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Deva (Hinduism)

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Hindu devatas depicted on the walls of Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

This article contains Indic text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks or boxes, misplaced vowels or missing conjuncts instead of Indic text.

Deva (देव in Devanagari script) is the Sanskrit word for deity. It can be loosely interpreted as angel, or any benevolent supernatural beings. The devas in Hindu mythology are often juxtaposed to the usually Asuras, their half brothers.[1]. Devas are also the maintainers of the realms as ordained by the Trimurti.


Sanskrit devá- derives from Indo-Iranian *devá- 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 daylit sky. The feminine form of PIE *deiwos is PIE *deiwih2, which descends into Indic languages as devi, in that context meaning "goddess".

The Avestan cognate of Vedic devá- is daēva (daēuua), which has a pejorative connotation. In later Zoroastrianism, daevas are noxious creatures, but this meaning is not evident in the oldest texts.

Also deriving from PIE *deiwos, and thus cognates of deva, are Lithuanian Dievas (Latvian Dievs, Prussian Deiwas), Germanic Tiwaz (seen in English "Tuesday") 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 sky, and hence to "Father Sky", the chief God of the Indo-European pantheon, continued in Sanskrit Dyaus.


The Vedas, the earliest comprehensive literature, contain mantras for pleasing the Devas to obtain blessings. The Rig Veda, the earliest of the four, enumerates 33 Devas, which in later Hinduism became exaggerated to 330 million, likely because the same Sanskrit word means "ten million" and "class, group", i.e. "33 types of divine manifestations".

Some Devas represent the forces of nature and some represent moral values. The main Devas addressed in the Rig Veda are Varuna, Mitra and Indra. Agni (fire) and Soma represent modes of fire-sacrifice, called yagna, but personified are also seen as Devas. Aitareya Brahmana in its opening stanza suggests a hierarchy among Devas.[2] All Gods taken together are worshiped as the Vishvedevas. Varuna has the dual title of Deva and Asura. There are also other Devas like Savitŗ, Vishnu, Rudra (later given the exclusive epithet of Shiva, "auspicious one"), Prajapati (later identified with Brahmā), and devis (Goddesses) like Ushas (dawn), Prithvi (earth) and Sarasvati (Knowledge).


The Upanishads distinguish between the celestial gods from the Divine forms of God.[clarification needed] The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says there are 33 devas in the celestial world, in terms of performance of yajnas. They are eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Indra, and Prajapati.


Purana describes genealogy and histories as remembered by the teller. As per Purana, Brahamadeva had seven assumed sons (manasputra) called saptarishi. They were Marichi, Atri, Angira, Pulastya (Kulastya), Pulaha, Kratu and Wasishtha. Marichi had a son called Kashyapa. Kashyapa had thirteen wives: Aditi, Diti, Danu, Duhita, Kadru etc. The sons of Aditi are called Aditya, the sons of Diti are called Daitya, the sons of Danu are called Danava and the sons of Duhita are called Duhev or Deva. Duhita's sons Deva were: Vishnu, Yama (Dharma) and Indra.

Classical Hinduism

Nature Devas are responsible for 'things' 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 Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva. (Note: Mahadeva generally refers to Śiva)

There are also many other lesser celestial beings in Hinduism such as the Gandharvas (celestial musicians), or their wives, the Apsaras (celestial dancers).

Vayu, the Lord of the wind, is an example of an important Deva. Also, Death is personified as the Deva 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 Supreme God or His personal form, Saguna Brahman which can be visualized as Viṣṇu or Śiva. 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, Brahman is the only Ultimate Reality, and all Devas are simply mundane manifestations of Him.

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 sūrayaḥ: "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). Thus the Devas are stated to be subordinate to Vishnu, or God.

In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna himself states that worshipers of deities other than the Supreme Lord, Vishnu, are incorrect (Gita 9.23) as such worship leads only to temporal benefits, rather than to the Lord Himself (Gita 7.23). Krishna also says: "Whatever deity or form a devotee worships, I make his faith steady. However, their wishes are granted only by Me." (Gita: 7:21-22) Elsewhere in the Gita Lord Krishna states: "O Arjuna, even those devotees who worship other lesser deities (e.g., devas, for example) with faith, they also worship Me, but in an improper way because I am the Supreme Being. I alone am the enjoyer of all sacrificial services (Seva, Yajna) and Lord of the universe." (Gita: 9:23)

Swaminarayan, the founder of the Hindu Swaminarayan sect, a Vaishnavite sect, according to this site,[1], said in verse 115 of their scripture, Shikshapatri, "Shree Krishna Bhagwan and Shree Krishna Bhagwan's incarnations alone are worthy of meditation. Similarly, Shree Krishna Bhagwan's images are worthy. And men or devas, even if they are devotees of Shree Krishna Bhagwan or Brahmavettaa (knowers of divinity), are still not worthy of meditation - and thus one should not meditate upon them."

See also


  1. Encyclopaedia Britannica
  2. agnir vai devānām avamo viṣṇuḥ paramas, tadantareṇa sarvā anyā devatā - "Agni is the lowest and Vishnu is the highest among Devas. All other Gods occupy positions that are in between." 1.1.1

External links

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