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Hindu Deities (Gods) In Thailand And Southeast Asia.

Understanding About the Hindu Religion In Southeast Asia and Its Deities (Gods)

The Early Origins In India And Later In Southeast Asia
  • The Hindu religion originated in India evolving from the ancient Brahmanism, it begun with the worship of nature and then deified phenomena believed to be superior to all beings.There is not one religion, but many together classified as the Hindu religion.
  • Here Indian people sought to satisfy ''Gods'' by singing mantras or making the worship in order to bring fortune for themselves. Norms and traditions of the worship had been simply performed in the early period and were later developed to be more complicated.
  • The people who control this religious activity are called Brahmans. Brahmans have been the ones in charge of carrying out religious ceremonies and in doing so makes them more powerful and influential even than the kings, just because of the fact that they represent they can connect the Gods to humans. As a consequence Brahmans have been rendered the highest in the caste society where people have been classified according to their status.
  • The discrimination in the form of caste system has been unquestionably accepted owing to the Hindu mythology which believes that all occurrences are determined only by God, and accordingly should not be questioned. Similarly this religious system supported the concept of living ''God Kings'' which was imposed on the ill informed general population.
  • Brahmanism (the control of beliefs by Brahmans in India) has been constantly adapted and developed with the changing society’s needs and values, as well to compete with other religions which were infiltrated in India as a result of the invasions by other nations. 
  • As consequence, the form of religion was gradually transformed until it has become so-called “Hinduism” these days.
  • Mainstream Hinduism has split into two denominations which are Saivaism and Vaishnavaism.
  • Brahmans from India traveled to Southeast Asia to introduce these beliefs 2,000 years ago where they were later adopted by the Khmer people and the Khmer Empire. The Khmer introduced these beliefs throughout their Empire (which included much of modern Thailand) in the 9th century. Whilst modern Thai people suggest they are Buddhist, the relics of Khmer Hindu influences are still present in Thailand today.

The Various Deities (Gods) In the Hindu Religion
  • In Hinduism, there is a large number of deities (Gods). The original ones in the early period such as Indra or Varuna are still respected until now, but their significance is less. The Indra Shrine in Bangkok (pictured opposite) is a current Temple for worshipers in Bangkok.
  • The three principal gods of Hinduism are Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Together, they are called Trimurti (the three forms,''Tri'' (thre), ''murti'' (form). These three gods are respected unevenly. Although there have been attempts to combine all gods together, Hindus normally worship only one god. As a consequence, Hinduism is separated into several denominations depending upon which God they respect.
  • The worship of Shiva called Saivism.
  • The worship of Vishnu called Vaishnavism.
  • Both Saivism and Vaishnavism also have sub-denominations of their own.
  • Although Brahma is one of the principal gods like Shiva or Vishnu, he does not have a particular denomination of his own.
  • There is also a denomination, such as Sakti (power or strength), which respects the goddesses who are the consorts of the principal gods for example Uma, Shiva’s consort, Lakshmi (depicted in the image opposite), Vishnu’s, and Sarasvati, Brahma’s consort, believing that the wives are the husbands’ source of power and strength. Normally, Uma is the most-respected. She reincarnates into several forms which also have different names.

The Deity (God) Brahma In the Hindu Religion
  • Hindus believe that Brahma is the creator of the world and everything in it. He was most respected in the early period.
  • At first, he was only an abstract, without forms, until later that the Brahmans created his appearance to make it easier for people to worship. Thus, he has become the god of four faces and four arms.
  • Brahma has a wife called Sarasvati and has a Hamsa as vehicle.
  • Brahma's origin has been recorded differently. But in the recent scriptures such as Purana, it is believed that he is born out of Vishnu’s navel. Although Brahma is the creator of the World, he has not actually been much respected. There is not any denomination which respects him in particular; instead he is included in other denominations which respect the other two principal gods.

The Deity (God) Vishnu In the Hindu Religion
  • Vishnu is regarded by his believers as the protector of the World and is the symbol of honesty, virtue, and compassion.
  • For Vaishnavism, he Vishnu the greatest God of all. In the Vaishnava scriptures such as Vishnupurana or Patamapurana, he is revered as both the creator of everything on earth and all three principal gods which are Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva in order to have them performed three important duties which are; to create, to protect, and to destroy. As Vishnu is the protector of the world, he reincarnates time and again when the World faces catastrophe in order to bestow all living beings with grace and conquer all the evils.
  • There are ten important incarnations which are altogether called “Dasavataras or ten forms of Narayana” (including the form of Lord Buddha) which are; Matsya (fish), Kurma (tortoise), Varaha  (boar), Narasimha (man-lion), Vamana  (dwarf), Parasurama (Brahmin with an axe), Rama, Krishna, Buddha (Lord Buddha), Kalkin (a man on a white horse).
  • Vishnu has over a thousand names for example; Narayana (moving in the water), Anantasayana 9declining on Ananta), Jaturapuja (four-armed) etc.
  • He has four arms. two in the back hold a conch and a discus, another two in front symbolize forgiveness and happiness or in some cases hold a mace or lotus.
  • Vishnu has a consort called Lakshmi or Sri, a Garuda as vehicle, and a chamber called Vayakun.

The Deity (God) Shiva In the Hindu Religion
  • Shiva is the destroyer of the world. He is the greatest god in Saivaism. 
  • In the Shivapurana scripture, it is stated that he is the origin of the universe including all three principal gods. 
  • Shiva in his human form has three eyes, one in the middle of the forehead, with matted hair decorated with crescent moon. He wears tiger, elephant, or dear skin and has snakes as an ornament. His different weapon is called Trisula but people mostly worship the lingas which are made in different sizes. Actually, there are two kinds of lingas which are; movable, made of soil, metal or precious stone, and unmovable which can be divided into several kinds. 
  • His abode locates on Mount of Kailasa. 
  • He has a consort called Uma or Parapati and other names, and sons called  Ganesha or Vighnesvara, Kamara,  Skanda or Kartikeya.  
  • Nandi or Usuparaja Bull is his vehicle. 
  • Both his consort and his sons, along with the vehicle is highly respected among his Saiva followers. 
  • Shiva has numerous amount of names according to his forms and might, as well as the legends according to his origins. 
  • In Thailand, he is well-known as Isavara in the ancient scripture, he is called Rudra (the destroyer) and later he has got the name Shiva which means the cleaner. This relates to his duty as the destroyer in that to destroy is to eradicate the impurity. After the destruction, he builds a new world of purity. This is the reason why he is called Isvara, Mahesa or the Mahadeva, which means the greatest god of all. Other important names are Mahayogi (the great ascetic), Maha- Kala, Kala, Mrityunjaya (vanquisher of death), Sankara, Sarva, Sadasiva, Sambhu (the auspicious), Visavanatha (Lord of the universe), Isana (ruler), Babhra, Bhagavat (the great lord), Sthanu (the firm), Digam (Lord of the sky), Bhutesavara (lord of all spirits), Girisa (lord of Himalaya), Pasu-pati (lord of beings, lord of animals), Trilojana Tryambaka (three-eyed), Panchanana (five-faced or five-mouthed), Virupaksha (the abnormal or vanquisher of demons), Nilakantha (black-necked – from drink the poisonous water in the river of Kasira), Garitativasasa (wearing and sitting on tiger or holding a dear), Kapala-malin Kapalin (wearing a garland of skulls), Hara (seizer), Jala-murti  (whose form is water), Aghora (horrible), Chandrasekhara (wearing crescent moon), Dhuyati (wearing matted hair), Bhairava (the fierce), Gangadhara(the bearer of the Ganges  –  he uses his hairs to prevent the celestial river of Ganga to flood the earth), Jata-dhara (matted hair). 
  • Apart from lingas, the images of Shiva are also built in different forms such as; Samharamurti – the fierce or the destroyer, Anugrahamurti – the merciful who brings happiness to his followers, Nrittamurti – the dancer, along with Dakshinamurti which express him as the Great Yogi who is above all occurrences and who gives all living humans the intellects which are; wisdom, concentration, yoga, philosophy, and music etc.
  • Sculptures and carvings normally depict Shiva in some forms such as; Uma- mahesvaramurti – the two-or-four-armed Shiva holding Uma who is sitting on his lap, Nataraja – the dancing Shiva which symbolizes the creation and the destruction, - Ardhanarisvara the combination of Shiva and Uma, Harihara – the combination of Shiva and Vishnu, Yoga-Dakshinamurti – four-armed Shiva posing as yoga etc .

Shiva Worship In the Hindu Religion
  • Normally, the Hindus will worship their respected god daily at home or at the sanctuary by showing highest esteem to the image of god either in the form of prostrating themselves or praying hymn to gods, along with the offering of food in the belief that god has all the necessities like human, and finally pleading for happiness and fortune for themselves.
  • Apart from the daily worship, they also worship in special occasions such as religious ceremonies or ceremonies regarding the cycle of life, such as birth or death.
  • Mostly, the offering consists of flowers, rice, milk, and butter, according to the ancient tradition of fire worship which included these things. Later, the religion has evolved and the worship procedure adapted where animals as sheep, goat, buffalo, chicken, or bird were burned alive and their fresh blood put in fire. This tradition was later adapted according to place and time.