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Top 10 Religious Deities of India

Updated on February 1, 2016

Introduction

The country India has forever been renowned for its unity in diversity. And yes, these diversities are prevalent in the field of religion too. India has been the birth place of some of the most popular religions of the world like Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism. But the majority of the country follows Hinduism, which has been the most ancient religion practiced in the country. All these different sets of religions have got different set of deities. Here's presenting you with the list of top 10 most worshiped deities of the Indian subcontinent.

10) Lord Jagannath

Source

Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Krishna, is considered to be the "Lord of the Universe". Lord Jagannath's devotees are most common in the Indian states of Odisha, Chattisgarh, West Bengal and other adjacent ones.


There's a temple of Lord Jagannath in Puri, Odisha and it is considered to be a part of the sacred Char Dham Yatra. People celebrate Rath Yatra, the most important festival associated with the Lord, in the rainy season which falls mostly in the months of June or July when the Lord and his siblings - elder brother Balarama and elder sister Subhadra - are brought out of the temple to be transported to the nearby Mausimaa temple in three massive wooden chariots steered by the devotees who gather from all parts of the country.

9) Goddess Saraswati


Yet another name among the famous deities of India is Saraswati Devi. Saraswati is synonymous with intelligence, consciousness, creativity, education, enlightenment, music and art. Devi is always shown holding a Book in one hand and a Sitar in the other. Wearing a necklace of crystals, she always has a pot of sacred water by her side. Also known as "Hansavahini", she has "Hansa" (Duck) as her vehicle. Saraswati Devi is worshipped on the day of "Basant Panchmi" every year. The celebrations for the festival is mostly observed in institutions and homes.


8) Lord Buddha

Buddha, generally worshiped by followers of Buddhist religion, has also been popularly known as Gautama Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama or Shakyamuni. Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhist religion in the world, always taught to deal with the most adverse situations in life with a positive and a calm mind, thus converting the obstacles of the path into the opportunities. The core of all his teachings have been "Dhyana" - which he has presented as a solution to all the antagonism that surrounds us. Buddha staunchly believed in the concept of Karma - "we always get what we deserve" - and preached it to his followers.


In Hinduism, Buddha has also been considered to be the 9th Avatar of Lord Vishnu.


7) Goddess Durga

Goddess Durga, the mother of the Universe, signifies victory of Good over Evil. She's the spouse of Lord Shiva and the mother of Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati, God Ganesh and God Kartik. Maa Durga, the extreme all-powerful, is known for slaying the Demon Mahisasura to protect the universe from his wrath. Goddess is always portrayed as riding a lion as her vehicle. She has been worshiped from the time immemorial. Dressed in a royal attire, she always holds a lotus and a conch in her hands. Her every facet is reflective of her power and 'Shakti'.


Durga Maa, whose got 9 avatars, has also got a compassionate side to her. She offers hopefulness to one and all and helps fight against the evil inside - Greed, Lust, Anger, Envy and Ego. She reminds us that in order to achieve the absolute bliss and contentment, one has to go through the path of difficulties and emerge victorious out of it. She's worshiped twice a year - once during the 1st half of the year and other during the later half of the year, 2nd one being more popular.


6) Goddess Lakshmi

Goddess Lakshmi, the wife of Lord Vishnu, represents material and spiritual abundance, prosperity and fortune. Goddess Lakshmi is said to bring good luck. Goddess is said to have taken birth during the creation of the universe floating over the water on the expanded petals of lotus flowers. Maa Lakshmi is always portrayed with 4 hands and they represent the 4 most significant objectives of human life - Dharma (morality), Kama (aspirations) , Artha (prosperity) and Moksha (liberation). She's primarily worshiped during Diwali, a festival of joy, lights and opulence, every year.

5) Lord Ganesha

Lord Ganesha, the eldest son of Lord Shiva, is the god of knowledge and remover of obstacles. All Hindus worship him, or at least remember him before starting any auspicious ceremony or ritual. Ganesha, also known as 'Vinayaka' and 'Vighn Harta', has got an Elephant's head which symbolizes sharpest intellect. Four armed Ganesha holds Sword in the one, Shell in other, Sweet in the 3rd Hand and Lotus in the 4th hand. Lord Ganesha's vehicle is a tiny mouse. He's typically offered sweets, especially Ladoos. Though Lord Ganesha's worship is synonymous with the beginning of anything new, yet the most important festival associated with him is Ganesha Chaturthi.


The story of Lord Ganesha's birth goes like this. Goddess Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva, created a boy out of her dirt - Lord Ganesha - and assigned her task of guarding the entrance to her bathroom. When Lord Shiva came, he was denied entry by this stranger and an angry Shiva killed the boy by slashing out his head. This completely broke down Parvati and in order to relieve her Shiva decided to revive Ganesha. For this, he sent out his army to fetch the head of any living being sleeping facing north. The army brought the head of an Elephant and it was attached to Lord Ganesha's body. Thus Shiva restored his life and also gave him a boon that everyone would remember him before starting any venture.

4) Lord Hanumana

Lord Hanumana, the monkey god ,is well known for his fearlessness, faithfulness and selflessness. Legends say that Hanumana is a son of Anjana, a nymph who was cursed to be transformed into a monkey and Vayu, the wind god. While young, Hanumana was quite mischievous and misused his powers to cause harm to the saints living in the nearby forest. So, Lord Brahma, in order to protect the world from Hanuman's mischief, cursed Hanuman that he'll forget everything about his power. He was relieved of his curses only when Jamavantha reminded him of his abilities after which he went ahead and found Sita Maa.


Lord Hanuman was the biggest devotee of Lord Rama. He played a major role in the happenings of Ramayana. When Sita was kidnapped by the demon Ravana during Ram's exile of 14 years, then it was Hanuman only who flew across the oceans and found Sita Devi in Lanka and helped Rama to bring her back. He was forever committed to the unselfish service of Lord Rama. Hanuman's temples are the most common temples in India. Out of the many, most important prayer dedicated to Lord Hanumana is Hanumana Chalisa. It is quite common among the Hindus to chant Hanuman Chalisa when in trouble.

3) Lord Rama

As per the saying goes, Lord Rama is considered to be the 7th avatar of Lord Vishnu. Lord Rama, the king of Ayodhya is the protagonist of the Hindu epic Ramayana. He is an epitome of truth, ideal husband, ideal son and an ideal king. Lord Rama signifies victory of Good over Evil. In order to save his father's honour, Lord Rama goes on to an exile for 14 years where he is accompanies by his wife Sita and younger brother Lakshmana. While serving his exile, his wife Sita gets kidnapped by the king of the demons, Ravana who resides in Lanka. Rama fights Ravana and in the end defeats him with the help of Monkey God, Hanumana and brings back his wife. After his exile is over, he returns back to Ayodhya to be crowned as a king and ultimately rules with peace, happiness, justice and prosperity.


The primary source of information about Rama's life is saint Valmiki's epic Ramayana. There are some important Hindu festivals associated with Lord Rama. Rama's birth day is celebrated as "Ram Navami", the 9th day of the Hindu Lunar Year. The occasion of victory of Lord Rama over Ravana is celebrated as a 10 Day festival - Bijayadashmi, also called Dussehra. The return of Ram to Ayodhya and him being crowned as the King of Ayodhya is celebrated as Diwali, one of the most important festivals of Hindu religion. Temples of Lord Ram can be found all over India in large numbers and in most of them he's depicted with wife Sita and younger brother Lakshmana alongside him and Lord Hanumana sitting at his feet.

2) Lord Krishna

Lord Krishna, the 8th avatar of Lord Vishnu is one of the most renowned Hindu deities. The name Krishna signifies the unmatched charm and the beauty of the supreme person. For generations, Lord Krishna has influenced the Indian culture, religion, philosophy, literature, painting and sculpture. In his childhood, he attracted the people of Vrindavan, the city where Lord Krishna grew up, through his naughtiness and charm. In youth, he formed the center of affection of all the young ladies of Vrindavana through his irresistible beauty and flute playing. Lord Krishna adviced Pandavas in the middle of the Mahabharata war which forms the crux of Bhagwad Gita.


Krishna, the 8th son of Vasudev and Devki destroyed sin on earth by killing the powerful prince Kansa. Radha was the dearest friend of Krishna though they never got married to each other. He's always depicted as a fresh youth with a darker complexion playing a flute and has its hair adorned with peacock feathers. Lord Krishna's birthday is celebrated as Janmashthami, one of the most important Hindu religious festivals.

1) Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva, also called Mahadeva or Great God is one of the most important religious deity of India. Lord Shiva along with Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu form the 3 major dieties of Hinduism. Shiva, also known as Destroyer, is endless whose neither found born nor found dead. Lord Shiva follows the path of a yogi who lets go of everything in world of forms. Shiva's first wife is Goddess Sati and second wife is Goddess Parvati. Lord Shiva, fair like camphor, wears 3 serpents and a garland of skulls around his neck. He's got a trident in his right lower arm and a crescent moon on his head. Shiva is always depicted having a 3rd eye with which he burnt all the desires to ashes.


Often in temples, Lord Shiva is worshiped as the Lingam. The Lingam denotes the embrace of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Through a profound understanding of this symbol, the mystery of creation can be understood as an act of love. There are Shiva temples all over India. The most important festival associated with the devotees of Lord Shiva is Shiva Maharatri. On this day, Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati and performed the 'Tandava' dance.


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© 2016 Saurav Banthia

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