- 1. Types of Deities
- 1.1 Benevolent and harmful
- 1.2 Deities worthy of worship and those unworthy of it
- 1.3 Living and non-living
- 1.4 Superior and subordinate
- 1.5 Vedic and Pauranic
- 1.6 Groups of deities
- 1.7 According to the mission
- 1.8 Undefined deities
- 1.9 Pairs of deities
- 1.10 Retinue of deities
- 1.11 Superhuman deities
- 1.12 Other types
- 2. Deities and the worlds
- 3. Deities and the five cosmic elements
- 4. Time and deities
A deity who favours spiritual progress like the family deity (kuladevata) or the Name of a deity given by a Guru as initiation (gurumantra) is called a benevolent deity. However an average individual considers a favourite deity or a deity which endows worldly benefits as a benevolent one. Deities who cause harm are called harmful. Shankar, Vishnu, Parvati, etc. are benevolent deities whereas spirits, demons, etc. are harmful ones.
Chant Shankar, Ganapati or any one of the Names of Vishnu like Narayan, Keshav, etc. for one minute. Repeat the same with Prajapati or Brahma. Decide with which Name you feel pleasant or distressed. Only then read further.
At a workshop, after chanting Shankar 12 out of 30 seekers felt pleasant and none experienced distress. As against this, after chanting Prajapati only 6 seekers felt pleasant and 3 were distressed with headache, felt like stopping the chanting, etc.
At another workshop after chanting Narayan, 4 out of 28 felt pleasant and none experienced distress. As against this, by chanting Prajapati none felt pleasant and 3 experienced distress.
At yet another workshop 5 out of 22 felt pleasant chanting Keshav and none experienced any distress. As against this by chanting Brahma none felt pleasant and 5 experienced distress.
Since each one’s spiritual level is not such that he can give answers from the subtle dimension everyone cannot participate in such experiments. These experiments reiterate the fact that chanting of the Names of Vishnu, Shankar and Ganapati generally does not cause distress while that of Prajapati and Brahma does. Hence Vishnu, Shankar and Ganapati are deities worthy of worship whereas Prajapati and Brahma are not. Generally temples of Prajapati and Brahma are not built. One may say that no one worships Prajapati and Brahma because They entrapped man in the Great Illusion (Maya) by creating him!
Deities like Shankar, Vishnu, Parvati, etc. are living whereas those from Nature like the sun, mountains, rivers, etc. are non-living.
Chant Vishnu, Shankar or Ganapati for one minute. Then chant anyone of the following yaksha (demigod), gandharva (celestial musician), kinnar (celestial singer) or the name of one of the apsaras (celestial beauties) Menaka, Rambha, Urvashi, Tilottama, etc. for one minute. Note with which Name you feel pleasant or experience distress. Only then read further.
At one workshop 20 out of 35 seekers felt pleasant after chanting Shankar and none felt any distress. Contrary to this after chanting yaksha 1 felt pleasant and 6 experienced distress.
At another workshop 21 out of 41 seekers felt pleasant after chanting Vishnu and only 1 experienced slight discomfort. As against this after chanting Menaka, Rambha, Urvashi, Tilottama, etc. none felt pleasant (although 24 out of the 41 were males!) on the contrary 10 experienced discomfort.
Since everyone cannot give answers from the subtle dimension all the people at the workshop cannot participate in such experiments. Yet one thing that it emphasises is why Vishnu, Shiva, Ganapati, etc. are called superior deities and yakshas, gandharvas, kinnars, apsaras, etc. are called subordinate deities. Undertaking spiritual practice of such subordinate deities can cause distress. That is why temples of these deities are generally not constructed.
Based on references in holy texts one can determine when a deity has originated, in the Vedic, post-Vedic or Pauranic period.
‘The Yajurveda: Though the Yajurveda has created some new deities of the second and third order like Skanda, Shukra, Ven, Marka, Manthi, Rutu (season), Mas (month), Divas (day), etc. yet it accepts the thirty-three deities mentioned in the Rugveda.
The Atharvaveda: The Atharvaveda has bestowed divinity upon some members of various classes such as demons, spirits, celestial musicians (gandharvas), etc. e.g. Arbud, Alik, Rukshagriv, Kimidin, Chitrarath, Takshak, Nagnak, etc. Some emotions like desire (kama), sleep (nidra), faith (shraddha), desire to harm others (druh), etc. too have been granted the status of deities by the Atharvaveda.
The Brahman texts: Prajapati created deities from His mouth and demons with the apan vital energy situated lower in His body (Shatpath Brahman 184.108.40.206-8).
Deities from the Upanishads: The Upanishads consider the centres or seats of energy comprising of divine consciousness (chaitanya) which exist in both the embodied soul and the universe as forms of deities. The energies directing this cycle of the universe are countless. However scribes of the Upanishads have classified them into three groups – the accumulator, illuminator and director. Accumulation means nurture and sustenance of animate and inanimate creation in the universe. The five cosmic elements such as absolute ether (akash) are deities which nurture and sustain the subjects, that is Nature beginning from the embodied soul to the universe. The manifest energy or worldly activities which are observed in the universe or in the human body are supported by an internal energy. This energy is known as vital energy (pranshakti). Vital energy is the illuminator deity. The prowess of illumination of vital energy manifests in the form of the Sun deity, the Moon deity, Indra and Rudra. Generating knowledge and realisation is in itself the power of illumination. The collection of the body, organs, mind, intellect and the embodied soul (jiva) is called the soul (atma). All activities in the universe are dependent on this energy of the soul. The soul itself is the chief active energy in the universe and hence should be considered as the supreme deity.
Deities from the Purans: In the Pauranic period one sees most of the important Vedic deities assuming the position of presiding deities of directions (dikpal). Simultaneously the Vedic Vishnu and Rudra are highly glorified. In comparison to Vedic deities, the Pauranic deities established personal relationships with their devotees.
Concept of the trinity of deities : During the Pauranic era the three deities Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh assumed exceptional significance. They became famous respectively as the creator, sustainer and annihilator of the universe.
Concept of the fivefold family of deities (panchayatan) : The Purans propagated the path of ritualistic worship of deities in the form of the fivefold family of deities. Vishnu, Shiva, Divine Energy (Shakti), Ganapati and the Sun deity (Surya) were the five deities included in it.’(1)
The Vedic range of deities includes groups of deities some of which are more elaborately described than the others. All of them however are associated with a specific deity. The largest and most important group among these is that of the maruts. In the Rugveda they are said to be either 21 or 180 in number. The maruts are associated with Indra and Rudra. The attendants of Rudra (rudragans) also form a group of deities and are 11 in number. The group of adityas consists of 7, 8 or 12 members and is seen accompanying its mother, Aditi. The Brahman texts say that three groups of deities namely – vasus, rudras and adityas reside on the earth, in absolute ether (akash) and heaven respectively. Apart from these there is a group of angiras’ and rubhus. The Rugveda mentions another expansive group of deities called Vishvedev.(2)
A. Those controlling activities in the universe.
B. Those content with their own lives.
C. Those who do not participate in controlling the universe, yet help man because of their love for him.
The Rugveda classifies two categories of deities based on an undefined concept or spiritual emotion (bhav). The first category includes the deities Kama, Manyu, Shraddha, Aditi, Diti, etc. In the mandals of the Rugveda created during a later period even idols of these deities have been created. The second category is of deities with names ending in the case tru, e.g. Dhatru, Tvashtru, etc. The second category is larger than the first.
In Vedic spiritual practice a special type of worship consists of praise of two basically independent deities who are believed to form a pair. About twenty such pairs of deities are included in the Rugveda and there are atleast sixty aphorisms (suktas) in praise of these pairs of deities, e.g. Indragni, Mitra-Varun, etc. Some examples of such pairs created during the Pauranic period are Brahma-Prajapati, Shiva-Vaishravan, Sankarshan-Vasudev, Nara-Narayan, Skanda-Vishakh, etc.
A retinue of deities is a group of deities associated with the main deity and which if required serve the main deity. Lakshmi, Bhudevi, Shridevi, Garud, Vishvaksen and the instruments in Vishnu’s hands have been accorded the status of members of Vishnu’s retinue. Similarly Skanda, Ganesh, Nandi, Chandesh, Virabhadra, Bhairav and guardian deities (kshetrapal) are members of Lord Shiva’s retinue. The seven matrukas such as Brahmya, etc. as well as several fearsome deities are included in the family of the female deity (devi) or Divine Energy (Shakti).
There is a concept of a species in between man and deities. There are several sub-groups in this species namely vidyadhar, celestial beauties (apsaras), demigods (yakshas), demons (rakshasas), celestial musicians (gandharvas), celestial singers (kinnars), confidants (guhyak), spirits (pishach), saints (siddhas) and ghosts (bhut). These beings are less powerful than deities but have miraculous powers and are more powerful than man. That is why they are referred to as superhuman. These groups of deities live in between deities and man and maintain contacts with both. The common features of these groups of superhuman deities are –
They possess two kinds of powers – divine and illusory.
Most of the groups function in the vicinity of the region of deities (devlok).
They can fly in the sky without wings, briskly.
They can easily perform acts such as manifesting anywhere or sudden disappearance.
They are experts in fine arts such as dance, singing and music.
It is possible for their males and females to have a sexual relationship with their human counterparts on the earth.
They can disguise themselves and function on the earth.
They are very fond of wandering at night.
They are very well versed in herbal medicine.
Generally Lord Shiva is their deity of worship.’(3)
A. ‘Divine deities : The deities Dyauhu, Varun, Mitra, Surya, Savita, Pusha, Vishnu, Vivasvan, Adityagan, Usha and Ashvi are included in this group. Dyauhu is the deity of the absolute ether (akash) element. She has been associated with the earth. Dyava-Pruthivi is a word which symbolises the parents of the universe.
B. Deities from the cosmos (antariksha) : Indra, Trit Aptya, Apam Napat, Matarishva, Ahirbudhnya, Aja Ekapad, Rudra, deities from the marut class (marudgan), Vayu – Vat, Parjanya and Apa are deities from the cosmos.
C. Earthly deities : Rivers, Agni (deity of fire), Bruhaspati and Som are considered as earthly deities. Sindhu, Sarasvati, Ganga, Yamuna, etc. are rivers who are considered as deities with unblemished purity. Among them river Sarasvati is especially renowned.’(4)
The universe has infinite worlds (brahmandas). When there is dissolution of one brahmanda there is creation or sustenance of another. Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh and other deities of each brahmanda are different. However, all the worlds have the same Supreme God (Parameshvar) and God (Ishvar).
|Absolute ether||Vishnu||Absolute water||Divine Energy (Devi)|
|Absolute air||Shiva||Absolute earth||Ganapati|
|Monday : Shankar (Som
(Somvar) means the Moon)
|Tuesday : Parvati / Lakshmi/
Ganapati / Maruti
|Wednesday : Pandurang||Thursday : Datta|
|Friday : Parvati / Lakshmi||Saturday : Maruti|
|Sunday : Ravi (means Surya,
(Ravivar) the Sun deity)
|Pratipada : Agnidev (deity
(1st) of fire )
|Dvitiya : Brahma (deity
(2nd) of creation
|Trutiya : Gouri
|Chaturthi : Ganesh
|Panchami : Sarpa (serpent)
|Shashthi : Kartik
|Saptami : Surya (Sun)
|Ashtami : Bhairav (Shiva)
|Navami : Durga
|Dashami : Antak [Yamaraj
(10th) (deity of death)]
|Ekadashi : Vishvedev
|Dvadashi : Hari (Vishnu)
|Trayodashi : Kamadev
|Chaturdashi : Shiva
|Paurnima : Chandra (Moon)
|Amavasya : Pitar (ancestors)
If on some day of the week one chants the Name of a deity other than the deity of that day or the presiding deity of that date (tithi) then the benefit obtained is less. For instance if on the first day (pratipada) if other deities are worshipped instead of Agni (deity of fire) the benefit obtained is as given in the table below.
|1. Agnidev (deity
|3. Gouri||70||4. Ganesh||40|
|5. Sarpa (serpent)||70||6. Kartik||40|
|7. Surya||70||8. Bhairav
|9. Durga||70||10. Antak
|11. Vishvedev||70||12. Hari
|13. Kamadev||70||14. Shiva||40|
Even dates are associated with Shiva (Brahman) while odd ones are associated with Divine Energy (Shakti) [the Great Illusion (Maya)]. That is why on odd dates Divine Energy is twice as active as on even dates.
Despite this, on the even dates of chaturthi (fourth day) and dashami (tenth day) of the Hindu lunar fortnight, Divine Energy is more active. On chaturthi, ashtami (eighth day), dashami and paurnima (full moon day) the 360 and 108 frequencies form a specific angle; hence frequencies of deities reach the earth in greater amounts. Ashtami is one such date when the active Divine Energy is equivalent to that on an odd date. This is a special feature of ashtami. Though Krushna, an incarnation of The Lord was born on ashtami the Divine Energy in Him was completely manifest. [On ashtami in Maharashtra the female deity manifests in some ladies and they perform the ritual of ghagari phunkane (blowing pots)]. The fact that Divine Energy is more active on odd dates will be clear from the following two illustrations.
During the festival of Navaratri a seeker used to light a lamp at night. The lamp would get extinguished when the oil was exhausted around 1 to 1.30 in the morning. One year, the lamp would continue to burn till dawn on alternate days. The nights on which it burnt longer were odd dates (1, 3, 5, 7 and 9). Among the even dates the lamp burnt throughout the night only on ashtami.
At another seeker’s house for almost a fortnight, on odd dates and on ashtami the strong fragrance of vermilion (kumkum) emanated from the entire house. On even dates there was no fragrance at all.
The female deity (devi), Datta and Maruti are active deities in the Kaliyug. Hence distressing energies are ineffective at Their seats of worship.
The day and the bright fortnight of the month are places of shelter for deities (Shatpath Brahman 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168). One year (sanvatsar) of man is equivalant to one day of deities (Taittiriya Brahman 22.214.171.124).
‘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. 438-442 . Vol. 4, Pg. 437
. Vol. 4, Pg. 437- 444 . Vol. 4, Pg. 435, 436