An Introduction Hindu Gods and Goddesses, And Their Meanings

There are said to be over 300 million different Gods and Goddesses in the Hindu pantheon, and this page presents information on some of the most well known deities, including the Gods Shiva, Vishnu, Kali, Durga, Brahma, Saraswati and others. Despite having so many different celestial beings, most Hindus consider their religion to be monotheistic (having a singular Universal God), as opposed to being polytheistic (having different gods). The majority of Hindus adopt a chosen deity (known as an Ishtadevata) which they worship as an anthropomorphic (human like) form of the one Universal God (known as Brahman).

In short, because God is so magnificent, and because we mortals have such a limited capacity to understand the true nature of God, we can only conceive of one aspect of God at a time. This is illustrated in the Bhaghavad Gita where the heroic warrior Arjuna begs to see the glory of Krishna. Knowing that his majesty is too deep for Arjuna to comprehend, Krishna temporarily grants Arjuna the ability to "see" Lord Krishna in all his magnificence.

Another school of thought believes that Brahman is the Supreme Reality, operating at a plane that we humans cannot reach, nor can we comprehend. The other reality is the one in which our world exists, and evolves under an anthropomorphic god (Ishwara). Note that It is important not to confuse Brahman (Supreme Reality) with Brahma (God of Creation), nor with Brahmin (priest caste in Indian society).

In general, Hindus believe in the phrase, "many paths, one truth." One family may worship the God Shiva, while their neighbor may worship Lord Krishna. The people across the street might worship the Goddess Kali. But they do not think that their neighbors are heretics; instead, they each feel the other is following their own "path" to salvation by worshiping their predestined god or goddess. Because of this, Hindus also consider Buddhists and Jainists to be Hindus as well, although the followers of those two religions do not believe themselves to be Hindus.

Below are the most well known gods and goddesses in the Hindu pantheon. Many of these gods will be called a different name in different parts of India, or in the world. An example would be the Elephant headed god known in the West as Ganesh, but who is better known in India as Ganapati, although it is said that he has 108 different names. Please note that this list also includes demigods, who are villains of the Hindu deities.

Agni The Hindu God of Fire

In early Hinduism, Agni is one of the most important of the Vedic gods. Agni is the god of fire, and much of his importance comes from the role of fire in sacrifices and Hindu rituals. Agni is the embodiment of the fire which consumes the offerings to the Hindu gods, so he is seen […]

The Apsaras: Alluring Nature Spirits

So tempting, so alluring, the Apsaras were both idolized and scorned for their charming ways. So why are these trouble makers still important to Hinduism?

Asuras: Hindu Gods or Villains?

The Asuras are generally considered divine beings, who are primarily known for doing evil, but not always. It might be better to say that the Asuras are powerful beings who often are opposed to the gods. By the end of the Vedic period, however, the asuras had attained their more demonic role. Certainly some of […]

Brahma: the Hindu God of Creation

Who is Lord Brahma? In Hinduism, the God Brahma is the senior member of the triad of great gods, which also includes Vishnu and Shiva. He is one of the more complex Hindu deities, alternatively hurting, and then helping, mankind as well as other Hindu gods and goddesses. Brahma is considered the creator of the […]

Chandra: Hindu God Of The Moon

Chandra might be one of the most romantic of the Hindu deities. When poets and lovers gaze to the moon for inspiration, they actually are gazing at the Hindu God chandra.

Devi: The Divine Mother Goddess

While Devi is a nurturing, Mother Goddess, she has many wrathful forms as well. How can such a caring goddess be so cruel?

Durga: Hindu Invincble Goddess

Duga combines the energies of all the male Hindu Gods into one wrathful Goddess.

The Gandharvas

The Gandharvas were the mates of the Apsaras, and are considered spirits of the air, forests, and mountains. Sometimes they were seen as dirty creatures who were part man and part animal; other times they were men with birds’ legs and wings.

Ganesh: Hindu God Of Sccuess

Ganesh is the elephant Headed God of success, and is one of the most beloved Hindu deities in the world.

Ganga: Sacred River Goddess

While Ganga may have fallen from heaven and been relegated to earth, her role in the life of Hindus should not be underestimated.

Hanuman the Monkey King

Hanuman is so heroic and brave that this Monkey God has won the hearts of many Hindu devotees.

Indra: King Of The Early Vedic Gods

Indra was the supreme ruler of the gods in the early Hindu religious books, particularly the Rig Veda. Indra was the leader of the gods, the god of war, the god of thunder and storms, and the greatest warrior.

Kali: Hindu Goddess of Destruction

Kali is one of the most ferocious goddesses in Hinduism, but she is also crucial to the birth cycle of man.

Kama: Hindu God Of Love

Kama is the god of love in Hinduism. He is a son of Lakshmi. Kama is represented as a winged youth bearing bow and arrows (similar to Cupid). Kama uses the cane of sugarcane as the shaft of his bow and a line of buzzing bees as his bowstring. He rides a parrot across the […]

Krishna: The Spiritual Warrior

Despite HIS complexity, Krishna is one of the most loved and well known deities in all of India.

Lakshmi: Hindu Goddess Of Fortune

Lakshmi is loved and admired, for her grace, and the gifts she bestows upon here devotees.

Nagas: Divine Serpents of Protection

While serpents are normally reviled, the Nagas hold a special place in Hinduism as protectors of spiritual devotion, and also are venerated in Buddhism as well.

Parvati: Hindu Wife, Mother, and Devotee

Parvati might have been a disappointment to her parents, but she is often considered a role model for the ideal woman.

Pisachas: Evil Ghost Spirits

All cultures have ghosts in their legends, and Hinduism is no different. The Pisachas are the most well know of the Hindu ghostly spirits and they are closely links to some of the other Hindu deities.

Rahu The Moon Eater

In Hindu legend, Rahu is a demon that causes eclipses. He rides a chariot pulled by eight black horses, with his mouth wide open, ready to devour the sun or moon.

The Rakshas: Enemies of Rama

The Rakshas were under the power of the evil King Ravana, and they were intent on defeating Lord Rama, the divine bowman avatar of Lord Vishnu.

Rama: Divine Heroic Prince

Rama is often cited as an ideal role model for male Children in India. His triumphs against evil forces are some of the most widely loved stories for families to share.

Rudra The Howler: God of Storms

Rudra was an early malevolent god, mentioned in the Rig Veda, and associated with storms and other natural disasters. Often heard but never seen, and thus referred to as The Howler.

Saraswati: Goddess of Learning and Arts

Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge and the mistress of the arts, and is the consort of Brahma. She rules the intellectual and creative realm, and is the patron saint of libraries and schools. Saraswati is not normally adorned in jewels, but instead opts for a white sari. Her vehicle is a swan, and Saraswati […]

Shiva: Hindu God of Destruction

Shiva is a contradiction in terms; at once a fearsome destroyer and yet also a calm, meditating spiritual seeker. And when he stops dancing, the universe collapses.

Surya The Sun God

Surya is one of the celestial body deities, being considered the God of The Sun. He held a special place in early Hinduism, and is the son of the God Indra.

Varuna: God Of The Seas

Not one of the better known deities, Varuna was associated not only as ruler of the seas, but also as the guardian of justice and enforcing promises and contracts.

Vishnu: Hindu God of Protection

Vishnu and His Avatars are the most widely worshiped deities in the Hindu world, as Vishnu’s many forms are credited with tremendous achievements.

Yakshas: Hindu Gods of Wealth

Yakshas were thought to have control over who could obtain wealth and resources from the earth. Their position made them an important player in The Mahabharata.