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Hindu Deities 6

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Sita

The story of Sita is told in the Ramayana, one of the most popular stories in the Hindu tradition.

Sita is won in marriage by the young prince Rama after he succeeds in bending a great war bow. Sita accompanies Rama into exile after he has been cheated of his rightful role as successor to his father the king. One day Sita is kidnapped by the ten-headed demon Ravana and carried off to his stronghold in the island of Lanka. Helped by Hanuman, the god-king of the monkeys, Rama eventually defeats Ravana and his army in battle and rescues Sita. They then return to their kingdom where Rama is given his rightful place as king.

Sita and Rama are the model wife and husband in the Hindu tradition.

Sita is also regarded as an avatar of the goddess Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu. When Vishnu took on human form as Rama, Lakshmi took on human form as Sita.

Sita symbolizes an ideal daughter, wife, mother, and queen. Whereas Rama symbolizes standards of perfection that can be conceived in all the facets of a man's life, Mother Sita represents all that is great and noble in womanhood. She is revered as an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the divine consort of Lord Vishnu.

 

 

 

Rama and Sita

Rama which means 'one who permeates and who is present in everything and everyone' is the seventh avatar of Vishnu. Sita is also regarded as an avatar of the goddess Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu. When Vishnu took on human form as Rama, Lakshmi took on human form as Sita.

The Ramayana, one of the most popular stories in the Hindu tradition, tells of Rama's exploits. As a young prince he performs heroic acts and in due course wins Sita as his wife after succeeding in bending a great war bow. Cheated of his rightful role as successor to his father the king, he goes off into exile. Sita and his brother Lakshmana insist in going with him. One day Sita is kidnapped by the ten-headed demon Ravana and carried off to his stronghold in the island of Lanka. Helped by Hanuman, the god-king of the monkeys, Rama eventually defeats Ravana and his army in battle and rescues Sita. They then return to their kingdom where Rama is given his rightful place as king.

Rama is the model of reason, right action and commendable virtues. He is often depicted with a tall conical cap which symbolizes his royal status.

Sita and Rama are the model wife and husband in the Hindu tradition.

 

 

Trimurti

The three main forms or manifestations of Brahman, the Supreme Spirit or Power of the universe. Brahma represents the creative aspects of Brahman, Vishnu the sustaining aspects and Shiva the destructive aspects.

Brahma
As the creator of the world whose four heads and four arms represent the four points of the compass, it may be thought that Brahma would have a dominant role within Hinduism. But though he represents one of the three main forms of Brahman, he is very much subordinated to
Vishnu, who represents the sustaining aspect of Brahman and Shiva who represents the destructive aspect. In fact, one story tells of Brahma's fifth head being burnt up by Shiva's third eye. He may be shown holding a vase of water, symbolising the water from which the universe evolved, a rosary for counting the passage of time, a sacrificial spoon linking him with the Brahmin priests and their traditional role in the offering of sacrifices and the four Vedas, ancient sacred books of the Hindus. He is also at times shown with a disc and an alms bowl. He may be depicted on a lotus throne. He is often bearded, and may wear a black or white garment.

His consort (wife/partner) is Sarasvati, goddess of wisdom and music and his vehicle is a swan or a goose.

See the separate entries for Shiva and Vishnu.


 

Vishnu

Vishnu is one of the three main forms or manifestations of Brahman, the Supreme Spirit or Power of the universe, and represents the sustaining power of Brahman. It is thought that the name Vishnu means either to 'pervade' or 'to take different forms'. These two ideas are brought together in the doctrine of avatars associated with Vishnu. An avatar is a 'descent' or 'incarnation' of a deity. It is believed that Vishnu pervades the universe by descending to earth in different forms when the forces of evil threaten to overcome the forces of good. The most important avatars are Krishna and Rama.

Vishnu's consort (partner or wife) is Lakshmi. Lakshmi, one of the forms of the Mother Goddess, is the goddess of fortune and wealth.

Vishnu may be depicted with two or four arms. When shown with four arms, these represent his power over both the four points of the compass and the four stages of life through which the 'twice born' Hindu man was thought to travel. Images of Vishnu combine compassion and strength.

The four symbols most commonly associated with Vishnu are the conch shell which represents water and the first sound of creation, the lotus which symbolizes the unfolding universe, the mace which is interpreted as the power of knowledge conquering time and finally the discus which is associated with the conquering of evil and ignorance.

Vishnu may be recognized by the U shaped symbol on his forehead.

His vehicle is Garuda, depicted either as a crowned eagle or as a bird with a man's head. He is a powerful opponent of evil.

The hood of snakes' heads which shelter him represents the endless cycles of creation and reflects one of the central stories of creation in the Hindu tradition. Three hands hold three of the standard symbols, conch shell, discus and lotus and the fourth is held in the traditional hand gesture symbolizing protection.

When a sincere devotee of the Lord controls his desires, the Lord fulfills the devotee's genuine desires and helps him on his path. 

On to: The Goddess as Knowledge
 

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