The Hindu faith is a polytheistic one in which many different gods and goddesses play an integral part. It’s filled with myths and epic poetry, all of which teach spiritual lessons and practical ways of living in the mortal world. It’s a vast and fascinating world, this world of gods, goddesses and sacred deities. If you’re curious about delving deeper into this enthralling tradition, you’ll want to get to know a handful of the most popular Hindu gods.
The Mighty God Ganesh
First, there’s mighty Ganesh. Also known as Ganesha, he is perhaps the most popular god within the Hindu tradition. He’s a funny looking character, with an adorable elephant head and human body. He’s also the king of obstacles, meaning, he has the capability to destroy them almost spontaneously. Worshipers throughout India revere him with great fervor, for the luck and good fortune he brings. Ganesh is one perfect ancient god for the modern world because he makes things happen fast, just like we want them to!
To call upon this elephant-headed god, you can chant his mantra 108 times. Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha. Chant this mantra when you want to remove obstacles in your path, or when you’re in dire need of a true miracle. (Learn more in Ganesh: Hindu God of Good Fortune.)
The Auspicious Lakshmi
Next, we have beautiful Lakshmi. She’s one of the most popular goddesses, with her power to bring forth beauty, abundance and an auspicious essence to your life. Like Ganesh, Lakshmi is believed to bring about good fortune for all who call upon her mystical powers. If you yearn for material abundance, spiritual wealth, self-confidence, beauty and even fertility, you’ll want to invoke the gorgeous Lakshmi.
Whenever you desire to bring these things into your life, silently (or out loud) chant her mantra. Om Shreem Lakshmiyei Namaha. Imagine her lovely image sitting before you, her hair long and black, her eyes warm and almond-shaped, her gaze filled with love and golden light. (Learn more in The Auspicious Goddess Lakshmi.)
Durga The Powerful
Next, we have Durga, a much more intimidating deity then Ganesh or Lakshmi. She’s a formidable character, with the many weapons she carries. Durga is one of Hinduism’s most popular goddesses because she’s able to combat all evil, in order for ethics and high morals to spring forth. Her weapons banish selfish behavior, greed, arrogance, intolerance, and hatred. She protects us from these evils, both the demons which lie within ourselves as well as in the external world.
Durga means “fort,” which means she provides shelter from the evils in the world. As we live within her protective sheath, we can more easily surrender to the divine intelligence that permeates consciousness. She lends us the courage to trust in a higher, intelligent power. If and when you choose to call on her, simply chant her mantra, Om Dum Durgayei Namaha. You may wish to have an image of her in your mind or even in front of you on your computer as you chant. Holding images of the gods and goddesses makes your ability to invoke their powers all that more natural. (Read about Invoking Durga Within You.)
Shiva and Shakti
Then, there’s Lord Shiva. Shiva is a representation of the entire universe and all of consciousness. He represents the experience of everything and all that exists. The other half of Shiva is his feminine counterpart, Shakti. She is the representation of the constant flux of the world, all that comes into being, is sustained, transformed and then put into the charnel ground to die and be reborn again. Shiva is the consciousness that holds space for all of Shakti’s many happenings.
Whereas Shiva is the singular and unbroken consciousness, Shakti is the “multi-verse.” Shakti is complex, while Shiva is the universal Oneness. Often referred to as the Lord of the cosmos, Shiva is the complete, whole of consciousness ---the one that represents that singular discipline we learn about and aim to master as a yogi. Shiva’s mantra is Om Nama Shivayah. If we need to get in touch with the absolute reality and the reality within ourselves, we invoke Lord Shiva, and chant his mantra 108 times. (Learn more in Shiva and Shakti and Om Nama Shivaya Mantra.)
Last, but not least, there’s Lord Krishna. Krishna is the narrator of the Bhagavad Gita, the epic poem that sums up much of yoga’s wisdom. Krishna is one of the most popular Hindu gods, largely because he helps bring forth material wealth and abundance. At the same time, he’s completely kind and loving. If you suffer from a lack of wealth (which can be defined in many different ways), invoke Lord Krishna, by chanting his mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare. Like the others, chant this one 108 times, while gazing upon Krishna’s benevolent image. (Learn more in Who is Lord Krishna.)
So, there you have it. There's a solid introduction to some of the Hindu faith's most popular and beloved gods and goddesses. There's so much to learn from all of them, so if one or more speak to you, do more research. The gods and goddesses will open you up to a sacred world you never knew existed if you worship with an open heart and mindful passion.