Why do you have so many Gods?

Our golu had a very exciting little visitor – a cute and sprightly 3 year old.  With an incredibly cheeky demeanour and curious eyes, the child was an absolute pleasure to have around.   He had never visited a golu before and was visibly excited by the dolls on display.  His fascination resulted in a never ending stream of questions!

“Why do you have so many dolls?”

“Have you always had these dolls?”

He pointed to the nadaswaram set in the golu and asked “Is that man playing the same drum that they played at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games?”

“Why do you have so many Gods?”

Now this last question is a deeply philosophical question which in my view is beyond the intellectual capacity of a normal 3 year old.  I tried to dumb it down as much as possible to make it funny but this child was persistent.

Approach 1

Me:  Adam, how many toys do you have?

Adam: Hundreds!!

Me:  You have many toys to play with and I have many God idols to play with.

Adam: But Gods are not toys  (I almost heard him say in his head duh!!!)

Approach 2

Me: What flavour ice-cream do you like?

Adam: Chocolate

Me:  Well I like vanilla, someone else probably likes berry.  Different people like different flavours and they like different Gods – some like naughty, cheeky Gods and some like well behaved Gods.

Adam looked mildly impressed but was not entirely convinced.  He did what came most naturally to him – question!

“So why do you have so many Gods?”

Hinduism believes in the concept of the ‘impersonal absolute’ or ‘Brahman’.  Everything in existence, living or non-living comes from it. Therefore, Hindus regard all things as sacred. Brahman is formless or “nirakara”, and beyond anything that we can conceive of. However, the Brahman manifests itself in myriad forms.   The Brahman has no master, there is no sign by which the Brahman can be inferred, the Brahman has no parent and no lord.  The Brahman is the cause and the ruler of our souls.

To quote a simple analogy, clay can be shaped into many different forms – idols, pots, lamps.  They may be in different forms but clay is the only reality in these forms.  Gold can be moulded into jewellery in many designs but gold is the only reality.  Similarly the Brahman manifests itself in many forms including the forms of the many Gods and Goddesses.

As Prof. Jeaneane Fowler of the University of Wales College, Newport says in “Hinduism: Beliefs, Practices and Scriptures”,  “The relationship between the many manifest deities and the unmanifest Brahman is rather like that between the sun and its rays. We cannot experience the sun itself but we can experience its rays and the qualities, which those rays have. And, although the sun’s rays are many, ultimately, there is only one source, one sun. So the Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism amount to thousands, all representing the many aspects of Brahman”.

I don’t know about Adam, but this explanation is certainly good enough for me.  This very concept makes Hinduism exciting and colourful!!


3 thoughts on “Why do you have so many Gods?

  1. Sands October 15, 2010 / 4:00 pm

    Interesting stuff! I personally liked the ice cream analogy better than the toy analogy 🙂

    • myanasworth October 15, 2010 / 6:53 pm

      You’re such a child!! Me too .. but Adam was way too grown up!!

  2. Devi October 19, 2010 / 3:14 am

    Well written!
    I like the ice cream analogy too.

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