We Hindus Have 330 Million+ Gods, Seriously!
“Do you really believe in 33 crore (330 million) gods?”
“Yes, I do. I suspect there could be more,” I said.
The question was from Abdul Saleem, a co-passenger in the Chennai-Ernakulam Express. He was discussing about the concepts for Gods with his friend Natesh Iyer. They were college mates. I was sharing the Coach.
“You are wrong Mr.Uday. You have mistaken the meaning of Sanskrit word ‘Kodi’ as crore (=ten million). It’s normal for a layman.” Natesh said.
“Kodi means crores, right?” I asked him.
“Hahaha,” he laughed out aloud. “Kodi has another meaning – ‘type’ and ‘family’. Our puranas say that there are only 33 devas (8 Vasu, 11 Rudra, 12 Aditya, 1 Prajapati and 1 Shatkaar). We only have 33 gods in Hinduism that is mis-interpreted as 33 crores by ignorant people like you” Natesh said.
“Mr.Natesh, there are three issues here. One – In Sanskrit Koti (Kodi) means crore. There are many other meanings for that word, but, of course, not a meaning like ‘type’ or ‘category’ or ‘family’ etc. Yes, there is a distance meaning ‘prakar’ for Kodi, but even that is not mentioned anywhere (as 33 prakar God)..I had the same doubt so cross-checked with Sanskrit scholars.”
“And the second issue?” he asked.
“The 33 Vedic devas concept is not in Puranas, but it is mentioned in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (Chapter 3 as a conversation between Śākalya and Sage Yājñavalkya). It says that there are 33 devas in the celestial world, in terms of performance of yagnas. It doesn’t mention the word “koti or kodi” there. When some apologetic Hindus saw the number 33 there, they might have mixed it up with a different concept of 33 crore devas that mentioned in Puranas. But Vedas also lists lot of other gods. Rig-Veda itself mentions about “3,339 devas have worshipped Agni”. It also describes Vishnu as younger brother to Indra. If there are only 33 devas, what about those inhabitants in Swargaloka? There are 14 Indras. His army, his sons, members of his court – millions of devas are supposed to be there. Then there are lot of gods in Kailasam (Shiva’s abode), Vaikuntam (Vishnu’s abode) etc. What about Vishnu’s 24 avatars? ”
“What’s the third issue? “Abdul asked.
“Mr.Natesh should explain the Tamil phrase, ‘Muppathu Mukkodi Devargal’? Does it mean 33 types of gods? Most of the old texts and regional scriptures talk about 33 crore gods…”
“But sir, Seriously, do you really believe in such non-sense? There is only one god…”Abdul said.
“Yes, yes… in Hinduism also there is only one god – Brahmam. We call it in many names, that’s it…”Natesh said.
“Brahmam is not god. It is the Ultimate Reality – it is all inclusive. There is nothing separate from Brahmam…The God in question is a totally different concept.” I said, “God is not English translation for any of these words- Devta, Deva, Ishwar, Bhagwan, Daivam etc. They are not one and the same. The words ‘Ishvara’ and ‘Devata’ are often translated as “god” leading to a such common misunderstanding. Diety could be a better word for deva.”
“Mr.Uday, there is only one god in this universe. He is infinite. He cannot be captured in images and idols. Only pagan idiots will worship as images…” Abdul said. I could see Natesh’s face changing into red.
“I doubt whether God is he, she or it. If God is infinite, and cannot be captured in images or idols, tell me Abdul, how can he be captured in mere words? The vocabulary is used only to describe that is reachable. An image is worth more than thousand words. The definitions and description of God in all religious books are, in a way, an attempt to image God. At least, Idol worshippers are sincere enough not to say that idols are what God looks like!” I said.
I saw Abdul’s face becoming red. He said: “God is one. The God Almighty – praise be upon him – has clearly declared: You will worship none but me that you will associate none with me, and that none of you shall set up mortals as deities besides me. If you commit the foulest sin by worshipping any other Gods (other than me) or associating partner with me, I shall throw you in hell fire as a punishment for this sin…He creates and controls everything.”
“Is that statement from God? Fine. If there was only one God, how was it possible for man to find many other Gods to worship? If the single God is so confident that there are no other Gods except him, why is he showing envy to another God that is obvious in his own words? If he really knew that there is no other God, wouldn’t he be confident that people will not find any another God to worship? His own statement is contradictory – it clearly shows that he is always suspicious and insecure that there may be other Gods and people may worship those Gods instead of him. Otherwise, why is he warning like a Mafia don not to worship others? Why is he acting like a narrow-minded autocrat who goes to the extent of enforcing strict law that if any one of his gang tries to desert Him, he should immediately be put to death for apostasy? If there is only one powerful god who creates and controls everything, doesn’t that also mean he creates bad things and causes bad things to happen?”
“Those are non-sense questions…”Abdul interrupted
“But Abdul, he is asking very pertinent questions…”Natesh said.
“I have more questions on your god’s statement, Abdul. The word “One” itself is a selfish definition. The word “One” exists here because there is a concept of ‘Many’. The irony is obvious here. When you say that God is “One”, you restrict him to be materialistically a stand alone entity in the Universe with the almighty capability. And if God is not material, either no mathematical finite can be applied to him, or all sorts of counts apply.”
“But our concept of single God is the best and most scientific till date…”Abdul repeated.
“When you say “my concept of God is correct” and “his concept is wrong”, it immediately frames an arrogance, envy and ego that eventually results in hatred, anger, onslaughts and war. Hindus don’t have the right to say: “Krishna is the only god. All other beliefs are bullshit” Similarly, you can only say: “Allah is my god. I believe in him” But how shouldn’t say “Allah is the only god, there are no other gods”.
“You are misguiding. Even, Vedas approve the concept of single god…Isn’t it Natesh?” Abdul said. This time Natesh didn’t reply. He looked confused.
“If you need approval from 7000 years old Vedas for what is stated in your some-1500 year old text, then why don’t you follow Vedas itself?” I asked him. “I have been seeing people quote from Vedas and ancient Hindu texts to justify sentences in their religious texts. There is absolutely nothing common. All quotes they make are out-of-context”
“But there is only One God – isn’t it Natesh?” Abdul asked. No reply from Natesh. He was just looking at me expecting my reply.
“I am sorry guys, but the concept or notion of a personal whole sale God, hiding behind the clouds of secrecy, telling us irrational stories through few men whom he sends as messengers, demanding us to worship him or punish us, does not make sense. I don’t think that God is as silly as an autocratic emperor who wants others to respect him or fear him.” I told him, “I prefer to go with peaceful small time retail gods…”
“Why do you endorse such superstitious beliefs of 33 crore gods. There is only one God…”Abdul again said.
“All beliefs are superstitious, as long as it is NOT proven in an empirical and scientific method. Single god and multiple gods – both are beliefs only. You cannot say I have only one percent superstition and others have 95%, so I am better. You can’t measure superstitions like that…”I told him: “But fanatic single god beliefs are unacceptable for a civilized and cultured society, as it always create separation, splits, conflicts and violence in this world. The fundamentalist one-god-domination concept has led to terrorism, fanaticism, insecurity, fear and killing whereas flexible multiple gods create tolerance and co-operation. That’s why our ancestors created so many gods.”
After a minute of thought Abdul said, “I understand – people can have many beliefs but tolerance to each other’s belief is the key. I am very tolerant…” Then asked me: “Seriously sir, is there any rationale behind the Hindu concept of 33 crore gods?”
“Yes, there should be some science in it and you might know that too. Mr.Uday sir, I am sorry, I mistook you for an ignorant layman.”Natesh enquired.
“I am an ignorant layman. Little bit knowledge doesn’t take me to your levels. So don’t worry,”I smiled and said:”Modern science cannot support any of our beliefs. But our ancestors have mastered the natural science. They have realized the divine presence everywhere. They have listed down 33 crore different forms of natural power or manifestations that is holding this Universe. (Incidentally, our ancestors have also listed around 8.4 million species, while science have just reached the figure of 1.75 and is predicting the figure to be between 8 to 10 million)…”
“Sir, what does your Puranas say about it?” Abdul asked.
“Puranas talk about various gods or devatas just to make a human being understand the vastness of the concept of God. Otherwise it will be too abstract to understand for ordinary ignorant men like me. The stories in puranas are metaphorical in nature. Natesh, let me tell you – the Sanskrit phrase ‘trayastrimsati koti’ is also mentioned in Atharva Veda, Yajur Veda, and Satapatha-brahmana. And here also ‘koti’ doesn’t mean type. It means ‘supreme’. It lists supreme 33 devas for very specific purpose. But it acknowledges other gods…”
“Sir, it appears like you really support the concept of 33 crore plus gods. How could you convince yourself about it?” Natesh asked me.
“Our ancestors have simplified the process of selecting a man’s God from the long list of 330 million. They have identified three principal deities. They are Kula (or Gotra) Devata (Family Deity), Grama Devata (Village Deity) and Ishta Devata (Favourite Deity)….”
“Can you explain that sir?” both asked together.
“For instance, my family or gotra devatha is Mahalasa Narayani – that is Mohini Avatar of Vishnu (Not mentioned in your 33 types). I belong to Vishwamitra-Ahamarshana-Kamsi gotra (clan) that supposed to be 1000s of years old. So, when I pray to my Kula devatha – it is for the entire family, which would be spread to hundreds of thousands now. They are all my family members, though I don’t know any of them. Then comes Grama devatha – mine is Lord Narasimha. The entire village is dedicated to Narasimha and the prayer is for the entire village and its inhabitants. God’s place is punyabhoomi. In today’s world, the village concept is replaced with country. That’s why for real Hindus their country – India – is ‘Punyabhoomi’ (sacred land) but for others it is just a real estate.”
“And Ishta Devatha?”
“That we can choose from this 33 crore. So, for a Hindu, family, community and country were important than his personal likes and dislikes…You will see this cultural aspect in everything related to Sanatan Dharma – there was no selfish importance for individuals, even in marriages.”
“Amazing sir – we didn’t think this deep…”Natesh said.
“I believe in Allah, I am a Muslim. But now onwards, I will also consider this as Punyabhoomi…”Abdul said.
“You must…our ancestors believed that the world population is approximately 100 crore (and it was almost true then). 0.33 is the decimal representation of the ratio 1/3. They have classified human basically into three ‘gunas’ (qualities) namely deva (divine) guna, asura (demonic) guna and manushya (humane) guna. The ratio 1/3 refers to the deva guna in us. Thus 33 crores of gods!”
“This is very convincing Sir. Salutes…..Let there be billion gods then…” Natesh said.
“Yes – Let all humans in this planet be gods…” Abdul said.
I told them: “I don’t have any problems in praying to Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Elohim, Abba or Krishna, Shiv, Vinayak, Vishnu, Durga – whoever…. Because, our ancestors taught us, ‘Akashat patitam toyam, yada gachchati sagaram, Sarva devo namaskaraha, keshavam pratigachchati…'(All the water fallen from the sky goes to the sea, similarly salutations to all the gods reaches to Keshava). Kesava is not a single Hindu god. The word represents cosmos. Let’s all co-exist. Let’s don’t be fanatic to any single idea of god. Let there be billions of godly humans. Let noble thoughts come to us from every side. Remember, our ancestors accepted even atheists as saints”
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