Hindu Deities 3
(here shown at left, behind throne.)
Lakshmana was a half brother to Rama whose story is told in the Ramayana, one of the most popular stories in the Hindu tradition.
Lakshmana accompanied Rama and Sita in their exile and shared their struggles. In the great battle with ten-headed demon Ravana, Lakshmana was fatally wounded but was restored to health when Hanuman, the god-king of the monkeys, brought to the battle field the mountain on which grew special healing herbs.
Lakshmana symbolizes the ideal of sacrifice. He leaves his young wife behind in the palace and chooses to accompany his brother (Rama) in exile. He sacrifices the amenities of his personal life to serve his elder brother.
Lakshmi, one of the forms of the Mother Goddess, is the goddess of fortune and wealth and the consort of Vishnu. She is commonly called "Shri" a title given to many gods and saints but especially to Lakshmi. She is associated with the festival of Divali as the bringer of blessings for the new year.
As goddess of good fortune she is depicted with four arms. Two of her hands hold lotus flowers and a third pours out wealth in the form of gold coins. Her fourth hand is held out in the gesture of blessing. But she is also the goddess of beauty and as such is shown as a young and beautiful goddess decorated with jewels and with only two arms.
She is often depicted seated on a lotus being showered by two elephants who are pouring pots of water over her head. The lotus is a symbol of fertility and purity as it grows with both power and beauty form the mud. In India with its lack of a constant dependable supply of water, water is a symbol of plenty.
Lakshmi's vehicle is a white owl.
(here with Shiva and their son, Ganesha.)
Parvati, daughter of the Himalayas, represents the gentler qualities of the Mother Goddess. Her docile obedience to her husband, Shiva, is seen as a model of the worshipper's relationship to God. It should be noted, however, that behind Parvati lies the power of the Mother Goddess which is seen by many Hindus to be greater than that of the deities themselves.
Krishna and Radha
Krishna, 'one who attracts or draws' people, or 'one who drains away' sins is the eighth and most important avatar of Vishnu, embodying joy, freedom and love. He also often appears as a god in his own right. In the Bhagavad Gita he is the divine instructor of Arjuna and the supreme Deity. In later tradition he is Krishna the cowherd, who, from being a wonderful and mischievous child, grows into a youth loved by the gopis, the cowherd girls.
His involvement with the gopis in amorous dance becomes the model of passionate union with God. Some images show him in dance mode, playing his irresistible flute to summon the gopis. He is also shown in images of power, e.g. destroying the evil snake, Kaliya, who has poisoned the life-giving waters of one of India's sacred rivers.
He is typically depicted with blue-black skin, wearing a yellow loin cloth and a crown of peacock feather.
The Gopis represent the individual souls trapped in physical bodies. Radha symbolizes the individual soul that is awakened to the love of God and is absorbed in such love. The sound of Krishna's flute represents the call of the divine for the individual souls.
The gopis' love for Krishna signifies the eternal bond between the individual soul and God. The dance of the gopis and Krishna (Rasa Lila) signifies the union of the human and Divine, the dance of the souls. In the forest, the gopis dance with Krishna and are absorbed in their love for him. This illustrates that when an individual soul responds to the call of the Divine, the soul enjoys union with the Lord and becomes absorbed in the divine ecstasy.
Radha was Krishna's favorite gopi or cow girl. The Hindu tradition is rich in poetry about the love of Krishna and Radha which is valued both as an expression of human love but also as being symbolic of the love of the soul for God.
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