Saturday October 21, 2017

Fallacies in criticism of idol worship

2
692
Photo: bongosaurus.wordpress.com

By Nithin Sridhar

An Analysis of Hindu Symbols and Practices: Part 2

Idol worship has been extensively criticized by people from diverse background. The rationalists and modern day liberals more or less dismiss it as superstition. We saw this in the article by N. Anandan. Max Muller where he considered Idol worship as a sign that Hindus are still in the state of noble savagery and had proposed that Hindus should be civilized through European and Christian influence. (1)

Dr. Ambedkar had questioned the rationale behind the practice of Prana Pratishtapana and in the recent times, Kancha Ilaiah, Dalit rights activist and writer, has linked Idol worship with rigid Caste system and has claimed that Caste divisions will become irrelevant only when idol worship becomes irrelevant.

But, the staunchest criticism of Idol worship has come from within the tradition. Swami Dayananda of Arya Samaj who had given the clarion call for returning to Vedas, has also criticized idol worship in the severest of words.

Photo: http://www.dattapeetham.com
Photo: http://www.dattapeetham.com

Some of these criticisms are outright racial or castiest or simply biased, but other criticisms are more out of misconceptions and ignorance than biasness. Let us briefly analyze some of these criticisms against idol worship.

One of the most repeated criticisms is that the priestly class encourages it to fill their own pockets, and that people are fooled into thinking that by worshiping an idol a person will be free from his sins. It is also claimed that idol worship prevents the development of a scientific bent of mind and the values of hard work and dedication.

This oft-repeated claim ignores the glaring fact that a larger majority of priests sustain on very low income bordering on poverty in many cases. Though many temples are indeed very rich, that money rarely goes to the priests. A large number of temples are under state government control, so if anybody’s coffers are filling, it is those of government. Even in the case of temples under private control, many temples are involved in social and culture activities that have only contributed to the welfare of society. Therefore, a donation to the temple is not being ‘wasted’ as it has been alleged.

If it be claimed that money is being misused due to corruption in temple boards, it is easy to point out that corruption is in government bodies as well as other NGO’s as well. Corruption is a national wide phenomenon that is not unique to temples. The fact is, people do not go to the temple with an intention to fill the coffers of the temples. Instead, they go because, in those places, people attain calmness and mental satisfaction.

People always have the option to worship at home and slowly attain a perception of the divine presence at home itself, so that mental calmness and bliss can be attained at home itself. The various practices of worship, including idol worship has been propounded for that very reason. But, not everyone is able to practice it. Temples are built as a place of worship for such people who cannot connect with God at home.

Hence, the criticism that temples have been constructed to loot the people by fooling them is based on ignorance and per-conceived biasness.

As far as the criticism that Idol worship prevents scientific bent of mind or the ability to work hard, one can only laugh at such baseless assertions. These assertions assume that a devotee is by nature superstitious. Well, many people may practice one or the other superstitions including those who are known for rationality, but such practices by itself do not make people become unreasonable and irrational. The foundation of the science of worship is as much built on the strong foundation of rationality as modern scientific thought.

Logic and rational inquiry are inseparable aspects of spiritual pursuit. But they, in no manner, contradict the devotion aspect of spiritual pursuit. Both of them, when pursued together, will lead to the purification of the mind and help a person become spiritually elevated.

Photo: ushaharding.blogspot.com
Photo: ushaharding.blogspot.com

Regarding the question of hard-work, in Gita it is said, one should work hard by giving up all hankerings for the result. In fact, it is the only way a person can truly work hard. As long as a person is attached to the fruits, he is more worried about the results than his current work. A devotee on the other hand, does his duty and surrenders the fruits to God. Hence, he is free from any anxiety or worry. Therefore, devotion that includes Idol worship, allows a person to truly understand the value of wisdom and work, and does not deny those values to the practitioners.

Another important criticism against idol worship is that idol worship is not instructed in Vedas. Further, it is claimed that Vedas prohibited Idol worship. Though it is true that there is no clear instruction that idols as such must be worshipped in the Vedas. We do find references to the usage of the term “Pratima” (symbol or image or likeness) in the Vedas.

In Taittiriya Saamhita of Krishna Yajurveda, one can find verses that say “The image of the year, which men revere in thee, O night” (Verse 5.7.2) and “Thou art the measure of a thousand, thou art the image of a thousand, thou art the size of a thousand” Verse (4.4.11). In the former mantra, the deity of the Night is being called as an image of Samvartsara (a year). Hence, the night is indeed worshiped as a symbol, as an image of the year. Similarly, in the latter verse, the Devata is being referred as an image of a thousand.

These verses do not directly speak about idol worship. Yet, they have spoken about Devatas being symbols or reflection of different phenomenon. This is the very essence of Idol worship. As explained in the previous article, Idol is first and foremost a symbol, a reflection of a specific aspect of Brahman. Hence, one uses the idol to form a mental image of the Devata, so as to perfect the concentration and meditation. The Vedas are hinting at such usage.

Further, in the Aranyakas and Upanishads, we find various forms of meditation, wherein different props are used to practice meditation on Brahman. It is argued that, various names of God are just aspects of Brahman, and hence, worshiping idols representing various Devatas are faulty. This assertion has value in the sense that if a person worship a Devata, with or without the idol, considering the limited name and form itself as the ultimate reality, he indeed does not attain ultimate Moksha. Lord Krishna himself says so in the Bhagavad Gita (9.25) that those who worship ancestors, go to them and those who worship deities as ultimate reality go to them, but they don’t attain Moksha. This is true irrespective of whether one uses Idol or not. If a person beholds only the limited nature of Devatas invoked in the fire of Yajna (sacrifice) as ultimate reality, even that is faulty.

A proper way of worship is to consider the Devatas as the manifestation of Brahman, and as being non-different from Brahman in essence and further consider the names and forms of Devatas as limiting principles assumed by Brahman itself. This equally applies to idol worship or fire worship or any other aspect of worship. It is in this context that the statements of Brahmasutras that speak about Saguna Brahman worship taking one to Brahmaloka and not Moksha is to be understood.

Photo: chipsnchutzpah.wordpress.com
Photo: chipsnchutzpah.wordpress.com

Now coming to the issue of prohibition of Idol worship in the Vedas, a few mantras from the Yajurveda, Isha Upanishad, and Kena Upanishad among others, are often quoted to show that Vedas prohibit idol worship, the chief of them being Sukla Yajurveda mantra that says “There is no image of the Supreme God” (Verse 32.3). But, on a closer analysis, it only refers to the fact that Brahman is one infinite whole without a second entity. It is speaking about the absolute nature of Brahman. In fact, the quoted portion is only a half verse. The full verse reads (translation by Ralph T.H. Griffith’s): “There is no counterpart of him whose glory verily is great. In the beginning rose Hiranyagarbha, etc. Let not him harm me, etc. Than whom there is no other born, etc.” Hence, there is no injunction here against image worship.

The case is more or less same with other often quoted verses. Moreover, we have statements as in the Isha Upanishad (Verse 1), where it is said, God is immanent and inhabits all the objects of the universe or in Kena Upanishad that clearly depicts through an analogy that, the essence of various Devatas be it Agni, Vayu, or Indra is Brahman itself and hence, we must worship that Supreme Brahman through all Devatas. These clearly uphold that, there is no fault in idol worship, as long as one realizes that one is worshiping the Supreme Brahman.

In the Bhagavad Gita (7.19-21), Krishna says that those people who do not have mental discrimination (being afflicted with desires), worship various deities, and God helps them by sustaining their faith in those deities and giving them their desired results for that worship. In other words, even if a person cannot worship a deity (with or with idols) as being the very manifestation of the Supreme Brahman, even then, God/Brahman will sustain him and help him in spiritual progress.

Therefore, there is clearly no prohibition of Idol worship in the Vedas or other scriptures. The scriptures only point out that, it is better if a person worships a Devata by realizing that the Devata is only a manifestation of Brahman, but even otherwise, the worship of Devata will yield corresponding fruits and will help a devotee to slowly evolve spiritually.

Coming to the issue of Idol worship and Caste discrimination. It has been claimed that every caste has their own unique idols and hence this paves way for caste identity and discrimination. Hence, it is claimed that caste identity can be removed only by removing idol worship.

Now, this appears as a totally baseless conclusion. It may be true that certain communities worship certain deities more frequently than other deities. In fact, we have the concept of Grama-devatas (village deities), Kula-Devatas (family deities) and Ishta Devatas (personal deities). The three are rarely the same. But, just because different castes and communities at times worship different deities, it does not mean, there is a caste identity among the deities as well! People in urban areas irrespective of their castes have mostly abandoned the worship of deities of their native villages.

Worship is a religious and spiritual practice. It is a historical fact that, there has been caste discrimination in the past (sometimes even in present) regarding entry of Dalits into certain temples. But, this is not even remotely related to the practice of idol worship as such. The Brahman is one and He manifests in infinite forms. Hence, a devotee, a dalit or not, can attain same spiritual benefit by visiting the temple of a village deity or the so called lower caste deities, as he/she attains by visiting any big or upper caste temples. The only key is that the idols must be properly consecrated, a proper puja must be regularly carried out, and most importantly, the devotee must have sincere devotion and connection with the deity.

Hence, there is no direct connection between caste discrimination and idol worship. If the worship of different deities by different castes is a concern, it can be easily rectified by worshiping deities that are considered as being from different castes. To believe that removing idol worship somehow removes caste identity and discrimination is a fallacy. The caste identity is deep rooted and can be removed only by harmoniously working towards unity and reformation. It cannot be achieved by attacking symbols and practices of Hinduism like idol worship without understanding their real essence.

Therefore, it can be easily seen that most of the criticisms against the Idol-worship are based on a shallow understanding of Hinduism. A proper understanding will clearly establish Idol-worship as a valid spiritual path that would help one eventually attain Moksha. Let me conclude with a quote from Swami Vivekananda:

All of you have been taught to believe in an Omnipresent God. Try to think of it. How few of you can have any idea of what omnipresence means! If you struggle hard, you will get something like the idea of the ocean, or of the sky, or of a vast stretch of green earth, or of a desert. All these are material images, and so long as you cannot conceive of the abstract as abstract, of the ideal as the ideal, you will have to resort to these forms, these material images. It does not make much difference whether these images are inside or outside the mind. We are all born idolaters, and idolatry is good, because it is in the nature of man. Who can get beyond it? Only the perfect man, the God-man. The rest are all idolaters.

“So long as we see this universe before us, with its forms and shapes, we are all idolaters. This is a gigantic symbol we are worshipping. He who says he is the body is a born idolater. We are spirit, spirit that has no form or shape, spirit that is infinite, and not matter. Therefore, anyone who cannot grasp the abstract, who cannot think of himself as he is, except in and through matter, as the body, is an idolater. And yet how people fight among themselves, calling one another idolaters! In other words, each says, his idol is right, and the others’ are wrong.”

More in the Series:

Part 1- The Practice of Idol Worship in Hinduism

Part 3: Hinduism and Cow

Part 4: Yajna, Madhuparka, and the use of beef

Part 5: Origins of beef consumption in India

Part 6: Beef Controversy: Beef parties and the celebration of violence

2 COMMENTS

  1. The entire argument against idol worship focuses on Hinduism, and it is ironical that the likes of Kancha Ilaiah and the Christian evangelists join this bandwagon of critics, ignoring their own religious practices involving idol worship. Their objection is only to the idols in the temples. The innumerable images and statues of Christ, Mother Mary and the Saints that you see in churches are mere art pieces! The idols of Buddha, a web article points out, are the largest sold religious idols, but Mr Ilaiah is unaware of it!
    The only difference between an ‘image’ and an ‘idol’ is that the idol is a solid form of an image. Therefore, if idol worship is bad, image worship is bad, too! If it is argued that both are bad, then the question is what is objectionable in image worship — ‘image’ or ‘worship’. Even evangelists and Iliah cannot retain their religious identity without worship; so obviously worship is not the villain of the piece. The rationalists, too, ‘worship’ other senior rationalists, and maybe they have their own idols among cricketers or pop stars! That brings ‘image’ under question. We all know that ‘thought’ and ‘image’ are twins. A thought visualised is ‘image’, and that image solidified is ‘idol’. The rationalist may want to call it a statue, but we, the lesser intellectuals, are accustomed to regarding our parents as father and mother and not as just man and woman as the rationalists may do.

  2. Once again, Nitin, you use wrong words, and show us that you are not fully observant of the details. You use ‘Caste’, which is a foreign term which has a different connotation than Varna and Jati. You do not show the difference, thus arming the Ilaiah crowd. I think Mr. Kutty Nair below nails you down correctly. Please continue to write, but make sure you understand the terms, the larger kurukshetra that is out there. I recommend you read Mr. Rajiv Malhotra’s book, ‘Being Different’ , which outlines Sanskrit non translatables correctly. Use the term directly, without using an equivalent English word. English is a very inadequate language to express the complex Sanatana Dharma principles.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Next Story

Hinduism is Not an Official or Preferred Religion in Any Country of The World, Says a New Report

Though Hinduism is the third largest religion of the world, it is not the official state religion of any country according to a Pew Research Center Report

0
47
Hinduism
Hinduism is not an official religion of any country in the world. Instagram.
  • No country has declared Hinduism as its official state religion – despite India being an influential Hindu political party
  • Hinduism is not an official or preferred religion in any country of the world, according to a Pew Research Center report.
  • 53% of 199 nations considered in the study don’t have an official religion
  • 80 countries are assigned either an “official religion” or “preferred religion”

Nevada, USA, October 16: Hinduism is the primeval and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion followers of moksh (liberation) being its utmost desire of life. India is among the category of nations where the government do not have an official or preferred religion.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank headquartered in Washington DC that aims to inform the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

The report states that a country’s official religion is regarded as a legacy of its past and present privileges granted by the state. And a few other countries fall on the other side of the gamut, and propagate their religion as the ‘official religion’, making it a compulsion for all citizens.

It adds up on the context of allocation that more than eight-in-ten countries (86%) provide financial support or resources for religious education programs and religious schools that tend to benefit the official religion.

Hinduism
Islam is the most practiced official religion of the world. Instagram.

Commenting on Hinduism, the report states:

In 2015, Nepal came close to enshrining Hinduism, but got rejected of a constitutional amendment due to a conflict between pro-Hindu protesters and state police.

Although India has no official or preferred religion as mentioned in the Constitution,it was found by PEW that in India the intensity of government constraints and social antagonism involving religion was at a peak. “Nigeria, India, Russia, Pakistan and Egypt had the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion among the 25 most populous countries in 2015. All fell into the “very high” hostilities category,” the report added.

As per the 2011 census, it was found that 79.8% of the Indian population idealizes Hinduism and 14.2% practices to Islam, while the rest 6% pursuit other religions.

While Hinduism stands up with the majority, Article 25 of the Constitution of India contributes secularism allowing for religious freedom and allows every Indian to practice his/her religion, without any intervention by the community or the government.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, applauded the Hindu community for their benefaction to the society and advised Hindus to concentrate on inner purity, attract spirituality towards youth and children, stay far from the greed, and always keep God in the life.

According to Pew, these are “places where government officials seek to control worship practices, public expressions of religion and political activity by religious groups”.

-by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram.  She can be reached @tweet_bhavana

Next Story

Paintings Which Beautifully Depict Scenes From Ramayana

0
32
Ramayana
Ram lifting the bow during Sita Swayambar. Wikimedia Commons.

Ramayana, the ancient Indian epic which describes the narrative of Ayodhya Prince lord Rama’s struggles. The struggles include- exile of 14 years, abduction of his wife Sita, reaching Lanka, destruction of the evil. It is strongly ingrained in the Indian culture, especially, the Hindu culture since a long time. Hindus celebrate Diwali based on the narratives of Ramayana.

The story of Ramayana gives out the beautiful message that humanity and service to the mankind is way more important than kingdom and wealth. Below are five paintings describing the scenes from Ramayana:

1. Agni Pariksha in Ramayana

Ramayana
Agni Pariksha. Wikimedia.

When Lord Rama questions Sita’s chastity, she undergoes Agni Pariksha, wherein, she enters a burning pyre, declaring that if she has been faithful to her husband then the fire would harm her. She gets through the test without any injuries or pain. The fire God, Agni, was the proof of her purity. Lord Rama accepts Sita and they return to Ayodhya. 

2. Scene From The Panchavati Forest

Ramayana
scene from the panchavati forest. wikimedia.

The picture describes a scene from the Panchavati forest. It is believed that Lord Rama built his forest by residing in the woods of Panchavati, near the sources of the river Godavari, a few miles from the modern city of Mumbai. He lived in peace with his wife and brother in the forest.

3. Hanuman Visits Sita

Ramayana
Hanuman meets Sita. Wikimedia.

Hanuman reaches Lanka in search of Sita. At first, he was unable to find Sita. He later saw a woman sitting in Ashok Vatika, drowned in her sorrows, looked extremely pale. He recognized her. After seeing the evil king, Ravana making her regular visit to Sita, he hid somewhere in the Vatika. After Ravana left, Hanuman proved Sita that he is Rama’s messenger by showing her his ring. He assured her that Rama would soon come to rescue her. Before leaving Lanka, he heckled Ravana. Agitated by Hanuman’s actions, Ravana ordered to set Hanuman’s tail on fire. With the burning tail, Hanuman set the entire city on fire.

 

Next Story

Exploring the Faces of Faith and Devotion: 7 Principal Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism

Foremost among the several gods and goddesses of Hinduism are the Trimurti; Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, the holy triad that signify supreme divinity in Hinduism – the creater, sustainer and destroyer of the world

0
78
Are you familiar with the various gods and goddesses of Hinduism? Pixabay

New Delhi, October 9, 2017 : Devout Hindus have a god for every occasion and every day – over 33 million, according to popular beliefs. While people of other religions often interpret them as fictional characters, the multiple gods and goddesses of Hinduism are held with utmost devotion and sincerity by the believers.

Ours is a polytheistic religion – in other words, a myriad of gods and goddesses of Hinduism. Foremost among the several gods and goddesses of Hinduism are the Trimurti; Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, the holy triad that signify supreme divinity in Hinduism – the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the world. These divine forces are known to appear in different avatars, embodied by different gods and goddesses.

In Hinduism, Lord Brahma is the creator of the Universe and the first member of the holy trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh). However, he is not worshiped as Vishnu or Shiva with only one temple dedicated to him, the Pushkar temple of Rajasthan.

Here are some of the many gods and goddesses of Hinduism.

1. Vishnu

Vishnu is the second member of the holy Hindu triad, who sustains the entire world – Vishnu is believed to return to the earth during distressed times to restore the balance between good and evil.

gods and goddesses of Hinduism
Lord Vishnu. Wikimedia

Believed to have incarnated nine times, Vishnu symbolizes the principles of order, righteousness, and truth. His associate is Lakshmi, the goddess of family life and prosperity.

Vishnu is always depicted with a blue-colored human body with four hands, each of which carries four different objects – a conch, chakra, lotus flower and mace. The god is shown to ride the Garuda, an eagle.

So far, Vishnu has appeared on earth in various incarnations. These include fish, turtle, boar, Narsimha (half lion, half man), Vamana (dwarf sage with the ability to grow), Parsuram, Ram, Krishna and Buddha. Devotees believe he will re-incarnate in a last avatar, popularly known as ‘Kalki’, close to the end of this world.

Hindus who worship Vishnu are primarily known as Vaishnava and regard him as the greatest god.

2. Shiva

One of the members of the holy Hindu trinity, Lord Shiva is as the god of destruction, so that the world may be recreated by Brahma. Thus, his destructive powers are perceived as regenerative: necessary to make renewal possible.

Known by different names like Mahadeva, Nataraja , Pashupati, Vishwanath and Bhole Nath, Shiva is known to have untamed enthusiasm, which drives him to extremes in conduct. It is his relationship with wife Parvati which established the balance. While other gods and goddesses are represented in glorious avatars, Shiva is dressed in plan animal skin and usually sits in a yogic aasana.

gods and goddesses of hinduism
God Shiva, Wikimedia

Shiva is often addressed as the Lord of Dance, with the rhythm of the dance believed to be symbolic of the balance in the universe, masterfully held by Shiva. His most significant dance form is the Tandav.

Hindus who worship Shiva as their primary god are known as Shaivites.


3. Lakshmi

One of the most popular goddesses of Hindu mythology, Lakshmi gets hers name from the Sanskrit word ‘lakshya’, meaning ambition or purpose. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, prosperity and purity and is the associate of Vishnu.

Lakshmi is believed to reside in places of hard work, and sincerity, However, the goddess leaves whenever an individual is overcome with greed or malice or when these qualities are not evident anymore. Hindus believe Sita is an incarnation of Lakshmi. Hence, they worship the goddess of prosperity primarily during Diwali, which commemorated the Hindu epic Ramayana.

Gods and goddesses of hinduism
Goddess Lakshmi. Wikimedia

Lakshmi is widely represented as an enchanting woman with four arms, settled or standing on a lotus flower.

Devout Hindus worship Lakshmi at temples and inside homes alike, and believe worshipping her with utmost sincerity blesses an individual with success and fortune.


4. Ganesha

The pot bellied, elephant-headed god Ganesha, also known as Ganpati, Vinayak and Binayak, is the son of Shiva and Parvati. one of the most popular gods and goddesses of Hinduism, Ganesha is revered as the remover of all obstacles, which is why his presence is first acknowledged before beginning any new work.

The lord of success and wealth, Ganesha is also the patron of knowledge and learning; devotees believe he wrote down parts of the Hindu epic Mahabharata with his broken tusk.

gods and goddesses of hinduism
Ganesh Puja. Wikimedia

Ganesha is typically depicted as a pot-bellied, elephant-headed red colored god, with four arms and a broken tusk. This head is believed to characterize the atma or the soul and the body represents the maya or mankind’s earthly existence. The rats, which can gnaw their way through every hardship, are believed to symbolize Ganesha’s ability to destroy all obstacles.

Lord Ganesha is shown riding mouse, which can gnaw their way through every hardship, are believed to symbolize Ganesha’s ability to destroy all obstacles.


5. Krishna

Believed to be the most popular and the most powerful avatar of Vishnu, Krishna is revered as the Supreme Being or the Purana Purushottam out of a list of several hundred gods and goddesses of Hinduism, by several devout Hindus. One of the most loved and mischievous gods, Krishna means ‘black’ and can be believed to denote mysteriousness.

In Hinduism, Krishna takes several different roles- that of a hero, leader, protector, philosopher, teacher and a friend and is believed to have lived on earth between 3200 – 3100 BC. His birth is widely celebrated on the midnight of Ashtami during the month of Shravan, and is called Janmashthami.

gods and goddesses of Hinduism
Picture of idols of Lord Krishna and Radha, decorated for Janmashtami. Wikimedia

Stories of Krishna’s birth, childhood and youth and widely read and circulated, with every mother wanting to have a child like him. His raas with Radha is also remembered widely.

Krishna is held with utmost reverence for his role as the charioteer of Arjuna, as explained in the Mahabharata. It was in the middle of this war that Krishna delivered his famous advice about ‘Nishkam Karma’ which propagated action without attachment, which formed the basis of the Bhagwat Gita.

Krishna is extremely fond of white butter and there are several stories about how he stole butter from gopis throughout his childhood. He is depicted as a dark and extremely handsome, usually depicted with a flute which he used for its seductive powers.


6. Ram

Maryada Purushottam Ram is the ideal avatar of Vishnu. An epitome of chivalry, virtues and ethical demeanor, Ram is the seventh incarnation of Vishnu who is believed to have taken birth to eradicate all evils from the world.

gods and goddesses of Hinduism
Ram Darbar. Wikimedia

Unlike all other gods and goddesses of Hinduism, Ram is believed to be a historical character, instead of an imaginary figure. The Hindu epic Ramayana is a retelling and celebration of Ram’s life – a tale of his fourteen years in exile with his wife and brother.

Ram’s birthday is celebrated as Ramnavmi, wherein devotees invoke him with religious chants to attain his blessings shield. The festival of lights, Diwali, which is one of the major festivals in Hinduism, is also observed to celebrate the return of Ram, Laksham and Sita back to Ayodhya after an exile of fourteen years.

Ram bears a dark complexion to show his resemblance to Vishnu and his other avatar Krishna, and is almost always depicted with a bow and arrow in his hands and a quiver on his back. Ram also wears a tilak on his forehead. Accompanying the statues of Ram are idols of his wife Sita, brother Lakshman and the celebrated monkey-god Hanuman, who together combine the Ram Darbar.

7. Saraswati

Daughter of Shiva and Durga, and the consort of Brahma, Saraswati is revered as the goddess of wisdom, learning, speech and music. She is the goddess of knowledge and arts. Devotees often worship the deity before commencing any educational work- books and stationary items are often revered as Saraswati is believed to reside in them.

Saraswati Vandana, religious chants dedicated to the goddess of music often begin and end all Vedic lessons. The goddess also plays songs of wisdom, affection and life on the veena, a string instrument.

gods and goddesses of hinduism
Sarswati, Wikimedia Commons

Saraswati is visually represented in pure white attire and rides a peacock, with a lotus in one hand and sacred scriptures in the other. She also has four hands that signify the four aspects of learning- mind, intellect, alertness, and ego.

Out of all the 33 million gods and goddesses of Hinduism, devout Hindus believe only Saraswati can grant them moksha- the ultimate emancipation of the soul.