Shiva, meaning “The Auspicious One”), also known as Mahadeva (“Great God”), is a popular Hindu deity. Shiva is regarded as one of the primary forms of God. He is the Supreme God within Shaivism, one of the three most influential denominations in contemporary Hinduism. He is one of the five primary forms of God in the Smarta tradition, and “the Destroyer” or “the Transformer” among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine.
Since Hinduism is often not really talked about in terms of pantheon (”all the rage” is with Greek/Roman/Egyptian, MAYBE Norse, depending on the circle you’re talking to), I wanna take the time to discuss some important deities within the Hinduism pantheon. There are other important ‘mythical’ type figures in Hinduism, so this list does NOT include everyone.
My information for this list was taken from the amazing book The Little Book of Hindu Deities by the great author, Sanjay Patel.
Ganesha: Best known for ‘good luck’, Ganesh/Ganesha is often spoken to when someone is asking for good luck. He is the son of Shiva and Parvati. He loves sweets! He is the brother of Karttikeya, and is the son of Shiva and Parvati
The Hindu Trinity (trimurti)
Brahma: Creator of the world and all living things, he designed the goddess Sarasvati. She was very shy and when she tried to avoid his gaze, he sprouted another head (coming to four heads in total). He can commonly be seen riding a goose or swan. He is the keeper of the Holy Vedas (the story of how the world was created according to Hinduism)
Vishnu: He is known as the ‘invisible protector’. He preserves justice and has 10 avatars. He is very popular in Hinduism
Shiva: He is known as a meditator, yogi (someone who acts as an inspiration for all is the simplest way to describe this; the Bhagavad Gita, which is a famous holy piece of text in Hinduism, describes it as: fearlessness, purity of heart, strives for wisdom, studies Hindu scripture, is self disciplined, straight forward, is truthful, does not hold grudges against someone, promotes peace, shows compassion for all creatures, does not exhibit greed, is gentle and modest, is not restless, is forgiving and patient and does not hold onto hatred and is not conceited). Shiva is the god of destruction, transformation, and regeneration. Deer and snakes are often associated with him. He is the dad of Ganesha and Karttikeya and husband to Parvati. He can often be seen with a trident next to him, the trident symbolizing creation, protection, and destruction of the universe
Mahadevi (mother goddess)
Sarasvati: Goddess of knowledge and arts, she was the first goddess ever to be worshipped in Hinduism. She is the sister of Lakshmi and Parvati. She is a symbol of being a great thinker, a gifted creator, and an independent woman. It is believed that mortal musicians, artists, writers, and students are part of her family. Her companion is a white swan. She is also NOT interested in romance with others.
Durga: Shiva suggested to create a new god, and thus Durga was made. She is known to be pretty, fierce, and a great warrior. Hindus celebrate her with Durga Puja, which is a 10 day celebration. She fights suffering and injustice and brings harmony and kindness. She is known to feed animals and people and is a fearless goddess. She can commonly be found riding on lions or tigers.
Lakshi: She is the goddess of wealth and happiness. The Hindu gods fell in love with her when she emerged from the ocean. Shiva claimed her as his wife, but she was only interested in Vishnu. Shiva also already had a wife, so Lakshi became his consort (life partner). She is known for good luck, but she does NOT have tolerance for those who wish to use her for money (such as luck with gambling). Lakshi is known to gift prosperity and often carries an ancient symbol of well being.
Parvati: Parvati has numerous names: Uma, Guari, and Shakti. She was born into royalty. She fell in love with Shiva and visited him often, gifting him with flowers and fruit. Shiva, however, was deep into meditation and never noticed her. Parvati grew extremely frustrated and threw herself into seclusion, going into her own meditation. She wanted to create enough energy from the meditation to force Shiva to noticed her. It worked and he accepted her as his wife. Parvati is the mother of Ganesha and Karttikeya. Parvati is the goddess of fertility, love, divine strength, and devotion.
Sita: Sita is said to be made from the earth and be the child of an earth deity because of that. She is an avatar of the goddess Lakshmi. Sita was kidnapped from her beloved. When she was returned to her husband, Rama, people questioned her “purity”. To prove it, she walked through fire, and remarkably, she went unscathed!
Kali: Known as the “black one”, Kali is known to encompass paradoxes. She is not the goddess death (this is a common misconception with her). However, she is the goddess of time, liberation, and is considered to be a loving mother goddess to her devotees. An extremely fierce fighter, Kali defeated a supposedly ”unbeatable” enemy that was causing the other Hindu gods trouble!
Nagas: they were semi-divine beings and were commonly depicted as half-cobra and half-human (and handsome!). Nagas held a dual identity - semidivine and semidemonic. They were known to protect the Earth’s treasures. They were commonly seen as symbols of creation, life, and fertility. They were known to help the Hindu gods on different quests and sheltered Buddha from a terrible storm.
Garuda: Known of the kind of birds, he moved at the speed of light! Garuda was known as the messenger to rely messages between gods and humans. He is also known to have a huge appetite. So much so, that Vishnu asked him if he wanted to peck at his arm and eat his flesh. Garuda attempted to peck him, but saw that the god’s skin was impenetrable, and realized he was asked a question by a god! Since this incident, Garuda promised to serve Vishnu
Hanuman: He is the son of Vayu and is known as the Monkey King. He can greatly expand his size or shrink to a very small size. He is known to be strong, clever, loyal, and a very faithful friend. He was good friends with Rama (an incarnation of Vishnu). Rama had a younger brother, named Lakshmana, who was injured in battle. Hanuman went to find herbs to help him heal, but was unsure of what to grab. To rectify this situation, he brought the whole mountain of what the herbs were on!
Surabi: She is the mother of all cows. She is a symbol of abundance, nonviolence, respect, prosperity, generosity, help purifies bodies, and blesses people with good health. According to Indian law (India), cows can NOT be harmed.
I have left off the 10 avatars of Vishnu, demigods, the nine planets, and summaries of some important holy texts in Hinduism. I felt like this list served as a good general introduction to the Hinduism pantheon. This list was NOT supposed to be an ‘in depth’ review of the Hindu pantheon! Again, much thanks to The Little Book of Hindu Deities by the great author, Sanjay Patel.
Shiva, the third of the Hindu trinity, has many different facets and many names to go with them. Known as the supreme Lord, Mahadev ; Bholenath, the kind, naive granter of boons; Hara, remover of sins;Natraja, Lord of dance; Pashupati, master of all living beings; Umapati, consort of Devi Parvati. He is known as Rudra when he is fierce and Bhairav, the terrible one. He is Omkara, originator of Om, and Shankara, the one who provides happiness.
In his right hand he carries a trishul (trident) to represent his supremecy over the three principles of nature: sattva, rajas and tamas. Tied to the trishul is a damru (drum) which produced the first sound of creation. His garlands of serpants represent his wisdom and his tiger skin indicates that he has mastered lust.
Shiva’s mount is the bull Nandi, known as his greatest devotee. He is said to be as fair as camphor and the embodiment of compassion. He has matted hair and a hidden third eye on his forehead which, once opened, has the power to destroy all of creation. Shiva lives on the peaks of Mount Kailash, in the Himalayas. He is shown undertaking the transition of asectic to householder, after encountering Shakti.
Shiva is celebrated during the festival of Mahashivratri (literally the night of Shiva) marking the night when Shiva remarries Shakti in the form of Parvati, after having lost her as Sati.
Sonamhelps’ Beginners Guide to Hinduism and the Hindu Gods
Hinduism is a polytheistic religion, meaning its followers believe in and worship a number of gods and goddesses rather than just one. BUT, the majority of Hindus believe that there is ultimately one God who is the Supreme - ideas on how this works vary.
‘Hinduism’ is really just an umbrella term under which many varied religious traditions and practices fall. In this guide I will give an introduction to the main gods and goddesses and summarize some general beliefs and terminology.
[Muslims] have difficulty understanding Christians when the Christians talk of the Holy Trinity. ‘How can God be the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit? How can he one be three?’ It doesn’t correspond with Semitic theology at all. But it was fine among Europeans. They could understand the Holy Trinity. And Hindus, when they’re first introduced to Christianity, have no issues with it at all because this is quite common in Indo-European, for one god to be many things, for a god to be another god at the same time, for different gods to combine to be a new god. And for a god to be a man. A man-god is very Indo-European. That might be why Christ was so quickly adopted by Europeans in certain parts of Europe because the man-god is an archetype that they’re familiar with.
Ekapada-Trimurti Ekapada refers to a one-footed aspect of the Hindu god Shiva.
In the Ekapada-Trimurti (“one-footed Trinity”) form, he is depicted with the torsos of the deities Vishnu and Brahma, which together with Shiva form the Hindu Trinity (Trimurti) emanating from his sides, waist upwards and with one leg; however, sometimes, besides the central one leg of Shiva, two smaller legs of Vishnu and Brahma emerge from the sides. (via wikipedia)