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Vedic Gods

These are the Devas (Divinities) mentioned in the four Vedas. The principal Vedic Gods are 33 in number i.e. These are the Devas (Divinities) mentioned in the four Vedas. The principal Vedic Gods are 33 in number i.e. 8 Vasus, 11 Rudras, 12 Adityas, Indra and Prajapati Brahma. These Gods belong to the three regions of Earth (Prithvi), Heaven (Dhyaasa) and the intermediate space (Antariksha).

Indra – Indra is the most powerful of Vedic deities and the ruler of the Heavens. He is the God of the blue skies. He rides a white elephant called Airavat and wields a weapon Vajrayuddha. It is with this weapon that he killed the demon of the dark skies (clouds) Vratasura. Indra has spiritual as well as earthly facets. At times, he is more like a mortal than a God, but his spiritual side is seen in the Kena Upanishad. In Chandogya Upanishad, he studied under Prajapati Brahma and learned the secret of immortality.

Varuna was a omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and compassionate God. Varuna is the holy one, the law maker and born to Aditi and friend and brother of Mitra. He controls the world order. Varuna loses his importance in the post-Vedic period. He is the Lord of the Western hemisphere, the oceans and water.

Agni is the Minister of Sacrifice, the one who lavishes wealth and dispels darkness. No sacrifice or homa is complete without his presence. He is depicted as having two heads, long flowing hair, seven hands and three legs. His seven hands represent the seven flames and the three legs the three worlds which he lords over. His consorts are Swaha and Swadha. His banner is a Dhoomaketu (comet). The Ram is his vehicle and denotes his association with sacrificial rituals.

Rudra is a militant God of storms and lightning and a provider of medicines. When he gets angry, he wields the thunderbolt and sends down streaks of lightning, shaking the worlds. In this state he is said to have taken on the Rudravatar. The Swetavatara Upanishad refers to not one but a group of Rudras (11 in number), being a symbolic reference to the ten vital breaths, the 11th being the mind.

Mitra and Varuna are both Lords of the Heaven. Together they uphold the law. Both are responsible for the moral order. In course of time, Mitra came to be associated with the morning light and Varuna with the night skies.

Vayu is a friend of Indra, thousand eyed and swift minded. He controls thought. In the post-Vedic period, Vayu became the Lord of the North-Western quarter and the father of Hanuman, symbol of immense strength, loyalty and brotherhood.

Surya is an Aditya who rides the Heavens in his golden chariots drawn by seven horses. He is a provider of good health, maker of light and destroyer of laziness and darkness.

Vishnu is one of the Adityas but with some of the qualities of the later Vishnu (major God). The Rigvedic Vishnu is a God of three strides upholding a three fold existence – the Earth, the Heavens and under world.

Savitar, an Aditya who has powers of the Sun before the real Sun rises. The Gayatri Mantra is addressed to Savitar. He also causes enlightenment of human consciousness.

Pusan is a pastoral God, Lord of Paths, protector of people from wild animals. He also guides animals to rich pastures.

Usha is the Dawn, daughter of the Sky, who rouses all life. She is also the sister of the Ashwins.

Soma is the God of Inspiration, the intoxicant who stirs the mind and lures the Gods. He gives strength to Gods and mortals and it was with this strength that Indra was able to slay Vrata. This strength also helps Agni maintain his sway. He is also known as the Lord of Speech (Vachaspati) because of his influence on speech. On the physical plane, Soma is a juice (nectar) created for the Gods.

Yama is the God of justice and the controller who decides who goes to heaven or hell. He has two fierce dogs and aided by Chitragupta. He rules the Southern quarter, wears red garments, carries a mace and rides a male buffalo. The Rigveda calls him Vivasan’s son and he is said to have taught Nachiket the secrets of Brahma, fire sacrifice and immortality.

Ashwins are twin deities or God's physicians. They help mankind with their restorative and curative powers. They are considered to be the brothers of Usha, the Goddess of Dawn.

Maruts are destructive and powerful storm Gods. They are destructive forces of Heaven, ferocious but not wicked. They are divine beings but noisy though they have their own worshippers.

Vishwadevas means the Lords of the Universe. They are Bhaga, Daksha, Mitra, Aditi, Aryaman, Varuna, Soma, the Ashwins, Saraswati, Vayu, Prithvi, Pusan, Indra, Tarakshya, Maruts, Agni, Reet and Dikpala.

Eight Vasus – Dhara (earth), Anala (fire), Apa (water),Aneela (wind), Dhruva (pole star), Soma (moon), Prabhas (light) are the eight Vasus that are described as the eight attendants of Indra. In course of time, Dhruva became a symbol of austerity and steadfastness. The earth became the Mother deity, Soma came to be associated with Somarasa and its significance in Vedic rituals.

Twelve Adityas are upholders of the law and the twelve spokes of the Wheel of Time, the Gods of light. The twelve Adityas are Mitra, Varuna, Aryamana, Daksha, Bhaga, Amsa, Tvatsar, Savitar, Pusan, Sakra, Vivasvat and Vishnu.

Vashishta is a sage like priest and given God-like status.

Brihaspati gives wisdom to all. He is also a law maker and a teacher to whom both Gods and mortals. Hee may be the precursor of post-Vedic Ganapati.

Bhaga is God of bright light. He is a giver, supporter and discoverer of bliss.

Reet – It is the orderly way in which the Universe works and regulates itself. In course of time, Ret became Dharma and Gods the upholders of the same.

Rabhus are wise and skilled craftsmen.

Kapinjalamis a bird of Heaven who resides there and descends upon Earth to sing with his sweet flute-like voice.

Dahikravan is a mighty stallion given to Puru by the Gods. Some verses in the Rigveda are dedicated entirely to him.

Rati, the Goddess of Love.

Manyu a war God, a wielder of thunder and a slayer of foes.

Purusha was born viraja (without soul) and from him the second Purasha (Hiranyagarbha). As soon as he was born, he was sacrificed by the Gods and from this great sacrifice came everything. Purushasukta refers to the origins of these Gods and the creation of Heaven and Earth and various being and elements.

Prajanya is the Rain and Sky God. In the Vedas, Prajanya is the name for the sky.

Saraswati is the River Goddess in the Rigveda and provides water. In the post-Vedic period, she becomes a Goddess of learning and a consort of Brahma.

From vedic Gods to current

With time and influences from immigration and new sects like Jains, Ajivaks, Shaivaites, Sankhyas, Vaishikas, Vaishnavas, and so on, the Vedic scholars accepted popular Gods like Vishnu, Shiva and Shakti. Importance and Role of popular vedic Gods like Varuna, Brahma and Indra were changed.
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