Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma is the oldest living religion on earth.
However, that’s not the only trait of the Hindu religion.
In fact, there are many things which make Hinduism unique and one of the most widely accepted religion in the world.
Typically, Hindu religion is known for its rich and varied festivals, elaborate rituals, scores of religious texts, religious practices, its concept of life, principles, ideology, and of course for its many Gods.
Hindus are seen worshipping different Gods. Whether it is Lord Ganesh, Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Lord Hanuman, Goddess Durga, Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Parvati, Goddess Saraswati, Goddess Kali, and scores of other Gods, and Goddesses.
So, an obvious question that comes to our mind is that “How many God and Goddesses are there in Hindu religion?”
In fact, this question has not only perturbed the Westerners but also many Hindus themselves are not aware of how many God and Goddesses there are in Hinduism.
It’s very astonishing, but the fact remains that there is much confusion about the number of Gods and Goddesses in the Hindu religion.
That said, many Hindus believe that there are 33 Crore Gods and Goddesses in Hinduism. However, none know the names of these 33 Crore Gods or 330 Million Gods in the Hindu religion.
So, one is bound to question, “Are there really 33 Crore Gods in Hinduism?”
In this post, we take up the burning question of how many God and Goddesses are there in Hindu religion?
To start with, it is necessary to point out that the idea of “33 Crore Gods” is a highly misinterpreted fact.
Yes, the belief that there are 33 Core Gods is actually a myth.
Although the Atharva Veda, Yajur Veda, and Satapatha-Brahmana mention the term ‘Trayastrimsati Koti’, it is misunderstood as 33 Crores.
In fact, the term ‘Koti’ in Sanskrit has two meaning.
It means ‘Crore, ’ and it also means ‘Supreme.’
So, the actual translation of ‘Trayastrimsati Koti’ means 33 Supreme Gods and not 33 Crore Gods. Thus the confusion about the number of Gods and Goddesses in Hindu religion springs from the wrong translation of the word “koti.”
Likewise, the Buddhists texts mention, “Sapta Koti Buddha” which actually meant 7 Supreme Buddha and not 7 Crore Buddha.
Now, the question arises, who are these 33 Gods in Hinduism and what are their names?
The Vedas have aptly described the 33 Gods in Hinduism.
According to Vedas, there are 33 Gods.
These Gods have been separated in the following pattern:
12 + 11 + 8 + 2
12 is the number of Adityas
11 is the number of Rudras
8 is the number of Vasus
And out of the two left, one is Prajapati, the Master of Gods, and the other is Indra, the Supreme Ruler.
This fact about 33 Gods in Hinduism is well documented in Chapter 3, Part 9 of ‘Brihadaranyaka Upanishad’ where Sage Yajnavalkya is questioned by Sage Sakalya.
Sage Yajnavalkya goes on to mention that the eight Vasus are the fire, the earth, the air, the sky, the sun, heaven, the moon and the stars.
The ten organs in the human body, with the mind as the eleventh, represent the eleven Rudras. He also points out that there are twelve months in the year. These are the Adityas.
As Vedas are the most ancient texts of the Hindus, it would be right to know what they have to say about the number of Gods in Hinduism. In fact, the Rig Veda throws light on the number of Gods in Hinduism.
According to the Rig Veda, there are 3 Gods – Agni on Earth, Vayu in the Air, and Surya in the Sky.
However, the Rig Veda increases this number to thirty-three (33), of which 11 are said to be on Earth, 11 in mid-air, and 11 in heaven.
So, it goes beyond doubt that there are 33 Gods in the Hindu Religion. The Vedas themselves are the testimony of this fact. Moreover, it is mentioned many times in Vedas. 33 Gods are simply 12 Adityas, 11 Rudras, 8 Vasus, Prajapati and Indra.
That said, the concept of Gods in Hinduism has evolved down the ages beginning from the Vedic Era through the medieval period and across Hinduism’s diverse traditions.
However, the idea of equivalence has been cherished in all the periods, declaring they are the same.
There are many ancient as well as medieval era texts of Hinduism which have popularized the concept of deities. So, Hindus began to worship Vishnu, Sri Lakshmi, Shiva, Parvati, Durga, Brahma, Saraswati, Ganesh, and various incarnations of Vishnu such as Krishna and Rama.
Hindus believe that their Gods and Goddesses have specialized knowledge, creative energy, and exalted magical powers.
Lastly, we want to emphasize that amidst all diverse opinions and beliefs, Hinduism has continued to maintain that there is one Supreme Power that exists amongst all the Gods and Goddesses.