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Why do we have so many?

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praveen

Life is a dream
Staff member
I have always been fascinated/intrigued by the number of temples and number of gods we have.
It seems as if, we have a god for every occasion and every need.

What is the purpose/what is the need to have so many gods and so many temples?

While the modern side of me has an explanation, i would love to hear from others about this.
 

bagema

Member
Hi Praveen

Good question. Can we eat just jaggery or sugar or rice? If yes then we should not have so many gods. if No then we have so many sweets for just our tongue, but the mind and brain we need gods. They say if we find ourself then we do not need god. But to find ourself we need the help of these gods.
 

vijisesh

Active member
This has been the FIRST question put up by many who try to get you out of hinduism !!
But then I have seen people trying to argue with them , telling them .. No No, the many GOD's are forms and basically only three are for REAL ! Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva

This will again lead to 2 more queries ,
1) Why 3(three) , GOD should be one right ?? or else there will be an overlap of POWER's and AUTHORITY !!
2) You say 3 and I find all three meditating to reach some one higher up ??

Shiva is meditating to reach whom ??

Let the discussion continue !! - No hard feelings , Let us make an attempt to make the layman understand about the BASICS of our religion !
 

vijisesh

Active member
And of many Temples -- You really need them !

Mainly because now in TN , you can find more govt.run liquor shops every 100 metres , you move in either directions , you definitely need temples every 500 metres atleast to assist the poor human to gain back the lost control !!

And psychologically , it also helps to REITERATE within oneself that GOD is within your doorsteps , one just has to reach for him ! - Also it provides a livelihood for so many gurukkals although they may bug you saying Ishtampola Dhakshinai podungo !! but athu Kashtama irukkum , for some !
 
OP
OP
praveen

praveen

Life is a dream
Staff member
Bagema,

Thank you for a sweet explanation.

Vijisesh,
My aim is just to understand our religion better. I must confess i am not very "orthodox". I have been brought up intune with the modern times and i have been very much influenced by it.
I have absolutely no intention to "move out" of hinduism. Just want to understand it better so that when someone else asks me a similar question i will be in a better position to explain to them :)
 

Nacchinarkiniyan

Well-known member
Why do we have so many Gods?

The conception of God in Hinduism is such that we have as many Gods as there are Hindus. The conception is individual. It depends on the individual's character, nature and his environment. So we have Gods who are suited to individual's taste.

The Murtis are made from the descriptions given in the Dhyana slokas. The Dhyana slokas are written by seers and realised souls who have conceived a particular form and have attained realization through the worship of that particular form.

Just to take a couple of exmples. We all worship Krishna. But in what form depends on your liking. Balakrishna, Radhakrishna, Dwarakadheesa, Parthasarathy and so many forms. That is Krishna as a child, cowherd, king, Teacher etc.

These forms appear to realized souls when they are in deep meditation.

To quote a practical example. Some of us are happy to see a fair Krishna, some a deep blue Krishna. I love Parthasarathy with his twirling moustache.

Once I had shown a photograph of Devi in one of the private temples in Tamil Nadu to a friend of mine in Kerala who is also a Devi upasaka. Immediately he said he is not comfortable with that form. The reason was Devi was wearing a madisar saree. I am comfortable because my mother and grandmother wore madisar. But to a non-Brahmin it looks odd.

Krishna in Puri is a tribal form of deity. Very few south Indians are comfortable with that form.

I would love a discussion on the above.

I will write about temples later, because it reflects on some of the problems facing Hinduism.
 

vijisesh

Active member
I too have the same opinion!

Hi! Praveen,

Nice to see ur msg and contents.

Actually , we sail in the same boat , in fact many who are in this forum , have been exposed to the basics of our religion and are ambitious to be taken on a GUIDED TOUR into the depths of religion and practices.
I am infact located in the middle east and I am really overwhelmed , looking at the sincerity , dedication and commitment of the people here in practising their religion . This makes me dig and find more about our religion.

Although we may be BEGINNER'S in this QUEST , we need not be taken lightly as each one of us have our accomplishments in our respective fields whatsoever.

So with some intellects like Shri Nachhinarkiniyan / Shri Ranganathan / Shri KRS ji and others who are willing to help , why don;t people sit back and start shooting queries , to get answers??



Vijisesh,
My aim is just to understand our religion better. I must confess i am not very "orthodox". I have been brought up intune with the modern times and i have been very much influenced by it.
I have absolutely no intention to "move out" of hinduism. Just want to understand it better so that when someone else asks me a similar question i will be in a better position to explain to them :)
 

Nacchinarkiniyan

Well-known member
Gods are also created depending on needs. There were goddesses who were prayed to when there was a small pox epidemic. Mariamman under various names. Though Mariamman is mentioned in Devi Mahatmya, this particular aspect was discovered when the need arose. There was a plague Amman when the plague epidemic broke out. These Gods/goddesses were created for the worship of the sections of the society who were kept out of the regular temples.

Then Tamil nadu has long been famous for the Kaval Daivams or the Village deities. Karuppanna Swamy, Madurai Veeran and Ayyanar come under this category. Even Sastha was considered only a Kaval Deivam. But now because of Sabarimalai, Ayyappan has become a major God.

One Goddess who has become popular because of the influence of Cinema is Santhoshi Maa. An obscure sati Goddess became a major deity because of the movie Jai Santhoshi Maa. Strange? Is it not?

Now some of the devotional magazines like Bhakthi, Alayam etc. have been promoting Gods/Goddesses.

Some of the Swamijis/Gurus have promoted their favorite God/Goddess. You find Ashrams with temples for these Gods. I will talk about these when I post about temples.

Most of the people pray to God for getting some wish fulfilled. Wish fulfilling tree. If someone suggests that a particular God/Goddess will fulfill a particular wish then why not give it a try.

In the early seventies when I visited Thirukkadaiyur, it was not a frequently visited temple. It was famous for its association with Abhirami Bhattar. But now everyone does his sashtiabthapurti there and Amritgateswarar has become more famous than MAA Abhirami. Because of the belief that it increases longevity. Similar is the case with the Garba Rakshambika temple.
 

vijisesh

Active member
Excellent info, Mr.Nacchi ji,
Even our family's kula deivam is sastha - plavadi sastha located in a place called kallidaikurichi , near tirunelveli.
Just back from vacation and i had been there for the kula deiva pooja.
In fact I have been there a number of times, it's a small ayyappan statue with poorna and pushkala under a pala maram (jack fruit tree).
Nice feeling ! After that we went to Thirukkarukkavur , thirunallaru, vaitheeswaran koil !
So many GOD's ! Faith can move mountains !
But don't take me otherwise ! I have a query !
How can all the Navagraha GOD's who rule the ENTIRE world have their HQ's in and around Kumbakonam - Thanjavur delta area ?
Aren't we too selfish !!

Then Tamil nadu has long been famous for the Kaval Daivams or the Village deities. Karuppanna Swamy, Madurai Veeran and Ayyanar come under this category. Even Sastha was considered only a Kaval Deivam. But now because of Sabarimalai, Ayyappan has become a major God.

One Goddess who has become popular because of the influence of Cinema is Santhoshi Maa. An obscure sati Goddess became a major deity because of the movie Jai Santhoshi Maa. Strange? Is it not?

Now some of the devotional magazines like Bhakthi, Alayam etc. have been promoting Gods/Goddesses.

Some of the Swamijis/Gurus have promoted their favorite God/Goddess. You find Ashrams with temples for these Gods. I will talk about these when I post about temples.

Most of the people pray to God for getting some wish fulfilled. Wish fulfilling tree. If someone suggests that a particular God/Goddess will fulfill a particular wish then why not give it a try.

In the early seventies when I visited Thirukkadaiyur, it was not a frequently visited temple. It was famous for its association with Abhirami Bhattar. But now everyone does his sashtiabthapurti there and Amritgateswarar has become more famous than MAA Abhirami. Because of the belief that it increases longevity. Similar is the case with the Garba Rakshambika temple.
 

KRS

Well-known member
Dear Sri Praveen Ji,

I have wondered about this also. Sri Nacchinarkiniyan Ji ably presents a cogent explanation about this phenomenon.

I live in the U.S. and suddenly I see lots of temples being built here. And, when I look in to the cause for them, it usually boils down to the 'Ishta Deivatha' concept that Sri Nacchinarkiniyan Ji espouses. A Gujarathi worships a different form of Him than a Tamilian, for example.

But I also think that there is an element of parochialism involved. As well some egotism. I am always reminded of the fact that in almost all the temples in India, you prominently see the list of the benefactors splashed across the temple assets - I remember even the tube lights in a temple in my home town carried the name of the donor of those tube lights! I think that in U.S also, such a 'name recognition' phenominon is at work, given the affluence of our community here.

But then I live in a city, where a church goes up probably every day. I am always fascinated by this phenomenon where new churches spring up like mushrooms everywhere here! I think that building 'temples' has become business for all religions.

Pranams,
KRS





I have always been fascinated/intrigued by the number of temples and number of gods we have.
It seems as if, we have a god for every occasion and every need.

What is the purpose/what is the need to have so many gods and so many temples?

While the modern side of me has an explanation, i would love to hear from others about this.
 
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Nacchinarkiniyan

Well-known member
The phenomena of a large number of temples is not due to any spirtual reasons. It is because of the quest for money, fame and power.

Temples did not exist during Vedic times. Vedas do not prescribe temple worship. Temple worship is in fact of a much later origin. That is why we do not have any temples which are as old the Buddhist monuments. They are a development of the Itihasic/Puranic period. Temples are mentioned in the Mahabharata. Rukmani is supposed to have worshipped Devi in a temple from where she went with Krishna.

Temples were erected by different Kings as monuments to their power. The Cholas erected a number of temples. But then politics did creep in. Nowadays we do see projects started by one ministry being discontinued by a new ministry. Similarly we see such instances in the case of temples. Archaeological studies have revealed that the Brahadeeswara temple erected by Rajaraja was almost abandoned by his son Rajendra. He shifted his capital to Gangai Konda Chola Puram and erected a big temple there. But what is interesting is that the villages endowed by Rajaraja to the Brahadeeswara temple were transferred to the new temple thus depriving the Brahadeeswara temple of any income.

Temples were also part of the ultimate defense in case of invasion. They were built like forts and had secret passage ways for escaping. They also provided shelter to people at the time of floods, and their construction was used as drought relief by providing employment to people. They were used as granaries.

Temples which were erected by kings became the source of power for the various religious groups in Hinduism. There have been struggles for control of temples. Later court cases.

Do you wonder why most of our temples have only a Sthala Puranam stating how Vishnu, Siva and other deities are associated with the temples. Noone tells you when the temple was erected and by which King. Why?

It is politics and struggle for control. I will post about it later. That also explains why new temples keep on coming up when the old temples are neglected.
 

appaiah

Active member
Dear Sri KRSji

After all it is one of "harvesting souls" on the one hand and "retaining the souls" on the other!

For if the native religion doesnot retain the souls, it would face extinction in its own land!

Like the Jains and Buddhists in India.

The Buddhists in India are less in numbers than in countries like Sri Lanka, China, Japan and many other South-east Asian countries, though it originated in India.

As for as the European Nations and American Nations, they continue the cultural invasion on many countries including India, because they feel that is the way they can subjugate India. The early address of "Lord" Maccauley on 2nd February 1835 in the British Parliament is quoted hereunder.

"I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I donot think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated Nation."

In the 21st Century, the invasion is on the religious heritage which has remained robust even after a thousand years of political invasion. This time around it is abetted by commercial invasion.

There is reason as to why the exploitation of oil resources of American continent are slower than that of Middle Eastern resources. And the Gulf war and all that war are oil wars coupled with war on religions. As long as mankind is there, such unkind invasions on one another will continue.

Pranams
 
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appaiah

Active member
The reason as to the high number of Gods:

The oldest term used was Devatas. The term God is used to denote the Almighty or the Parameshwara who is only one and The Supreme Brahman.

The Indian religions were many. Bhagavat Pada Aadhi Shankara's life history indicates the reason for the good number of devatas in our system. It was he who combined all forms of worship and codified the methods of worship into what it is today.

As we all know there were shanmadhams or six religious paths namely

Ganapatyam - worship of Ganapati
Saivam - worship of Shiva
Vaishnavam - worship of Vishnu
Saktham - worship of Sakthi
Kaumaram - workship of Kumara (Subramanya)
Sauram - worship of Surya

The worshippers of one Murti would not worship any other and each had a view that one's own worship was the best and the others were all inferior.

There were the Mimamsa followers who believed in the Karma Phala and didnot subscribe to the existance of God. Their faith was - the following of the daily routine or the anushtanams and perforing all the karmas was enough to reach salvation. The fruits of Karma will certainly accrue to any soul and there is no escape. A good Karma takes to Swarga and a bad one to Naraga. Any Karma begets something like the positive or negative points in the evaluation system of these days. The following of the rituals is a must. Devata Upasana is forbidden. Sri Kumarila Bhattar and Sri Mandala Mishrar (later he became the prime sishya of Bhagavat Pada and came to be known as Sri Sureshwaracharya). The Original (current day Dikambar jains) Jains also have similar philosophy. Amara Simhan was a Jain who practised Devata Upasana in Jain terminology (he worshipped Saraswati Devi and received her boons) and he was defeated in debates by Bhagavat Pada Shankara. He too became Shankara's sishya.

Bhagavat Pada brought all the followers of various religious paths under one roof, combined and formed the Sanathana dharma. As a consequence, all the deities came to be worshipped by all the followers. The rituals were redefined in vedic discipline by Bhagavat Pada. This is what we follow even now.

Bhagavat Pada gave Advaita Siddhanta for us to follow and attain salvation. A true follower of this principle will get into Gnana Marga and attain salvation. But this is not possible for all and sundry. To follow this one needs to reach a high level of maturity, study and discipline. To enable all and sundry to attain salvation, he gave the other marga, Bhakti Marga, in which the temples were formed to play a major role.

The idol worship that was not there earlier in the Veda Marga was adopted to help the less knowledgable and less mature lot to attain Mukti. This was dubbed by the Jains as Devata Upasana although it is only from their worship of 23 theerthankaras in idol form did the idol worship get into in Sanatana Dharma, say some researchers.
 
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KRS

Well-known member
Dear Sri Appiaiah Ji,

Though I agree with some parts of your thesis, I beg to differ on some other parts.

The World Council of Churches is decidedly against this harvesting of the souls. There is a huge argument and discussion going on presently in the Christian community, where the so called Jesus's assertion 'the only way to my Father is through me' is being analysed from various different angles.

The section of people who believe that it is their sacred duty to spread the message of Gospel is shrinking, in my opinion. But this does not help in India, where two unique factors seem to apply:

1. There is a large disaffected group of Hindus who feel that Hinduism has no present day relevance to them. We know who these folks are.

2. Because of our present leadership at the Centre and their cohorts who have vested interests in seeing our religion diminished, they allow unbridled conversions based on doling out money to the innocents, who don't know or care what religion they belong to. They take their 'leaders' word for it.

If we as Hindus understand this, there would be no conversions. Because I believe that there is no way to overcome the cultural/psychological/philosophical advantages that our religion bestows upon any Hindu who feels that he/she is a part of our religion.

As Hindus, we need to deeply ponder on this. Just my two cents.

Pranams,
KRS


Dear Sri KRSji

After all it is one of "harvesting souls" on the one hand and "retaining the souls" on the other!

For if the native religion doesnot retain the souls, it would face extinction in its own land!

Like the Jains and Buddhists in India.

The Buddhists in India are less in numbers than in countries like Sri Lanka, China, Japan and many other South-east Asian countries, though it originated in India.

As for as the European Nations and American Nations, they continue the cultural invasion on many countries including India, because they feel that is the way they can subjugate India. The early address of "Lord" Maccauley on 2nd February 1835 in the British Parliament is quoted hereunder.

"I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I donot think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated Nation."

In the 21st Century, the invasion is on the religious heritage which has remained robust even after a thousand years of political invasion. This time around it is abetted by commercial invasion.

There is reason as to why the exploitation of oil resources of American continent are slower than that of Middle Eastern resources. And the Gulf war and all that war are oil wars coupled with war on religions. As long as mankind is there, such unkind invasions on one another will continue.

Pranams
 

malgova.mango

Active member
One God, Many Gods

Dear Readers,


Let me highlight a quote from Swami HH Dayananda Saraswati - " We Hindus don't say there is One God, We don't say there are many gods. We say there is "ONLY GOD".

The above confirms Veda Vakya -" Sarvam Idam Ishvara "

How to solve this puzzle?


Regards
malgova.mango
 
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Nacchinarkiniyan

Well-known member
About temples in the 15th century from a book by K.S. Nilakanta Sastri.

"The temple was not merely a place of worship; it filled a large place in the cultural and economic life of the people...The daily routine, especially of the larger temples, gave constant employment to number of priests, choristers, musicians, dancing girls, florists, cooks and many other classes of servants. The periodical festivals were occasions marked by fairs, contests of learning, wrestling matches and every other form of popular entertainment. Schools and hospitals were often located in the temple precincts, and it also served often as the town hall where people assembled to consider local affairs to hear the exposition of sacred literature."
 

Nacchinarkiniyan

Well-known member
One of the reasons for the increase in the number of temples is the caste system. Communities which were not allowed into the main temples built their own temples. There are a large number of temples in Tamil Nadu where there are only Pujaris who are not Brahmins. Most of these temples were also for deities like Ayyanar, Karuppannaswamy, Mariamman and other village deities for whom there were no temples earlier.

In Kerala Sri Narayana Guru constructed a number of Siva temples since the Ezhavas were not allowed into the regular temples.

A small anecdote. Once I happened to be in Kozhikode on Sivaratri day. I asked one of my colleagues about the nearest Siva temple. He asked me whether I want to have dharshan of a Brahmin Siva, Nair Siva or Ezhava Siva. When asked he explained that there are three major Siva temples. One under the control of Brahmins, one under the control of Nairs, and one under the control of Ezhavas. So Siva was given the caste distinction. That is India for you.
 

sridharvasudevan

Active member
Gods and Temples

Some one raised a beautiful question here which made me read through all the impressive replies that followed through. Finally, even inspired me to register and write some of the views that came to mind.

Sanathana Dharmam alias Hinduism having evolved over thousands of years is of course difficult to summarize for anyone. So is the question of why so many gods and temples. As many people have said in this forum, the meaning has evolved.

Keeping in mind the most ancient form of guidance that I can recollect, these are my views:

Hinduism says that the purpose of life is to realize god. Hinduism says that it would be a noble act if someone helps another in the process of realizing god. Hinduism also provides the ideology of rebirth to continue the journey of realizing god.

To understand the above with relation to many gods and temples. Close your eyes for a few minutes and just think about nothing for a few minutes. I guess it is a pretty tough job. But, that would be the first step forward to realizing god/self. In other words meditation.

To ease the process of tuning and taming our mind during meditation, having a form in mind help ones' mind to focus. When we have trained our mind the form is no more necessary. This is similar to a child needing the support of something to hold onto initially. After it learns to walk, it does not need the support. Similar to a child elephant which is tied to a strong tree, while a tame tusker is just mildly strung to a thin pole.

As someone earlier in the forum described how different forms appeal to different people, so did the concept of different forms of god come into being. However the concept of meditation towards the goal of self realization slowly withered away in general public. Only the form and generation of new forms continued. Thus, the cycle of life and rebirth also continues.

In the world of matter, the body and mind can be tuned through certain structural forms or representations. Temples of ancient Hindu tradition are such. Pyramids are such. They help the meditator or the seeker. The help is similar to the one a catalyst does in a chemical reaction. The help is similar to the one an antenna does in communication.
 

tbs

Well-known member
hi all,
Namskarams,,God is every where.......like thunilum thurubilum irukkar..
but we need temples.like we can cook every where ..even in
bedroom./ bathroom..........but we have to cook in kitchen only....we know all
oceans are full of waters.....bur call atlantic/pacific /indian ocean etc.
all rivers are valuable to human beings.......but Missouri is not the same
Holly Ganges........so the temples are more important to worship to
God.

Regards
tbs
 

pannvalan

Well-known member
1. Different forms and shapes are manifestations of the same source. Because these
were mostly created/designed/chiselled, as seen or revealed by some among us,
nothing to feel inferior about them. The immortal characteristic of the god is not
taken away, merely because its form was described and shown by the mortal
souls. ("Oru namam, Or uruvam illarkku, ayiram thirunamam paadi naam
thellenam kottomo?")

2. I have personally found that only one form appeals to a person, for the reasons
that cannot be unfathomed so easily. This differs from person to person.

3. Since the 'Brahmam' is both formless and has form and since has certain
characteristics as well as is free from any particular characteristics, it is left to an
individual's mind to explore various means/paths and have a vision of his/her
choice ultimately. The almighty passively watches the interesting and colouful
game of the mind and absorbs the mind and the person at the right moment, into
it. How wonderful!

4. An enlightened soul sees 'brahmam' in everything and does not attempt to negate
other forms or paths, as it would amount to 'nihilism'.

5. Many forms, many places, many groups of people speaking many languages and
following many customs naturally tend have many temples. What is wrong in it?

6. Even easy access from one's place of residence creates a necessity and
importance for a temple in the nearby vicinity.

7. So many temples, yet so many atheists - What a paradox!
 
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Seshadri Subramaniam

Well-known member
Let me highlight a quote from Swami HH Dayananda Saraswati - " We Hindus don't say there is One God, We don't say there are many gods. We say there is "ONLY GOD".

The above confirms Veda Vakya -" Sarvam Idam Ishvara "

How to solve this puzzle?

There is no puzzle here, the definition itself includes everything - known and unknown as Ishvara... so whatever form one worships, is also included in this "Sarvam"... if tommorrow, somebody comes up with a new form, that is also considered as Ishvara...

Malgova, also by this explanation, does it not bring all the religious folds under one Ishvara...? so we all are the same, united in the fact that we worship the one Ishvara, but different in that we do it differently...

Regards
 

Seshadri Subramaniam

Well-known member
I personally think that the reason for the many gods might be due to one or more of the below factors:

=> Nature worship, and hence human started with those powers (that he visualized) were not under his control.

=> Merging of tribes (symbiotic) which led to merging of the nature gods.

=> And again, God is but an extension of the power of the human mind

=> In the latter days, to unify religion

=> To act as a spiritual stronghold

=> To act as deterrents ie., religion is the most strongest emotion that could have prevented people from crossing over to the enemy. The temples could have been symbols of what sect, a particular group worshipped.

Just a list of what could have been possible... there could be more...

It is also possible, that in the olden days (when there was nature worship), a temple evolved as a kind of "kaval Deivam"... primarily meant as one of the nature gods... who would protect the tribe or village... probably this sentiment is still there in our sub-conscious and hence wherever people have migrated, they try to erect a temple (glorified kaval deivam) - name it any reason, but this could very well be a tendency which has run through our genes...!

Regards
 

malgova.mango

Active member
yes sesh!

that's why we don't meddle with tribal worship, spirit worship all have values.. we don't look down upon anything...

but the neo-religions in there wake - they are destroying these native cultures.
 
A good question. First understand God. Who is God,What is god. The human birth is one of the rare being . The purpose of this birth is to return back to own house ,that is called godhood. Every human birth is having this unique change to understand the God with in him. First to learn to Love every creation by the supreme being. To understand god and merge wthhim you require a " GURU" . The "GURU" will teach you how understand the by way of True Meditations. Once you learn the technic and you will under stand there is only one God and Not So Many.with regards S.R.K.
 
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