India is well known for its heritage sites, be it temples, palaces or forts. Among the numerous palaces and forts that are present, one palace that stands tall in its majesty and unique in its beauty is the Amba Vilas Palace, which is often referred as the ‘Mysore Palace’.
Mysore is a ‘city of palaces’ and apart from Amba Vilas Palace, it also has numerous other palaces like Jaganmohana Palace, LalitMahal Palace, CheluvAmba Mansion etc.
The Mysore Palace is built in Indo-saracenic style of architecture and is famous for its beautiful domes and interior halls. The Palace structure harmoniously fuses elements from Hindu, Mughal, Rajput, and Gothic styles of architectures. The Palace is also famous for holding Mysore Dasara processions every year.
The Palace includes a three-storied stone structure with deep pink marble domes and a centrally placed five storied 145 feet tall tower with a golden dome. Above the central arch one can see a beautiful sculpture of Gajalakshmi – the Goddess of wealth along with elephants.
The Palace faces the east towards the Chamundi Hill, on which there is a temple of Goddess Chamundeshwari, who is the family deity of the Maharajas of Mysore. The palace is surrounded by a large garden and has numerous entrance gates. The main gate is the eastern gate and it directly faces the palace. Visitors are allowed through the Southern Gate.
The interiors of the Palace are equally intricate and mesmerizing. It has beautifully stained glass ceilings, carved doors, walls decorated with paintings depicting scenes from Hindu scriptures, beautiful chandeliers and colorful pillars. The Palace includes various rooms like Ambavilasa, GombeThotti (Doll’s pavilion), KalyanaMantapa (marriage hall), Durbar Hall, portrait gallery, and Ayudha-Shala (armory).
The architecture and the interiors of the Palace is a reminder of the glory and majesty of the Royal past of Mysore and the highly developed artistic skills of artists and artisans supported by the Royal family.
The Mysore Royal Family traces its roots to the Yadavas of Dwarka in Gujarat. The Wadiyars have ruled the Kingdom of Mysore from 1399 to 1947 except for a few gaps like when they were reduced to nominal heads by Tipu Sultan. The Wadiyars are well known for their patronage of Indian culture, traditions, arts and music.
The original Mysore palace was built in the 14th century by King Yaduraya, the founder of Wadiyar dynasty. But, it has been demolished and reconstructed multiple times. In 1638, when the palace was stuck by the lightening, it was built by the then KingKantiravaNarasa Raja Wodeyar. The palace was again demolished by Tipu Sultan in 1793 but it was later rebuilt in 1803 by Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, who assumed the throne of Mysore after the death of Tipu Sultan.
This Palace was reduced to ashes in 1897 when it caught fire during a royal wedding ceremony. The current Palace, the fourth in number, was commissioned then in 1897 and completed in 1912. The palace was designed and built by the British architect Lord Henry Irwin.
There are 12 beautiful Hindu temples in the Palace complex. Prominent among them are: Sri Gayatri Temple and Sri Trineshwara temple near the Main (East) Entrance, Shwetha Varahaswamy Temple near the South Entrance, Sri Bhuvaneshwari Temple at the North Entrance, and Lakshmiramana Temple behind the Palace, towards the West.
One of the main attractions of the Mysore Palace is the light illumination of the entire palace after sunset during specific days. The view of the illuminated palace is fascinating and attracts large number of visitors. Another attraction in the palace is the Sound and Light shows that are organized during specific days.
“Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti” is a Sutra from Upanishads meaning, “That which exists is ONE, sages call it by various names.” This is the reason why Hindus are tolerant and accept diversity.
Many young Hindus and Indians get confused with the diverse concepts of different Gods in Hinduism. This diversity can be confusing when confronted by other faiths who are equally confused with the diversity of Hinduism/Sanathana Dharma. This article is an attempt to explain the vast riches of Sanathana Dharma and help Hindus not get converted to other faiths out of confusion with the diversity of Hinduism/Sanathana Dharma. Unfortunately an average Hindus doesn’t have an answer because we are not taught Hinduism properly. We only know to go to temple, ask for wishes, take prasad and may be say a few mantras. There is no connection to the Gods or the Mantras because we understand and follow the rituals but are not taught the philosophy.
We hope to address the confusion young Indians have about multiple Gods, especially to counter the mockery that non-Hindus make on multiple GODS of Hinduism. Our objective is to prepare young Hindu community to give answers to these conversion machines. Some people claim that many Hindus convert to other religions because they didn’t understand Idol Worship and Concept of many Gods.
The English word God is a poor translation for Hindu concepts of Supreme Being/Ultimate Reality. In English, the word God refers to an Abrahamic God who is the creator and is separate from HIS creation.
Hinduism has many additional concepts which get lumped together into English translation as one word, God. Hinduism has
each has a distinct and different meaning and many of them can be in manifest or in un-manifest form. But unfortunately, due to poverty of the English language or a lack of appreciation by language experts, all of these spiritual concepts get translated into Godthus causing confusion. In western terminology, most often, Hindu Gods are also referred to as Deities.
33 Million Hindus Gods
There is, a popular perception stating that there are 33 million deities (Gods?) in Hinduism. No one has a list of all the goddesses and gods, but scholars state all deities are typically viewed in Hinduism as “emanations or manifestation of genderless principle called Brahman, representing the many facets of Ultimate Reality”. This concept of Brahman is not the same as the monotheistic God of Abrahamic religions. In those religions God is considered, separate from humans as “creator of the world, above and independent of human existence”. Hinduism accommodates that concept of God as duality as well as a concept of God, the universe, human beings and all else is essentially one thing and everything is connected oneness, the same god is in every human being as Atman, the eternal Self. It is quite likely that when the world’s population was estimated to be only 33 million, each atman being one with Brahman, led to the popular belief of 33 million Gods.
For many young Hindus and Indians who are confused with the diverse concepts of Hinduism, are adviced to seek through choosing one form that they connect most with. Then Surrender, be open and have faith, Seeking will come and path will be shown through perseverance. Hindus are implored to invest more time in understanding the vast rich Sanathana Dharma and not get converted to other faiths because they are confused with the diversity of Hinduism/Sanathana Dharma.
The concept of Brahman (wrongly translated as God) can be understood as Saguna or as Nirguna. The Formless Pure Consciousness is the unmanifest energy (Nirakar/Nirguna) which can manifest into form (Saakar/ Suguna) of Brahma as the Creator, Vishnu as the Protector and Shiva as the Destroyer. In unmanifest form, this is pure consciousness, Nirguna – with no Gunas or attributes , Nirvisesha – no special characteristics, Sat-chit-ananda – Eternal truth consciousness. This unmanifest form when manifested, it has form and Suguna – attributes or qualities required for sustenance of the creation. But both the Manifest (Suguna) and UnManifest (Nirguna) forms of this cosmic energy are eternal, non-destructive and non-differential from each other.
Vedas and the Upanishads have said that there is one supreme energy named “’PARABRAMHA” which is formless, infinite, all pervading, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, genderless, eternal and unfathomable or indescribable in Human language. “God” is a Supreme cosmic energy, with infinite potentialities and attributes, which is formless but can manifest into a form when required to run and sustain creation.
In comparison, other religions express God either as a Nirguna (formless, unmanifest) or Saguna (with form, manifest) but it is only Hinduism that understands God in both unmanifest as well as manifest form. Other religions when the explain God as manifest usually insist of one form of God only which sometimes is depicted as an old White Male with a flowing beard.
Deities in Hinduism are referred to as Deva (masculine) and Devi (feminine). The root of these terms mean “heavenly, divine, anything of excellence”. Manifest Gods in Hinduism are symbolism for spiritual concepts. For example, god Indra (a Deva) and the antigod Virocana (an Asura) question a sage for insights into the knowledge of the self. Deva-Asura dichotomies in Hindu mythology may be seen as “narrative depictions of tendencies within our selves”. Hindu deities in Vedic era, states Mahoney, are those artists with “powerfully inward transformative, effective and creative mental powers”.
Another Hindu term that is sometimes translated as God or deity is Ishvara The term Ishvara has a wide range of meanings that depend on the era and the school of Hinduism. In ancient texts of Indian philosophy, Ishvara means supreme soul, Brahman(Highest Reality). In medieval era texts, Ishvara means God, Supreme Being, personal god, or special Self depending on the school of Hinduism.
Hindu mythology has nurtured the concept of Avatar, which represents the descent of a deity on earth. This concept is commonly translated as “incarnation“, and is an “appearance” or “manifestation”.
The concept of Avatar is most developed in Vaishnavism tradition, and associated with Vishnu, particularly with Rama and Krishna. Vishnu takes numerous avatars in Hindu mythology. He becomes female, during the Samudra manthan, in the form of Mohini, to resolve a conflict between the Devas and Asuras. His male avatars include Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and Kalki.Various texts, particularly the Bhagavad Gita, discuss the idea of Avatar of Vishnu appearing to restore the cosmic balance whenever the power of evil becomes excessive and causes persistent oppression in the world.
In Shaktism traditions, the concept appears in its legends as the various manifestations of Devi, the Divine Mother principal in Hinduism. The avatars of Devi or Parvati include Durga and Kali, who are particularly revered in eastern states of India, as well as Tantra traditions. Twenty one avatars of Shiva are also described in Shaivism texts, but unlike Vaishnava traditions, Shaiva traditions have focussed directly on Shiva rather than the Avatar concept.
Hinduism has an ancient and extensive iconography tradition, particularly in the form of Murti (Sanskrit: मूर्ति, IAST: Mūrti), or Vigraha or Pratima. A Murti is itself not the god in Hinduism, but it is an image of god and represents emotional and religious value. A literal translation of Murti as idol is incorrect, states Jeaneane Fowler, when idol is understood as superstitious end in itself. Just like the photograph of a person is not the real person, a Murti is an image in Hinduism but not the real thing, but in both cases the image reminds of something of emotional and real value to the viewer. When a person worships a Murti, it is assumed to be a manifestation of the essence or spirit of the deity, the worshipper’s spiritual ideas and needs are meditated through it, yet the idea of ultimate reality or Brahman is not confined in it.
A Murti is an embodiment of the divine, the Ultimate Reality or Brahman to some Hindus. In religious context, they are found in Hindu temples or homes, where they may be treated as a beloved guest and serve as a participant of Puja rituals in Hinduism.