The very first image that appears in front of us as soon as we talk about the ‘Sanatana Dharma’ or ‘Hinduism’ is the concept of many Gods. But what evokes curiosity in our minds is why are there so many Gods? In different parts of India different deities are worshipped as the isht deva or the one God they like the most. While in Gujarat Shree Krishna is bowed down to, South Indians are inclined towards Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathy. A vast majority of Maharashtrians worship Lord Ganesha. A natural question is are all Gods one and the same or are they different?
Let us understand this with an example. There is a son whose father is a High Court Judge. While he is at home, he wears a T – shirt and a pajama. The son climbs up on his shoulder and rides on him as a horse. His father is in a jolly good mood and they have a great time together. The next day the same father wears a black and white uniform and sits on the seat of a judge with a serious face. He passes judgements and makes critical decisions. Does this mean that they both are different? The person is the same, but his behavior and attire have changed due to the difference in roles that he has to play. Similarly, God is one, but He has infinite forms. According to the roles he plays he takes on different forms. In the form of Lord Vishnu, He is maintaining the Universe and hence he is always calm and poised irrespective of any situation in the world. In the form of Brahma, he acts as the father of the Universe as He is the creator. Lord Shiva being the annihilator has a form that signifies destruction – holding a Trishul, Snake, applying ashes etc. All these are God’s office forms. But the form of Shree Krishna is His homely look. In this form He only engages in loving pastimes with His devotees. He does not interfere in the administration of the world. He does everything to simply provide bliss to his devotees.
The Vedas state:
Ekameva Advitiyam Brahma
The Shvetashwatar Upanishad also states
Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti
Ekam Santam Bahudha Kalpayanti
Eko hi Rudro Na Dvitiyaya tasthoor
Yay imam lokani shata isha nibhihi
Therefore, our scriptures even though do enumerate the glory of each God and Goddess individually, they also tell us that it is that one God who manifests into different forms. And that is the reason why we have so many forms of God.
Another commonly asked question is will one God be annoyed if we suddenly start worshipping another God?
Of course not. It is our material intellect that discriminates between forms and not God. Here is a true incident to elucidate this. A tailor was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva. However, he disliked Shree Krishna. Lord Shiva thought that though the tailor is a great devotee, his understanding of the concept of God is not mature.
So, in order to clear his devotee’s ignorance, Lord Shiva gave inspiration to the Pandit of a Krishna temple to go and ask the tailor to prepare a ‘Kanchni’ (waist belt) for Shree Krishna’s idol. At first, the tailor refused but upon insistence, he agreed to do so by keeping his eyes closed. He entered the temple to take measurements. He shut his eyes and tried measuring Shree Krishna’s waist. He had a feeling that he was hugging a Shiva linga but when he opened his eyes, he saw Tribhangilal! Again, he closed his eyes. He felt it to be a Shiva Linga. He opened his eyes and he found Shyam Sundar. This continued multiple times until Lord Shiva gave him darshan. This time the Lord had taken a form such that one half of his body was in the form of Krishna and the other half was in the form of Shiva. Atlast the tailor fell at the Lord’s feet and asked for forgiveness for committing such a huge discretion. This incident once again reinforces that there is only one God, but He takes on different forms.
Another example to strengthen this concept is the example of biscuits. In our childhood we got these biscuits which used to come in different shapes. The constituents of the biscuit would be the same sugar and refined wheat flour, but they would be molded into animals such as elephant, giraffe, lion etc. And we would fight for the one that we wanted. But now we do understand that there was no point in fighting as the taste of all the biscuits were the same. Some people also claim that the Hanuman temple on top of the mountain is a ‘Siddh Hanuman’ while others are not. There is also a misnomer that one God is more powerful than the other and hence we should worship the most powerful one. These are mere myths that exist in society. All Gods are one and the same. Every God is all powerful and hence the worship of any God will purify our mind. This is the essence of many Gods in Hinduism.