If you have ever wondered, if Hindus worship one God or many Gods, why do Hindus worship images and icons, why does the God in Hindu dharma have multiple names and multiple forms of God, then this is the where, we hope, you will find answers. Dr. David Frawley has answered many of these commonly asked questions quite succinctly. For example,
Why Do Hindus Worship Many Gods?
Human beings through history have formulated many different names and forms for the Divine or Eternal. Just as we have many names and forms for other things, whether it is foods, or types of art, so too, in religion a similar great diversity has been created.
The Western world has prided itself in monotheism, the idea that there is only One God as the highest truth. Western religions have said that only the names and forms which refer to this One God are valid but those which appear to worship another God, or a multiplicity of divinities, must be false. They have restricted the names and forms they use in religious worship, and insist that only one set is true and correct and others are wrong or unholy.
As a universal formulation Hinduism accepts all formulations of Truth. According to the universal view there is only One Reality, but it cannot be limit ed to a particular name or form. Though Truth is One it is also Universal, not an exclusive formulation. It is an inclusive, not an exclusive Oneness - a spiritual reality of Being - Consciousness - Bliss, which could be called God but which transcends all names. The different Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism represent various functions of this One Supreme Divinity, and are not separate Gods.
Having many names for something is not necessarily a sign of ignorance of its real nature. On the contrary, it may indicate an intimate knowledge of it. For example, Eskimos have forty-eight different names for snow in their language because they know snow intimately in its different variations, not because they are ignorant of the fact that all snow is only one. The many different deities of Hinduism reflect such an intimate realization of the Divine on various levels.
Or, Why Does Hinduism Portray God as a Woman?
Hinduism contains many feminine forms of the Divine like Kali, Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvati. These represent different feminine qualities and functions of the Divine which contains both male and female energies. For example, Kali portrays the destructive energy, Lakshmi the nourishing, and Sarasvati the creative, while Durga is the Divine Mother in her protective role. Hinduism also has many dual male-female forms like Radha-Krishna, Sita-Rama, Uma-Mahesh, and Lakshmi -Narayan in which the female form is usually addressed first. The different masculine forms of the Divine in Hinduism have their feminine counterparts.
As Sanatana Dharma or a universal tradition Hinduism recognizes that the Divine contains both masculine and feminine attributes. Without giving proper honor to the feminine qualities a religion must be incomplete and one-sided, which must result in its teachings having negative consequences. Without recognizing the feminine aspect of Divinity one cannot claim to know God. To recognize the feminine is necessary to restore wholeness, completeness and universality. While Hindu dharma accepts the existence of several Gods or deities, it accepts only one God, the Supreme.
Brahma, Vishnu and Siva are not three independent and separate deities, but three different aspects of the same Supreme God, while engaged in the processes of creation, sustenance and destruction of the universe, in that order. It is similar to the role played by the same person as the father at home, as the boss in the office and as a customer in a shop. Other deities also should be considered in the same light, as different aspects of the Supreme God, manifesting themselves for specific purposes.
The powers of these deities which are inseparable from them - just as the power of fire to burn cannot be separated from fire itself. This power is conceived in the form of their consorts, Sarasvati, Parvati (or Sakti) and Lakshmi. This is not to say that these deities are imaginary creations. All of them, without exception, are different modes and aspects of Paramatman, the Supreme Self or God.