Quick Guide

Quick Guide to Hindu Deities

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Who are the gods?

  • Often referred to the religion of 330 million gods…
  • However, Hinduism is actually considered poly-monotheistic, meaning there is one Supreme Being (Brahman) that manifests as numerous major and minor gods to aid people in their path towards moksha
  • Three of the Hindu gods form the Trimurti “God in three forms”
    • Brahma: the Creator
    • Vishnu: the Protector
    • Shiva: The Destroyer and/or the Liberator
  • Individual goddesses are manifestations of The Goddess, “Devi”, the Divine Female
    • Durga, Parvati, and Sarasvati are three popular forms of Devi

Meet the gods

Below are deep dives on two of the most popular Hindu gods, Vishnu and Shiva. Then click on tiles in the Related Resources section to not only learn about more deities, but also download corresponding coloring sheets.

VISHNU

  • His name means “All-Pervading”
  • Known as the Protector because he maintains the law and order of the universe
  • Vishnu takes his role as Protector and from time to time he comes down to earth to set the world straight and restore moral order (dharma)
  • When he comes to earth, he comes to earth in human form, this is known as an Avatar.
  • Two very popular avatars of Vishnu are Krishna from the epic Mahabharata and Rama from the epic Ramayana
  • Some believe the Buddha to be an avatar of Vishnu

How to Identify Vishnu

  • He is often depicted as a king, symbolizing that he is a ruler and in charge
  • Vishnu’s skin is depicted as blue, symbolizing that he is an infinite as the sky
  • In his four arms he holds:
    • Lotus – symbol of purity
    • Conch – large seashell used as a trumpet. The sound the shell makes is Om
    • Chakra – circling one of his fingers is a discus, spinning like the universe. It also is a martial weapon to symbolize protection
    • Baton – this golden weapon flattens our egos
  • In this image of Vishnu, he is reclining on the serpent Shesha as he dreams the universe into reality

SHIVA

  • His name means “Auspicious One”
  • Known as the Destroyer and the Liberator because he destroys illusion and liberates devotees so they may attain moksha
  • He is a yogi, which means that he practices yoga and meditation
  • He focuses on the philosophical aspects of existence
  • Like Vishnu, Shiva also saves the world when it is in peril
  • He saved the world when Ganga (the Ganges River) fell from the heavens to earth and Shiva  broke her fall by catching her in his hair
  • He also came to earth as Hanuman, the great monkey warrior in the epic Ramayana

How to Identify Shiva

  • He is often depicted with gray skin to symbolize he is covered in ashes
  • Shiva is also often depicted sitting in meditation, but sometimes he is depicted while dancing (Nataraja)
  • On his body are depicted:
    • Naga (snake) – symbolizes overcoming poisonous creatures
    • Skull – Shiva often has a skull intertwined in his dreadlocks, which is a result of him meditating in the cremation grounds
    • Crescent moon – symbolizes soma (drink used in rituals and thought to bring immortality)
    • Third eye -Shiva is depicted with a third eye positioned between his eyebrows. His third eye demonstrates that he can see past the illusions of this world. His third eye is more than a physical organ, but a way to see a different dimension.
    • Damaru (drum) – the drum of creation
    • Trishul (trident) – Shiva’s primary weapon. The three points represent multiple trinities, such as the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva or the trinity of Creation, Preservation, and Destruction

Click on the tiles below to learn about more deities and download their coloring sheets!

Related Resources