Epics for children | Playing favourites among Gods

Epics for children | Playing favourites among Gods

Freedom of thought and belief has been an important feature of Indic religions since the beginning. The central truth has not been a ‘revealed truth,’ rather it has been an ‘experienced truth.’ Since everybody’s experiences can be different, their truths can be different. Similarly, the god one prays to is also allowed to be different. There is the concept of ishta devata or personal or preferred god. One can choose any god as their favourite god and direct their prayers to them while respecting all other gods.

Many people choose Lord Vishnu and his avatars such as Sri Rama or Sri Krishna, while some choose Lord Shiva and his avatars like Hanuman. Some choose Surya or the Sun, while others worship different forms of the Goddess like Lakshmi, Parvati, Durga, or Kali. Many people choose Ganesha as their ishta because he is said to be easy to please. This was first popularised as ‘Panchayatan Puja’–worship of the five forms–by Adi Shankaracharya. A popular example given to explain the concept is that of the hand. It consists of one palm and five fingers. Just like all five fingers are coming out of the same palm, so all the five are forms of the same Supreme God.

While an ishta devata is at a personal level, there are also kula devatas and devis (ancestral deities of a clan), gram devatas and devis (village deities). These deities are worshipped at important occasions like marriages and are supposed to protect the individual, clan, or village. It is not necessary that such deities must be from among the recognised gods only. Holy men and saints, even trees or rocks could be worshipped. There are virtually no restrictions on whom or what and why you choose!

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