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Hindu Deities

The list of Hindu deities below includes stories and mythology to illuminate their qualities and the benefits that may be derived from devotion to the principles and ideas that they personify. There are thousands of forms of Hindu deities. This is a selected list of my favorites and some of the more well-known deities. Links to mantras are also provided. Mantras are keys to connecting with and embodying the aspects of God’s consciousness exemplified by a particular deity.

Selected Hindu Deities List

Table of Contents

Origin of the Hindu Deities

For thousands of years the rishis of India (Hindu sages) experimented with the effects of mantras. The names of Hindu deities appear to be consciously created formulas for freedom on the physical, mental and spiritual levels. Mantras focused on the names of the gods and goddesses in the Hindu pantheon are coded compilations of sound designed to produce elevated states and to stimulate health and longevity.

Each of the Hindu deities included in this article are accompanied by an example of a mantra focused on the qualities of God that they represent. Some of these Hindu deities overlap with the Ancient Deities covered in a separate article. These deities include  Agni Deva (God of Fire), Gange Mata (Goddess of the Ganges River) and Surya (God of the Sun).

In addition, many of the deities are associated with forces in nature, also a common theme among ancient deities in other traditions. These gods and goddesses are created or inspired by fire, wind, mountains, rivers and so forth. The fundamental forces of nature shape our lives. Stories and mantras dedicated to them celebrate their blessings, attempt to harness their power, or seek to mitigate their impact on human lives. 

Many of the Hindu deities have superpowers similar to the superheroes of the West such as Spiderman, Batman and Catwoman. These superheroes are featured in Hindu mythology as examples of strength, loyalty, devotion and other desirables qualities. Stories of their lives may be historical in some cases or serve to teach moral or ethical values. These deities include Ganesha, Govinda, Hanuman, Krishna, Nataraja, Rama and Shiva. 

Hindu Deities: Forms of the Goddess

A significant characteristic of Hinduism is the emphasis on the personification of god in both masculine and feminine form. This polarity carries through every form of the deity. Every god has a consort, sometimes many. The ideal of devoted lovers is exemplified by many pairs of divine partners in the pantheon. One of these pairs is Sita and Ram, heroine and hero of the epic scripture known as the Ramayana.

There are thousands of forms of the Divine Mother, Goddess or Divine Feminine in Hinduism. In fact, each individual goddess may have a thousand forms and names. The goddesses are celebrated in a way that is not present in the religious and spiritual traditions in the Western world. Devotion to a particular deity may be an individual choice or may be connected to local or regional areas. The following goddesses are included below: Devaki, Durga, Jagadambe Ma, Kali, Lakshmi, Lalita, Mataji, Parvati, Radha, and Saraswati.

Alphabetical List of Hindu Deities

Agni Deva: Hindu God of the Fire Element

Fire has been associated with religious traditions around the world for ages. Agni Deva is the masculine deity in the Hindu tradition of holy fire or spiritual fire. 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. “Agni” is the Sanskrit word for “fire.” Fire can take many forms in the universe  including lightning, the rays of the sun, physical fire and divine radiation. Listen to the Agni Deva Mantra. Read more at Agni Deva, Lord of the Fire Element.

Devaki: Mother of Krishna

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

Kamsa kills each of their male children after birth. The eighth (Krishna) is smuggled out to live in the country with surrogate parents. This is the origin of Krishna’s childhood names: Gopala and Govinda mean “the one who protects the cows.” Hear a mantra to Devakinanda and learn more about Krishna and Devaki.

Durga the Warrior Goddess

Durga is a goddess of protection, a demon-slayer. She is a Hindu goddess known by many names including Bhagini (sister), Devi, Shakti and more. Durga is an embodiment of the Divine Mother, an expression of the Divine Feminine. Durga is a warrior goddess. She overthrows the 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 her devotees from difficulties whenever possible. She personifies the vibration of the fierce mother, only moving into battle to protect her own and never for the sake of violence. Durga leads a divine army and rides a lion. Read full article about Durga the Warrior Goddess. Listen to Durga mantras.

Ganesha, Overcomer of Obstacles

Ganesha, also known as Ganapati or Lord Ganesh, is the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati in the Hindu tradition. He is a deity known for assisting devotees in the overcoming of obstacles. Therefore, Ganesha is often invoked at the beginning of an activity, journey or other undertaking.

Ganesha is one of the most well-known and popular deities in the Hindu pantheon. Ganesha is a joyful being associated with extensive symbolism. He is the foremost deity associated with the root chakra. The sheer weight of an elephant makes Ganesha a natural choice for the chakra that connects us to the earth and the earth element. Hear a Ganesha mantra and read a full article about the origin of Ganesha.

Ganga Mata, Embodiment of the Ganges River

Ganga Mata is a Hindu goddess personifying the Ganges River. She is a deity associated with forgiveness and purification. Water is a symbol of purity in many spiritual traditions, used for cleansing and baptism. The Ganges river is viewed as a gateway to heaven.

Ganga is often depicted riding on a Makara, an animal with the head of a crocodile and the tail of a dolphin. The crocodile represents the lower self or the reptilian mind over which Ganga has gained mastery. The Vedas and Puranas, Hindu scriptures, view the Ganges as the most sacred river on earth. Listen to a Ganga Mata Mantra. Learn more about Ganga Mata: Goddess of the Ganges River.

Govinda: Childhood Form of Krishna

Govinda and Gopala are both childhood names of Krishna. Some scholars say that “go” means both “cow” and “light.” These names literally mean the protector of the cows. Symbolically, they mean the protector of the sacred truth.

Shortly after Krishna was born, he was sent to live in the country to protect him from the evil king Kamsa. Kamsa believed that Krishna would overthrow him and intended to kill him. For this reason, Krishna (Govinda, Gopala) grew up living an idyllic rural life as a cow herder. Hear Krishna mantras and learn more about Krishna.

Hanuman, Eastern Superhero

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.

Hanuman possesses many superhuman powers. For example, he cannot be killed with lightning or drowned or harmed by fire. The name “Hanuman” combines the Sanskrit words “han” meaning killed or destroyed and “maana” meaning pride. According to this interpretation, Hanuman’s name means “one whose pride was destroyed.” Hear a Hanuman mantra or learn about the symbolism of the Hanuman Yantra.

Jagadamba, Mother of the Universe

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

The Divine Mother plays a huge role in Hinduism, sometimes receiving even more attention and devotion than God in masculine form. Each goddess has multiple attributes. Goddesses are often known by dozens, hundreds or even thousands of names. Each name emphasize a particular quality of the goddess. “Shakti” is a general term for the energy that pervades the universe and gives rise to all form and action. Read full article and listen to a mantra to Jagadamba, the Mother of the Universe.

Kali, Goddess of Time

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. Kali 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). Kali and Durga are sometimes seen as interchangeable. However, Kali is believed to love battle while Durga slay demons only when absolutely necessary, remaining placid and peaceful at all times. Hear a Kali Mantra and learn more about this fierce goddess. 

Krishna, Avatar of Vishnu

Krishna is one of the most significant deities in Hinduism. He is the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, widely revered among devotees around the world. Krishna is known for the qualities of compassion, tenderness, protection and love.

The story of Krishna’s early life has many parallels with that of Jesus. Shortly after Krishna was born, he was sent to live in the country to protect him from the evil king Kamsa. Kamsa believed that Krishna would overthrow him and intended to kill him. For this reason, Krishna grew up living an idyllic rural life as a cow herder, known by the names of Govinda and Gopala. See more information above for Govinda and Gopala. Hear Krishna mantras and learn more about Krishna.

Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth

Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of 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.

Lakshmi is also associated with gold coins as well as rice and basil. Lola is another name for Lakshmi meaning one who is moving or flowing. Lakshmi is a presiding deity for the solar plexus chakra, along with her consort Vishnu. Lakshmi is endowed with six auspicious or divine qualities known as gunas. Learn more about Lakshmi and hear a Wealth Mantra.

Lalita, The One Who Plays

Lalita is a Hindu deity whose name means “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. Listen to a Lalita Mantra and learn more about this goddess.

Mataji, The Immortal Yogi

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. Mataji 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 some view them as siblings rather than as romantic partners. In the tradition of paired deities, the male aspect worships the feminine principle of energy and the female aspect worships the male principle of consciousness. Learn more and listen to a Mataji mantra in the article on Mataji and Babaji.

Nataraja, Cosmic Dancer

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.

Nataraja is associated with the crown chakra and with the joy of enlightenment. Nataraja holds fire in one hand and a rhythmic shaker in another. There are snakes coiled around his arm and foot, indicating his mastery over the most deadly of creatures. Read a full article and listen to mantras to Nataraja, Lord of the Dance.

Parvati, Goddess of Motherhood

Parvati, also known as Uma, is the Hindu deity of 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.” Her name can be translated as “daughter of the mountains.” Listen to a Parvati Mantra and learn more about this beautiful goddess.

Radha, Beloved Consort of Krishna

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.

Radha is a form of the deity meaning love, tenderness, compassion and devotion. She is sometimes viewed as a metaphor for the spiritual longing for the divine. Radha is the perfect lover, longing only for Krishna as the focus of her devotion. Listen to a mantra to Radha and read the story of Krishna

Ram, Incarnation of Vishnu

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. The name “Ram” is also the seed syllable for the solar plexus chakra. This sound activates and balances the solar plexus. Learn more about the sound RAM in Chakra SoundsHear the Sita Ram Mantra.

Saraswati, Goddess of Music and the Arts

Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of wisdom, music and the arts. Here is a beautiful 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.

The young man 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. Hear a Saraswati Mantra and learn more about the goddess of music.

Shiva Ra: He Who is Like the Sun

Shiva is a Hindu deity associated with 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 bindu.

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. Hear the Shiva Ra mantra and learn more about the forms of Shiva.

Sita and Ram, Eternal Lovers

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. The name Ram is also the seed syllable for the solar plexus chakra. Learn more about the sound RAM in Chakra Sounds. Hear the Sita Ram Mantra.

Surya, God of the Sun

Surya is a Hindu deity who is 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.

The sun is usually associated with the masculine; the moon with the feminine. In ancient Egypt, the sun is associated with Horus, Ra and Osiris. Horus represents the rising sun, Osiris the setting sun, and Ra represents the sun’s zenith. Astrologically speaking, the sun is an expression of the outward self, the self that “shines” towards others. Listen to a Surya Mantra. Learn more in an article about Surya.

Understanding the Hindu Deities

For me, the Hindu deities represent aspects of consciousness. Ultimately it seems that we will reach a state where we experience ourselves as part of everything that is in existence and part of every possible mental, emotional and psychological state.

For this reason, my personal view is that the multiplicity of deities in Hinduism is not in conflict with monotheism. In fact, the pantheon of Hindu gods is reminiscent of the many Catholic saints of my childhood.

When I was being confirmed in the Catholic church as a young teenager, I took the choice of a confirmation name very seriously. I borrowed books from the parish library and read the lives of the saints to find one I wanted to emulate.

Each saint had unique characteristics and a particular aspect of God that was their specialty. Many of the lives of the saints were quite dramatic, sometimes even bizarre. The feats they performed and the miracles associated with them made them feel superhuman to me.

These stories of saints were similar to the mythologies associated with Hindu deities. In addition, sometimes the Hindu deities are an intense mix of godlike qualities and seemingly very human attributes including jealousy, envy, revenge and so forth.

Perhaps this is even closer to classical mythology and the heroes and heroines of the Greeks and Romans rather than Catholic saints. In any case, I don’t mind that the gods and goddesses sometimes seem less than holy.

Sometimes imperfection is the price of being are passionately alive. Perhaps they are sometimes mistaken but they are never lukewarm. I appreciate that. Living with confidence and fearlessness is worth a misstep now and then.

Self-Transformation and the Hindu Deities

My experience has been that the most empowering approach is to ask myself what qualities I need to develop to be a more complete human being. Do I need to be ruthless in separating myself from a victim mentality? Do I need to care less what others think and pursue my own path with more power and directness? Do I need to clarify my goals and be a better example of adventurous living for my children? Do I need to soften and treat others with greater patience?

Which Hindu deities best exemplify the qualities that I need to embody? What are the qualities associated with Kali or Parvati or Hanuman or any of the other deities? My chants are really a way to develop those qualities within myself rather than worship them in an external being. I like to know the meaning of the chants I sing and to be conscious of my intent. My hope is that if I become more clear, more compassionate, more powerful, more loving and more whole as a human being, then becoming more godlike will take care of itself.

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Author Kathleen Karlsen

Kathleen Karlsen is a musician, artist, writer and speaker. She is the author of two books (Flower Symbols and Vocal Medicine) and over 200 articles. Kathleen, her husband Andrew and their five children live in Bozeman, Montana. More about Kathleen Karlsen.


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Hindu Deities Article Summary

This article includes a selection of Hindu deities based on forces of nature as well as gods and goddesses. A brief description is given for each and an example of a mantra or devotional song. The stories of these Hindu deities serve as an inspirational mythology teaching moral and ethical values as well as cultural norms. Listen to a mantra and explore the colorful deities of the East!

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