Although the pantheistic system allowed only a subordinate rank to the old polytheistic gods, and the actual religious belief of the people was probably but little affected by their existence, they continued to occupy an important place in the affections of the poet, and were still represented as exercising considerable influence on the destinies of man. The most prominent of them were regarded as the appointed Loka palas, or guardians of the world; and as such they were made to preside over the four cardinal and (according to some authorities) the intermediate points of the compass.
Thus Indra, the chief of the gods, was regarded as the regent of the east; Agni, the fire (ignis), was in the same way associated with the south-east; Yama with the south; Surya, the sun (Hatos), with the south-west; Varuna, originally the representative of the all-embracing heaven (Oipaec) or atmosphere, now the god of the ocean, with the west; Vayu (or Pavana), the wind, with the north-west; Kubera, the god of wealth, with the north; and Soma with the northeast.
In the institutes of Manu the Loka palas are represented as standing in close relation to the ruling king, who is saki to be composed of particles of these his tutelary deities. The retinue of Indra consists chiefly of the Gandharvas, a class of genii, considered in the epics as the celestial musicians; and their wives, the Apsaras, lovely nymphs, who are frequently employed by the gods to make the pious devotee desist from carrying his austere practices to an extent that might render him dangerous to their power. Narada, an ancient sage (probably a personification of the cloud, the water-giver), is considered as the messenger between the gods and men, and as having sprung from the forehead of Brahma. The interesting office of the god of love is held by Kamadeva, also called Ananga, the bodyless, because, as the myth relates, having once tried by the power of his mischievous arrow to make Siva fall in love with Parvati, whilst he was engaged in devotional practices, the urchin was reduced to ashes by a glance of the angry god. Two other mythological figures of some importance are considered as sons of Siva and Parvati, viz. Karttikeya or Skanda, the leader of the heavenly armies, who was supposed to have been fostered by the six Knittikas or Pleiades; and Ganesha ( lord of troops ), the elephant-headed god of wisdom, and at the same time the leader of the dii minorum gentium.
These deities represent forces of nature or devas and are not equivalent to Brahman represented as Vishnu or Shiva.
Avatars of Vishnu
- Matsya (the Fish)
- Kurma (the Tortoise)
- Varaha (the Boar)
- Narasimha (Half Lion, Half Man)
- Vamana (The Brahmin Dwarf)
- Parashurama (The Warrior)
- Rama (The King and Pinnacle of Dharma)
- Krishna (Purnavatar or the Full, Plenary, Ultimate Avatar)
- Buddha (The Enlightened One) more commonly known by Hindus as Buddhadev (Lord/God Buddha)
- Kalki (The Final Avatar as Man on White Horse)
- Wikipedia (2005). Hindu deities. Retrieved March 8, 2005.
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