- 1. Subordinate deities [(kshudradevata) – a superhuman species]
- 2. Deity of a village (gramadevata)
- 3. Deity of a place (sthanadevata)
Subordinate deities are popular deities unlike Indra, Agni, etc. who are Vedic deities. One will become aware of their subordinate nature from the following.
First chant the Names of various deities namely Kotavi, Nirruti, Arbhuti, Apsara (celestial beauty), Gandharva (celestial musician), Yaksha (demigod), Kinnar (celestial singer), Kuber (deity of wealth) and Hariti and Hakini His consorts for two minutes each. Note the spiritual experience each time. Then read the section ahead.
At one satsang (spiritual meeting) after chanting the Names of the above deities 31 seekers experienced the following.
|Name of the deity
* Distress is of the kinds described below.
- Head: Ache, sensation of hammering, throbbing pain
- Eyes: Pain, seeing black circles
- Throat: Feeling thirsty
- Chest: Palpitations, restlessness, heaviness, pressure on the chest, exhaustion
- Mind: Not feeling like chanting at all, feeling like stopping the chanting, drowsiness, dizziness, feeling like chanting the Name of one’s deity of worship and its commencement, etc.
Apsara (celestial beauty), gandharva (celestial musician), yaksha (demigod) and Kuber (deity of wealth) are all familiar words. All were under the impression that these are benevolent deities. Despite knowing that celestial beauties are extremely beautiful women from the region of deities (devlok) and that Kuber is the master of wealth, when chanting their Names several individuals experienced distress, that is something beyond the psychological aspect. ‘Feeling nothing’ was expected in most as they could not perceive from the subtle dimension. Such individuals mostly do not get answers in such experiments from the subtle dimension.
Those chanting the Names of Kotavi, Nirruti, Arbhuti, Kinnar, Hariti and Hakini had also not heard them before. Kotavi is a nude, tormenting female deity. Hakini is one of the harassing yoginis. Missions of the rest are given further. As the mission of these deities is to cause distress according to the rule that ‘sound, touch, form, taste, odour and active energy coexist’, while chanting their Names seekers were actually able to experience their distressing energies.
Their Names are usually different from common deities, e.g. Changaladevi, Jakhai, etc.
‘Demigods (yakshas), celestial musicians (gandharvas), celestial singers (kinnars), confidants (guhyak), protectors (rakshak), vidyadhar, spirits (pishach), saints (siddha), snakes (sarpa) and serpents (nag) constitute the superhuman species. They are also referred to as divine species (dev yoni).
- Celestial singers, musicians and demigods: They belong to the first category and are associated with heaven (svarga). The celestial beauties (apsaras) are also included in this group.
- Serpents (nag) and demons (rakshasas): They fall in the second category, are considered to be associated with hell (patal) and are enemies of deities.
- Confidants (guhyak), vidyadhars and saints: They constitute the third category.
- Spirits: Theirs is the fourth category.
Some of them live away from human habitation in rivers, reservoirs of water, forests, caves, on trees, at crossroads, in crematoriums, etc.
The bodies, ornaments, flags, etc. of these deities are weird. For examples refer to the point below.
They are associated with death, sin, disease, etc.
- Nirruti: The origin of the word nirruti is from ‘निर्गत: ऋत: यस्मात् ।’ which means She is the one in whom the path to realise the ultimate truth is deficient. This deity wanders about in the nude, makes one fond of sleep, distracts the intellect and bestows conflict, suffering, poverty, misfortune and death.
- Deities responsible for nightmares: Nirruti, Grahi, Arbhuti, Nibhuti, Devjami, etc.
- Avadasa: She has a squint, is lame, has a hoarse voice and indulges in infanticide.
- Krutya: She is bald, endows poverty, is ever ready to slay infants and cause misfortune, to induce laziness and still births.
- Celestial beauties (apsaras): These beauties who cause distress and induce insanity inhabit banyan or fig trees. A celestial beauty, Rambha had demonstrated to a sage by cutting her body that fragrance is emitted by their bodies even if they are cut.
- Celestial singers (kinnars): They are hairy and have adulterous tendencies.
- Spirits and demons: They are ugly and love blood and flesh specially of a foetus. They become more powerful on new moon (amavasya) nights.
- Demigods (yakshas): They live in forests and close to reservoirs of water. If not worshipped they torment one when crossing forests. Kuber is their king.
- Demigoddesses (yakshinis): Cruel Hariti, the wife of Kuber is a demigoddess.
- Skanda and Vinayak: They torment children, murder them, etc.
- Shashthi: She is also called Satavi. To prevent Her from killing the newborn She is worshipped on the sixth day of its birth.
The serpent, Kuber, Jara, etc. also cause such distress.
‘1. Illusory supernatural powers, 2. Flying in the sky, 3. Becoming invisible and changing one’s appearance, 4. Mastery over the various arts of entertainment, 5. Ability to have sexual intercourse with men and women, 6. The resulting offsprings become human, 7. Liking for wandering at night and 8. Assistors or saboteurs of human destiny.’(1)
A. Site: Vinayaks (One of the Names of Ganapati is Vinayak. However in this context Vinayak refers to subordinate deities not Ganapati.) are offered a sacrifice (bali) while a sacrificial fire (hom) is performed for spirits, demons, etc. at crossroads.
B. Demands made by a deity: Some deities appear in a dream and ask for a rooster, a goat, etc.
C. Substances used in ritualistic worship: Depending on the mission, a deity is offered gifts. For instance since Vetal roams in the village, He is offered a pair of slippers.
D. Touching water: Substances used in ritualistic worship are purified along with the uttering of the Name of a deity when offering the oblation (ahuti) or when performing any other ritual by touching water.
E. Never look behind: After performing some ritual for instance after moving substances like chillies all around the body of a person and discarding them one should not look behind. The intention behind this is to prevent the distressing energy dispelled through casting away of the object from attacking again.
F. Annual religious festivals: Mostly these festivals are celebrated in honour of subordinate deities.
G. Remedies to prevent distress: When travelling if one has to pass by huge trees, cross a crematorium, rivers, crossroads, etc. then one should continue one’s usual chanting or should contemplate on Lord Rudra.
H. Vows (navas): If one does not fulfill a vow made unto a subordinate deity then it torments the one who has made it. This does not hold good for superior deities.
‘When anyone comes to pay his respects to a saint the latter does not bother to find out how happy or unhappy the former is in worldly life. Even a thought in this regard does not cross the saint’s mind. His attitude is “No matter what he is like; he has taken birth as a human being and has come to Me. So, he is definitely a meritorious soul.” This is because saints consider only good health and the company of saints as a blessing. Now the question arises that if his desires are worldly then will they not be fulfilled ? This depends on his emotional state, whether his spiritual emotion is with expectation or without it. In both circumstances, with regard to faith in the Absolute Truth, the same rules apply. The moment the Sadguru is appeased with his service a worldly person’s desires are fulfilled and one serving The Lord without any expectation realises Him. If a seeker who is a servitor has no expectations but is not totally deserving then his spiritual progress begins. The objective of fulfilling worldly desires is explained in the Eknathi Bhagvat as: “I fulfill the desires of devotees with expectations and transform them into those having no expectations”. That is why one getting his desires fulfilled through a saint or a Guru gradually develops detachment (vairagya) while experiencing object pleasure and the one with desires becomes worthy of following the spiritual path. This phenomenon does not occur when the same wishes are fulfilled by subordinate deities (kshudradevata).’ – H.H. Kane Maharaj, Narayangaon, Maharashtra
Meaning: Gramadevata means the deity of a village
Some popular Names
- Female deities: Bhagvati, Bhadrakali, Santeri, Jakhai, Yamai, Pavanai, Renuka, etc. In South India, deities known as the seven sisters are famous as village deities.
- Male deities: Vetal, Nishkari, Siddha, etc. Female deities are commoner than male deities.
During ancient times various tribes established deities in every village that they settled. These deities are the village deities. In some instances wicked evildoers have become village deities after their death. Villagers worship them and celebrate their festivals to prevent them from harassing them. They are mostly female deities. However at some places they are male deities under the control of female deities. Male deities are generally found in North India. Some village deities first find their entry in some Pauranic or Tantrik sect. Then they gradually get incorporated in rites and rituals. Later they come to be considered as benevolent deities (ishtadevata) and family deities (kuladevata) and are installed in the temples in the homes of the higher classes. For instance Khandoba of Jejuri is basically the deity of the Dravidian tribals (adivasis) but today He is the family deity even of the Brahmans. The same is true in case of the deity Minakshi in South India. Temples in which tribals or untouchables have special privileges are later taken over by the higher classes who perform ritualistic worship according to the scriptures and relegate a few powers to the other classes.
A. The main function is protection of the village. In the night, specially at midnight, when distressing energies are more active, the village deity patrols the entire village.
B. Protection of the villagers from various communicable diseases and eradication of those diseases.
C. Protection of cattle and crops from diseases.
- Pleasant forms: When deities are pleased they grant a good harvest and rainfall in abundance.
- Ferocious forms: When deities are enraged they destroy crops. There may also be epidemics of cholera, widespread infections, etc.
‘Temples of village deities are rare. If at all they exist then they are small. Village deities are given a place on the outskirts or in some corner of the village. At times only a stone slab is installed in their Names. At other times an earthen idol or one or more stone pillars represent the deity. Sometimes an idol is sculpted on a stone platform or a vessel with water or a branch of a neem tree is used to represent it. In some places seven brass vessels are arranged one on top of the other and a branch of the neem tree is inserted in the topmost vessel.’(2)
A. Ritualistic worship of village deities has arisen more out of fear than devotion. The village deity is worshipped to prevent various illnesses.
B. Usually ritualistic worship of village deities is performed by Shudra (labourer) women. At times when performing rituals like sacrifice (bali) of animals, etc. the male worshipper is clad in a sari.
C. People of all classes and communities worship the village deity. During festivals of the deity, communities such as the washermen, carpenters, blacksmiths, etc. are accorded special honour and status.
D. Animal sacrifice: At the annual festival (jatra) of a deity, a rooster, a billy goat or a male buffalo is offered as a sacrifice. This deity likes flowers, coconut, liquor, honey, cannabis (bhang, ganja), tobacco and rice mixed with blood. Formerly there was a custom of sacrificing a human being. The head was severed and hung to the pandal. Nowadays a coconut is hung instead. For more information on animal sacrifices refer ‘Science of Spirituality: Vol. 9 B – Divine Energy (Shakti)’.
E. A new resident in a village should seek the blessings of the village deity by paying obeisance to it.
F. Tarang: This is a symbol of the village deity in the Konkan region and Goa. In the worship of deities like Santeri, Pavanabai, Ravalnath, Bhutnath, Damodar, etc. the ‘tarang’ has special significance. It is used in the context of a decorated wooden pillar four, six or eight feet tall. It is also called a flag (nishan) or a pillar (khamba). In most of the temples in the Konkan strip a deity named ‘Tarang’ exists. It is a smoothly chiselled cylindrical wooden shaft with the average height of a man. It has colourful stripes painted on it. It is also adorned with brass or silver faces of women or men. Basically a tarang, a wooden staff or a plough symbolises a man. Since a castrated individual becomes neuter in gender in Sanskrut this word too has a neuter gender.
Several tarangs are decorated with a serpent, a palm (hand) or a pot (kalash). A tarang is dressed in dhotis, saris or an attire embellished with silk borders. Depending on the deity in some places there is only one tarang while in others three tarangs are worshipped.
‘In Goa tarangs of several such village deities are taken out in a procession amidst pomp and splendour to a kalamb tree and are worshipped there along with the tree on the festival of Dasra. Then carpenters and washermen holding daggers in their hands shout “Bhale re bhale (भले रे भले)” and circumambulate the tree in a bent posture.
The one holding the tarang belongs to a non-Brahman priest (gurav), barber, washerman, carpenter or bhandari [a subclass of Shudras (labourers)] community. He is known as a mod. He is possessed by the respective deity and recommends remedies to people possessed by spirits. Holding a wedding curtain (antarpat) between the tarangs of the two deities Bhutnath and Pavanai the eight auspicious verses (mangalashtakas) are recited. This event is called Shivalagna – the wedding of Shiva. Those holding the tarang visit the villagers or people from other villages to give spiritual answers through communication with the deity (koul) and people honour them.’ (3)
‘Lord Shri Krushna and saints have cautioned that since village deities are tamasik (tama predominant) in nature worshippers of such deities and spirits will also become tamasik and ultimately attain the status of spirits.’(4)
A. Vetal: One comes across this deity mainly in Maharashtra and Karnataka in India. He is the master of all spirits. He may be represented with a stone two to three arms in height, buried outside the village. He is also surrounded by a stone fence.
B. Bahiroba or Bhairoba: He is the main village deity in Maharashtra. Almost every village has a temple of this deity. In the Konkan region of Maharashtra, Ravalnath is honoured as much as Bhairoba.
C. Brahmandev: He is also known as Brahmadev or Bapadev. His worship is prevalent mostly in the Konkan region of Maharashtra and in Gujarat.
D. Narsinha: As it is difficult to tolerate His fearsome form He is worshipped adopting the methods of sorcerers (tantriks) by adorning His back with eyes and a moustache.
These endow either happiness or unhappiness.
A. Endowers of happiness: After the 108 frequencies descend onto the earth and bounce [refer point ‘Guardian deity of a territory (kshetrapaldevata)’], the deity acquires the name according to the place where they fall. For example if that strip of land lies under a mango tree, that energy is called Amjai (am means mango); if they fall under a neem tree it is called Nimjai (nim means lime).
B. Endowers of unhappiness: The spirit of a person who has been murdered or killed in an accident hovers around that place. Such a place or one inhabited by distressing energy induces unhappiness. This point will be clear from the following two examples.
- Once when in exile in the forest, Rama was crossing a mountain. Lakshman, His brother who otherwise revered Him as The Lord suddenly began to criticise Him. Sita, Rama’s wife who was accompanying Them was astonished to see this. When She asked Rama the reason for this behaviour He replied “I will explain later”. After They crossed the mountain Lakshman began to serve Rama as before. Sita questioned as to how this change had occurred. In response Rama said, “Lakshman behaved like that on the mountain because he was influenced by the thoughts of the demons there and has now returned to his original self.”
- To find out what his subjects felt about him King Vikramaditya would roam about in his kingdom in disguise. Once when on such a trip he asked a cowherd, “What is your king like?”. The latter replied “Our king is horrid. He harasses his subjects.” As he wandered about, the king met the same cowherd at another spot. To find out why he had called him a bad king he struck a conversation with him saying, “What is your king like?” Now the cowherd replied, “You will not find a king as excellent as ours in all the three worlds”. This confused the king. He was unable to comprehend why the same cowherd had given him two different answers. He narrated this incident to his prime ministers and asked for an explanation of the two different replies of the cowherd. The prime ministers dug up both the spots where the cowherd stood when answering the king. In the first they found bones, skulls, etc. while in the second, a throne studded with gems. Thereafter when meting out justice, Vikramaditya would sit on that throne.
C. Shape of the place: This too contributes towards generation of happiness or unhappiness.
‘Supreme God, God, Incarnations and Deities’, published by Sanatan Sanstha.
Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh. Publisher: Pandit Mahadevshastri Joshi, Secretary, Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh Mandal, 410 Shanivar Peth, Pune 411 030.
First edition: Vol. 3 to 10, Second edition: Vol. 1 and 2
. Vol. 1 Pg. 114 . Vol. 3, Pg. 247
. Vol. 4, Pg. 60 . Vol. 3, Pg. 249