I HAVE been really busy with my stitching this past 2 weeks, hoping to finish my first carpet by the end of this month. Last night, after a trillion stitches and with very bleary eyes, I decided to switch from stitch to Hindu Gods & Goddesses, the next subject matter of my books. After some Adobe manipulations, (actually I was too sleepy to know which button I clicked), lo and behold, the pictures I was working on turned into these:
In researching the subject matter, I found the following facts most interesting:
Hinduism is often regarded as a religion with a multiplicity of Gods, and does not worship just one particular deity. There are apparently thousands or even millions of gods and goddesses of Hinduism, all representing the many aspects of only one supreme Absolute called “Brahman”.Thus, to believe that the multiplicity of deities in Hinduism makes it polytheistic is erroneous. For the Rig Veda says: "Ekam sath, Vipraah bahudhaa vadanti" (The Truth is one).
On the other hand, to equate “Brahman” with “God” is also imprecise. It is neither the “old man in the sky” concept, nor the idea of something capable of being vengeful or fearful.
The doctrine of Spiritual Competence (‘Adhikaara’) and that of the Chosen Deity (‘Ishhta Devata’) in Hinduism advocates that a Hindu should practice and worship according to his or her spiritual competence and that a person should have the freedom to choose (or invent) a form of Brahman that satisfies his spiritual cravings and to make it the object of his worship.
The following are short descriptions as well as the manipulated pictures of the other Gods/Goddesses I will feature in the books:
Within the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, Brahma is the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer.In order to create the world and produce the human race, Brahma made a goddess out of himself. One half was woman and the other half was man. Brahma called the woman Gayatri aka Saraswati. Brahma has four heads, but used to have five. The four extra heads appeared when Gayatri was very ashamed with Brahma's love for her and tried to escape from his gaze. One head was lost later when Brahma lied to Vishnu and thus caused Shiva to become very angry.
The Hindu god Vishnu is the preserver and protector of creation, the embodiment of mercy and goodness, the all-pervading power that preserves the universe and maintains the cosmic order.VLike superman, Vishnu never sleeps. Most of the time, good and evil forces are evenly matched in the world. But at times, the balance is destroyed and evil demons get the upper hand. Often in response to a request by the other gods, Vishnu then incarnates in a human form to set the balance right again.
Shiva is the most powerful god of the Hindu pantheon. He is responsible for change both in the form of death and destruction . The most complex of Hindu deities, Hindus recognize this by putting his shrine in the temple separate from those of other deities. Shiva, in temples is usually found as a phallic symbol of the 'linga'. As Shiva is regarded as a mighty destructive power, he is often fed with opium so that he will be oblivious to the world and to numb his power. On the night of Shiva worship, devotees, especially the menfolk, prepare an intoxicating drink called 'Thandai' (made from cannabis, almonds, and milk) sing songs in praise of the Shiva and dance to the frenzy rhythm of the drums.
SONS OF GOD
Brothers and sons of Shiva, Ganesha became the Lord (Isha) of all existing beings (Gana) after winning a contest from his brother Kartikay. They both enter a contest to see who can go around the universe the fastest and is thus the most befitting to temporarily replace Shiva. While Kartikay rushes off on his peacock, Ganesha walks around his parents at leisure, declaring them to be "The Universe".
Many stories describe how Ganesha got the elepant head. One tells how Parvati, his mother, created Ganesha in absence of Shiva to guard her quarters. When Shiva returned and wanted to see Parvati, Ganesha forbade it, at which point Shiva cut of his head. Later Shiva restored Ganesha to life and provided him with the head of an elephant, because no other was available. In worshipping Ganesha, Hindus are taught to look beyond outer appearances and look to its inner powers.
On the other hand, Kartikay, has 6 beautifully formed heads. Apparently when Kartikay was born, 6 goddesses fell in love with the child and were quarrelling over who should nurse him. To satisfy them all, Kartikay grew 6 heads. Kartikay later became commander of the army of the gods.
GREAT HINDU GODDESSES
Parvati was the mother goddess, Shakti, reincarnated to save the world with her love. The times were dark. Demons from the netherworld had driven the gods out of their heavenly homes. Unfortunately Shiva, the God of War, was no longer there to defend them. Grieving the death of the woman (Sati)he loved, Shiva had turned his back on the world and all its pleasures. When Parvati won Shiva's love( which she did by living as a ascetic like Shiva in a cave), she also bore the child, Kartikay who eventually slayed the mighty demon. An interesting episode illustrating Shiva's prowess speaks of a battle between him and a demon who disguised itself as Parvati. (For the squeamish, please close your eyes here but this is something I absolutely have to share for sheer Gore Value) It seduced Shiva and tried to kill him by lining its illusory vagina with nails. Shiva was not fooled and put a sword on his penis and vanquished the demon. Parvati represents the part of ourselves that creatively brings forth nourishment even in the midst of what seems to be rejection (Shiva apparently rejected her love at first because she was dark-skin) and disapproval. She is a wonderful affirmation that there are no limits to what a woman can do when she uses her spiritual energy in the pursuit of any goal she chooses.
Durga is a fierce warrior goddess. She is depicted in Hindu art as riding on a lion or a tiger, brandishing a varity of weapons and attacking the buffalo demon Mahisha. Her battles against evil are told in the popular Hindu text Devi Mahatmyam (Glory of the Goddess), and it is said that hearing the stories cleanses one from sin.
Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, so naturally she is quite popular. But she provides not only material wealth, but also good health and a joyful family life. Lakshmi's husband is Vishnu. The love stories of these divine couples are of epic proportions and are the most beloved in Hinduism for Vishnu and Lakshmi ended up as husband and wife each and every time they were reincarnated in human forms (10 times).
In Hindu myth, Kali sprang from the furrowed brow of Durga when the latter could not defeat the demon Raktabija. Every time Durga struck the demon, drops of blood would fall the ground and form another demon. Durga was getting frustrated, but Kali took care of it. She stuck out her tongue and caught all the drops of blood, then ate the demon right up.Kali's name means "She who is black." She is generally depicted half-naked, with a garland of skulls, a belt of severed limbs and waving scary-looking weapons with two of her 10 hands. She is often dancing on a prostrate Shiva, who looks up at her admiringly. Two of Kali's hands are empty and in the mudras (gestures) of protection and fearlessness. Her tongue is stuck out to swallow up evil and negative thoughts.Kali is associated with death, sexuality, violence and, sometimes, motherly love. She was probably adopted from the tribal mountain cultures of South Asia, though never quite tamed. She continues to be an intriguing, paradoxical figure. She has sometimes been the object of devotion of violent cults, the most common modern Hindu perspective of her is largely symbolic. She is revered for her no-nonsense way of eradicating negative thoughts and bad habits in the minds of her followers. In other words, she will lop off your inflated ego in no time flat if you ask her, and she offers no guarantees that the process will be painless.
Sita is one of the reincarnated wife (Lakshmi) of Vishnu and epitomises all the virues of an ideal wife. She left the palace charms and amenities in order to stay in exile with her husband. During the period of exile, Sita was abducted by the demon-king Ravana and imprisoned for months. Now, no women has resisted the charms of Ravana except Sita but nobody believed her, not even her husband Rama (Vishnu reincarnated). To prove her chastity, she walked into a fire after swearing that she would burnt into a crisp if she had been untrue to Rama. Despite coing out of the fire unscathed, the people were not content (as her chastity had put them to shame) and demanded that Rama banished her which he did in order to appease his people. Sita is thus your ultimate sacrificing wife who will do anything to please her husband, even if it means being banished to live in shame without him.
THE MANY FACES OF GODS
Indra is the king of the Hindu gods and goddesses. He is the ruler of heaven, and the God of thunder and rain. He symbolizes fortitude and courage and is the Chief Deity.
Agni is the god of fire, the messenger of the gods, the acceptor of sacrifice. He is the fire of the sun, in the lightening bolt, and in the smoke column which holds up the heavens. The stars are sparks from his flame. He was so important to the ancient Indians that 200 hymns in the Rig Veda are addressed to him, and eight of its ten books begin with praises dedicated to him. Agni is closely associated with Indra, and is sometimes said to be his twin brother.
Ram is the 7th incarnation of Vishnu and the central figure of the Ramayana epic. He won the hand of Sita by being the only suitor who could bend her the bow of Lord Shiva (with 1 hand, mind you and the bow broke, double mind you). The epic and tragic romance between Ram/Rama and Sita has already been told above.
Hanuman is believed to be the incarnation of Lord Shiva. Hanuman is the perfect manifestation of devotion, humility, discipline, strength and selfless service and is often regarded as the ultimate devotee. He is the one who has conquered the senses and ego. He has one purpose only and that is to serve Lord Ram. Hanuman was the monkey god who led the army to save Sita from Ravana.
Krishna , 8th reincarnation of Vishnu, was the son of Devaki, sister of the demon King Kamsa. Kamsa had been informed by the sage Narada, that he would be killed by his nephew. So, he put to death, six of Devaki's children. The seventh child, Balarama, managed to escape, and the eight, Krishna, was exchanged for a cowherd's daughter.Krishna was brought up in the cowherd's family, by his foster-mother Yashoda. He looked after and protected the cows and his favourite past-time was to play the flute and seduce the village girls. Krishna is the deity of humor. Of the Hindu gods and goddesses, Lord Krishna is the prankster, and the deity who embodies love and joy. He became King after he killed Kamsa.
Kama is sometimes associated with sexual desire, a more frivolous aspect of his creativity. In this aspect, Kama is blessed with eternal youth and is figured as the most handsome of the gods. He rides a parrot and carries a bow made of sugar-cane stalk strung with a line of humming-bees and he shoots arrows tipped with flowers. These are the shafts of desire and whoever is struck by them falls in love. Thus, Kama has great resemblance to the Greek Cupid. Kama is accompanied everywhere by his wife, Rati (passion), and his friend Vasanta (spring).