- Brahman refers to the supreme spirit of Hinduism.
- All other deities are personifications of aspects of Brahman.
- Brahman is eternal without beginning or end, without form, without gender.
- Take a glass of water. Add some salt – it will dissolve into the water and you won’t be able to see it or remove it. Now taste the water and you will taste the salt in every drop of the water.
- In this analogy the water represents the world and the salt represents Brahman, though invisible Brahman is omnipresent (everywhere.)
- Atman is the term used in Hinduism to describe the soul.
- The Atman is derived from Brahman.
- The Atman is indestructible and after the death of the body the soul either achieves Moksha or is reborn into another body.
- Rebirth is determined by the law of samsara and karma.
The Tri-murti. The tri-murti refers to the three main deities in Hinduism.
Brahma - The Creator
- The creator Brahma (not to be confused with Brahman ) is the creator God.
- He has four heads which allow his to see all four corners of the world.
- It is very unusual nowadays for Brahma to be the object of worship.
- Brahma’s consort is Saraswati the goddess of creative acts such as music.
Vishnu - the preserver
Vishnu is recognisable by the objects he holds
- lotus flower
- conch shell.
Vishnu has 10 avatars (incarnations) who visit the Earth to save it in times of danger. 9 avatars have already visited the earth and Hindus expect one more.
The avatars are
- 1. Matsya; a giant fish who saved the world from a flood
- 2. Kurma; a tortoise who carried the whole world on his back
- 3. Varaha; A boar who lifted the world out of deep waters using his tusks
- 4. Narasimha; half man- half lion. Killed a demon
- 5. Vamana; A dwarf who saved the world from an evil demon king.
- 6. Parashurama; Rama with an axe
- 7. Rama; a Prince whose adventures are in the Ramayana
- 8. Krishna; a Prince who had many adventures
- 9. Buddha; A Prince who gave up his wealth and started Buddhism
- 10. Kalki; will come as a warrior on a white horse to end the ‘age of darkness
Shiva - the Destoyer
Has three forms.
- 1. Maha yogi shows Shiva sitting cross-legged with a trident beside him. He has a cobra round his neck, a tiger print loin cloth and the River Ganges flowing through his hair. The story tells that when the River Ganges came down to Earth it would have destroyed the Earth if it had not flown through Shiva’s hair.
- 2. Nataraj Is the Lord of the Dance who is shown dancing on a dwarf who represents ignorance. It is said that it is Shiva’s dancing which keeps the world turning.
- 3. Lingum is a phallic symbol which represents fertility and over which milk is poured as an offering.
Shakti refers to the female goddess.
The main goddesses are:
- Durga the goddess of war. Worshipped at Navaratri
- Saraswati goddess of music, creativity and learning.
- Kali the goddess of death.
- Lakshmi the goddess of good luck.
Krishna & Radha
- Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu who saved the world by drinking poison (this is what turned him blue.)
- Krishna is known a cheeky character who stole butter and hid the clothes of the cowgirls (Gopis) who were bathing in the river and then climbed up a tree to see them as they came out.
- Krishna is a cowherd who is recognisable from his flute.
- He is also known as Govinda (cowherd).
- Krishna is particularly associated with the festival of Holi when people play tricks on each other.
Rama & Sita
- The story of Rama & Sita is found in the Ramayana.
- Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu & Sita his wife is an incarnation of Lakshmi.
- Rama is recognisable by his blue skin and his bow and arrows.
- He is often shown with his brother Lakshman and Hanuman the monkey King.
- Sita’s faithfulness to Rama makes her the perfect wife in the eyes of Hindus.
- The story of Rama & Sita is central to the festival of Diwali
- Hanuman is the King of the Monkeys in the story of the Ramayana.
- When sent by Rama to collect some herbs from a mountain, Hanuman brought the whole of the mountain.
- He is therefore held up as an example of how devoted to God Hindus should be.
- Ganesh is the elephant headed deity.
- He is the child of Shiva and Parvati.
- He is the god of good luck and the remover of obstacles, because of this he is often prayed to in the Mandir before other deities.
- He has a swastika symbol to represent good luck.
- Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and good luck.
- Her vehicle is a lotus flower and she is shown holding lotus flowers and pouring coins out of her hands.
- Lakshmi is worshipped at Diwali the Hindu new year when Hindus hope that Lakshmi will bless them with good fortune in the coming year.
- Sita and Radha are both incarnations of Lakshmi.