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Hindus/Monotheistic and polytheistic interpretations of Hinduism

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Question
Iíve been told that Hinduism is sometimes viewed as a monotheistic religion based on the interpretation that a single God takes on many forms, hence the imagery of multiple gods in Hinduism. Is this a common interpretation amongst practicing Hindus, or is it something only really considered by religious scholars who may or may not be part of the religion? Is this interpretation commonly subject to debate only amongst religious scholars or is it debated amongst everyday Hindus, or neither?

Is there a hierarchy amongst Hindu gods, meaning, are do Hindus consider some gods more important than others? If so, what would you say influences their importance? Is it simply their presence in religious texts, or do you think current issues in society increase their importance as the subject of their significance, so to speak, becomes more socially or politically relevant?

Answer
Dear Meredith,

Everyday Hindus believe that a single has taken many forms and the details of various faith traditions are discussed only by the scholars.

Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and Durga are considered by all Hindus to be the main deities, who are manifestations of one single divine principle. These four are considered superior to all other gods like the fire-god, rain-god, and Sun-god. Some Hindus may have greater allegiance towards one of these four, however, these are seen as the most important from the practice of everyday Hindus and not merely from the standpoint of texts.

With best wishes,
Swami Narasimhananda

Hindus

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Swami Narasimhananda

Expertise

Any question on the philosophy or practice of Hinduism and Vedanta.

Experience

A Hindu monk of the Ramakrishna Order. Writes and speaks on Hinduism, Gita, Upanishads, Vedanta, Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Sarada Devi.

Organizations
Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission.

Publications
Prabuddha Bharata.

Education/Credentials
Graduate from a reputed university.

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