Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Hindu Temple




1.    Vishnu

a.    Traditional representation with discus, lotus, mace, and conch shell

b.    10 Avatara, including:

                                     i.     Krishna

1.    As youth

2.    As child

                                    ii.     Rama: of the epic Ramayana

c.    Saving the world from disorder, maintaining dharma

2.    Shiva

d.    A paradoxical god: mythology cycles between two central modes of being

                                     i.     Lord of yoga, ideal world renouncer, celibate

                                    ii.     Householder: family, active sexually, maintaining the world

3.    The Goddess: Devi

e.    Embody the fundamental, female power that animates the universe – Shakti

f.     Two types of manifestations in the goddess mythology of the potential of shakti

                                     i.     Positive potential of shakti and the benign, nurturing goddesses

1.    Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Sita

                                    ii.     Negative potential of shakti and the destructive, warrior goddesses

1.    Durga and Kali

                                  iii.     The goddess mythology reflects popular ideas about the nature of women




1.    Temple as divine image.

                                     i.     Consecrated (abishekam) like deity, “eyes” pierced at end of ceremony

2.    Temple as microcosm:

a.    Ground plan (mandala) = map of cosmos, cf. vedic fire altar, sanctum at center,

b.    The body of purusha – from essence to manifestation, purusha impresses his form on the temple.

c.    Building a temple is a ritual activity from beginning to end


3.    Northern Style (nagara):

a.    Smaller, elaborate exterior, interior sanctum dark and windowless

b.    Like a mountain and cave

c.    Note the prolixity of exterior, interior focused on source of all

d.    Moving toward the source of all, the seed of creation.  Garbhagrha (womb chamber) – a mystery at the heart.