The concept of God first surfaced in the history of religion and culture shortly after humans began worshiping various forces of natural phenomena such as stars, rain, rivers, and animals. People in ancient India had no concept of gods or deities during the pre-Vedic period, which lasted from 2,800 to 1,900 B.C. They used to worship these natural forces solely for their nurturing abilities.
Then, as time passed, the practice of nature worship was gradually abandoned. Instead, they began reimagining gods as human-like creatures, with each part of their bodies representing a distinct feature or characteristic of a natural phenomenon.
That’s why the Hindu pantheon contains a wide range of gods and deities with varying qualities and distinguishing characteristics.Some deities have multiple hands, others have multiple wives, and a few are even half-human, half-animal beings. We’ll see some of them in the article.
Nandi – The Gatekeeper Of Kailash
In Hindu mythology, Nandi is a sacred and divine bull. The name is derived from the Tamil word Nandhu. It means to “develop” or “flourish”. In Sanskrit, the word also means happiness, joy, and satisfaction. According to the Vayu Purana, Nandi is the son of Kashyapa and Surabhi. Throughout hindu mythology, he is depicted as the gatekeeper of Mount Kailash, which is known as Lord Shiva’s abode.
Besides being the gatekeeper of Mount Kailash, he also plays the role of the Vahana (vehicle of the gods) and is one of the chief attendants of Lord Shiva. Almost every shiva temple in India has at least one of his sculptures, usually facing the main shrine. His half-human sculpture can also be found at the entrance door of many Shaivite temples in south India.
His sculpture at the entrance to a temple represents the symbol of eternal waiting, which is regarded as Hinduism’s greatest virtue. Sadhguru, a well-known Indian mystic, once said – “He is Lord Shiva’s closest accomplice because he is the essence of receptivity”, because he is always willing to consider new suggestions or ideas.
Gadura – The King Of All Birds
Garuda is a mythological character and is often seen with Lord Vishnu as his vahana (mount or vehicle of a deity in Hinduism). His earliest reference that we have found is in the Rig Veda, which was composed in approximately around the second millennium B.C.E.
According to hindu beliefs, he represents birth and heaven. He is the son of Kashyapa who was a great sage of that time, and the younger brother of Aruna. Aruna was the charioteer of lord Surya, the sun god.
Garuda is a mythological figure who is frequently depicted with Lord Vishnu as his vahana (mount or vehicle of a deity in Hinduism). The earliest reference to him that we have found is in the Rig Veda, which was written around the second millennium B.C.E.
According to Hindu beliefs, he represents both birth and heaven. He is the younger brother of Aruna and the son of Kashyapa, a great sage of the time. Aruna was the charioteer of Lord Surya, the sun god.
Garuda is frequently described as the king of all birds and Lord Vishnu’s messenger. He was golden in color, with a white face and red wings. According to legend, he was born hungry and accidentally swallowed a brahmin, a higher class of human being, whom he was forbidden to touch. However, as soon as he realized his mistake, he spit him out.
According to Hindu texts, this bird creature has a man’s body and an eagle’s head and wings. His entire body was golden, except for his face, which was white, and his wings, which were red.
Hanuman – The Monkey God
Hanuman first appears as the chief commander of the monkey army in the epic Ramayana, and then several times in the Mahabharata. He is primarily revered as a demigod of great power and divine abilities.
He’s the son of Devi Anjana and Lord Vayu, the primary deity of wind. Thus, he got the name “Vayu Putra”, or “the son of air”. In various texts, he is also mentioned as the incarnation of Lord Shiva, who was a perfect exemplification of ultimate strength, devotion, and perseverance.
If you look at his entire life, you’ll find him with all the attributes of a deity, but he never claimed his godly status and always kept calling himself the most faithful and devoted servant of Lord Ram. Because of this one-of-a-kind quality of his personality, he became one of the most beloved gods among Hindus.
Ganesha – The Elephant God
As the elephant-headed god, Lord Ganesha is extremely popular all over the world. He is one of the most revered and adored deities in the Hindu pantheon. He is the elder brother of Lord Karthikeya and the first son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. According to popular Hindu beliefs, Ganesha is the god of intellect and the remover of obstacles.
Thus, he is mostly worshiped before the beginning of any auspicious work or during any religious procession or celebration. According to legends, Goddess Parvati (Shiva’s wife) once made an idol of a human boy out of clay and turmeric paste. The idol came to life when she breathed life into it with her divine power.
Ganesha did not have an elephant head from birth. Instead, he appeared to be a regular human being. When he was assigned to guard the entrance to his mother’s abode, he took his job very seriously and did not even allow Lord Shiva (Parvati’s husband) to enter the room. Shiva, outraged, then beheaded him for his impertinence.
However, at Parvati’s request, Lord Shiva directed his troops to bring a new animal head to replace Ganesha’s decapitated body. As a result, he gained a new head and became the most recognizable of the Hindu gods.
Kamadhenu – The Miraculous Cow
During the Vedic period, there was a divine cow known as Kamadhenu, who was mentioned in various Hindu scriptures as the mother of all cows. She is also known as Surabhi, which translates loosely as the fragrant one.
In Hinduism, she represents abundance and generosity because she was such a miraculous cow that she could provide her owner with anything he desired.
She’s on the list because, unlike the other gods mentioned in this article, she had a human head on an animal body. Her complexion is more like a white cloud in Hindu beliefs, and every part of her body has religious significance. However, as a goddess, she is not worshiped separately in a temple or in any ritual ceremony.
Instead, she is honored by the veneration of cows. There are many stories in the Hindu scriptures about the birth of Kamadhenu. Some scholars believe she arose from the churning of the cosmic ocean (Samudra-Manthan), while others believe she is the daughter of King Daksha.
Narasimha – The Lion Man
According to Hindu scriptures, Narasimha is the fourth avatar of Lord Vishnu. He incarnated himself in this avatar with the body of a man and the head of a lion. Narasimha is also regarded as a symbol of great power. His incarnation was said to have been to kill Hiranyakashipu, the most ferocious demon of the time.
Hiranyakashipu became the most powerful demon as a result of Lord Brahma’s boon. He believed that no one could ever kill him because of the boon’s arrogance. He declared a full-scale war against all the gods of heaven, having no fear of death. In contrast to Hiranya-kashipu, his son Prahlad was a devout follower of Lord Vishnu.
Prahlad’s unconditional devotion to Vishnu outraged him to the point where he decided to murder his own son. However, just as he was about to murder his son, the avatar of Narasimha appeared in front of him and killed the evil Hiranya-kashipu.
Hayagriva – The Horse-necked One
Hayagriva is considered an avatar of Lord Vishnu in Hinduism. He is worshiped and is known as the god of knowledge and wisdom. This avatar, like other Lord Vishnu avatars, was not born from a mother’s womb. He manifested himself in this half-human, half-animal body instead. This avatar, in particular, had a human body with a horse head on top.
He also had four arms; one for bestowing knowledge, another for holding books of wisdom (the Vedas), and the other two for holding a conch and a discus. This avatar symbolizes the triumph of pure knowledge over the demonic forces of lust and darkness.
The earliest mention of this avatar in scriptures or manuscripts can be traced back to 2,000 BCE. As evidenced by this discovery, horses must have been worshiped for their speed, strength, and intelligence during the pre-Vedic era.