Why Do Hindus Worship Many Gods?
Human beings through history have formulated many different names and forms for the Divine or
Eternal. Just as we have many names and forms for other things,
whether it is foods, or types of art, so too, in religion a similar
great diversity has been created.
The Western world has prided
itself in monotheism, the idea that there is only One God as the
highest truth. Western religions have said that only the names and
forms which refer to this One God are valid but those which appear
to worship another God, or a multiplicity of divinities, must be
false. They have restricted the names and forms they use in
religious worship, and insist that only one set, which is their's,
is true and correct and others are wrong or unholy.
As a universal formulation
Hinduism accepts all formulations of Truth. According to the
universal view there is only One Truth or Reality, but this reality
cannot be limited to a particular name or form. Though it is One it
is also Universal, not an exclusive formulation. It is an inclusive,
not an exclusive Oneness. It is a spiritual reality of
Being-Consciousness-Bliss, which could be called God but which
transcends all names. The different Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism
represent various functions of this One Supreme Divinity, and are
not separate Gods.
Having many names for
something is not necessarily a sign of ignorance of its real nature.
On the contrary, it may indicate an intimate knowledge of it. For
example, eskimos have forty-eight different names for snow in their
language because they know snow intimately in its different
variations, not because they are ignorant of the fact that all snow
is only one. The many different deities of Hinduism reflect such an
intimate realization of the Divine on various levels - which
non-experiential belief-oriented religions seldom even approach. It
is hardly a crude polytheism.