Script of video, Gods and Goddesses of India, written and directed by Vamanan (Superaudio)
Why are there many gods and goddesses in Hinduism? What is their meaning and import?
From the mighty peaks of the Himalayas in the north to the oceans in the south, India is a great nation with more than a billion people.
About eighty percent of the population, follows broadly the Hindu religion, which is based on manifold texts, many teachers and many gods.
Hinduism is founded on the deep experience of sages and mystics. It is therefore called the Sanatana Dharma, or the Eternal Way of Life.
Nourished by the faith and adoration of the people, the living truths of Hinduism journey from a diverse world of manifold deities to one godhead
(Vamanan on Screen)
We hear it said often that God is one.
Of course god is one. God is singular and has to be one.
But perhaps it is as true, that gods are many. And not only because gods is plural.
We see a world of multiplicity…and this multitudinous world as it were, has to have many deities, many powers, many gods…
And this is the basis on which Hinduism works…
It gives many gods, because we see many worlds…
Actually, the experience of the Oneness of God, is the highest experience as Hinduism sees it….
So Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita… that, that man who has experienced the oneness of god behind the multiple worlds that he sees, that man is rare….
Vaasudeva Sarvamiti sa Mahatma sudurlabaha…
That is why Hinduism shows many gods to people who see many worlds….
The Gods Beckon….
Ganesha, First Worshipped, First to Bless…
Ganesha, Son of the Universal Parents
Mother, the Matrix of All Creation
Shiva Infinite, Limiting Himself in name and form
All Pervasive Vishnu, the Protector
Karthikeya, Commander of the Celestials
Sun God and the God in the Sun
Saraswathi, Goddess of Learning
Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth
And all the Great Avatars of Vishnu
Hinduism also adores those immersed in God
The ancient Vedas are taken to be the spiritual anchor of the truths of Hinduism.
The Vedas speak of many gods like Indra, Agni and Varuna….but their final discovery is that of one ultimate reality ….that reality after knowing which everything becomes known..after experiencing which nothing more needs to be experienced….
The Vedic sages, so India believes, found that One truth which can make man realize immortality…give his temporary life the light of eternity.
To lead common people to that One Truth, the Vedic visionaries unfolded a system of adoration that would lead them from the known to the unknown….from the finite to the infinite….
(Famous Sloka on Vinayaka Sung) – Gajananan Bhootha Ganaadhi Sevitham…
(Interviewee – Art critic Lakshmi Venkatraman) –
We have also given characteristics to every personality of the gods…Some Gods we take as very genial …kind…very friendly kind of god like Ganesha…
Affable Ganesha relates to common folk…from shrines by water tanks …
..and from under the shade of sacred trees…
Ganesha has become the darling of devotees who celebrate his blessings with glee…
(Interviewee – Sculptor Murugan)
People cuddle up to Ganesha as if to a child. That way Vinayaka Chathurthi is being celebrated in India and even all over the world with fanfare…Vinayaka is shown with computer or playing instruments like violin, flute or veena. These are instruments we use..We link them with god and picture him as using them. This is the impetus for making such images. As the computer is everywhere now, we make an image of Vinayaka as using the computer…
The young are taught to worship Ganesha for knowledge and clarity of thought. Women fulfil vows when he answers their prayers.
But Ganesha also beckons his devotees to wider spiritual horizons. A poetic work credited to the legendary Tamil poetess Avvai celebrates the power of Ganesha in liberating the coiled psychic energy at the base of our spine.
Tilak, the freedom-fighter, revived the Ganesh festival to instill patriotism. Today it is Maharashtra’s greatest social and religious event.
Muthuswami Dikshithar, the classical composer, celebrated Ganesha as the auspicious form of the Ultimate Truth…the very fountain of consciousness, truth and joy. Elements of Tantra and Mantra sastra mingle in his worship of Ganesha.
(Devotee T. P,Ramamurthi) – My Priority in prayers was always to Lord Ganesha…Wherever I go…My deep faith is soaked only in Lord Ganesha…who I consider as God Absolute
Muthuswami Dikshithars Vathapi Ganapathim is a masterpiece on Ganesha
Subtitles shows translated lines from Vaathapi Ganapathim
Worshipped by Agastya (the pot-born one) from ancient times…
Ganesha resides in the triangular yantra…
Worshipped by Murari, Worshipped by Vishnu and other Gods
Is established in the Mooladhara…
Ganesha embodies the creative energies from the grossest to the subtlest form…
He is the very form of the mystic symbol Om and sports a curved trunk…
Salutations to the Divine Mother….who is the body, mind, life and soul of all beings…
As mother earth, she begets, sustains and nourishes all life….
As the cosmic mother, she is the progenitor of all the deities….
As Yogamaya, she is the matrix within which all the experiences, hopes and strivings of living creatures are configured…
As the mystic Ramprasad said, You can find mother in any
home…she is Bhairavi with Shiva, she is Sita for Lakshmana, she is mother, daughter, wife and sister…what more can one say…Who can understand the goddess in all her glory? Can ants grasp the moon? The scriptures say that she is the fount from which all life flows…she is the ocean into which all rivers merge…
(The song Nityanandakari….is heard…)
Ocean of Beauty, Bestower of Everlasting Joy, Destroyer of Sin, Great Goddess
The Heavens and the Stars are her ornament…Her graze brims with compassion…
Presiding deity of Kashi, holiest of cities…
Giver of Yogic Bliss, Destroyer of Foes…
Resplendant with the sun, moon and fire…
Giver of All wealth, fruits of penance,
And the great blessing of wisdom….
She is Durga and Kali, Destroyer of Fear
A veritable ocean of compassion
Mother, who art ever full, consort of Shiva
Grant us the blessing of wisdom and dispassion
The great Carnatic composer Syama Sastri adored the mother as the golden Kamakshi through musical masterpieces brimming with sublime devotion…the Maratha king Shivaji derived strength from mother Bhavani for his daring military exploits ..In our times the modern mystic Sri Aurobindo and the Tamil poet Bharati sought her blessings for the national cause… For Sri Ramakrishna, she was Bhavatarini, the mother who guides the soul past the ocean of phenomenal life to the plenitude of divine consciousness
Who can unfold the divine glory of the great Mahadeva, from whom the worlds emerge.
How can one contemplate the greatness of the Lord who transcends the ways of all thought. What offerings can be made to Him whose body is the entire cosmos. To which direction can one turn to pay tribute to the One who pervades all the directions and transcends all of them as well.
Yet, the Formless and nameless Lord, assumes names and forms and wears the apparels of time and space out of love for devotees who adore him. The Lord of the World, Vishwanatha, takes the form of a beggar. The Yogi of Yogis, becomes the greatest of Lovers who shares half of himself with his consort. The Silent Teacher becomes the Cosmic Dancer showing that eternal silence and eternal motion can unite in the divine. Who can comprehend the glory of Shiva?
(The song Bho Shambo…Hark O Shambu, Self revealed)
(Subtitles on Nataraja bronze…)
The Damaru Symbolises Creation
The Raised Hand Protection
Fire Means Destruction
The Smile signifies sport
Subtitle – The sacred names of Shiva….
(Recitation of the names of Shiva…)
Words of interviewee –
In Hinduism, we have what are called Sahasranamas or a thousand names for each of the main deities…
These names of god…these names of these deities…give certain particular names that are relevant only to them…but most of them are general names…and point to the infinitude, to the limitlessness…to the namelessness…to the transcending nature of god….
God is Ananta…he is beyond any limit…so each of these gods is like an ocean..which has its beach…which has its limit….but each of them calls us to the experience of the infinite,unnameable, ineffable divine experience…
Hinduism invites each of us…to have our own particular gods…but through them to see the Infinity…that is god…
Vishnu, the one who pervades all the worlds…
Vasudeva, the supreme who resides in every atom of the universe
In the classic four armed pose, he holds a mace, conch and discus
He is Shiva, Soorya and Narayana put together…
Beloved of Sri, the very embodiment of compassion
Flanked by Sridevi and Bhoodevi
Protector of Gajendra, the great elephant
(Interviewee – S. Vijayaraghavan, vaishnavite devotee)
……I am referring to Anandasagarasthava by Neelakantha Diskshitha…Going through this particular work, my restlessness regarding the mode of worship ended…and I practiced single minded devotion to Mahavishnu…That has given me immense satisfaction…This is an important milestone in my lifetime…
Vishnu…the name itself means all pervading…even the thousand-hooded serpent on which he reclines is called Ananta, the infinite…The divine personality with a thousand heads, a thousand eyes and a thousand feet…he encompasses the worlds…but transcends it says the Purusha Sookta…Yet, the infinitude becomes embodied in its divine descents to restore equilibrium in the world…Vishnu’s divine embodiments are called avataras.
(Subtitles – the ten avatars from Matsya, Koorma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parasurama, Rama, Balarama, Krishna and Kalki…)
The avataras of Vishu embody great truths about momentous events in various epochs…But down the centuries, the worship of some of them has been more prevalent.
The Varaha or boar descent retrieved the earth from the waters of the nether regions. An embodiment of the spiritual wisdom, Varaha also destroyed the demon, Hiranyaksha, who represents the greed for absolute power.
Vamana, the divine dwarf, overcame King Bali, who also sought world dominion. Vamana sought three steps with his little feet, and measured the three worlds and crushed Mahabali’s greed. The little overcoming the awesome. Spirit conquering Matter.
Narasimha, the man-lion is an avatar adored by many. The terrific form was dictated by the boons a demon had gained against being killed by man or beast. The demon sought material might which his son Prahlada sought the spiritual vision. Ultimately Vishnu burst out of a pillar to show the son right, and gave the demon his just desserts.
The modernists and so called secularists like to think of him as a mythical hero, but Rama’s footprints are evident all over India and the spirit of the land bears the fingerprints of his deeds…great minds in India’s recorded the power of his personality in literary masterpieces in the many tongues of the nation…His name Ram became a mystical key to the metaphysical world…Literature, art, temple sculpture, mysticism and religion reflect the sway of Rama…
But it was left to one man to soar to the musical apogee on Rama’s wings…A great Telugu who burst into creative profusion in the heart of Tamil land on the banks of the Cauvery…Thyagaraja…(the song Jagadanandakaaaraka)
The call of the mystical flute player…the magic of Sri Krishna’s personality lures adorers down the millenia…Born in the darkness of prison, Krishna brings the light of divinity into our lives… Prankster kid, Supernatural hero, King and Diplomat, Master strategist, Inimitable lover, Greatest Philosopher of all times…the personas worn by Krishna, God in human form, challenge enumeration and escape description…
Andal, the Tamil poetess and other Alwar mystics deep in Tamil Nadu, penetrated through their mystical vision into the divine ambience of the Krishna of Mathura and Brindavan… They drank rapturously from the fount of Krishna’s divine personality.
Mira of Rajasthan breathed Krishna and is said to have merged in him. Chaitanya in Bengal lived and moved in Krishna and became a movement of Krishna consciousness….
Child Krishna crushing the
vicious serpent Kaliya
Krishna lifting the Govardhana hill
to quell the pride of Indra
Krishna dispatching the
Krishna sports with the cowherdesses
– the Raasa Leela
Andal, 8th century C.E.
Azhwars, Tamil adorers of Vishnu
Mirabhai, 16th century mystic
Chaitanya, 16th century saint, himself
considered to be an avatar of Krishna
(Maajhemanu…Namadeva abhang) Subtitles –
At Pandarpur in Maharashtra, Krishna is worshipped as Vithala
At Udaipur, Rajasthan Krishna is venerated as Srinath
At Puri, Krishna is worshipped with brother Balarama and sister Subhadra…
Deities worshipped in temples are also considered as divine descents…
Most promiment is Srinivasa, or Balaji,
Vishnu’s aspect in the Seven Hills
Without a wink of sleep perhaps, Balaji showers
Boons on the meek and the mighty
The meek give their hair and faith, the rich
Shower their riches
Karthikeya, the spiritual son of Shiva
And the paragon of youth and beauty
The Tamils call him Murugan, most of their hills
Are the abode of the deity
Muruga’s six faces symbolize the six chakras, he
Is the truth that shines beyond
Ayyappa, the spiritual son of Shiva and Vishnu…
He reigns from his famous temple at Sabarimala
Ayyappa is reached after crossing dense forests
And a vow well kept
Past the symbolic eighteen steps, devotion
comes face to face with its object
Horseheaded Hayagreeva, a wisdom avatar of Vishnu
Dhanvantari, the divine physician
Dattatreya, combined aspect of the Trinity…
The ultimate spiritual master
The Buddha, once considered a heretic…then
Hanuman…from the pages of the Ramayana
To the shrine…as Rama’s greatest devotee
Hanuman, the soul of strength, sincerity and humility
Hanuman, whose spirituality uplifts Hindus all over India
The Navagrahas…nine planets…are propitiated by Hindus…
They are considered to give humans the fruits of past actions
(Interviewee – Sanskrit scholar P. G. Subramanian)
Hinduism gives us the choice the path to the public…or the individual….We…as an individual have the right to choose the right path…to reach the ultimate destination…which is only one…We call that destination in Hinduism as the Parabrahman or the Atman…or the Paramatma…We are the Jeevatma…and we call that as Paramatma…it is up to this Jeevatma to reach that Paramatma in a hurdlefree path…To reach that destination in a hurdlefree path…we are given multiple choice to choose the deities…The deities are nothing but the different manifestations…of that Paramatma…which we would term as a cluster of energy…or the source from which the entire world is being created…To reach that Paramatma we can just choose any of the deities who are nothing but the different manifestations from that Paramatma…Whether it be lord Ganesha, whether it be lord Muruga, whether it be Ambika or Devi Parameswari…let it be Parameshwara…or let it be Mahavishnu…It can be any deity…it can be any deity…but the ultimate goal is to reach that Paramatma…or that salavation…or that mukti…
Hinduism has that much of leniency…It gives the individual that much of lenience or freedom to choose their own path…to reach that destination…
We have no differences ( as between the deities)…It is only the layman who has differences…as this is my god…this is your god…I like only Ganesha…I like only Muruga..I like only Mahavishnu…I like only Parameshwara…I like only Ambika…It is only the layman’s view…It is only the beginning stage…
Starting from putting bindi…or wearing vibhooti or thirumann…or gopichandana…whatever it is…has a scientific significance…having tuft…wearing earrings…each and every…part and parcel of our life…a scientific background behind it…
Temple car festival – April 2009
Devotees from across the social spectrum
Pull the chariot of the deity together
A hot day when the founts of devotion
Flow in full strength….