Most Influential Hindu Goddesses in India

Most Influential Hindu Goddesses in India

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Hinduism is a pantheistic religion in which it associates God with the universe. Therefore, Brahman has no form nor limits for it is the university as well as everything in it. At the same time, Hinduism is also polytheistic religion in that it contains numerous deities that personify aspects of the one true God. This allows individuals an endless array of ways to worship based on regional or community practices, or even family tradition.

In the Hindu pantheon, Shakti is regarded as a truly divine cosmic energy that represents feminine energy as well as the dynamic forces that move through the universe. She is the Great goddess or Mahadevi. In other words, she is basically a sum of all other goddesses. Therefore, she takes many forms and names. She is essentially the mother goddesses. That being said, every god in Hinduism has a Shakti. That’s why she is revered and worshipped by millions of people throughout India.

Here are some of the most popular and influential psychedelic Hindu Goddesses.

Radha: Goddess of Love

Radha: Goddess of Love
Radha: Goddess of Love

Radha has been perceived differently down the ages. She has been portrayed as the amorous and adulterous lover of Krishna and yet she has also been depicted as his divine consort. She is always portrayed alongside him and with her eyes closed, she would follow him everywhere. Due to her relationship with Krishna, she is even regarded as a principal deity often revered in the Vaishnava tradition. She trusts him completely and gives up her own ego for him. Their love story has even become a legend in the realm of Hindu mythology. The story believes to have occurred in the Dwapar Yuga, in which both of them took birth in this world. Radha, who had been a cowherdess at the time, had captivated the heart of Lord Krishna through her beauty and charm and thus became his beloved goddess. Lord Krishna is considered to be the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, whose birth had been predestined. It’s only natural that Radha is also believed to be the reincarnation of Lakshmi who is the consort of Lord Vishnu.

In the northern part of India, she is known as Radharani, mainly due to her devotion toward Krishna that runs so deep. Radha is the divine embodiment of love between mortals as well as between humanity and God. She represents the true devotee, both in terms of male and female, while Lord Krishna is the epitome of the divine. Strong love Radha has for him represents each devotee’s passionate longing for ultimate unification with God. It’s because of her utmost devotion towards Krishna that she eventually attained the status of a goddess.

Kamadhenu: the Mother of All Cows

Kamadhenu: the Mother of All Cows
Kamadhenu: the Mother of All Cows

Also known as Surabhi, Kamadhenu is regarded as a divine bovine-deity found in Vedic scriptures as the mother of all cows. She is known as the “cow of plenty” who grants wishes. Her name is obviously Sanskrit and it consists of two root words, from kama that holds the meaning “desire” and dhenu that means “milk cow”. She would provide her owner whatever they desire. In iconography, Kamadhenu is typically portrayed as a white cow with a female human head and breasts or a white cow comprising numerous divine beings within her body. Hindu people venerate cows as the earthly embodiment of the Kamadhenu, hence their sacred status. That being said, she is a goddess who is not worshipped independently and has no temples dedicated to honoring her, but rather cows become an object of widespread veneration (to honor her) in general throughout the observant Indians.

The divine cow lives in Swarga Loka or heaven and was created by the gods at the churning of the cosmic ocean at the time of Samudra-manthan. It was presented to the 7 sages by the gods and later belonged to Sage Vasishta. She could grant any wish for the true seeker just like her daughter, Nandini, could. She also has polychromatic wings and a peacock’s tail in her appearance. Every part of her body even holds religious significance such as her four legs which represent the four Vedas and her teats that symbolizes the four Purusharthas. Her horn represents the gods while her face symbolizes the moon and the soon. The lump is the embodiment of the Himalayas and the god of fire, Agni, is symbolized by her shoulders

Tulsi: Goddess of Loyalty

Tulsi: Goddess of Loyalty

Did you know tulsi plant forms an integral part in Hindu family? A Hindu household wouldn’t be complete if it doesn’t have a tulsi plant in their courtyard. Like Kamadhenu, she is also believed to have come from the milky ocean. Not only do the Hindus venerate cows as the earthly embodiment of Kamadhenu, but they also revered this particular plant in the morning and evening. The name tulsi signifies “the incomparable one”. Legend has it she was once a mortal woman named Vrinda who married Jalandhar, a man of low caste. Due to her undying devotion, he became invincible and extremely strong in battle. Lord Vishnu morphed into her husband one day and tricked her into sleeping with him. Upon learning the truth, Jalandhar lost all his strength and was eventually killed. She was so ashamed of having betrayed him, though unwittingly, and so threw herself onto his funeral pyre. Lord Vishnu was also sorry and then turned her into the tulsi plant, thus becoming the goddess of tulsi.

The Hindus regard her as the consort of Vishnu and an avatar of Lakshmi. Many families now have tulsi planted in a particularly built structure and have images of deities mounted on all four sides. The aromatic scent makes this plant cultivated for medical and religious purposes. It plays an important role in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism in which worship is performed involving these plants or leaves. That’s why tulsi plants are considered to be very sacred and superior to every other fragrant flower.

Ganga: Goddess of Holy River

Ganga: Goddess of Holy River
Ganga: Goddess of Holy River

Who hasn’t heard of the famous Ganga River that stretches from the Bay of Bengal to Bangladesh? It might as well be the holiest river in any religion but the Hindus, in particular, consider this river to hold immense significance. Many holy qualities are attributed to this river that originates from the Ganotri glacier at Gaumukh- even going so far as to sanctify it as a divine being. The Hindus believe the Ganga River is a beautiful Hindu Goddess with a fair complexion wearing a white crown with a water lily, riding her pet crocodile and holding a water pot in her hands. It is believed that any ritual performed adjacent to the river or in its water, would cause their blessedness to multiply.

The Hindus worship the river by the name of Ganga Maiya or Mother Ganga. The Gangajal (from Ganga = Ganges and jal = water) is believed to have the power to wash away all sins and grant salvation for the devotees. In the realm of Hindu Mythology though, it is believed that Ganga is the daughter of Brahma who was born from his kamandala (a spout shaped vessel) when he was washing the feet of Vamana who was the dwarf Brahmin incarnation of Vishnu. The Vishnu Purana version has it that Ganga was created from the sweat of Vishnu’s feet. Another myth has it that she is the daughter of Himavan and Parvati’s sister. She went to heaven in order to wash away the sins spread by the demon king Tarkasur but then went back to earth at the request of Shiva to wash away the sins made by humankind. That’s why the Hindus believe that they could wash away their sins if they take a dip in the river.

Sita: Goddess of Wealth and Virtue

Sita: Goddess of Wealth and Virtue
Sita: Goddess of Wealth and Virtue

The heavenly divine Devi Sita or simply Sita is the wife of Lord Rama. She is one of the most important Hindu goddesses, partly because she is believed to be the incarnation of Lakshmi who is the consort of the supreme god Vishnu. Rama himself is the avatar of Vishnu. Goddess Sita is the heavenly embodiment of the ideal mother, wife, and daughter to the Hindus. She is specifically celebrated for her fine attributes and worshipped for having the noblest qualities of women. Sita is the female protagonist in the legendary tale of Ramayana. She was the adopted child of Queen Sunaina and King Janaka and later married Lord Rama. She would accompany him to the forest when he was exiled like a devoted wife but then later captured by Ravana, but then Rama, with the help of supernatural monkey Hanuman, was able to save her.

She was actually the abandoned child of Mother Earth, Bhumi. However, she was eventually allowed to come back in her arms in order to release her from the sadness of life. She is now still held up as the ideal women all throughout India and Nepal. Her virtue that doesn’t fade away throughout her demanding existence exemplifies the ideal traits of women, but some people contradict this view as being weak and that Sita always needs a man’s protection. Let’s leave that for another time. Both Sita and her husband remain popular divine beings to this day. Temples all over India have their figures next to each other.

Kali: Goddess of Death and Time

Kali: Goddess of Death and Time
Kali: Goddess of Death and Time

Given that she represents death, she is often depicted as motherly like and symbolizes motherly-love. It should come as no surprise as her name which is Sanskrit means “she who is death or black”. But at the same time, she is also associated with violence and sexuality as well. Kali is believed to be the reincarnation of Shiva’s wife, Parvati. As the embodiment of time, she devours all things and is appealing to both mortals and gods. Kali is one of the few Hindu goddesses to whom blood sacrifices are still made today.

The story of her birth varies but the famous one is one that involves the warrior goddess, Durga. She rode a lion into a battle and fought against the buffalo demon. As her fury grew, Kali formed and immediately at all the demons in the vicinity and decapitated their head, threading them on a chain and wearing it around her neck. Another version says that she was created out of the shed skin of Parvati, which explains why her skin is so dark. The dark color of her skin then became the symbol of eternal darkness associated with chaos. Together with Shiva, they fulfill the highest Supreme in which she is the dynamic aspect while Shiva is the silent aspect of the duo. They balance each other’s power out and legend has it that if you look at the gods with human eyes, they would appear as separate beings but if you use your inner eye, they would appear as one force.

Saraswati: Goddess of Learning

Saraswati: Goddess of Learning
Saraswati: Goddess of Learning

She is the consort of Brahma the Creator and is revered as the Hindu Goddess of wisdom, learning, music, and speech. Hindus offer prayer to her before commencing any intellectual pursuit. It’s even encouraged to offer prayers to Saraswati during the school term and especially before and after examinations. Her name connotes flowing, watery and elegance. Originally, her name was ascribed to the Saraswati River but the river was then personified and became the deity. The Sarsuti River as it is known today is believed to provide good fortune to those who bathe in it. Saraswati is considered to be the one responsible for the creation of Sanskrit. Along with Lakshmi and Parvati, they form a trinity of Hindu goddesses called the Trivedi.

She is highly revered all over India and many temples are dedicated to her in which pilgrims visit each year. She is also involved in the famous legend of Shiva’s Third Eye in which he wanted to wipe out everything in the world with fire because it’d been too corrupted and evil. Saraswati saved the people by transforming herself into a river and the fire from Shiva’s eye was absorbed by her pure waters.

Parvati: Goddess of Love, Devotion, and Fertility

Parvati: Goddess of Love, Devotion, and Fertility
Parvati: Goddess of Love, Devotion, and Fertility

She is the consort of Vishnu and has a role in every incarnation. The Hindus symbolize her as good luck. She is the particular favorite deity among women in most Hindu families. She is said to be the daughter of Durga. As the Hindu mother goddess, she is often referred to as Mata or mother. She is also called “Shr” due to being the female counterpart of Lord Vishnu. “Shr” is the female energy of the Supreme Being. Lakshmi is the household goddess in most Hindu households and because of the vast importance attached to her presence in every household, she is basically a domestic goddess.

She is typically worshipped on Fridays but in the business world, she is prayed to every day as a symbol of prosperity. She bestows upon people according to their degrees of devotion and past karma along with being the protector from adversity and ill health. That’s why, the Hindus believe by worshipping her, one could be alleviated from their suffering.

Parvati: Goddess of Love, Devotion, and Fertility

Parvati: Goddess of Love, Devotion, and Fertility
Parvati: Goddess of Love, Devotion, and Fertility

She is the gentle and nurturing aspect of Shakti. Parvati is also the mother goddess in Hinduism and source of beauty and power. She’s believed to be the second consort of Shiva and rebirth of Sati, Shiva’s first consort but then plunged to the fire because of her father’s offensive behavior towards her husband. She was then born as a mortal to Parvat, the mountain king, and Mena. Not only is she considered as a loving wife but she is also a devoted mother to Kartikeya and Ganesha. Due to her constant devotion and penance, she was able to gain the full power of Shakti and became a goddess.

In iconography, she is depicted as beautiful, fair and benevolent. She is portrayed wearing a red dress and a headband. She usually has two arms when depicted next to Shiva and four when alone. These hands may hold rosary, bell, mirror, crown, conch or farming tool. Ganesha is typically depicted on her knee while her elder son is playing near her watch. One of her arms may gesture the Abhaya Mudra in front which means “fear not”.

Durga: Mother of the Universe

Durga: Mother of the Universe
Durga: Mother of the Universe

Durga is regarded to be fierce and fearful. She is a frightening and powerful deity who fights in order to restore moral order or dharma. Nevertheless, she is full of love and compassion for her devotees despite her seemingly terrifying nature to her adversaries. That’s why she’s referred to as the protective mother of the universe. She is the most popular Hindu Goddess among many for she is a protector of all that’s good and harmonious in the universe. She is often depicted sitting astride a tiger or a lion and has many limbs. Her name means “a place that’s difficult to overrun” in Sanskrit which suits her militant and regal nature perfectly. She is sometimes called Durgatinashini which literally means “the one who eliminates sufferings”.

She is no different than other Hindu deities in that she has multiple incarnations. Her avatars include Kali, Ambika, Lalita, Java, Bhavani, and Rajeswari. When she appears as herself, she reveals herself as one of the nine appellations. Furthermore, her multi-limbed appearance may stem from the fact that she is a mother protector. In most portrayals, she has between 8 and 18 arms and carries a symbolic object in each one of them. Her weapons include the conch shell, arrows, and bow, thunderbolt, lotus, sword,Sudarshan-chakra, and trident. And because of her very important significant in Hinduism, she is celebrated many times every year.

While Greek or Egyptian pantheons are now regarded as the sacred culture in ancient time that contributes to the civilization in the society, divine beings in the realm of Hinduism remain an important element of religious practice and even become a part of daily life to this day. These Hindu Goddesses are honored, worshipped and revered just as how the Hindu gods are and these divine beings are not merely something to be chatting with in times of need.

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