Hinduism - Lesson 16

Identifying Gods/Goddesses in India - Vishnu

The Hindu gods have identifying characteristics that make them easy to recognize when you see them in temples or other settings. The Trimrti are the three major gods of India which are Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. Brahma is not often visually represented, so Vishnu and Shiva are seen the most. Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, Shiva the destroyer. Vishnu has 10 incarnations or avatars. These are partial incarnations and don’t represent the fullness of Vishnu.

Lesson 16
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Identifying Gods/Goddesses in India - Vishnu

I. Introduction

A. Trimrti - 3 faces

B. Vishnu

C. Shivites

II. Description of

A. Vishnu

B. Rama

C. Hanuman

D. Lakshmi

E. Krishna

F. Radha

G. Baby Krishna

  • Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world and one of the oldest. It is about 12% of the world population and about 95% are in India. Hinduism is difficult to define. There is evidence of civilization in the Indus valley as early as 2800 BC. The sacred literature that is the basis for Hinduism was created and developed over hundreds of years. It was originally transmitted orally and was eventually written down.

  • Learn about early Vedic religion, the Aryans' and Dravidians' historical context, the Rig Veda's composition and significance, the concept of mandalas and cosmic homology, the importance of sacred sounds, the structure of Vedic literature, and the Upanishads' role in Hindu philosophy.
  • Learn how Vedic religion precedes Hinduism and influences its development, focusing on the Rig Veda's revelation of a historical racial conflict forming the basis of the Varna system, categorizing society by color, with karma and reincarnation perpetuating social status across lifetimes.
  • Learn about the Rig Veda's "Maha Vacca" and Hindu creation myths, focusing on Purusha's dismemberment, transmutation, the caste system's origins, and cosmic homology's societal impact.
  • This lesson offers insights into the structure of Hindu sacred texts, particularly the Vedas and Upanishads, and explores the concepts of Nirguna Brahman (without attributes) and Saguna Brahman (with attributes), emphasizing their philosophical and theological significance in Hinduism.
  • Learn about Hinduism's essential concepts such as Brahman, Atman, Tat Tvam Asi, and samsara, understanding their philosophical significance and how they interconnect within Hindu teachings and Advaita Vedanta.
  • You gain insight into Brahmanical Hinduism, learning about the importance of realizing Brahman, escaping samsara through strict adherence to Dharma, the concept of Maya as illusion, and the sociopolitical power of Brahmans.
  • Explore the foundational concepts of Indian worldviews, understanding the distinctions between ultimate reality, daily experiences, and perceptual errors, along with the principles of karma and the goal of moksha, comparing these with Western perspectives on reality and science.
  • Explore key Upanishad concepts, understanding how metaphors convey the unity of Brahman and Atman, how diversity stems from oneness, and the Hindu perspective on creation, providing insights into Hindu and Christian cosmological differences.
  • Understand the Upanishadic vision, exploring the divine nature of the soul, the three branches of Hinduism, the role of karma, sacrifice, and the inner controller, and understand how these concepts shape Hindu theology and practice, influencing interactions with other faiths.
  • Hindu writers often use metaphors to illustrate and teach the essentials of the Hindu philosophy. In their writings, they refer to these metaphors in a way that assumes that you know and understand them.

  • The purpose of this lecture is to see the structure of Hinduism at a glance. Hinduism operates and a philosophical level and a popular level. Hinduism attempts to resolve the relationship between knowledge, works and devotion. The four stages of life and the caste system determine much of cultural structure of Hinduism. Hindus worship many Gods.

  • The three major dissent movements that area a challenge Hinduism are Buddhism, Janism and materialism. Hinduism is adept at absorbing other movements. Buddhism claims that there is a teaching that makes it possible for you to reach the state of Nirvana which is liberation from all suffering. The founder of Buddhism is Siddhartha Gautama. The content of his teaching is the four noble truths and the eight-fold path.

  • Learn the parallels and distinctions between Hinduism and Buddhism, emphasizing their structures and ethical bases. Bhakti Marga offers a devotional path, simplifying Hindu worship by focusing on a single deity, like Krishna, and reflecting a universal longing to know God.
  • Learn the parallels and distinctions between Hinduism and Buddhism, emphasizing their structures and ethical bases. Bhakti Marga offers a devotional path, simplifying Hindu worship by focusing on a single deity, like Krishna, and reflecting a universal longing to know God.
  • Explore Hindu deities and their iconography, learning to identify major gods like Vishnu and Shiva through their symbols, understanding their avatars such as Rama and Krishna, and appreciating the cultural impact of these figures within Indian society.
  • Identify Hindu deities by their iconography, focusing on Shiva’s trident, cobra, drum, third eye, Ganges River, and dreadlocks, understanding his meditative, dancing (Nataraja), and lingam forms, and appreciating how these features convey divine attributes to non-literate devotees.
  • Explore the Bhakti movement's shift to personal devotion, the practice of Puja, reinterpretation of classical texts, integration of knowledge, works, and devotion, and the modern influence of devotional literature in contemporary Hinduism.
  • Hear about the cultural and historical significance of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the epic tales of heroism and devotion involving characters like Rama, Sita, and Hanuman, and the philosophical depth of the Bhagavad Gita, focusing on duty and spirituality through Krishna and Arjuna's dialogues.
  • Understand the synthesis of Hindu religious practices, influenced by figures like Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, who promoted religious unity and acknowledged multiple paths to enlightenment, including those from other religions.
  • Explore India's major Hindu festivals, their diverse regional practices, and their cultural significance, including Hottie, Holi, Nog festival, Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Durga Puja, and Diwali, providing a rich understanding of these vibrant celebrations.
  • Gain insights into Shankara's interpretation of monism, the nature of Brahman, the illusory nature of the world, and the critical responses from Ramanujan, offering an understanding of fundamental debates in Hindu philosophy.
  • You gain insight into Ramanuja's philosophy that Brahman interacts with the material world while remaining unaffected by karmic impurities, emphasizing a real, dependent relationship between souls and Brahman, and promoting a devotional approach to worship.
  • Explore the debate on Brahman's freedom from karma, Shankara's emphasis on God's absolute freedom, the significance of mantras, the Brahmo Samaj movement's integration of Hinduism with Western thought, and Brajendra Nath Seal's Christian conversion and integration of Vedic and Christian thought.
  • Explore the sacred thread tradition, the sensory experience of sandal incense, the application of vermillion powder, and the responses of Indian theologians to Hinduism, learning about different engagement strategies, the importance of journals, progressive revelation, the bhakti tradition, and Christian engagement models in India.
  • Gain insights into the influence of Western Christianity on Indian churches, the cultural disconnects it causes, and the need for an indigenous theological approach that resonates with Indian cultural and social contexts.
  • There are opportunities for preaching the gospel and planting churches, but there are significant challenges. There is a difference between being unreached and being unevangelized. Homogenus unit principle is one factor that makes it difficult for the gospel to spread in India. It’s important to send people to unreached groups and use a strategy that is effective for those groups.

In-depth survey of philosophical and popular Hinduism’s historical and theological themes. Exposure to current strategies being used to bring the gospel to Hindus and how Christian theology is being formulated in the Indian context.

Dr. Tennent occasionally uses pictures of Hindu gods or other visual resources in his lectures. You can download a document with these pictures by clicking on the Hindu Deity Pictures link. 


Recommended Reading:

Hinduism, the Basics, Herbert Ellinger 

The Sacred Thread, John Brockington 

The World of Gurus, Vishal Mangalwadi, 1977

The World of Gurus

Catholic Belief - 15th edition

Indian Christian Theology, Robin Boyd

Finding Jesus in Dharma, Chaturvedi Badrinath


Dr. Timothy Tennent
Identifying Gods/Goddesses in India – Vishnu
Lesson Transcript


I thought it might be helpful to you if I just put on a single sheet of paper all of the major distinguishing marks of the gods and other marks I felt like might be helpful, but may not be, you know, major distinguishing marks. So what I've done is to summarize up to this point where we are and then where we'll go to today. And if you can look at the chart, you'll see that we've already done Vishnu, Rama, Hanuman, Lakshmi and Krishna. And on the left hand column I have the major features of each of them and then how to identify their iconography. And then also on the same column, some other dead giveaways that might help you in the process. I've also taken the liberty to put bold type on terms that you'll need to know. There are not too many, but there's a few terms. I mean, for example, already this whole lecture is only two terms from last lecture, and that's the term GOP's. And the other is. RS You know, we really haven't discussed Arizona yet, but will be someone that will develop more with the Bhagavad Gita. This is the person in the Chariot with whom Krishna has the conversation, which is the substance of the bucket that Geeta, the GOP's refers to the the women and the piranhas and so many other material appears with Krishna. His favorite Gopi is Radha. So the Gopi Zora is important to know because very popular in modern and current Hindu discussion. Now we're ready to talk about Shiva. Shiva is the easiest God to identify. There's so many dead giveaways with Sheva, and there's certainly certain things that are helpful. One of the problems with Rama that we saw earlier, Rama almost always has the bow and arrow or bows and arrow, both of those.


The other ones associated with Rama are various scenes in the Ramayana. And because of that, if you don't know they're minor, you may not recognize, Oh, that's, you know, Bow Debbie, the goddess of the earth or something that's is critical to the overall epic. So it's more difficult for Shiva because he's generally in this meditating mode and almost always he's identified with certain very strong icons based on various activities in his own mythology. This one here has the major features. The number one thing you'll always notice in a silver icon is the presence of the ritual. This is like a trident. This is used for battle, and it's a sacred weapon of destruction that is found in Hindu iconography. It's always identified with Shiva. So I would say that this is the number one way you can identify Shiva, but there's a number of other things that are important to. Another is the nog or the cobra. Another very, very well known. Another one is the DOM. Through this in this particular picture, it's very, very minor. A Dharma RU is a little drum that's shaped like this. It's like an hourglass shaped thing. They hold it in the middle and has those strings on it that have the ability to beat the drums. And they have it go like this. And it beats both drums. It's called Dumitru. It's a certain kind of little small drum, handheld drum. The handheld drum is one of the top iconographic marks you'll find in a Shiva icon. Other features that are prominent is the third eye of Shiva, which you do see a lot. It's usually in a certain shape that it really identifies it as either a clean dot or a kind of an eye shape like this.


Another feature, which is just classic Shiva. And by the way, this is a North Indian deity. And so where I am, these are everywhere. Shiva deities, Shiva try and Shiva temple. So I've seen thousands of these. This is certainly very, very important. This is actually a stream of water. This is the Ganges River flowing from his head. The Ganges River flows out of Shiva. Don't forget, the dreadlocks are very a big part of any meditating, biomedical kind of figure. You have the dreadlocks. You'll notice a lot of wild hair, which Shiva always has wild hair. The damage to the third eye. We haven't looked at the other forms yet. So let's look at some other examples of it and see if you can pick out the I mean, this one is nice. It has kind of everything. But if you look at this, one looks very different. But if you look carefully, you should notice that it is a shiva. This was not labeled. What's the main reason why you know it's Shiva. Right. Right. The threshold, the trident is there. There's other minor features which would tell you this, the Ganges River. The third eye is Shiva. This is actually his lingam. This is his phallus, which we haven't looked at yet. But that's another way to tell for sure. But this one would be less clear than others. This actually is the dharma roof, though, the little drum, but it's difficult to actually see it there properly. Clearly, a Shiva icon. This one is even more obscure. This one is. But again, they have everything you might imagine. Here you have the traditional you have the stream of the water coming out which feeds the Ganges River. So, you know, immediately this is actually the dharma through the dharma, who actually very regularly is hanging on the trestle.


Very this is actually very typical. So the little drum is there. You see the drum on the traditional mooring you do in his hand. This is a special bowl. This is you see it here. This is another very, very common feature because that is mount. Every one of the gods has a mount that's present there. This one would be less clear. You have in the background the traditional is there. The dam is hanging there on the threshold, not that clear, but you can see it. The nag is there. One of the famous stories about Shiva, which we'll look at with the dancing form, not Raja, is that he has this fight with a big snake called Nog and he defeats it and puts on his neck. And so you almost always see the snake around the neck in the same battle. By the way, he kills. The first thing he kills is this tiger, which he kills with his fingernail and immediately skins it makes it into a like a little blanket. So you don't you very rarely see him sitting on a tiger skin. I don't know if I even put that on the list. I probably should have. I have. I don't even have that. You could add that is another sign sitting on a leopard tiger skin. Here's another Shiv icon. All the features are there. You have the water streaming out, You have the trestle, you have the tiger skin. There it is again. The noggin is neck. Just classic Chevron icon. Here's another one. All the features. Here's a good, good picture of the room. They they're on by his side. Again, it's often there with the turtle. You have the tiger skin, you have the nog. We have the nog there.


Again, use this one his neck. You have the water streaming out. You can even see the Ganges River behind it, the mountains in the background. It's always the Himalayan mountains. But the particular mountain called Mount Kailash, because Mount Kailash, it's I is not determined to know, but it's a famous mountain that comes into the various encounters between Shiva and Parvati is consort. This is one they showed you this picture. You should be able to identify it as Shiva. So the question is, if this is Shiva, who is this and who is this? This is where you have to use your your your imagination. Okay. If you can identify this is seven, which definitely can. You have Mount Kailash there. You've got the traditional, you've got the Meru, you've got the snake, you have the third eye, everything, the dreadlocks. It's just classic. There's no doubt that Shiva. So this is Shiva. That must be from Parvati, because Parvati is as consort. So you should identify this Parvati. Their only son is Ganesh. And so that is definitely Ganesh, though this is Ganesh before he has his elephant head. So that may not be very helpful at this point. This is a classic Shiva and Parvati icon because again, it has everything that you would expect to have. You have the nog, you have the traditional, you have the maru, you have the water pouring out of the head of Shiva. This is the Ganges god and it's all encased inside a shiva lingam, which we haven't looked at yet, but this is the lingam and the yoni, the womb and the palace of Shiva. And of course that's Parvati. These are various offerings that you'll find that with almost any God. Here you have Shiva, Parvati, and Ganesh.


You should be able to immediately identify this as Shiva. Why Threshold Dharma there is. I mean, that automatically tells you, but you have all these other things. You've got the the water swimming out, going to the Ganges River, you've got the nog, you've got the skin of the tiger. I mean, this is just absolutely classic Shiva. This obviously is Parvati and this is the Sun Ganesh. Now, we haven't talked about Ganesh yet. This is his son that gets decapitated and he puts a elephant head on him. We'll look at that later. Ganesh has his own separate iconography because Ganesh is worshiped separately now from Shiva. The person in the picture, as far as I know, is just a devotee. This is very typical to have the family kind can like the the family thing. So you have a severe poverty, denies all the classic things. And I go through it again. It's there it is. This is one we haven't seen this. This is called a mudra. It's a it's a hand signal. You'll find this on a lot of the gods will have this. We could also do another study just of hand gestures. Hand gestures is a huge part of Hindu iconography. And by the way, in Hinduism, in Buddhism. So the way you hold your hands reveals certain kind of auspicious meanings. So you can see the arm sign is in the palm of his hand. This is the sacred sound that resonates to the universe that we've talked about earlier in the class That's a little unique to this one. Everything else seems to be about what you've seen. The reason all this looks so similar for you, I'm sure is helpful, especially because it helps you to identify. But there are very strict rules of Idol or icon iconography and they have to follow these rules.


And so if, for example, someone produces a Ganesh with two arms, for example, occasionally that happens, they'll be scolded. For this, Ganesh has got to have four arms, you know, it's just like the way it has to be done. Or if you have a skinny Ganesh, they don't like that. It's Ganesh is always had to have a big belly, you know, And so there's kind of like a little icon police that go out and will chastise people if they're icons or not, actually conforming to certain things. So it makes it therefore helpful because the whole idea is that ignorant people who can't read or have no literacy need to know what God it is. And so the only way to do it is by having these kind of symbols. Okay? Shiva, being who Shiva is, has a number of different forms. The one that is the most important for our list is Shiva as Nataraj, that is dancing the dance in Shiva, the Lord of the Dance. This particular form is very, very important and it has certain features that are very different from the other kind of standard Chevron icon. So you do need to be able to identify not only the classic Chevron, but also the nostalgia. Obviously, one minute you see this dancing Shiva is too obvious. It's not the Raja, but there's things you should notice about it. For example, notice that he has four arms, two legs, that standard. You'll notice one give away. Even if you had not known, if you had not had any discussion of the Nataraj Raja, you probably could identify as a Shiva Idol because of one thing what is in his hand? I know it's hard to say. Is that that's true. Okay, so he's.


He's dancing with the drum in his hand. So the Maru is like a give away. All right. So he'll typically have a dome around his hand. That's one give away. He'll have a flame of fire in the other. This, by the way, is symbolic of creation and destruction of the world. He he's the creator. And the story of the world especially functions to destroy of the world. But these are the both motifs present in his icon. Also, I mentioned that he often has the dreadlocks. All this is his hair. This is actually not the Ganges River. This is his hair. Shiva is famous for these like long dreadlock type things. So that hair thing is another give away, but it's very much a feature of the not the Raja. Another thing that makes it clearly a Shiva icon is actually this aam which is supposedly in this form as if it's the trunk of an elephant which of course reflects Ganesh. So you've got several things that kind of give it away. Now the other thing that you'll notice which is part of the classic Shiva is the nog. This is not that clear but this is actually a snake around his neck. So you still have the snake and the ARU and so if you see that, you should think Shiva anyway. But in the classic battle that Shiva has, when he's first emerges and revealed his his divine dignity, the sacrificial fire challenges him and throws out several challenges, one of which the first is the snake, which he defeats the snake and he kills it wrapped around his neck. The second is this tiger we mentioned, which where he kills it with his fingernail and he makes it into a garment. And that's why you see him always meditating on it.


He carries on that, the skin of the tiger. The third is this figure and all of the dancing Shiva is not. The Rajas have this dwarf figure under his feet. That's another classic son. Another one that can show you maybe even better. Yeah, that's a much better one. Because you have the snake. You have a snake there, too. You have the dreadlocks, you have the demon, RU. You've got the flame of fire. It's just a classic form of it. But you can see a little better in this carving. The actual dwarf monster. The last challenge he had was the dwarf. And this was the surface of fire sent out a monster disguised as a dwarf. I think this is actually a a bit of a anti version of white thing. There's a lot of debate about all the horror story behind it. But in this Na'vi mythology, one of the the way that Vishnu took over the world was he took the form of a little monster like this. And so he goes to the demon and he says, Will you give me three strides of land? Because the demon says, he's such a small, little dwarf, you know, three strides. The land is nothing. So he finally says, Sure, I'll give you three of the land. Or immediately the little dwarf takes on, which is Vishnu takes on his cosmic proportions. He steps over the earth and one step sits over the heavens. Second step, he has a third step left and no place else to go. So the demon puts his head down, put his put on his head, so he's over all the demon. So it's like some kind of a triumph, holistic thing. The Vishnu wins. So that's a whole separate story of Vishnu.


So here you have Shiva also encountering this demon, this monster dwarf, but he's triumphing over it. So it's interesting to note in Hindu iconography, there's two things you'll find under the feet of people, either of things. They were defeated, they defeated or battles or whatever in their mythology, or sometimes they're mount or B they are. There's a little bit of a competition here between the gods who's going to become supreme. You have this tension that goes back and forth. So the Nataraj is a very, very famous Shiva form. Are any questions about. The not the Raja Yes or nuts, which are about Shiva in general. Did you say that Nusrat was mudra is the hand gestures. And actually, we are not going to, at least at this point. I don't anticipate that we will take time to go through all those. But just know the concept of mudra is that there are different auspicious gestures with the hand that mean certain things in Hindu meditation. Yes. Is there something that means is that like the wheel of samsara or what is that? Because the answer to that is the number of is it always like this wheel? They do. They do. I'm not sure they would call it Wheel of some Sorrow, but amount of the same thing. This is the wheel of life as this fire coming out from the wheel, which shows his ability to create life. So I think that samsara may not be the most popular way of using it, but I think, in fact, that's what it is. It's the wheel of Wheel of Creation creates, as well as his main task is destroying. But what's happened is that the Shiva, the Shiites, want to find ways to say that all of the other features of Brahma Vishnu are found inside Shiva.


Vishnu wants you to see that Shiva is inside of Vishnu. So you have certain icons that try to encompass others. But Shiva's main in the basic try Murti the basic feature of Shiv as destruction, not creation. You don't see this here, but the third eye of Shiva is called the Trillo China Lo. China is word for eye or a auspicious eye or passing eye the Trillo. Now the third eye is what lies behind the famous spot that you see on the heads of Hindu women that probably there is a point that shouldn't be overlooked. I mean, that's obviously one of some common things you observe when you go to India, is that women wear a spot on their forehead that is related to the third eye of Shiva. But even though you go down south, I mean, it's very wide in the north, but it's also in the in the south, there's different kinds of associations with it. But historically, it's in iconography. It's always with seven, not with Vishnu. And you are you know, you really want to know, okay, I love this inquiring minds. Okay, you have tri, which is then you have low china. You may know the Did you meet the librarian at NTC who has the name? No, China. Our name. It means people often in their children location. That means beautiful eyes. Well, there are other comments about not the Raja. Yes, I was talking to her on the other day and she said that now the the dogs that women wear is just. Passion, right? Definitely. Okay. So it doesn't necessarily mean that they're devout. No, it doesn't. In fact, what really I mean, it's always you know, the obviously read is very important in the whole iconography of it.


And yet I was really struck, I remember years ago flying on Indian Airlines like they had these green outfits. And so they had to have a green spot to match. So, you know, it's a fashion thing now. And so that actually raises theological question that we had a lot of our students not smart about that, but women will generally will put a little red mark, the same substance they use for the eye in their forehead, in the part of their hair, which tells you they're married. And so if you go out without that, he will assume you're single. And so because many women, Christian women, don't wear any ornamentation, it has created questions about their status. So there have been some men have said, I would like my wife to wear that, but yet it's clearly means I'm a Hindu woman who's married. Really? So, you know, there's a lot of people who have, you know, discussions about this whole thing. And, well, hopefully for the crossover, we can address some of this. There's a silver devotee. I mean, he's really devoted. You can see that there's certain things about, you know, he's this standing on the skin of a tiger. See, that's a sure thing. So you can you can identify that way. He has the third eye of Shiva. He's bearing some of the iconography marks the third form of Shiva that you need to be aware of. There's the classic meditative form, which is very dominant. The second is the Nataraj or the Dancing Shiva. The third is the Shiva Lingam. I still say in my experience in India the last 16 years, this is the most dominant icon, certainly in North India. There are things about it that you recognize, especially this one that is clearly civil.


You have the nog, which is associated with Shiva. They have a nog festival every year where they worship the snake. They will decorate the Cobras and all that. You know, you've heard the famous, you know, people who play the instruments and the snake comes up out of the past. They really do do that. It's not just the movies. I've actually watched them do it quite apart from the nog, that's not actually the most important element of the civil kingdom. The most potent one, of course, is the phallus of Shiva. And then this is what's called the yoni, which means womb. So it's the female sexual organ. This is the erect male sexual organ and union. Often will show Shiva and Parvathi in sexual embrace, showing the union of male female. All of the gods have male forms, female forms. So it's not maybe a shock to see this in a larger sense. Certainly in a more kind of standard sense. It's a it's a very much of a dominant imagery. So the reason this done this is actually what it's usually done. There's a little opening here. You don't really see it here. This men I have this maybe one for just for looks, but the ones they actually use in temples will have an opening here. So when you pour the the water in the milk, we haven't discussed puja yet, but when you have the secondary, the worship services, you pour the milk and the flowers and all over it, it runs down the little trough and comes out this and here's how it's used. Going back to one of the other, Shiva Lingam, here you have all the classic Shiva icon notations. You know, you have the church of the dump, the Ganges River, the nog snake, but it's all encased inside the lingam and the the yoni.


So you have shiva inside the lingam. Occasionally you see this kind of iconography where two of these major forms are brought together. The Shiva lingam can be extremely elaborate or extremely simple. The whole gamut is there. They're all over India. They can be decorated in this particular temple. You've got the Shiva Lingam. They have it draped with some kind of cloth, with some food off. This is Prasad. This is the sacrificial offering they make to the God. And she knows to have you at the threshold nearby. So it lets you know this is a ship, a temple in the background. This is actually Kali, another goddess, famous goddess, bloodthirsty Kali, with the skulls around her neck, a severed head. We'll look at that later. Look at her later. But she's there in the background. You have a simple Shiva lingam. That's a very simple one you'd find in a temple. I've seen some of Willingham's that are now at least ten feet high. And in fact, the one out of the one the most elaborate ever saw was actually done South India in Bangalore. So you would expect to see beautiful from the north ending, but there's more prosperity in the south and they can build some huge, huge, powerful, expensive ones. Okay, so any questions about the civil lingam form? You see that regularly? Didn't mention the ashes on the body, but ashes is something you find often and spread all over. Shiva and his followers especially will do that to themselves. Yes, so far, for instance, that form, we would know it's affiliated with Shiva. Absolutely. Always. It's not just a God in its own right. No, it's always Shiva's lingam. No one else is lingam. Sounds horrible, doesn't it? I know this is a little bit of a shock.


Maybe. There's a lot of sexual imagery in Hinduism. I mean, with Christian, it gets pretty elaborate with a lot of the erotic dalliances with the GOP's. And you find that with Shiva, especially in those two forms. Yes. Why is that obvious? On the one hand, all this erotic imagery and stuff like that, and yet at the same time, like asceticism is like this big thing in India. Well, there are two reasons for it. I think it's a great question. It's been talked about a lot. One answer has been given is that part of India likes to show that, you know, the one in the many, you know, that everything, however diverse from different extremes, ultimately find some kind of convergence. Point is the whole Hindu mentality. So, you know, the other idea is that there is actually is a tension in between life affirming life negating streams and Hinduism. And in the Bhagavad Gita is where that real battle actually occurs. I mean, this is why the Geeta, which is not that important of literature on the Shruti level, becomes Shruti basically, because everyone recognizes that really all of Hindu philosophy finally meets on the the battlefield, not just symbolically in the origin as battlefield, but actually symbolically the all the philosophies fight it out there. And in the Geeta, you have this struggle over whether the job is to enter into life or to extract from life the compromise. I think and I typically think that's really more of the answer. But there are people who think the other the compromise, I think, actually eventually comes out with the four stages of life, because the four stages of life is really the ultimate compromise, because it's okay, your student stage, you have y family, you engage fully in the world, but then you begin to extract from the world and eventually you you detach from the world, become a senior person.


So that kind of becomes stages where any of these things can be a farm. And so you have the one life, the many expressions, the one of the many. So eventually this all kind of comes together so that any one point your life could be yet another cosmic cosmology for greater forces in the universe. So if you're having a family, the actor intercourse is a cosmic cosmology of creation itself. If you're denying yourself, you're starving yourself, you're on the banks of the Ganges, you're a cosmic homology for death and destruction, the end of the ages. I mean, there's the whole thing. Is there compressed into your life? That's kind of the standard answers to this. Okay. Durga is one of the manifestations of the great diva. Ma. We talked about that. The opening slides, how the goddess form of India has taken several forms. We mentioned three main forms. We mentioned Sarasvati, which is the God of knowledge of Brahma. We mentioned Parvati and Lakshmi. And the Parvati form has two major further manifestations Durga and Kali very, very important in India, especially in North India, especially over in the eastern part of India, like in places like Bengal, Calcutta is Kali cut, it's a, it's a, the whole city is founded for Kali. So Kali is one of the forms of this. So looking at Durga and Kali are very important, especially in places like Calcutta. Durga is form is identified with multiple, multiple arms. I'm sorry. I'll have better pictures of this. I need to find some better pictures of Durga, but essentially she is identified with major numbers of arms. You'll find Durga often with a spear in her hand because she's famous for the slaying of his Buffalo king Buffalo demon, and she's often riding her mount, which is a lion.


So the lion, the spear, the multiple arms slain of some figure. It's all classic. There's no question. This is Durga. It's obviously a goddess form, too. And that's I guess that's the first thing you should ask. Is this a god or a goddess? So if it's a goddess, you know, we're looking. Is this Parvati? Is this Durga, is this Kali or whatever it is? So there's no question when you saw the multiple arms, you know, this is Durga. Another example. Here's another icon of it. Again, all the same features. You've got the multiple arms, you've got the victory over the Buffalo King. You've got the spear. You actually, this one is interesting because you have ganache over here on the side watching the whole thing. So, you know, this is a, you know, the universe that you're in. It's not like these things are all separate. You you may find within the universe other things will come in or within the vision of our universe. So it's not unusual having a nice like watching the whole thing, because ultimately, Gamma is the sign of poverty. Durga is one of the expressions of poverty, so you know, it's all possible. Amazingly, you have Sarasvati here, which is the consort of Brahma. We haven't discussed Sarasvati, but there she is. This could be Parvati, this could be her in a non manifest form. I'm not really sure if it's Parvati or that's, that's her. But you have the lion, you have the demon buffalo king being slayed the spear. It's interesting. You also have other I mean of there's so many hands you'll find things that you may have seen other places. This is typical when you have a goddess with so many arms and hands, you got to put something in their arms to symbolize something.


This is the desk that we saw, you know, Rama's desk. You've got Rama's Arrow, so you've got a lot of this news desk. You've got things that we've seen in other icons that may appear. And these it's not unusual. There's Durga. Here's another. Well, this one is a rotating name that God hears. Durga. We've already saw. Who is that? Lakshmi. Past it. That's Kali. We have looked at that Durga coin's number. Lakshmi. Sarasvati. We have looked at her. But she always has the instrument. And there's that blood thirsty Kali we have looked at. Yep. All right. Which does bring us to Kali Colly is always the most shocking of the goddesses or even of any of the icons. People who see Kali are always amazed at the bloodthirsty horror of the whole thing. One of my biggest surprise I've seen many, many iconography of Kali and very an icon idols as well in various temples and all that. But my biggest surprise when I was actually at NTC, at the seminary and right next door we have a Buddhist monastery and they have their main temple, which I've been to many times. And I've but I was with one of our one of the monks there one time, and we were talking and we were walking down this little path. And so this is a Tibetan monastery. So this Tibetan monk and I, we're talking, we go down and there's this little, little miniature shrine or something. This is in the Buddhist compound now, which I never been into before. We're actually looking at this prayer wheel that they have down there. We're going to be on it. There's a little, little building there. We go inside and there are several bodhisattvas, Buddhist things, but they're in huge form.


In that temple was Kali in the Buddhist temple. This form, I was actually more like this form here, but I was really, really surprised to see that there. But he says, Yeah, we're afraid of Kali, too. So we we give Puja to Kali. In the traditional story of Kali, the form you're actually seeing is based on a major battle that she had. And it goes back to a earlier battle with a demon known as Rak Taveras. We haven't actually discussed rock devera and we will not do it responsible for active area. But Rock to Vera is one of the famous demons in the course of the battle. Brahma, with whom he's fighting. One of these, you often find, is that the reason the Brahma does come in to the mythology a lot is the tribe. Murti is that Brahma grants boons a boon, means a divine favor. So if you're fighting and you have some big struggle and you you agree to give up, as long as you get a boon or as you maybe you have a victory, maybe the demons have victory over the gods. And in various battles it depends on the situation. But in this case, Lord Brahma granted the boon to Dr. Vera that if he ever had his blood shed, which means he maybe was killed in battle, every drop of blood that was shed would become another demon as a way to multiply himself. Basically, that was the boon he got. Remember I told you about Vishnu? Got the boon. But take three steps. You know that these are this is very typical in the epic literature. You have some battle or some encounter and then someone's going to have boon or whatever. So when Kali came upon Rock to Vera, she had to kill him without allowing any blood to drop on the ground.


So in the course of the battle, she stabs him fatally and then immediately reaches down and she sucks all of his blood out of his body. So that nun went up to the ground. And it's just like, you know, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. So he drinks all of his blood before it gushes out. But because he drank the blood, it gave her this powerful blood lust for destruction. So she goes wrong. That's why she has these multiple arms to symbolize that she goes along killing and slaying everything, just massively creating all this havoc. And so the only way it could be stopped is if Shiva, the world's destroyer himself, put a stop to it by bowing down and under her feet. So she is slain. Slain, slain, killing insists on Shiva about the slave ship, and she realizes it's Shiva himself. But you go through the implications of poverty. Poverty? This is her God or her consort. She stops the battle, and that's how the world is saved. Now, if you're looking at a college icon, there are a number of things which we'll tell you immediately. It's called the multiple Arms is one way to tell. I wouldn't say sons are certainly the other goddesses with multiple arms. That's one way for sure to start down the path. The other two ways that are dead giveaways is the tongue out, like the blood thirsty tongue sticking out. Does this one have it? This one here? Yeah. This has as well. The tongue sticking out is a major example. And then she always has a garland of skulls around her neck. And these don't look too bad. This looks like heads. Often you'll find, like, this is more like just skulls. That's very typical. Usually in one of our harms is one dismembered head that's often dripping with blood.


Some of the figures of Kali, she herself is dripping in blood, though it's not present on these two icons. The severed head, the the garland of skulls, the tongue out, multiple arms. Those are all classic Kali. They are? Yeah, the hair. She has really long hair. You can see it. She usually has, like, wild, disheveled hair. It's like, like almost like a shiva in that sense. Yes. What's with the multiple faces? The multiple faces is, again, a way of showing their omnipotence, their transcendence. It shows that there is a goddess other than just a guru. In this case, that's clearly it's an example of power because it's the same face. If it's different faces of other gods and goddesses, it could be like a theological move, you know, clandestinely. But to exert and say, this is with Christian, you see this, that all of the other gods are found in Christmas. So that kind of theological thing happens sometimes in the icons. This is another Kali temple. These are all over Calcutta. They're often dark, is hard to see. Get good picture of the here is this skulls around the neck, the tongue that give away multiple arms. So you've got a lot of the features that you shouldn't know immediately. This is a goddess. Yes. Kali has had anything to do with color. You go dark. It does. It does. Yeah. I think that's the last age of destruction. It's the same, same word. And do people worship her? So she was killed? Mm hmm. Yeah. In fact, in my dissertation, the figure I studied from a bontemps lived in Calcutta. He wanted to find a way to create festivals for Kali and Durga in Calcutta that Christians could participate in as cultural symbols.


I'm not saying I endorse this idea. I'm just telling you what he was deeply committed to. We don't have time to go into all the analysis of it. But anyway, this created a huge controversy and he eventually was charged with having turned back to Hinduism because of especially this Durga festival that occurred in Calcutta that was very famous. And he participated in the Durga Puja. He had all kinds of reasons for this, which may be lamentable, but he realized you cannot get all of the gospel in Calcutta, especially without dealing with Kali. So this is the city of Kali. His idea was he went to Europe and he saw how the Europeans had reduced the gods like a goddess of wisdom was in front of some building in the center square of London. And he said, Well, gosh, you know, nobody worships this goddess of wisdom, Sophia. Why can't we kind of do the same thing, kind of demote our gods to cultural, like cultural icons, not religious icons. He's exploring this idea in the latter part of his life. Yes. Also of yes. Yeah. Durga and Kali are the two forms Actually, what you find in most of the gods and goddesses? Both, is that all of them have a creative form and a destructive form. So Shiva's creative form is called Rudra. His destructive form is called Shiva, which is the whole Shiva thing. But Rudra is always present in Shiva. She was always present in Rudra, and you've got the goddess. Kali is more destructive, Durga is more creative. And this is typical of the the way it works. If you saw this, could you identify it? Surely you could get all the features of it the severed head, the garlands. This is only has four arms, but you have the triumph over the Buffalo King.


Very similar kinds of icons. Okay, the easiest one to then. I would be Ignatius himself. This is the last one that you need to know. I have a few extra slides to show you a few things, but Ganesh is probably the most beloved of the Hindu gods founded all over India. I want to give you the iconography. Even though the most obvious thing is the elephant head. I think I mentioned to you some of the story of this, but essentially what happened, Shiva was coming home to Parvati and Parvati and Shiv apparently had a dispute among one another about he would barge into her inner chamber even if she was taking a bath and she didn't like this. So she took some. There's different ways a story is told, but basically she took some sandalwood from one of her shoes because they they don't wear leather shoes. Obviously, these are high caste people, so they wear wooden shoes. And so she took this sandalwood to get some paste from it and she made a sun from it. So the sun is there. The sun was told to guard the door so that Shiva could not get in to see her or to bother her during her morning rituals or, you know, her ablutions. So Silver comes home. He doesn't know who this fellow is. And they get into this big battle and they fight. And eventually they in the course of the battle, the sun's head is severed. Parvati comes out, is extremely upset and is about to destroy the whole heavens and the earth and everything else. And so before she's able to do this, he quickly tells his people, go out and get the head of the first thing you find. So they rush out into the woods.


Of course, you're in India, right? So what are you going to find? An elephant. Right. So the first living they find is an elephant. So they cut off his head, rush it back. They reattach the head to the child that was severed. And the child lives and Parvati is happy. And now she has this wonderful son, Ganesh Ganesha. Ghana is the term they use for his followers. Anyway, they're called Ghana's and Isha. Lord of the Nation means Lord of the followers of Shiva. Basically is what means Lord of the followers of Shiva. So Ganesh is the icon for Shiva's followers. And so you'll find Ganesh taken out of the civil Parvati Ganesh little family setting we saw earlier into actual separate shrines all over India. And you'll see Ganesh there. There's several features about the Ganesh iconography that's important. I mentioned one already. Ganesh always has forearms and proper Ganesh iconography. Iconography. Ganesh is always fat. Fat. Not just an elephant, a fat elephant. He'll have various things in his hand. He usually has something sweet, like a bowl of sweet, something in his hand, because, you know, he's fat, he's eating a lot, and he gives his followers things to eat. He's a god of prosperity. They're number of gods, of prosperity in wealth. He's one of the major prosperity gods. Actually, there are always four beings. I don't know what animals were there for. Beings, I guess is like associated with Ganesh. You don't see it around this one completely. Maybe we do. We have the man, you have the elephant, you have a mouse, which I don't know, this is on this, but there it is. The mount is a mouse. So here's an elephant. Not even a mouse. Oh, you wouldn't believe that.


The eyelids they draw from that. And the fourth is the snake. I don't see the snake on here on this one. Again, it's not clear to see, but many. I'm. You'll see a clear snake. The Brahmans wear a sacred thread. We haven't looked at that yet, but we will next week or so. Or the week after next. After reading. Wait, The sacred thread is a thread that the Brahmans wear that will know they're Brahmans, and so he also works to contribute to Snake. So if a snake, a mouse, an elephant and a man that are usually found in the icon, often one or the other of those. Here's other examples. In this case, he has six arms. That's a little variation of the of the basic four theme. It's almost a play on the the dancing shoes, but then they're not the Raja. You can see this. But the main thing to notice, obviously, is the elephant had the snake you can recognize. It's definitely a Ganesh figure, right? Yeah, it is. It's definitely traditional. He's holding. Yeah. Which is not a problem because this is the universe, right? It's has the threshold. So any offspring ultimately of Sheba or one of his companions can have a You have his other examples of it. One thing I didn't notice, actually, or didn't mention to you that he only ever has one task. Did I put that on the list? Maybe I didn't. I mean, these are minor things. I didn't actually. You could probably note on the other marks on the right, the broken tusk. Let's see if the others. It's better to see that. Yeah, this one. You can see it really well. See how this tusk is? They're full. This is broken. He always has one tusk that's broken off.


We could spend all day telling the stories behind why the tusk is broken. It goes down to stories that that are a like an expansion of the original story of himself, how he was severed because he guarded the door. He's at another point in his life guarding the door to protect his father, this time when there was a big battle and his tusk is broken. There's another story that he is the one that penned the Ramayana and he needed something to write with. So he broke off his tusk. And you had to write the Ramayana with, you know, this kind of there's various stories behind it. In fact, if you're ever in Sri Lanka or they have their own story. In Sri Lanka, they say that the demon king in the Ramayana, the famous epic. Most of it takes place in Sri Lanka. So in that epic struggle, the Demon King Ravana takes the tusk of Ganesh, one of them, and makes ivory earrings for all the women of Sri Lanka. So if you see a woman in and struggle with an ivory earring, you can say, Oh, it's so nice to see that you're wearing carnations. Tusk should be so impressed with your knowledge of Hindu iconography because that's what it is historically. But that's a lot of earrings to make from a little tusk. But you'll see the broken tusk on the Hindu icons. Okay. I had a few little kind of free slides to show you just to clarify a few things that are not on the exam, but may be helpful. And then if you have any other questions about any of these icons, feel free to ask. Yes. But what could the original have? Well, if you're asking the question historically as an historian versus a popular, you know, there's different things in history historically.


The belief is that Hindus in this area worshiped the elephant. They worshiped the mouse. The worst of all, all the major animals. Wrong was the word worship. So the elephant had to be brought in some way as a form of the icon. Otherwise, you have to essentially tell somebody, No, your God is wrong. And Hinduism never told you why they're wrong. They tell everybody they're right. You know, their heart is absorb, absorb, absorb. So Hinduism, rather than delineate and try to demote the elephant, just, okay, great. Or put it on the head problem. So a lot of this has to do with competing worship things on a popular level. Ganesh is very popular because of the elephant. Kids love riding the elephants. They love playing with elephants. Alvin Spray water and everybody. Elephants are decorated in big festivals. So it's a popular thing. This is would be that way is it's answer based on who you're talking to. I think the historical reasons more what you're looking for you want are the facts, the historical development of all this. That's why also you have the mouse. I'm convinced the mouse, all the mouse, the ball, the mouse, the all the ones looked at are all part of essentially Hindus absorbing deities that were worshiped when they try to exalt these other major figures. Eventually on the final exam, I will show you pictures here. You see the mouse really clearly. There you see the broken tusk, flat stomach. I don't see the snake, but obviously the elephant head. So pretty obvious. The sweet bowl of foods, always their forearms. It's just classic, a nice iconography, a few pictures just to chill out on a few things. We're going to come back to kind of puja what happens in the temple and so forth.


But this is a picture of the Ganges River. This is right in Calcutta, the city of Kali. And these steps are called Ghats. And there are famous steps down on the Ganges River. How long have you been to Varanasi? So you've been any? Not very nice. Okay, well, this is a this is like Mecca for the for the Muslims. This is the place where the cremations take place. And these under every one of these tents, these little domes is a Brahman. And this is where you go and you pay money to learn the mantra that you say when you sprinkle the ashes or whatever. And this is a very, very common sight in Calcutta. This is another got it's very famous along the Ganges River. This is actually the cremation got here where they cremate. The bodies have actually sat and watched them burn the bodies and they put them in these little baskets and then they'll put flowers all over it and spices and they'll put it out into the Ganges River. It's a very remarkable thing to see. Here's a Shiver temple. This is right there also in Varanasi, called Shiva is Lord of the World a place like Varanasi, a lot of vying for attention. And so you have a lot of multiple gods being worshiped. I want to show you a couple of temples that are right here in the US. This is a floor plan of a temple in the US. I think this is actually helpful to see because it does demonstrate how Hindu worship actually takes place, because you don't really have often in the large temples dedicated to one God or goddess. So you have various little niches. You can go to worship various gods and goddesses.


Most of these we've looked at like Shiva Parvathi. We talk about Ganesh today, Subrata Subramanian, which is a God of war. We haven't looked at Sri Balaji very famous. I'll show a picture of biology in a minute, briefly, but that's a God of of worldly wealth. So you give money if you give to this God Buddha, that's actually the goddess of the earth. This comes into the Ramayana. So it's very, very popular among children. This is the goddess that swallows up society in the end of that epic. And of course, the mother of India, goddess of India. Here's a thought. Very interesting. This is one in Chicago, which I think really shows Hinduism what happens with Hinduism, because here you've got a temple complex in Chicago that is has both it's a rama temple as well as a ship, a temple. You've got the whole thing here. So essentially goes through everything we've looked at. So you walk up to the thing and you can decide whether you are a vision of light or shove, right? So, okay, this might go here. Should I go there? Or you can go to both. So the Rama Temple has Shri Rama C. Lakshmi. That's the brother of Rama. Lord Ganesh. Hanuman. Balaji. This is another word for Balaji. The God of worldly wealth. Lakshmi The goddess of wealth. Mahalaxmi just means the great Lakshmi, Krishna and Radha. Of course, we looked at all of these are present in the temple in the Shiva Temple. You have Lord Shiva himself. You have Ganesh. Ganesh, Davy. Superman. A God of war. Parvati, the Goddess consort. We actually had mentioned Never Grant here, guys is also popular. That's the name means. Nine crore means planets. And they worship all the planets.


Actually, it's not practically true. That means nine planets. What they usually do is sun. They worship the sun. Monday, the moon. Then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Five of the planets is what I typically have seen. But they also worship all the planets. And now they'll have like a day for Saturn, day for Venus, day for Neptune, Mars. I don't know the best of the major planets and I think Saturn. So what happens is that all of the gods, the major surveyed gods, are associated with various planets as well. So the planets are all brought into it. So people go and worship the planets. We didn't mention Sarasvati, except in passing. You do not need to know Sarasvati is on the list. But just to be clear, Sarasvati ceremony be good pictures of it. But she is always seen with this instrument. You'll find this in place where they play music. But also she's the goddess of wisdom. A lot of schools will have 70 number who's about Sarasvati, the consort of Brahma. Right? You need to know it. But just to keep it clear, you have the three to try. And Murthy's Gayatri is another one which we have not talked about, but I'm just giving you a few in case you're interested. Might be helpful to be aware of. Gayatri has become kind of the God of all the Vedas, so this brings in the whole Vedic thing and is always known by having five heads. So you might see that a lot. You probably would by just guessing. Maybe you'd see the spinning desk or whatever and you might be led in one direction. So I just mentioned that in the Lotus there's some give away things that might lead the other way.


So Gayatri is a separate the Balaji I mentioned in passing, this is becoming more and more popular. And so you see a lot of places in India it's totally black and it's always garland with diamonds or like iconography of diamonds, like diamonds and stuff. Subramanian, Hindu god of war. I mentioned that always see the big spear in his hand. Mace Which means power. You have that those icons, again, these are ones you don't need to know, but just to fill in a few places. Other well-known symbols we've talked about. But just make sure that you have these clear in your mind. This is, of course, the AUM symbol, the two most dominant symbols that are not for any particular icon, but just Hinduism in general. The first is this one. This is the most popular see is everywhere. And this is that resonating sound that resonates to the universe. And the other is, of course, the swastika, which is emblazoned on temples and is appears in both forms that you see here. I'm pretty sure it's must be the left one that is the one that was adopted by the Nazis because of the Aryan race thing, because this is a symbol of arianism we talked about before. I didn't intend on us to spend the whole time on this, but I think it's helpful. So we're going to have to come back next time we after the break and we'll delve into the book, the movements, the signs of the movements and puja. And we will continue making progress through that.