Hindu Mythology and The Living Gods
Heroes of epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are immortalized and are still alive in the day-to-day existence of the common people. The gods of Hinduism are at once super-human and human and there is a distinct feeling of warmth and familiarity towards them.
Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, represents qualities such as honor, courage, and valor and is held up as a model of manliness. His wife Sita is the prototypal Indian wife who is carried off by Ravana, the king of Lanka, while Rama and Sita are in exile. Sita’s eventual rescue by Rama, his brother Lakshmana, and Rama’s faithful monkey-general Hanurnan are all woven into this engrossing tale.
Stories from this epic have been passed down orally from one generation to the next. Religious fairs, festivals, and rituals have kept these legends alive, and there is never an occasion that does not offer an opportunity to retell the old stories.
The stirring verses of the Mahabharata tell the story of the dynastic struggle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, who were close cousins. Lord Krishna plays a very important role in this Great Epic. He is a friend, philosopher, and guide to Arjuna, one of the Pandavas, and he helps Arjuna overcome his hesitation to kill his close relatives on the battlefield.
The wise philosophy of Krishna and his teachings have been embodied in the Bhagwad Gita. Although the popular image of Krishna is that of a god who steals butter as a child, and who, as a youth, plays the flute and entices cows and cowherd girls alike; in his mature years he is depicted as the wise philosopher with a more serious side to his nature.
There are numerous gods and goddesses worshipped by Hindus all over India. Among these, the most fundamental to Hinduism is the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva – creator, preserver, and destroyer respectively. Brahma has four heads corresponding to the four directions of the compass. He is the creator of life and the entire universe.
Vishnu is the preserver who guides the cycle of birth and rebirth. He is also supposed to have taken many incarnations to save the world from evil forces. Both Rama and Krishna are believed to have been incarnations of Vishnu. Shiva, usually seen with a coiled cobra around his neck, destroys all evil and also has many incarnations, not all of which are terrifying.
The invisible deities are represented by the complexity of images and idols symbolizing divine powers. Many of these idols are housed within ornate temples of unparalleled beauty and grandeur. The Hindu gods are very much alive and live in temples, snow-capped peaks, rivers and oceans, and in the very hearts and minds of the Hindus.