Would you like to travel to India on your next vacation and you interested in discovering more about its culture and customs? One of the least known aspects to Westerners is the Hindu religion, very important to know the way of thinking and feeling of the inhabitants of India.
The Hindu religion is replete with tales and fantastic deeds performed by gods, demigods, demons, humans, and other creatures. However, the main gods of Hinduism are three: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Each represents an essential force for the existence of the universe: its creator is Brahma, the continuity force is Vishnu and the destructive force is Shiva. All three are the Trimurti or “three forms” in Sanskrit, that is, the Hindu trinity.
What role does the Trimurti have? What are the roles of each god within it? In this post we will delve into the Hindu religion to get to know these three gods a little better and especially Vishnu. Keep reading after the jump!
As I said, three are the most important gods of Hinduism: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. They all form the trimurti and each one of them has a force that achieves the balance of the universe, so that it is not possible to conceive of the creation (Brahma) or the destruction of the universe (Shiva). Furthermore, in truth its conservation is a power that sustains the cosmic order. This is how the faithful of this religion understand the universe and hence the great importance of these gods in it.
From Brahma Brahmanism founded in India. A branch of Hinduism that regards him as the superior god, the origin of all other gods, who are manifestations of him. From the Aryan invasions, Brahmanism was born, who saw Shiva and Vishnu as minor deities.
Who is Vishnu?
Recognized in the Hindu religion as the god of goodness and conservation. He is the main deity of the current of Vaisnavism which is a branch of Hinduism that has Vishnu as the supreme god. According to this current, being the creator of the universe. This god decided to unfold himself in trimurti or “three forms.”
Vishnu charged with the mission of balancing good and evil in the world and human beings ask him for assistance in finding the way to salvation.
Etymological interpretation of Vishnu
When analysing the name of the deity in its etymological sense, part of the root “vis” means to settle or permeate which would come to express one of the qualities of Vishnu “the one who permeates everything.”
In this way, it concluded that his name refers to the god who impregnated all things and beings that live in the world. Starting from this premise, Vishnu not limited in time, space or substance. His power becomes infinite. Likewise, there are researchers who maintain that the etymological interpretation of the name is “that being that penetrates everything.”
How is Vishnu described?
He is usually represented as a blue-skinned god with human form and four arms. That hold various objects that carry different meanings:
- A padma (a lotus flower whose fragrance is liked by the Vishnuists)
- A sudarshaná chakrá (a contraption similar to the one worn by ninja warriors that Vishnu uses to annihilate demons)
- A shankhá (a conch shell whose sound in India represents victory after defeating an enemy)
- A mace of gold (to smash the heads of evildoers)
He is often shown sitting on a lotus flower with Laksmi, his consort, on one of his knees. She is the goddess of fortune and manifests herself in bhuti-sakti (creation) and kriya-sakti (creative activity). Since Vishnu cannot be part of his own creativity (ahamta) or his own energy, he needs a consort who is always with him. For this reason, the goddess Laksmi has to accompany Vishnu in all her incarnations.
What theological attributes of Vishnu and how is he revered?
The god Vishnu possesses different divine attributes: obtaining what he wants (prakamya), superiority (isitva), quality of suppressing desires (kama vasayitva), control over others (vasitva), achieving anything (prapti), supernatural powers (aishwaria ), knowledge (gnana) or energy (shakti), among many others.
It is not known for sure when or how Vishnu began to worship. In the compilations of the beliefs of the Aryans (the Vedas) this god closely associated with Indra and classified as a minor god. Only later did he become part of the trimurti in the Hindu religion and the most important god of all of this faith.
Today Hindus believe that Vishnu incarnated as various avatars on Earth and this god worshiped in the form of these avatars assiduously.
What are the avatars of Vishnu?
Within Hinduism, an avatar is the incarnation of a god, specifically Vishnu. That is, the equivalent of the demigods in Greco-Roman mythology. Within Vaisnavism, these avatars congregated in various classes according to personality and role defined in the Scriptures.
- Vananá: the dwarf, came out in ruse-iugá.
- Matsia: the fish, appeared in satia-iugá.
- Kurma: the turtle, came out in satia-iugá.
- Varaja: the wild boar, appeared in satia-iugá.
- Narasinja – The half lion, half man incarnation. He came out in satia-iugá to defeat the demon Jirania Kashipú.
- Parashurama: (Rama with ax), appeared in treta-iugá.
- Rama: the monarch of Aiodhia, came out in treta-iugá.
- Krishna: (the attractive) appeared in duapara-jugá, together with his brother Balaram. Most Visnuist movements see him as the personification of Vishnu.
- Buddha: (the sage) came out in Kali-iugá. The versions that do not mention Buddha as the ninth avatar state Balaram instead.
- Kalki: the destroyer of the impure. It expected to appear at the end of kali-iugá.
Ages of mankind
In Hinduism a iuga is each of the four eras into which a great era or majā iuga divided. The four eras or iugas are:
- Satia-iuga (era of truth): 1,728,000 years old.
- Duapara-iuga: 864,000 years old.
- Treta-iuga: 1,296,000 years old.
- Káli-iuga: era of the demon Kali of 432,000 years.