. During major festival occasions, the offerings per day some time crosses one crore Indian rupees. It is also significant that some devotees who reside in foreign countries donate in Dollars and Pounds.
In the recent past, there is some more additions in forms of worship. Shirdi Saibaba temples are available in almost all states and towns of India. It is of interest to note that such temples were constructed even in far of places like the US or UK or Canada. Congregational worship of Saibaba has become an important event in Saibaba temples around the world.
Now, let us analyze this form worship. We have many examples. People all over the world like sweet dishes. There are varieties of sweet dishes prepared in various cuisines all over the world. The basic ingredient is sugar. Without sugar, no sweet can be made. Now God is like the basic sugar. But, sweets are of varieties of shape, color and flavor. Some like one sweet and the others like yet another sweet. In India, we have Laddus, Zelabis, Badusha or Halva. Here also the basic ingredient is only sugar. Without sugar, no sweet will taste. Hence God is the basis for all the varieties of forms and Hindu religion offers varieties of options for worship of the Divine. Some even worship the child Krishna like the worship of infant Jesus in several parts of the country. I have forgotten to add one familiar and important form of Lord Ganesh who is considered as the son of Shiva and Parvathi!. He has an elephantine head and a big tummy. He is warding the devotees from all troubles and obstructions. Hence Lord Ganesha is worshiped primarily before any ritual or worship. Children and old, all like the form of Ganesh which gives an exhilarating experience.
Of course, the worship of Sathya Saibaba has gained credance all over the globe, even while Sathya Saibaba was living with a form! He is considered to be the incarnation of both Shirdi Baba as well as Shiva Sakthi, the primary force behind creation. Whether one believe or not, Faith plays a vital role in religion and worship. Hence there is nothing wrong to adopt different forms of worship.
In fact, our ancestors has worshiped Sun, tree, Ocean, Fire and even snakes. Faith alone matters and none can prove anything except for the fact that God pervades the Universe and all beings. He is the prime mover, motivator and absorb the creation after a fixed period!
Some religions advocate formless worship like the Islam. Every thing is only faith based. Christians worship Jesus, Mother Mary and the Cross as a symbol of crucifixion. Every form of worship is valid as long as Faith is the basis of worship! Buddhists worship Buddha and Jain worship Mahavir and Zorasthra followers worship the Fire. The criterion is faith in the forms. In course of time, the worship of forms will lead to the worship of Formless Divine!