In Indian culture, Goddess Kali goes by different names such as Kalika, and Shyama. She is one of the most prominent Goddesses who is responsible for creation, destruction, power, and time. She is the chief of the Mahavidyas and a form of Mother Goddess Parvati.

Hindu Goddess Kali is the destroyer of evil forces. She is regarded or hailed to be the strongest form of Shakti. She goes out to the lengths of killing all evil forces to protect innocent children. In the tantric sects, Hindu Goddess Kali is seen as the Divine mother figure or the Mother of the Universe. It is for this reason that sometimes she is also referred to as Adi Parashakti and Adti Shakti. She is the divine power that gives moksha.

Hindu Goddess Kali is mostly worshipped around India and Nepal. She is portrayed as the standing consort in a dancing form while Lord Shiva lies calm underneath her.

What is Kali the Goddess of?

Kali is the Goddess of doomsday and death. She is the Black Goddess who is hailed as the female form of black of time-doomsday and death. In Sanskrit, Kali is referred to as ‘She Who is Black’ or ‘She Who is Death.’

Kali's history and how it evolved as a God in Hinduism

It is likely the history of Kali is rooted in the history of mankind. Hindu Goddess Kali is first mentioned in the Atharva Veda that is anticipated to be published around 1200-1000 BCE. But, not many considered her to be a Goddess, she was considered to be one with a fierce black tongue, one of the seven belongings of Agni, the God of fire.

Again in 600 CE, Kali makes her appearance in the Devi Mahatmya, as the Goddess of wrath, a form of Durga. She is shown as someone with a frightening core and who is colored black. She is portrayed as the Goddess wearing animal skins and carrying khatvanga. She carries a skull-topped staff which is often associated with that of tribal shamans.

Kali is menitioned once again in the Linga Purana (circa 500 to 1000 CE) where Lord Shiva described how Devi Parvati, tried to defeat the Hindu Demons Daruka. With Parvati merging with Lord Shiva, Goddess Kali appeared who finally kills the demon.

However, it is only in the latter times, that her bloodlust becomes uncontrollable. Eventually, Shiva intervenes in order to calm her down., written around 900-1100 CE, there’s a different legend. According to the Vamana Purana, when Lord Shiva addresses Parvati as the Black one or Kali, she loses her calm and is offended.

In order to get rid of the dark complexion, she goes on to perform authorities which eventually leads to Kali becoming a different entity. Lord Shiva and Kali are often considered to be one. Hence, she is regarded as the power or Shakti of Shiva. Even in Puranas, there is a close mention of Shiva and Kali being associated to each other.

12 Forms of Kali

There has been controversy regarding the different forms. While many Puranas mention eight, other holy texts consider that there are twelve forms of Kali.

1. Kali

Kali art print
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This is one of the most significant forms. According to the Hindu mythology, the blood of the demons intoxicated the Goddess, and mistakenly she stepped on Lord Shiva, her husband, who was lying around with the corpses.

Realizing the mistake that she committed, she stuck out her tongue, portrayed in all her images.

This form of the Dark Mother or Goddess Kali is known to face the South and is known as Dakshina Kali. She is also referred to as Chamunda, for she is the ferocious slayer of the two naughty demons, Chanda and Munda. 

Chamunda has blood flowing down her tongue. All this while, Lord Shiva stands in admiration of his wife while she continues slaying the demons.

2. Chhinnamasta

Chhinnamasta is one of the weirdest Gods in Indian culture. As per the Hindu culture, Chhinnamasta stands for beheaded.

According to the culture and folklore, she holds her own severed head and drinks the blood that flows from the throat stump. Her feet stands for the heat of passion. Chhinnamasta is the God of Death as well as creation.

Kali goddess incarnation Chhinnamasta

3. Bagala Kali

Bagala Kali is the ferocious or violent God who is extremely beautiful. Compared to the natural form, she has a light complexion and stands for someone who pulls out the tongues from the demons.

4. Matangi Kali

Matangi Kali is the angry or violent reincarnation of the Goddess of Knowledge, Saraswati. She is the tantric Goddess who resides on the edges of the organized Sanatan Dharma or Hindu religion.

She is not entirely black but has a sparkling emerald green color. She is the Goddess who is offered stale food from the emerald or left hand. Matangi Kali is also referred to as Chandalini. According to the rules of Hinduism, one cannot worship Goddess Matangi at home.

The Goddess Kali - Matangi
Brooklyn Museum - The Goddess Matangi

5. Shamsana Kali

As the name suggests, Shamsana Kali is the Goddess who presides over the affairs of Shamsan or crematorium. She is worshipped only in Hindu crematoriums. She has a very human-like figure but with strange two hands and no protruding tongue unlike the other versions of Goddess Kali.

6. Tara

Maa Tara is one of the most prominent forms of Goddess Kali worshipped mostly in West Bengal, India.

One of the most important aspects that makes Tara Maa different from other forms of Hindu Goddess Kali is the light blue color. She is portrayed as naked till the waist and then covered in a tiger skin.

The Maa Tara Chandi Temple attracts thousands of devotees every year, located in Sasaram, India

7. Bhairavi Kali

Goddess Bhairav

In the Indian scriptures and culture, Bhairavi Kali stands as the harbinger of death. She is the Mother figure who defends and protects all her children and drives away the evil. Bhairavi Kali is hugely worshipped in Tripura, India.

8. Kamala Kali

Kamala Kali is the tantric form of Goddess Lakshmi. She is considered to be the symbol of wealth and prosperity. In Southern India, Goddess Kali or Kamala Kali is worshipped as ‘Gaja Lakshmi’. This is mostly because she has two elephants on either of her sides.

9. Shodoshi

Shodoshi is the seductress form of Goddess Kali. She rises from the navel of Lord Shiva and is an adolescent girl. As per the mythology, the essential Hindu Trinity of Vishnu, Brahma and Mahesh pay respect to Shodoshi.

10. Dhumavati

Not many Indians know, but Dhumavati is one of the essential forms of Goddess Kali. Dhumavati is an exceptional representation of Goddess as the window.

She is probably the only widowed God of Hindu mythology.

Dhumavati is often referred to as the spirit of smoke or Smoke Goddess. Dhumavati is the exact opposite of Goddess Lakshmi, who stands for good and auspicious.

It is for this reason that Dhumavati is also known as Alakshmi. People often worship Dhumavati or Alakshmi to go away from their houses.

Goddess Dhumavati, One of the Mahavidya
Goddess Dhumavati, One of the Mahavidya

11. Siddhi Kali

Siddhi Kali is mostly worshipped in Nepal. There’s a temple dedicated to the Goddess in Nepal known as the SiddhiKali temple. Siddhi Kali is hailed as the goddess of Astamatrika.

12. Samhara Kali

Samhara Kali is also referred to as Vama Kali, who stands as the power or symbol of destruction. According to Hindu mythology, she is one of the dangerous and powerful forms of Kali. Samhara Kali finds an important place in the Tantric texts.

According to Hindu mythology, Samhara Kali is the one who steps out with left foot and has a sword in her right hand. She is the Goddess of death and destruction. In India, mostly Indians worship tantric. Samhara Kali is responsible for providing liberation from the cycle of life or moksha.

As per Mahakala Samhita, Samhara Kali is black in complexion and has two arms. She stands on the corpses and has a freshly cut head on her hands while the dripping blood from the head is collected on the plate.

Kali and Shiva

Kali is the wife of God Shiva. Hindu Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva reflect the two aspects of transcendental reality: the silent (Shiva) and the dynamic (Kali). However, truth is not complete without the two.

According to the Upanishads, “That is far, and at the same time, that is near. That moves and that moves not. That is within, and that is without. It moves, and it moves not.” Hence, when Kali performs her duties, the reality is moving, and when Shiva performs his duties, the reality is silent.

Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva

But, when they come together to perform, it becomes a really underwhelming aspect. Our human consciousness will not be able to understand it; our divine consciousness will eventually observe it.

Lord Shiva and Kali together bring us two different forms of reality. They together fulfill the highest Supreme, and the reverses remain on both the coins. Our ordinary human eyes observe them as two separate entities, but our divine self will eventually observe them as the same.

Kali's "relations" with other Gods

Mother Kali is the wife of Lord Shiva and a reincarnation of Shakti. It is for this reason that the merged form of Kali and Shiva is known as AdiShakti. Kali’s motherhood is often hailed as the ceaseless creation. She is the divine and supreme being, and her white teeth are symbolic of purity.

She is creative, and the red tongue stands for what she stands. Kali and her attendants are said to dance to the rhythms of Lord Shiva. Kali adorns a skull garland. She is connected to other Gods in different forms. In one of her forms, Shodoshi is worshipped by the Holy Trinity of the Indian culture- Maheshwar, Brahma, and Vishnu.

Is Kali Goddess evil?

Often Kali is considered to be the Goddess of evil. However, she is not. She is the force that drives away all the evil.  Goddess Kali is said to eradicate evil from the world to save her children. She is the protector who sets out to the world to kill all demons and eventually protect the innocent children.

Kali mythology- Stories about Kali

Kali makes her appearance even in Mahabharata (verse 10.8.64). In the verse, she is referred to as Kalaratri (dark blue night). She appears in front of Pandava soldiers’ dreams and then appears during the fight while Drona’s son Ashwatthama is about to blow an attack.

One of the most famous legends of Kali is that she is the slayer of one of the Hindu Demons, Raktabija. Raktabija was blessed that his new incarnation will be formed every time a drop of blood falls on the ground. In one of the legends, Kali’s assistants, the Matrikas set out to wound the demon, Raktabija.

The Goddess Ambika Leading the Eight Mother Goddesses in Battle Against the Demon Raktabija
The Goddess Ambika Leading the Eight Mother Goddesses in Battle Against the Demon Raktabija

They do so to kill him. However, with every blood dropping on the ground, a new clone of Raktabija is formed. As a result, the battlefield becomes filled with the clones or duplicates of Raktabija. It is then that her assistants and Ambika summon Hindu Goddess Kali to help them kill the demon.

According to The Devi Mahatmyam

Out of the surface of her (Ambika’s) forehead, fierce with frown, issued suddenly Kali of terrible countenance, armed with a sword and noose. Bearing the strange khatvanga (skull-topped staff), decorated with a garland of skulls, clad in tiger’s skin very appalling owning to her emaciated flesh, with gaping mouth, fearful with her tongue lolling out, having deep reddish eyes, filling the regions of the sky with her roars, falling upon impetuously and slaughtering the great asuras in that army, she devoured those hordes of the does of the devas.

Kali consumes Raktabija and all her clones and eventually dances on all the corpses lying around. According to the Devi Mahatmyam, Kali is the Matrika or Shakti or power of the Devi.

She is hailed as the Chamunda, one who slays Chanda and Munda. Chamunda is considered to be similar to Goddess Kali and has habits similar to it as well. According to the Tantric Kali Kula Shaktism, Kali is the main or supreme Goddess and is hailed to be the source of all Goddesses. According to the stories of Yogini Tantra, the Hindu Goddess kills Ghorasura and Kolasura.

Kali's Rituals

The Kali Puja is worshipped just like the Durga Puja. During the Kali Puja, the worshippers honor the sculptures of Goddess Kali. They are also worshipped in the pandals, which are either temporary shrines or open pavilions.

During the night, she is worshipped with the Tantric mantras and rites. Goddess Kali is offered sweet, rice, hibiscus flowers, and lentils. As per the rituals, one should meditate the entire night till dawn to worship the Goddess Kali.

Many households and pandals practice the Brahmanical rituals where Kali is dressed in her Adya Shakti form and adorned with all clothes. However, as per the Brahmanical practice, there is no requirement for animal sacrifice. 

Many places in Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, and Guwahati observe the worshipping around cremation grounds. The Durga Puja of Kolkata is considered to be the same as the Kali Puja of Barasat. People from different regions observe Kali Puja in its different forms. Kali Puja in Bengal is often observed as the time of theater, fireworks, and shows.

Kali puja
Kali Puja, also known as Shyama Puja or Mahanisha Puja, is a festival dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, celebrated on the new moon day of the Hindu month Kartik especially in West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assam and Bangladesh.

Goddess Kali is worshipped in different forms around the world. However, in the Kamakhya Temple of Guwahati, Kalighat Temple of Kolkata, and Kalikhetra Temple of Bhubaneswar, Goddess Kali is worshipped in the form of Lakshmi.

During these days, the Vaishnava Haldars is reflected in the worship of Goddess Kali. During these times, Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped in her three major forms, Maha Kamiz Maha Saraswati and Maha Lakshmi. Thousands of devotees visit these temples to pay their respect to the Goddess. One of the most prominent temples dedicated to Goddess Kali is Dakshineswar Temple, Kolkata.

Kali Worship in India and Nepal today

It is stated that Kali is one of the most misunderstood Gods in the Indian culture. In Nepal, Goddess Kali is worshipped in the form of Chamunda. The Siddhi Kali Temple is one of the most prominent Kali temples in Nepal. In Nepali culture, Goddess Kali is worshipped with animal sacrifices. Another prominent temple in the Indian culture is the Dakshin Kali Temple. 

Siddhi Lakshmi temple in Bhaktapur, Nepal

However, in India there are several temples dedicated to the Goddess Kali. West Bengal itself has innumerable temples in the states dedicated to Goddess Kali. The Kalighat Kali Temple and Dakshineswar Temple are some of the most prominent temples.

Lord Paramhansa was a great devotee of Goddess Kali. It is in the Dakshineswar temple that Lord Paramhansa performed all the rites dedicated to Goddess Kali.

Is Kali Goddess dangerous?

Many people believe that it is dangerous to worship Goddess Kali. Kali is the Mother Goddess, so she will forgive and protect the people. 

In general, Kali is not dangerous, but she is dangerous for those who rebel. She is the driving force that keeps away all the evils. Worshipping Kali can take us to the heights of success even when we have nothing. The fact that Goddess Kali is evil is an illusion. She is the one who is supposed to give us power and help us rise amongst all the evil.

Many people turn to Goddess Kali as a last resort. Even if there is nothing, she will help us out. Although she has a fearful appearance, she is actually a Mother figure who will help out her children. The devotees of Kali believe that she is there to help us, even when no God helps.

Nonetheless, Kali is a very difficult God to depend on. While she can take us to the heights of success, she can also bring us down. However, if we are ignorant, we will only ruin the chances, and Goddess might punish us, which will eventually be beyond repair. If you want to start your life and move in a positive direction, you should always turn to Goddess Kali.

Goddess Kali Mantra

Bija mantra

The Bija Mantra for Goddess Kali is chanted to keep away all the evil. Chanting this mantra will help drive away all the evil forces.

Om Krim Kali

The K here stands for full knowledge. The R symbolizes the fact that Goddess Kali is auspicious. The I stands for the fact that she is the one who blesses or bestows boon. The M stands for the freedom that she offers.

Om KlimKalika- Yei Namaha

It is said that chanting this Goddess Kali Mantra can bring you relief. It provides relief from the different kinds of problems. Irrespective of what the problem is, chanting the mantra can offer you relief.

Kali Gayatri


          • Om Mahakalyai
          • Ca VidmahesmasanaVasinyai
          • Ca DhimahiTanno Kali Prachodayat

This mantra signifies that Goddess Kali is the only one who is in the Ocean of life. She is also the one who brings down the world as one into the cremation grounds. She grants us with blessings and provides us the opportunity to dwell and focus on all our positive energies.

The Fifteen syllable Mantra

The Fifteen syllable Mantra is said to help one grow in terms of spirituality. Chanting this mantra can play an important role in enhancing our spirituality and help us grow.

Hinduism and Hindu Gods

A majority of Indians are Hindus (nearly 80 percent). Hinduism originates from the Indian subcontinent and is considered the oldest and the 3rd largest religion globally in terms of adherents. Hinduism has about 1 billion followers, with more than 905 million of them being Indians. Many of its practitioners refer to it as the “eternal law.”

The Hindu name comes from “Sindhu” which refers to the Indus river that goes through Pakistan. History says that the name was used for people who had settled on the Indus river banks.

The religion comprises a variety of systems of beliefs, philosophies, rituals, traditions, and obligations. Another factor that defines the path of Hinduism is the knowledge of its sacred texts and scriptures.

These ideas and beliefs go above and beyond to prove that Hinduism is not just but a system of beliefs- it’s a way of life.

The 3 main traditions are Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism; their adherents are referred to as Shiva, Vishnu, and Shakti respectively. The roots of the religion can be traced back to the 1st millennium BCE to the female terra-cotta figurines that are found ubiquitously in excavations of sites that are found along the Indus valley.

The general nature of the religion

What makes Hinduism strikingly different from other religions is its pluralistic nature; it accepts different realities from different sources. This expansiveness is brought about by the fact that the truth cannot be encapsulated in any creedal formulation and, therefore, has to be sought from multiple sources.

According to Hinduism, one’s view of the truth is basically determined by the specifics of time, gender, state of mind, attainment, and state of consciousness.

All these factors function to expand a view of religious truth rather than minimize it. As a result, you will find that most Hindus believe intolerance as the foremost spiritual virtue. Another way in which Hinduism differs from other religions is that it has no founder and no prophets.

Although Hindus believe in a universal God called Brahman, who is the cause and foundation of all that is in existence. They also believe that he takes many different forms that may be worshiped as Indian gods. Some of the common Hindu gods’ names are Vishnu, Shiva, Lakshmi, and Saraswathi.

Devotional Sects

Indians refer to their gods as “deva” and “devi”. The former is masculine (gods) while the later is feminine (goddesses). All Hindus believe in the concept of the sacred Trimurti; Lord Brahma is the creator; Lord Vishnu is the sustainer; Lord Shiva is the destroyer. The four distinctive sects in Hinduism are:

1. Shaivism

The followers of this sect are referred to as Shaivas. They worship Lord Shiva together with all his incarnations. The Shaivas believe that Shiva is the creator, sustainer, revealer, concealer, and destroyer of the entire universe. There are several sub-sects under Shaivism.

2. Vaishnavism

The followers of this sect are referred to as Vaishnavas. They worship Lord Vishnu, all his ten incarnations, as well as the Vishvaroopa. The Vaishnavas believe that Lord Vishnu is the creator, destroyer, sustainer, revealer, and concealer of the universe. Similar to Shaivism, Vaishnavism also has several sub-sects.

3. The Shakti

The followers of the Shakti sect are known as Saktas; they believe in the divine feminine energy. Saktas translates to worshippers of the mother goddess. The Saktas believe that Shakti is the consort of Lord Shiva, and they control the universe together.

The Shakti sect believes that masculinity is incomplete without femininity and the two are needed for the completeness of the universe.

4. Smarta Sampradaya

The Smarta Sampradaya orthodox sect has followers from the Hindu Brahmin families that consider the Hindu scriptures to be the most authoritative texts of Hinduism. Since they believe in the Smrtis (the scriptures), the followers are referred to as the Smartas.

The Smartaz only worship 5 divinities which they believe to be the animate forms of Brahman itself: Shiva, Vishnu, Devi, Ganesh, and Surya- the Sun god.

The goals of human life

In Hinduism, there are four goals for human life that a believer can attain through his actions while they are alive. A person is expected to fulfill all these goals to lead a fruitful life and to get free from the cycle of reincarnation. 

These goals make up the Hindus way of life. The 4 goals are collectively referred to as the purusarthas and they include:

1. Dharma

Dharma relates to a person’s religious duties. This goal refers to the life code that involves respecting one’s elders and marriage.

2. Artha

Artha relates to a person’s prosperity. This second goal represents the pursuit of wealth and material gains by lawful means.

3. Karma

This goal gives a person the chance to reincarnate to a higher level through good and pure acts. Karma relates to the pleasures we give ourselves and how they affect our afterlife.

4. Moksha

Moksha translates to spiritual liberation. It’s referring to the final release of the soul from the cycle of reincarnation


Hindus believe that the soul is an eternal entity and exists through multiple lifetimes. The soul gets into a new creature after the previous body dies; it may be reborn as a person, an animal, or sprout as a plant. They do believe that everything that is living has a soul.

Reincarnation goes on and on until all the soul’s beliefs are realized. Afterward, the soul achieves some form of “freedom” that Indians refer to as Moksha.

There are four different paths to take to achieve this freedom. They are:

  1. The path of knowledge
  2. The path of devotion
  3. The path of meditation
  4. The path of good works

Also, Hindus believe that how the soul comes back is dependent on karma. They argue that any challenges that you experience in your current life are as a result of how you acted in your previous life. They, therefore, live their lives cautiously to earn a better life after their soul is reborn.

Worship and Pilgrimage

Daily worship is a mandatory part of Hinduism. They often at home, to a shrine, such as statues, a unique alter, a particular room, and even pictures. Believers gather on the weekends at the temples (Mandirs) to worship together.

Hinduism facts also tell us that pilgrimage is also an important part of the religion. The most important one being the Chaar Dhaam; this should be done at least once during a person’s lifetime.

Other major Hindu pilgrimages are the Barah Jyotirlinga Yatra, and Kumh Mela. The later is held after every three years and is a mass pilgrimage whereby the believers meet at a sacred river and bathe.

The holy scriptures

The Hindu Holy Scriptures comprise of multiple works that are divided into Sruti and Smrti. In general, the scriptures talk about theology, mythology, and religious philosophies.

The Sruti (revealed) scriptures describe Hindu rituals and practices and are made up of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Aranyakas, and the Brahmanas. On the other hand, the Smrti (remembered) scriptures define sacred thoughts and are made up of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata among others.

Three holy scriptures: Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata, Ramayana

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Bhagavad Gita - Click for details!

The main Hindu Gods

As we saw earlier, Brahman is the Hindu Supreme Being. Some other Hindu/Indian gods and goddesses represent Brahman’s different aspects. The foremost among them is the Indian god Shiva and the Indian gods, Ganesh.  All these gods are special to Indians in their unique way.

It’s about time we have a look at the different Hindu deities and what they represent. Below is a list of the major Indian gods and goddesses that everyone should familiarize with before making a pilgrimage trip to India. We have narrowed down the list to make it easy for you to wrap your head around the deities.

1. Lord Shiva

Shiva is one of the principal Hindu deities worshipped as the creator, maintainer, and destroyer; he represents death and dissolution. Other names used to refer to Lord Shiva are Mahadeva, Nataraja, Pashupati, Vishwanath, and Bhole Nath. He is the Supreme Being that protects and maintains the universe;

Shiva maintains balance by death and destroying worlds so that Brahma can bring rebirth and recreate them. He is also said to offer protection for his followers from anger, greed, ignorance, lust, and other traits that stand in the way of divine enlightenment. Shiva is usually being depicted as a phallic symbol referred to as the Shiva Lingam.

hindu gods and their stories
Shiva Linga pooja (credit: Nevil Zaveri )
Hindu god stories
Shiva Linga ritual (credit: India Ministry of Culture )

According to the Shaivism sect, the highest form of Shiva is a formless and limitless soul of the universe. Shiva means “nothingness,” translating to omnipresent; this means that he is present in the form of one’s consciousness.

In addition to that, Shiva is also considered the master of dance and regeneration. He is one of the most complex Indian gods. He’s the benevolent herdsman of souls and the wrathful avenger, one who can kill or injure the forces of darkness.

Shiva often wears a crown of skulls and a snake around his upper arms and neck. It symbolizes that he has power over the most deadly of creatures.

The head represents the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. As a destroyer, he is dark and terrible.

Lastly, Shiva is often depicted with a third eye, which symbolizes higher consciousness. Whenever necessary, the eye can be used to destroy his enemies with fire.

2. Lord Vishnu

Vishnu is the second deity of the Hindu trinity and is known to be the preserver and sustainer of life representing the principles of truth, order, and righteousness.

Lord Vishnu

He is also referred to as Jagannath, Vithoba, Narayana, and Hari. Hindus, who pray faithfully to Lord Vishnu, are referred to as Vaishnavas. They believe Vishnu will come to their rescue to restore peace in times of disorder.

Vishnu is believed to preserve life through his adherence to truth, order, righteousness, and order. He is known to encourage his followers to always be kind and compassionate to all creatures.

He is commonly depicted with four arms that represent his omnipotence and omnipresence.

It’s not uncommon to see Vishnu seated upon a coiled snake. It means the ability to stay calm in the face of adversity, chaos, and destructive forces.

Vishnu is worshipped in the forms of incarnations that are also referred to as avatars. The ten embodiments (collectively known as Dashavatara) are:

2.1 Matsya: The Fish

Matsya, the fish. The first avatar is said to have rescued man and other creatures from great floods. It gave humanity a warning about the coming floods and asked him to carry grains and other living creatures in a boat. Matsya then held onto the ship through the turbulent waters all night until the storm ended. Afterward, Brahma created the present world.

54mm round Matsya MANU Fish
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Matsya the fish - Lord Vishnu incarnation

It’s often depicted as a giant golden fish or a human torso connected to a fish’s tail.

2.2 Kurma: The Tortoise

The Kurma avatar is the incarnation that relates to the myth of churning the ocean to obtain the treasures dissolved in the ocean of milk.

stories of hindu gods
Indian gods - Lord Vishnu incarnation - Kurma the tortoise

In this myth, the giant tortoise was sent to help support the world on his back to prevent it from sinking in the ocean. Kurma kept the land until the nectar of immorality emerged.

2.3 Varaha: The Boar

Varaha the boar (credit: G41rn8 )

Varaha saved the earth by raising it from the bottom of the sea, where it had been dragged by the demon Hiranyaksha during a battle that had taken 1,000 years. He dived into the ocean and pulled the world out, using his tusks and his massive snout.

This avatar is depicted as a full boar and sometimes takes a boar’s head on top of a human body.

2.4 Narashima: The Man-Lion

The legend tells of a tyrant demon that had become too arrogant because it could not be harmed or killed by any means.

Hindu god of rebirth
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Narashima, the man-lion

As a result, he started causing trouble both on earth and in heaven. Vishnu took the form of a man-lion, Narashima, to slay the demon that had turned against his son Prahlada.

2.5 Vamana: The Dwarf

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To destroy the demon king Bali, Vishnu took the form of a dwarf. Once he had already taken the form of a dwarf, he visited Bali, who had already taken over the universe and caused other gods to lose their power. Vamana asked Bali to give him just three feet of land.

After his wish was granted, he transformed from a dwarf into a giant and took the whole earth with the first foot. With the second step, he took over the heavens, and with the third, he pushed down Bali’s head to the underworld.

hindu stories of gods
Indian god Vamana the dwarf

2.6  Parashurama: The Angry Man

Parasurama appeared to protect humanity and restore social order, corrupted by an arrogant warrior, Kshatriya. He is depicted as an angry man carrying an ax. For this reason, he is sometimes referred to as Rama with an ax.

Bhagawan Parashurama With Shiva Linga
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Parashurama, the angry man

This avatar destroyed the bad kings of the earth who had become autocratic and started to harm and harass the people.

2.7 Rama: The Perfect Man

Lord Rama is often depicted with blue skies, in an upright position with a bow and arrows. He is considered to be a compassionate man who is the perfect embodiment of humanity. He represents reason, courage, devotion, and adherence to Dharma.

Antique Majapahit Style Bronze Javanese Rama Statue - Click for details!

Rama came to earth to fight Ravana, the demon with multiple heads. The bow and arrow that he carries are a symbol of his readiness to fight and destroy even for the sake of protecting righteousness. Hindus celebrate him as Ramayana during Diwali.

2.8 Krishna: The Divine Statesman

The eighth avatar of Vishnu is Lord Krishna, one of the most widely revered deities in Hinduism and is kept close to the believers’ hearts. He is also the most powerful incarnation. Hindus view Lord Krishna as a hero and a leader and as a teacher and a friend.

This beloved Hindu god is the destroyer of sins and an embodiment of joy, happiness, and love. Krishna is commonly depicted as a statesman who changes the rules shrewdly. He also takes a variety of other forms due to the many stories surrounding him.

Krishna - Large Vintage-style Indian Hindu devotional poster print
Krishna - Large Vintage-style Indian Hindu devotional poster print - Click for details!
Brass Radha Krishna Statue
Brass Radha Krishna Statue - Click for details!
Indian gods - Lord Krishna
Lord Krishna with Arjuna, a famous scene from the Mahabharata

He’s portrayed as having blue skin, wearing a crown of peacock feathers with a yellow loincloth in pictures. Krishna is often drawn with a flute that he uses for his seductive powers. The following YouTube video is Bhajan, Love songs to Krishna, by Meera Bai.

2.9 Balarama: Krishna's Elder Brother

Balarama is often portrayed as having pale skin in contrast to that of Krishna, which is blue. He said to have engaged in many adventures together with his brother.

Balarama God Painting
Balarama God painting - Click for details!
Hindu gods stories
Balarama, Krishna's elder brother

In several versions of myths, Balarama is not commonly worshipped as an independent entity. The stories usually focus on his prodigious strength.

2.10 Kalki: The Mighty Warrior

Kalki is the last incarnation of Vishnu. His name also translates to “eternity.” He is expected to come to the very end and come carrying a fiery sword and riding on top of a white horse. Kalki comes to do away with the world of oppression by unrighteous rulers.

Hindu stories about gods
Kalki, the last incarnation of Vishnu

3. Ganesh - The Remover of Obstacles

Ganesh, also known as  Ganapati, Binayak, Vinayaka, or Pillaiyar, is a chubby pot-bellied god with an elephant head and is said to be the son of Shiva and Parvati. His features make him very easy to identify.

All Hindu sects worship Ganesha; they believe that he’s the god of wealth, success, and knowledge. It makes him a significant god, perhaps the most important of them all.

Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi Idol - Hindu God Brass Statue
Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi - Hindu God Brass Statue - Click for details!
Original, Ganesha and Krishna, Original Handmade Painting - Click for details!

Lord Ganesh is portrayed as riding a rat that helps him remove any barriers that hinder one’s success. The rat is capable of gnawing through any obstacles on the way. Ganesh also bestows wisdom on how to acquire fortunes.

Hindus pray to Ganesh before a big venture or ceremony such as a wedding or investment in a business. Authors and poets also invoke him as patron of letters at the start of their books.

The statues of Ganesh are a common sight in most towns. Indians place the image of Ganesh in locations where they plan on building a house.

Ganesh is depicted as a red being with four arms, a single task, and playing a musical instrument. The fact that he has one broken tusk attributes to his last name, “Ekadanta,” which translated to “one-tusked.”

He, at times, maybe holding a noose that is called Pasam, a pot of rice, an elephant goad, or laddus, which are his favorite sweets. In images, his characteristic belly is usually bound by a cobra that acts as a reminder that Ganesh is Shiva’s son.

4. Hanuman - The Monkey God

Hanuman is yet another Indian god that is easily distinguishable. He is the son of Anjana and Kesari and the son of Vayu, the wind god.

Hanuman Statue buy online
Indian art Hanuman statue - Click for details!
Hindu deities
Hanuman, the monkey-facedn Hindu deity

The monkey-faced Hindu deity symbolizes courage, power, devotion, physical strength, perseverance, and selfless service. Hanuman is also a symbol of resistance to persecution, inner self-control, faith in a cause, and the ideal combination of heroic initiative and assertive excellence.

Worshippers often call upon Hanuman in trying times and in times of trouble as he teaches them the unlimited power within them.

Hanuman helped Lord Rama when he battled against evil forces, as described in Ramayana. Hanuman’s owers include his ability to become significant at will. He could easily fight the elephant by assuming a much larger form.

5. Kali - The Dark Goddess

Kali, also referred to as Kalika, Shyama, or the dark mother is perhaps the fiercest deity. She is Shiva’s other wife and appears as a four-armed woman with a protruding blood-soaked tongue, blue or black skin, a skirt of bones, and a garland of skulls.

Sculpture Carving of Kali Hindu Deity Goddess of Renewal
Sculpture of Kali Hindu deity - Click for details!
most dangerous Hindu god
Kali, Most dangerous Hindu god

These features symbolize the ego’s death and act as a reminder for people that their bodies are only in a temporary state.

The goddess image portrays her standing atop her husband, Shiva, who remains calm under her feet. Kali’s eyes are red in absolute rage and filled with intoxication from Raktabija’s blood. She also has fangs in between which the tongue rolls.

In her most famous legend, when Durga and her assistants injured Raktabija in an attempt to destroy him, they noticed that they had only made the situation worse.

Each one of his blood droplets produced a clone of Raktabija. Kali was summoned to handle the situation of the multiplying demon. She consumed Raktabija and all his duplicates; she spread her tongue across the battlefield and licked all the blood falling from the demon before it hit the ground.

To celebrate, Kali performed a wild dance on the battlefield and adorned herself with several heads’ garland.

6. Devi

Devi is the Hindu goddess of existence; the masculine version is Deva. Generally, she is the sum of all mother forms, including Durga, Kali, Lakshmi, and Jagannatha.

While in some forms, she is gentle, in others, she is ferocious. In short, she is the one, and at the same time, she is the many. Under several other aspects, Devi is also viewed as a cosmic force, a gracious donor of wealth, a heroine, a protector, and as a semi-divine force that manifests through fertility spirits.

Sterling silver Durga pendant
Sterling Silver Durga pendant - Click for details!
Handcrafted Annapura Devi
Handcrafted Annapura Devi - Click for details!

In most legends, Devi is depicted as an ideal wife and a mother. She is a divine feminine figure with a strong presence in Hinduism. Devi is the central and supreme being in the Shakta and Saiva Hindu traditions. In Smarta, Devi is among the five primary forms of Brahman.

Goddess Durga poster
Durga goddess poster - Click for details!
Indian gods stories
Devi, goddess of existence

Saiva Hindu traditions. In Smarta, Devi is among the five primary forms of Brahman. In Hinduism, Devi is symbolized as a cow since cows nourish us and give us endless resources.

Kamadhenu, the sacred and divine cow, is a deity of Devi and is often regarded as a pure mother who sustains human life and grants us our wishes.

It is in her that all the other gods are said to reside; she represents Dharma itself. Hindus love, protect, and respect cows because they sustain the life of many different species. It is contrary to popular belief that they worship cows.

For the longest time, eating beef was considered a sin in India. Cows were kept for milk and other dairy products and for their dung that was used as fuel and as manure. Hinduism encourages eating vegetarian food. However, civilization has changed the man-bovine relationship in India. There are several slaughterhouses around the country where cattle are slaughtered and sold for consumption.

7. Lakshmi

Lakshmi is the goddess of fortune, wealth, and both material and spiritual prosperity. She’s also known as Shri or Laxmi and is the wife of Vishnu. The name Lakshmi is derived from Laksya, which translates to the goal.

This beautiful goddess is depicted as a golden complexion woman with four-arms and wearing a red silk dress. She’s either seated or standing upon a massive dew-drenched lotus blossom while holding a lotus bud. Lakshmi symbolizes purity, beauty, and domesticity.

Antique Thai Style Lakshmi Statue
Antique Thai Style Lakshmi Statue - Click for details!
Lakshmi, goddess of fortune

Her image adorns most homes and business establishments of the faithful. Each one of her four arms represents the four goals of human life. People must appreciate and respect all the laws of life and the wonders of existence to realize them.

Although she’s often described as restless, Lakshmi is maternal and has her hands raised, ready to bless. Today Lakshmi is worshipped as the goddess of wealth and luxury who holds the promise of contentment and material fulfillment. Festivals such as Diwali and Sharad Purnima are celebrated in her honor.

8. Durga - The Invincible

Durga is the ultimate representation of the Divine Mother. She symbolizes the fiery powers of the gods. She is the protector of humankind and the destroyer of evils such as jealousy, ego, and hatred. The Hindu goddess Durga is portrayed with eight arms holding onto a myriad of weapons and riding a lion. The weapons show that Durga is always protecting humanity from all directions.

Durga Statue - Antique Javanese Style
Durga Statue - Antique Javanese Style - Click for details!
Hindu god of happiness
Durga, the Divine Mother

Durga is sublime and contains within her a combination of the power of all Hindu gods. She’s immune to the weapons of all those who seek to subjugate her- she always triumphs. In her most ferocious form (when she is furious), Durga Metamorphoses into Kali.

9. Parvati - Daughter of the Mountain

Parvati is also referred to as the Divine Homemaker- the goddess of marriage, motherhood, and family. She caused Shiva to become a family man who still stuck to his old ways as a hermit.

925 Sterling Silver God Shiva and Parvati pendant
925 Sterling Silver God Shiva and Parvati pendant - Click for details!
Parvati, goddess of marriage, motherhood, and family

After the death of his first love, Shiva isolated himself from the world and went to live in a dark cave in the Himalayas. Later on, Parvati was born. She would visit Shiva’s cave to clean and decorate it with flowers. She also brought him fruits.

After a while, Shiva took Parvati as his wife, for she melted his heart with affection. Parvati had a son by herself without the aid of her husband. His name was Ganesh.

10. Saraswati

list of Hindu gods
Saraswati, goddess of art, music, learning, and knowledge

Saraswati is the goddess of art, music, learning, and knowledge. She is the daughter of Shiva and Durga, who represents the free flow of consciousness. Saraswati endows human beings with the powers of speech and understanding.

She is mostly depicted as a beautiful woman seated on a white lotus playing the lute. Saraswati is portrayed in images dressed in pure white.

The color white symbolizes her purity; she neither wears jewelry nor paints herself with bright colors. She has four arms that hold different items: a water pot, a Pustaka, which is a script, a musical instrument, and a mala, which is a rosary.

The water pot represents the ability to differentiate between right and wrong. The Pustaka represents all forms of learning that bring divine knowledge.

The musical instrument, which is a lute, represents all the creative arts and sciences. Lastly, mala represents the power of meditation. Some Indians celebrate the festival of Vasant Panchami in her honor. They commemorate this day (the 5th day of spring) by teaching children to write the alphabet.

Foreigner's perspective about Hindu Gods

Because Hinduism has so many divinities and is full of different sects and spiritual practices, many people think Hinduism is polytheistic. It could not be further from the truth. Even though Indians believe in multiple gods and follow different paths, it’s clear that their main goal is to reach the Supreme Being, Brahman. To Hindus, all the other gods are but manifestations of eternal power.

Hindus refer to their religion as “Sanatana Dharma,” a term that translates to a law that does not have a beginning or an end. It is this aspect that gives Hinduism its own unique identity. A Hindu can worship any one of the 300 million gods, depending on his/her choice.

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