Types of Gods in Ancient Indian Culture by Arun Arjun Kurkute SignUp

Types of Gods in Ancient Indian Culture
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The term koti in Sanskrit has two meaning, one is Type Supreme', Pre-eminent, Excellent and the other is crore. So, somewhere in translation, they missed the basic fact that ancient indian literatures has 33 Supreme Gods and not 33 Crore Gods.

Nevertheless, it is true that the Vedic Sanskrit is different from the normal spoken Sanskrit, hence the major (both intentional & unintentional) mistakes happen in interpreting the Vedas.

In the Vedas, there is a mention of 33 Deities/Devas. These Gods are separated in the following pattern: 12 is the number of Adityas, + 11 are the number of Rudras, + 8 is the number of Vasus, + 1 is Prajapati, the Master of Gods, and + 1 Brahma is a Supreme Ruler who is very powerful. = 33.

12 Adityas (personified deities) correspond to the 12 Solar months and represent different attributes of social life. The ancient indians especially venerated the Adityas and Vedas are full of hymns dedicated to Indra, Agni, Surya, Varun;

These are:

1. Indra/Shakra (eldest and the undoubted leader of other Adityas)
2. Ansh (due share),
3. Aryaman (nobility),
4. Bhaag (due inheritance),
5. Dhatri (ritual skill),
6. Tvashtar (skill in crafting),
7. Mitra (friendship),
8. Pushan/Ravi (prosperity),
9. Savitra/Parjanya (power of word/rejuvenation), ),
10. Surya/Vivasvan (social law),
11. Varun (fate),
12. Vaman (cosmic law).

8 Vasus are attendant deities of Indra and comprise of eight elemental gods that represent the different aspects of Nature. name Vasu means 'Brilliance' or 'Wealth Givers'. They are:

1. Anil/Vayu (Wind),
2. Apas (Water),
3. Antariksh/Dyaus ("Atmosphere/Space/Sky),
4. Dhara/Pruthivi (Earth),
5. Dhruv/Nakshatra (Pole Star),
6. Anal/Agni (Fire),
7. Prabhas/Surya (Dawn/Sun),
8. Soma/Chandra (Moon).

11 Rudras: 5 - abstractions –

1. Ananda (bliss),
2. Vijnyana (knowledge),
3. Manas (thought),
4. Prana (breath/ life),
5. Vac (speech),

5 - names of Shiva –

1. Isana (ruler/revealing grace),
2. Tatpurusha (that person/concealing grace),
3. Aghora/Bhairava (not terrible/dissolution/rejuvenation),
4. Vamadeva (pleasant god/preserving aspect),
5. Sadyojata (born at once)

1 – Aatman (spiritual self)

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the 11 Rudras are represented by ten vital energies (rudra-prana) in the body and the eleventh one being the Aatman.

33 divinities are mentioned in the Yajur-veda, Atharva-veda, Satapatha-brahmana, and in several other Vedic and later texts. The number thirty-three occurs with reference to divinities in the Parsi scriptures of Avesta as well. The expression trayastrimsa deva is found in the list of classes of gods in Sanskrit Buddhist texts like the Divyavadana and Suvarnaprabhasa-sutra.

The word koti in 'trayastrimsati koti' does not mean the number '33 crore' or '330 million'. Here koti means 'supreme', pre-eminent, excellent, that is, the 33 'supreme' divinities.

The word koti has the same meaning as uchha koti.

It was a problem even in AD 725 when Subhakarasimha and his Chinese colleague I-hsing translated the Mahavairocana-sutra into Chinese. They rendered the compound sapta-koti-buddha as shichi (sapta) kotei (koti) butsu (buddha) in which they did not translate the word koti that transliterated its pronunciation as kotei. The Buddhas were not 'seven crore', but only 'Seven Supreme Buddhas': six predecessors and the historic Buddha. Tibetan masters who translated Sanskrit texts into Tibetan, rendered koti by rnam which means 'class, kind, category'.

May Varuna with guidance straight,
And Mitra the One-who-knows,
And Aryaman in accord with Aditya,
Guide us forth, like the wind that blows,
As with their Might Evermore
They guard the Sacred Laws,
Shelter may they vouch safe to us,
Immortal Gods to mortal men..

The Vedic Seers of ancient India knew that mere words could not capture the essence of the Supreme Reality. However, they did not give up trying, and shared their visions as hymns dedicated to the various sentient beings guarding the natural and supernatural phenomena around them. These guardians of the Three Lokas were referred to as Devas (Sanskrit root 'Div' meaning the 'Shining One').

The effulgent Devas


Devas The derived term 'Deus' or 'Dios' from the same root, is still used to refer to God in modern European languages and even in the New Testament of Bible. Many people believe that Hindus worship 33 Crore Devtas but that is nothing but a myth in Sanskrit the word koti refers to both crore as well as type and the use of the first meaning has led to the spread of this false belief. The oldest Hindu texts enumerate 33 principle Devas who were the guardians of Nature and Cosmic Creation.

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad in fact has a clear discussion between a rishi Vidagdha and the foremost authority of those times Rishi Yagnavalkya. The younger rishi starts by asking how many gods are there and Yagnavalkya begins his answer with three thousand and three and ends by saying that they are but the manifestations of the thirty-three. These principal 33 Devas are: 12 Adityas or Solar gods including Indra, Surya, Mitra and Varun

11 Rudras, the Manifestations of Lord Shiva

8 Vasus or Elemental gods such as Vayu, Agni, Antariksh and Dyaus, the Sky God

Prajapati Brahma

• Shri Hari Vishnu

33 koti gods = 8 Vasus + 11 Rudras + 12 Adityas + 2 Heaven and Earth ( 8+ 11 + 12 + 2 = 33).

The 12 Adityas:--

Indra/Shakra (eldest and the undoubted leader of other Adityas)
Ansh (due share),
Aryaman (nobility),
Bhaag (due inheritance),
Dhatri (ritual skill),
Tvashtar (skill in crafting),
Mitra (friendship),
Pushan/Ravi (prosperity),
Savitra/Parjanya (rejuvenation),
Surya/Vivasvan (social law),
Varun (fate),
Vaman (cosmic law).

Indra/Shakra, of course is the eldest and the undoubted leader of other Adityas and has proved his worth on numerous occasions, most famous of his exploits being the slaying of the dragon Vritra.

Indra leads the Adityas

Interestingly, these 12 Adityas were adopted into Chinese and Japanese Buddhism as guardians of the monasteries covering the four main directions, four semi-directions, above, below and the Sun and Moon.

A similar depiction is found on a rock-cut cave far away in Yazili Kaya in Turkey! This rock-cave has multiple depictions of Gods and Goddesses that resemble Hindu gods. The lower chamber in this cave shows a frieze with 12 gods carved onto it who were worshiped by the people known as Hittites.

The 12 Adityas from Turkey - yazi+kaya

Buddhist Cosmology expands the concept of the 33 Devas further and describes a separate Heaven for them called the Tavatimsa, on top of Mount Meru, similar to Mount Olympus of the Greeks in purpose as well as function). The father of Indra is Dyaus who is worshiped as Zeus in Greek Mythology, Deus-Pater or Jupiter in Roman Mythology, and as Judaea in Hebrew traditions. In Slavic Mythology, the same name appears as Div and in Norse Mythology as Ziu or Tyr.

Dyaus Pita/Zeus Pater/Jupiter


In fact, a number of gods in Indo-European civilizations have similar names as well as functions. In Norse mythology, Odin is the All-father resembling Dyaus/Zeus. The Greek god Ouranos & Vedic Varun are very similar in terminology as well as attributes. Likewise, the Hindu Storm-gods known as Maruts are quite similar to Mars, the Roman God of War.

The Mittanis of middle-east (2000 BCE) worshiped Mitra, Varun, Indra, Tvatsa and Nasatya (One of the two Ashvini brothers)! Greeks also worshiped one of the Adityas, Mithras while the Egyptians and Romans were big devotees of another Aditya Surya/Apollo/Ra.

The rivalry between Devas and their elder brothers Asuras also finds echo in the legends of Titans and their younger brothers Olympians.

According to Satapatha Brahmana 4:5:7:2/3 There are eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas; and these two, Heaven and Earth, are the (thirty-second and) thirty-third. And there are thirty-three gods, and Prajapati is the thirty-fourth;--thus he makes him (the sacrificer, or Yagna) to be Prajapati 2: now that 3 is, for that is immortal, and what is immortal that is. But what is mortal that also is Prajapati; for Prajapati is everything: thus he makes him to be Prajapati, and hence there are these thirty-four utterances, called expiations.

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08/28/2019 03:53 AM

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