Deva (Hinduism)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The male Lokapala devas, the guardians of the directions, on the wall of Shiva temple, Prambanan

Deva (देव in Devanagari script) is the Sanskrit word for deity, its related feminine term is devi. In modern Hinduism, it can be loosely interpreted as any benevolent supernatural being. The devas in Hinduism, also called Suras, are often juxtaposed to the Asuras, their half brothers.[1] Devas are also the maintainers of the realms as ordained by the Trimurti. They are often warring with their equally powerful counterparts, the Asuras.

Etymology[edit]

The Sanskrit deva- derives from Indo-Iranian *dev- which in turn descends from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word, *deiwos, originally an adjective meaning "celestial" or "shining", which is a PIE (not synchronic Sanskrit) vrddhi derivative from the root *diw meaning "to shine", especially as the day-lit sky. The feminine form of PIE *deiwos is PIE *deiwih2, which descends into Indic languages as devi, in that context meaning "female deity". There is also Diwali the "festival of lights".

Also deriving from PIE *deiwos, and thus cognates of deva, are Lithuanian Dievas (Latvian Dievs, Prussian Deiwas), Germanic Tiwaz (seen in English "Tuesday") and the related Old Norse Tivar (gods), and Latin deus "god" and divus "divine", from which the English words "divine", "deity", French "dieu", Portuguese "deus", Spanish "dios" and Italian "dio", also "Zeys/Ζεύς" - "Dias/Δίας", the Greek father of the gods, are derived.

Related but distinct is the PIE proper name *Dyeus which while from the same root, may originally have referred to the "heavenly shining father", and hence to "Father Sky", the chief God of the Indo-European pantheon, continued in Sanskrit Dyaus. The bode of the Devas is Dyuloka.

Vedas[edit]

The Vedas, the earliest comprehensive literature, contain mantras for pleasing the devas to obtain blessings. The Rig Veda, the earliest of the four, enumerates up to 33 devas.

Some devas represent the forces of nature and some represent moral values (such as the Adityas/asuras, Varuna, and Mitra). The main devas addressed in the Rig Veda are Indra, Agni (fire) and Soma, the latter two representing modes of sacrifice, called yagna. The post-Rig vedic Aitareya Brahmana in its opening stanza suggests a hierarchy among devas.[2] Many of the deities taken together are worshiped as the Vishvedevas, the "all-deities". Varuna has the dual epithet of deva and asura.

Savitŗa, Vishnu, Rudra are Gods and (later given the exclusive epithet of Shiva, "auspicious one"), Prajapati (later identified with Brahmā), and devis (female deities) such as Ushas (dawn), Prithvi (earth) and Sarasvati.

Upanishads[edit]

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says there are 33 devas in the celestial world, in terms of performance of yagnas. They are eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Indra, and Prajapati, these groups, however, are mentioned already in the Rigved.

In Sanskrit:
स होवाच महिमान एवैषामेते त्रयस्त्रिँशत्त्वेव देवा इति कतमे ते त्रयस्त्रिँशदित्यष्टौ वसव एकादश रुद्रा द्वादशादित्यास्त एकत्रिंशदिन्द्रश्चैव प्रजापतिश्च त्रयस्त्रिँशाविति॥ (वृहदारन्यक ६.९)

Puranas[edit]

As per Puranas, Brahma had ten sons: Marici, Atri, Angira, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Vasistha, Daksa, Narada.[3] Marici had a son called Kasyapa.[4] Kasyapa had thirteen wives: Aditi, Diti, Danu[disambiguation needed], Kadru etc.[5] The sons of Aditi are called Adityas,[6] the sons of Diti are called Daityas,[7] and the sons of Danu are called Danavas.[8] Bṛhaspati (Jupiter, son of Angiras) is a guru of devas (vedic gods). Shukracharya (Venus, son of Bhrigu) is a guru of asuras (vedic demons) or/and Danavas.

Classical Hinduism[edit]

Nature Devas are responsible for elements or objects such as fire, air, rain and trees - most of them assumed a minor role in the later religion. Certain other deities rose into prominence. These higher Devas control much more intricate tasks governing the functioning of the cosmos and the evolution of creation. Mahadevas, such as Lord Ganesha, have such tremendous tasks under their diligence that they are sometimes called themselves Gods under the Supreme One God. The Trimurti is composed of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. (Note: Mahadeva generally refers to Shiva)

There are also many other lesser celestial beings in Hinduism, such as the Gandharvas (male celestial musicians) and the Apsaras (female celestial dancers). The musicians and dancers are married to each other.

Vayu, the Lord of the wind, is an example of an important Deva. Also, Death is personified as the Dev Yama.

Devas, in Hinduism, are celestial beings that control forces of nature such as fire, air, wind, etc. They are not to be confused with the One and the only Supreme one God or His personal form, Saguna Brahman which can be visualized as Vishnu or Shiva. God (see Ishvara) or Brahman (the Supreme Spirit) is the ultimate controller. A famous verse from the Katha Upanishad states: “From fear (here, power) of Him the wind blows; from fear of Him the sun rises; from fear of Him Agni and Indra and Death, the fifth, run." In actuality, Ishvara Brahman is the only Ultimate Reality, and all Devas are simply mundane manifestations of Him.[citation needed]

The Vaishnavites (who often translate deva as "demigod") cite various verses that speak of the devas' subordinate status. For example, the Rig Veda (1.22.20) states, oṃ tad viṣṇoḥ paramam padam sadā paśyanti sūryaḥ: "All the suras (i.e., the devas) look always toward the feet of Lord Vishnu." Similarly, in the Vishnu Sahasranama the concluding verses state: "The Rishis (great sages), the ancestors, the devas, the great elements, in fact all things moving and unmoving constituting this universe, have originated from Narayana," (i.e., Vishnu). "O ruler of men, Aditi had twelve sons, headed by Indra. The youngest was Vishnu, in whom all the worlds reside." (Mahābhārata 1.60.35)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica
  2. ^ agnir vai devānām avamo vishṇuḥ paramas, tadantareṇa sarvā anyā devtā - "Agni is the lowest and Vishnu is the highest among Devas. All other deities occupy positions that are in between." 1.1.1
  3. ^ Bhagavata Purana 3.12.21-22
  4. ^ Bhagavata Purana 4.1.13
  5. ^ Bhagavata Purana 6.6.24-26
  6. ^ Bhagavata Purana 8.13.6
  7. ^ Bhagavata Purana 6.18.11
  8. ^ Bhagavata Purana 5.24.30

External links[edit]