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Table of Content

  •  Introduction

  • Why are Gods and Goddesses Important in Hinduism?

  • Insights Explaining Idol Worship

  • A vast pantheon of gods and goddesses

  • Conclusion

The purpose behind Idol Worship in Hinduism?

“kleśo ‘dhikataras teshām
avyaktāhi gatir duhkham
dehavadbhir avāpyate”

Severe is the path of those whose minds are set on the Unmanifest, for the goal of the Unmanifest is painful to reach by the embodied beings.

– Bhagavad Geeta Chapter 12, V. 5

In this verse, Bhagwan says that it is very difficult for an embodied being like you and me to worship him in his unmanifest form. The realized person, the sthitaprajna sees Divinity or God in every being, human or animal, the animate or the inanimate. But for ordinary people like you and me, it is easier to focus our thoughts and devotion on something visible, be it a stone, wood or clay. The shape and size of the statue does not matter. Even a picture if you look at it day after day with love and devotion, you will build an unseen bond with the object of your devotion and that regular Abhyasa (practice) will finally make you aware of The Divinity within you.

In Hinduism, gods and goddesses hold a significant place of reverence and devotion. They are seen as divine beings that embody various aspects of the ultimate reality, and are worshiped in various forms and names. The ultimate goal of Hinduism is to achieve union with the divine, and belief in gods is seen as a means of connecting with the divine. By worshiping the various gods and goddesses, Hindus are able to cultivate a deeper sense of devotion and surrender to the divine. While the gods are highly revered in Hinduism, they are not considered to be the ultimate reality. Instead, they are seen as manifestations of the divine, and ultimately, all gods are believed to be one and the same. In Hinduism, the ultimate goal of life is to attain spiritual liberation, or moksha, by realizing the oneness of the individual soul, or Atman, with the universal soul, or Brahman.

Hinduism recognizes a vast pantheon of gods and goddesses, each with their unique characteristics and roles. Some of the most prominent deities include Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; and Shiva, the destroyer. In addition to these major gods, there are many other deities, including minor gods, goddesses, and regional deities, that are also worshiped by Hindus.

The various stories and myths associated with the gods and goddesses in Hinduism offer guidance on how to lead a virtuous and fulfilling life. By following the examples set by the gods and goddesses, Hindus are able to cultivate a sense of morality and ethics. The various gods and goddesses in Hinduism are seen as protectors and guides who can offer comfort and solace during difficult times. By offering prayers and making offerings to the gods and goddesses, Hindus are able to find comfort and support in times of need.

Brass Craft Krishna Arjuna Chariot with 4 Horses

An idol or an image is a living embodiment (arca) of God. It is not a lifeless form. Life is poured into every image or idol when it is reverentially worshipped with devotion. Devotion has such power. According to our Puranas, with devotion you can awaken the divine power which is hidden in any object. By overcoming the duality of the subject and the object or the knower and the known you can experience oneness with the divinity who is present in all things. Idol worship (murthi puja) or image worship in Hinduism refers to the worship of the names and forms (murti) of God, any divinity or reverential person such as a guru or a saint. The practice is unique to Hinduism. Image worship is also practiced in Buddhism and Jainism. Buddhists worship Buddha, Bodhisattvas and several deities. Jains worship the Thirthankaras and other Jinas. However, both religions do not believe in creator God. Hence, image worship of God is found only in Hinduism.

श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता (काशिनीव्याख्ययालङ्कता) : Srimad Bhagavad Gita (Kashini Vyakhyayalakta)

According to Hinduism, the whole creation is a form of God. Every aspect and form in it reflect his glory because God is hidden in each of them. The whole creation is sacred because it is suffused with the presence of God. Hence, every aspect of it is worthy of worship. When you say, "God is this or that," you are limiting him. When you say, "God should be worshipped in this or that manner only," you are again defining and limiting your methods of worship. It is also said that when a devotee worships an idol, he also worships the deity who is present in him as his hidden Self. All the prayers that you offer to the idols are also simultaneously addressed to the hidden deity. You are the priest in the worship of the deity, while your hidden Self is the silent priest or the Brahman, who makes sure that your prayers reach their destination with augmented power. When a devout Hindu folds his hands in front of a deity to pray or offer his respects, his hands point not only to the deity in front of him but also the deity that lives in him. Thus, thus symbolically in idol worship one not only worships the concrete form of God (murtam) but also the subtle, invisible and formless Self (amurtam) in the body.

Why are Gods and Goddesses Important in Hinduism?

Representing the divine : In Hinduism, the ultimate reality is often described as being beyond human comprehension, and hence, difficult to understand. The gods and goddesses are seen as embodiments of the divine, and are worshipped as a means to connect with the divine. They are seen as intermediaries who can help humans to better understand and experience the ultimate reality.

Personalizing the divine : The various gods and goddesses in Hinduism are depicted as having distinct personalities, traits, and attributes. They are seen as having specific roles and responsibilities, such as creation, protection, or destruction. By worshipping them, Hindus are able to personalize their relationship with the divine, and develop a deeper connection with the various aspects of the ultimate reality.

Providing guidance and inspiration : Many of the stories and myths associated with the gods and goddesses in Hinduism provide guidance and inspiration to devotees. They offer examples of how to lead a virtuous and fulfilling life, and how to overcome challenges and obstacles. They also offer hope and reassurance, as they are seen as protectors and guides who can offer guidance and support during difficult times.

Reflecting cultural values : The various gods and goddesses in Hinduism reflect the cultural values and beliefs of the people who worship them. For example, the goddess Saraswati is associated with knowledge and wisdom, and is worshipped by students and scholars. The god Ganesh is associated with wisdom and success, and is worshipped before the start of new ventures. The god Shiva is associated with renunciation and detachment, and is worshipped by ascetics and seekers of enlightenment.

Encouraging devotion : Worship of the gods and goddesses in Hinduism is seen as an important form of devotion, and is considered a means of purifying the mind and heart. It is believed that by offering prayers, making offerings, and performing rituals, devotees can cultivate a deeper sense of devotion and surrender to the divine.

Celebrating festivals : Many of the festivals in Hinduism are associated with the worship of specific gods and goddesses. For example, the festival of Diwali is associated with the goddess Lakshmi, who is worshipped for prosperity and good fortune. The festival of Navratri is associated with the goddess Durga, who is worshipped for strength and courage. By celebrating these festivals, Hindus are able to connect with the divine and celebrate their cultural heritage.

35" Large Lord Ganesha, Devi Lakshmi and Devi Saraswati (Set of Three Statues)

Insights Explaining Idol Worship

    Easiest way to install faith and devotion : To intellectuals who are well informed in spiritual knowledge, the abstract concept of God may be engaging, but to an ordinary individual the idea is complex and difficult to comprehend. On the other hand, an ordinary individual like you and me will find a concrete image or idea of God that we can easily grasp far more appealing. For example the image of Ganesha or the idea of Krishna we hear from many stories. An idol will represent God and his many qualities thus making it easier for us to believe in His existence and to devote ourselves to Him rather than attempting to worship the unmanifest or the formless.

    A way of acknowledging the omnipresence of God : From a sub-atomic particle to the great stars, God is manifested in all His creations. We believe that God is ‘Omnipresent’. If God is everywhere, then surely He is in that idol. In idol worship, a devotee gives as much love and respect to his/her idol believing that God resides in it.

    Idol worship helps devotees to become deeply religious : Once an idol is installed in the house or in a puja mandir (place of worship in a house), the very house becomes a place of God’s residence, a very sacred place, a temple by itself. The idol reminds household members of the divine presence and of their religious duties and responsibilities. It inspires devout men to keep their houses pure and not to indulge in sacrilegious acts.

    Aid to concentration : More than any abstract concept, an image or a symbol is the best aid to concentrate and control one’s mind and attention. By focusing the mind on an image, the mind can be tamed and stabilized. Today science has been able to proof that images subdued in the subconscious plays a significant role in shaping one’s life and destiny. The ancient Hindus were aware of the potentiality of the mind and therefore did not object to the worship of idols. They knew it was the best way to lead the fickle human mind towards God.

    An effective prayer : Communicating with God : Idol worship helps us to focus the energies from our prayer into a strong current flowing in one particular direction. Besides, the supposed physical proximity to God intensifies the emotional fervour and charges the prayer with love and devotion.

There are many reasons why a devout Hindu worships idols. To simply explain it, idol worship is the best method of communication with God for many Hindus. Religion is a matter of faith. There is no one right way to attain God. The paths to God are many and many are the ways one can reach Him.

10" Trimurti From Elephanta (Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha) In Brass | Handmade | Made In India

A vast pantheon of gods and goddesses

Hinduism recognizes a vast pantheon of gods and goddesses, each with their unique characteristics and roles. Some of the major gods in Hinduism are:

Brahma : Brahma is the creator of the universe and is often depicted with four heads, each facing a different direction. He is also known as the "Grandfather" of all living beings.

Vishnu : Vishnu is the preserver of the universe and is often depicted with blue skin and four arms. He is believed to have ten avatars or incarnations, including Lord Rama and Lord Krishna.

Shiva : Shiva is the destroyer of the universe and is often depicted with a third eye on his forehead and a serpent around his neck. He is also known as the Lord of Yoga and is associated with asceticism and meditation.

Devi : Devi, also known as Shakti or the Divine Mother, is the embodiment of feminine energy and is often worshiped as the supreme goddess. She is believed to have many forms and names, including Durga, Kali, and Lakshmi.

Ganesha : Ganesha is the elephant-headed god and is considered the remover of obstacles. He is often worshiped at the beginning of important ceremonies and rituals.

Hanuman : Hanuman is a monkey god and is known for his strength, loyalty, and devotion. He is often worshiped for protection and strength.

These are just a few of the major gods in Hinduism. There are many other deities, including minor gods, goddesses, and regional deities, that are also worshiped by Hindus. Hinduism recognizes a vast pantheon of gods and goddesses, and it is difficult to give an exact number as the Hindu tradition has a diverse range of deities with many local and regional variations. The number of gods and goddesses in Hinduism is estimated to be in the millions, including minor gods and goddesses. It's important to note that Hinduism's view of the divine is not limited to a particular number of gods and goddesses. Many Hindus see the divine as one, manifesting in many forms, with each deity representing a different aspect of the ultimate reality.

Key Takeaways

  • Idol worship is a common practice in Hinduism, with devotees worshipping deities in the form of statues, images, and other representations.

  • The purpose of idol worship is not to worship the physical object itself but to use it as a means to connect with the divine energy it represents.

  • Each deity in Hinduism has a unique form, symbolism, and mythology associated with it, with devotees choosing to worship the deity that resonates with their beliefs and aspirations.

  • The rituals and traditions of idol worship serve to reinforce the values of devotion, gratitude, and humility in the lives of devotees.

  • The use of colors, flowers, and other offerings in idol worship symbolizes the beauty and abundance of nature and the importance of honoring and respecting it.

  • The practice of idol worship is rooted in the belief that divine energy is present in all things and can be accessed through various means, including meditation, prayer, and rituals.

  • Gods are believed to have the power to bestow blessings and fulfill prayers.

  • Worshiping gods is a means of expressing gratitude and seeking forgiveness.

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