Hindu Deities: Mantras and Symbolism

For thousands of years the rishis of India (Hindu sages) experimented with the effects of chanting. Mantras are generally focused on the names of the gods and goddesses in the Hindu pantheon of deities. Furthermore, mantras appear to be coded compilations of sound designed to create elevated states and to stimulate health and longevity.

Mantras may be keys to connecting with and embodying the aspect of God’s consciousness exemplified by a particular deity. The meaning and symbolism of selected Hindu deities and their associated mantras are outlined below.

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Selected Hindu Deities: Alphabetical List

Agni Deva: Symbolic and physical fire have been associated with religious traditions around the world for ages. Agni Deva is the masculine deity meaning holy fire or spiritual fire in the Hindu tradition. Fire is the perfect metaphor for release and the transformation of unwanted patterns, situations, and personal characteristics. Fire is an expression of both light and heat—two fundamentals for the sustenance of life.

Lotus Flower 
by Rose Karlsen

Devaki: Devaki is the Hindu goddess of childbirth. She is specifically the mother of Krishna. Devaki and her husband Vasudeva are imprisoned by Kamsa, an evil king who feared a prediction that their eight child would overthrow him.

Kamsa kills each of their first six children. The seventh (Balarama) survives. The eighth (Krishna) is smuggled out to live in the country with surrogate parents. Devaki is a deity meaning motherhood and representing the sacrifices of a mother for her son.

Durga, Warrior Goddess
by Rose Karlsen

Durga: A Hindu goddess known by many names including Bhagini (sister), Devi, Shakti and more. Durga is a warrior goddess. She is a deity meaning the overthrow of demonic forces that threaten peace, prosperity and all that is good.

The name Durga means a fort or a place that is difficult to overrun. Durga is a goddess who saves us from difficulties whenever possible. Durga leads a divine army and rides a lion. She is a fierce mother goddess who protects and safeguards her devotees. See art and gifts featuring Durga and other Hindu deities.

Ganesha, Hindu God
by Rose Karlsen

Ganesha (Ganapati): Ganesha is the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati in the Hindu tradition. He is a deity meaning the overcoming of obstacles. Ganesha is often invoked at the beginning of an activity, journey or other undertaking. and his chants are often used at the beginning of an undertaking. Ganesha is one of the most well-known and popular deities in the Hindu pantheon. Read full article on Ganesha. See art and gifts featuring Ganesha and other Hindu deities.

Ganga Mata Hindu Deity Meaning Purity

Ganga Mata
by Sammy Ater

Ganga Mata: Gange Mata is a Hindu goddess personifying the Ganges River. She is a deity meaning forgiveness and purification. Water is a symbol of purity in many spiritual traditions, used for cleansing and baptism. Ganga is depicted riding on a Makara, an animal with the head of a crocodile and the tail of a dolphin. Some theologians believe that the crocodile represents the lower self or the reptilian mind over which Durga has gained mastery and control. The word “ma, mata, mama” is an almost universal term referring to the divine feminine. 

Krishna Hindu Deity Meaning Devotion

by Rose Karlsen

Govinda/Gopala: Govinda and Gopala are both childhood names of Krishna. Some scholars say that “go” means both “cow” and “light.” To protect him from the evil king Kamsa who was out to kill him, Govinda (Gopala) was sent to live in the country. In this legend of Krishna’s early life, he grew up as a cow herder. Cows, of course, are sacred throughout much of India. Thus the deity meaning in these names is the one who protects something that is sacred. See art with Hindu deities.

Hanuman Hindu Deity Meaning Loyalty

by Rose Karlsen

Hanuman: Hanuman is the monkey-god, hero of epics and stories in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. In Hinduism, Hanuman is the ardent devotee of Lord Rama, and central to the epic poem Ramayana. Hanuman is sometimes depicted as the patron of martial arts, wrestling, and acrobatics. He is also the patron of meditation and scholarship. Some interpretations of the name “Hanuman” are the Sanskrit words “han” meaning killed or destroyed and “maana” meaning pride. With this interpretation, Hanuman’s name means “one whose pride was destroyed.”

Video In Progress

Feminine Yogi

Universal Goddess
by Rose Karlsen

Jagadambe: Jagadambe is a term for the deity meaning a feminine being who is the “mother of the world” or “mother of the universe.” The term is used for many goddesses including Adi Shakti, Parvati, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Sita and Radha. There are temples in India dedicated to Jagadambe including the Devi Jagadambe Temple in Madhya Pradesh and the Shree Jagadamba Devi Temple in Kerala.

Kali Goddess Hindu Deity Meaning Mastery Over Death

Kali, Warrior Goddess
by Rose Karlsen

Goddess Kali: Kali is a Hindu deity symbolizing mastery over time and death. Kali battles the forces of evil on behalf of her children. She is an intimidating figure, brandishing multiple weapons with her four arms. She wears a skirt of severed arms and a gruesome garland of heads. These grisly body parts are symbolic of the demonic forces that she slays to protect her devotees. Kali goes by many names including Mahakali (the Great Mother), Dipta (the One who is illuminated or brilliant), and Uma (lady of the mountains). See art and gifts featuring Hindu deities.

Kundalini Energy

Kundalini & the Chakras
by Rose Karlsen

Kundalini Mata: A goddess or deity meaning the primal energy located in the spine. This personification is usually feminine. The Sanskrit word “kundalini” means “coiled like a snake”. This is a common symbol of the kundalini energy, often related to sexual energy since it begins in the lowest chakras or energy centers and moves upward along the spine. Raising the kundalini energy is the focus of many yogic practices. Enlightenment is sometimes defined as the kundalini energy reaching the crown chakra.

Video In Progress

Lakshmi Deity Meaning Wealth

Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth
by Rose Karlsen

Lakshmi: A goddess or deity meaning wealth, fortune and prosperity. The name Lakshmi is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning goal, aim or sign. Lakshmi is usually shown seated or standing on a lotus. The lotus symbolizes creation, beauty, harmony, diversity, stability, and support. She is associated with gold coins as well as rice and basil. Lola is another name for Lakshmi meaning one who is moving or flowing. See art and gifts featuring Lakshmi and other Hindu deities.

Lalita Deity Meaning Playfulness

Lalita, She Who Plays
by Rose Karlsen

Lalita: Lalita is a Hindu deity meaning “she who plays.” The goddess Lalita is famously independent, announcing to all, “Whatever I say or do is according to my will alone. Whichever man accepts me as his with must also accept my complete independence.” Lalita is portrayed as a young woman holding five arrows, a bow, a noose, and a goad. The arrows are our five senses and the bow is our mind. When we find ourselves pausing on the spiritual path, Lalita gently prods us along with her goad. If we resist her, she lassos us with her noose and drags us back to her lap.

Mataji Indian Guru

Mataji, An Eternal Youth
by Rose Karlsen

Mataji: Mataji is venerated as a yogic master representing the Divine Mother. Mataji is the sister of Babaji, an ancient Indian yogi known as the eternal youth. Although Mataji is the spiritual equal of Babaji, she has chosen the role of disciple to her brother. She is the embodiment of compassion. Mataji and Babaji are an example of the Hindu tradition of saints and deities appearing in both masculine and feminine form, in this case as siblings rather than as romantic partners. The male aspect worships the feminine principle of energy and the female aspect worships the male principle of consciousness.

Nataraja Lord of the Dance

Nataraja, Lord of the Dance
by Rose Karlsen

Nataraja: Nataraja is a form of Shiva, a central deity in the Hindu tradition. The name Nataraja means Lord of the Dance. He is a whirling, joyous form of Shiva, often shown with a drum and musical shakers. Nataraja is the ultimate cosmic dancer. Many illustrations and paintings show the cosmos whirling in the background behind depictions of Nataraja. This form of the deity is associated with the crown chakra and enlightenment.

Parvati Hindu Goddess Deity Meaning Love

Parvati, Hindu Goddess
by Rose Karlsen

Parvati: Parvati, also known as Uma, is the Hindu deity meaning fertility, love and devotion as well as divine strength and power. She is the gentle and nurturing aspect of the goddess energy. Parvati is part of a trinity of Hindu goddesses that also includes Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and learning. Parvati is the consort of Shiva and the mother of Ganesha and Kartikeya. She is the daughter of Himavan (the god and personification of the Himalayas) and Queen Mena. Parvati’s name is derived from the Sanskrit words for “mountain” and can be translated as “daughter of the mountains.”

Krishna and Radha

Krishna and His Beloved Radha
by Sammy Ater

Radha: Radha is the beloved consort of Krishna. In Hindu mythology, Radha was Krishna’s childhood playmate. She is an embodiment of the divine feminine. During Krishna’s childhood as a cow herder, Radha was a milkmaid. She is a form of the deity meaning love, tenderness, compassion and devotion. Radha is sometimes viewed as a metaphor for the spiritual longing for the divine. She is the perfect lover, longing only for Krishna as the focus of her devotion. There are Hindu festivals that include the celebration of Radha including Radhashtami, Holi and Sharad Purnima.

Video In Progress

Ram Hindu Deity Meaning Brotherhood

Ram, Hindu God
by Sammy Ater

Ram (Rama): Ram is one of the most widely known and revered of the Hindu gods. Ram is a form of the deity meaning or symbolizing sacrifice and brotherhood. Ram is an incarnation of Vishnu and the central figure in the Hindu epic Ramayana. The name or Ram or Rama means pleasing or charming in Sanskrit. Ram is also greatly respected for his loyalty to his wife Sita. He resisted any temptation that could come between him and his beloved.

Saraswati Hindu Goddess of Music

Saraswati, Goddess of Music
by Sammy Ater

Saraswati: Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of wisdom, music and the arts. A legend about Saraswati: A famous Brahmin scholar had a son who was good-hearted but a failure as a scholar. As a result, he was set to tasks of manual labor: cleaning, carrying water and so forth. One day he saw a beautiful young woman in distress by the river. He thought perhaps she had been robbed or abandoned by her family. He rescued her and took her home to give her water and food. As she left the home in deep gratitude, she turned and touched her finger to his tongue. He began to recite complex and subtle poetry in Sanskrit and became a famous orator. The young maiden was Saraswati.

Shiva, Hindu God
by Sammy Ater

Shiva: Shiva is a deity meaning breath or space. He is a powerful Hindu god manifesting throughout the cosmos. Shiva expresses freedom, liberation and joy. Shiva has many forms and names as well as many consorts. He is associated with the third eye chakra between the eyebrows at the bridge of the nose. This sacred spot is sometimes marked on the forehead by the red dot known as the bindi. The third eye is the door to prophesy. Shiva is alternately depicted both as benevolent and fearsome. In terms of symbolism, he is often shown with a serpent around his neck, a crescent moon as an adornment, the river Ganges flowing from his hair, the trishula as his weapon, and a damaru drum nearby.

Sita and Ram
by Sammy Ater

Sita and Ram: Sita is a Hindu goddess known for good character and happiness. She represents courage, dedication and purity. Sita goes through many trials together with her consort Ram, including exile and the kidnapping of Sita. They are sometimes viewed as symbolizing the unmanifest and the manifest minds or the pineal and pituitary glands. On the physical level, reciting these names is believed to balance both sides of the brain. They represent the yin and the yang or the masculine and the feminine. Sita and Ram are viewed as ideal, devoted spouses.

Surya God of the Sun

Surya, God of the Sun
by Rose Karlsen

Surya: Surya is a Hindu deity meaning creation and the source of light or life. Surya is a sun god with a golden chariot driven by Aruna, a personification of the dawn. The chariot is pulled by seven horses representing the seven chakras or energy centers. Other names for the Hindu sun god include Bhaskaraya (the illuminator) and Mitraya (friend of all). See art and gifts featuring Hindu deities.

Vocal Medicine Book

Learn more about using mantras and singing to invigorate your life! Explore concepts from East and West related to the power of singing. Explore the chakras and the impact of sound in every area of your life.

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Author Kathleen Karlsen

Vocal Medicine reveals Kathleen Karlsen’s personal journey with mantras, chanting and kirtan. Benefit from Kathleen’s years of research into the power of sacred music. Topics include:

  • Achieve improved emotional health through mantras
  • Create a happy brain through singing
  • Extensive discussion of sound and the chakras
  • Connections between sound, color and healing

186 pages, $15.95
30 Illustrations

Deity Art & Gifts

Deities of East and West including Hindu gods and goddesses, angels, nature spirits and buddhas. Unique inspirational artwork from multiple traditions. Produced in the United States. Flat rate shipping $4.95 per order (US only), unlimited items. Wholesale pricing available on request.