People often wonder how many Gods and Goddesses are there in Hinduism. As they worship or visit places of worship or undertake the task of praying in the morning or evening, or read religious texts they come across innumerable names of gods and goddesses. A few point out the number of gods and goddesses in Hinduism exceed 33 crore.
According to the Brihadaranyakopanishad, the number is just 33. A famous conversation between the great sage Yajnavalkya and Shakalya clarifies the point. All the Vedic scholars believe that various gods and goddesses with all their personal characteristics and features are actually manifestations of one Suprerme God, the Paramatma, the mighty cosmic presence. The paramatma is within one’s self, they say adding the gods do not exist outside human beings. The suprreme consciousness that makes all work or active in the universe is one.
Some refer to the existence of three Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the much worshipped and talked trinity or trimurti. They explain all three represent manifestation of Supreme Spirit, or Universal Truth or Brahma. Brahma is regarded as the creator while Vishnu is worshipped as the preserver. Shiva is the main transformer or destroyer. Shiva also is explained as the symbol of balancing of awareness and bliss and calming effects of yoga practices in general.
Some scholars also refer to the Trinity as symbolizing the earth, water and fire. Others describe them as the manifestation of Sat Chit and Ananda which could be describe as the subjective experience of the ultimate unchanging reality called Brahman. The three words also represent existence, consciousness and bliss or truth, consciousness and bliss.
The reference to numerous gods and goddesses has a pragmatic significance for many. They could approach the God and Goddesses through their special way or belief. Various personifications of Gods and Goddesses offer people choice which they could pick up as per their will and belief. Whoever they worship as God or Goddess will ultimately lead them to the one – the supreme cosmic presence or consciousness.
According to some Vedic scholars, the practice of picking up Gods and Goddesses as per the person’s wish is helpful in ultimately facilitating the person to realize that after all all gods and Goddesses are manifestations of one Ultimate Truth.
– Shirish Ballabh Pradhan