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Is Hinduism Monotheistic or Polytheistic?

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by

Leila Kataria

on 29 October 2014

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Transcript of Is Hinduism Monotheistic or Polytheistic?

Basics
In order to answer this question, we have to go back to the basics of Hinduism. The oldest Hindu text, or the
Rig Veda
, paints Hinduism as a predominantly polytheistic religion, similar to the structure of the Greek gods with Indra as the rain god as well as the head god. Later scriptures paint Indra as a deity of lesser importance then the holy triad, and he existed as ruler of the heavens and leagues of other gods.
Structure
This topic naturally leads one to question: what is the current structure of Hinduism? Hindus believe that there is one universal being, Bhagvan or Brahman, of whom is neither male nor female, animal nor human. This eternal being is not one, nor many. It has no one true form, rather Bhagvan exists in all, and all exists within Bhagvan. All of the gods and goddesses are manifestations of Bhagvan, and Bhagvan is
satchitananda,
or Truth, Consciousness, and Bliss. "He is not God of just one world or a few worlds, but represents the entire known and unknown Universe as well as the past, the present and the future that is yet to come. "
Background
A common misconception when exploring the religion of Hinduism is that it is polytheistic due to the fact that most people believe it to contain many different gods, each serving a different purpose, all aspects attributed to polytheism. Others argue that it is in fact, monotheistic, as Hindus believe in one main god from which all the other gods are incarnations of.
Conclusion
Is Hinduism Monotheistic or Polytheistic?
An exploration by Leila Kataria
The classification of Hinduism is very open to interpretation. Different groups of people view it based on their own perceptions. Many people actually think that Hinduism is polytheistic, however if a person decides to study its scriptures closely, they will find that Hinduism can most correctly be called monotheistic (with the characteristic of many variations of one god). It can further be categorized as pantheism (seeing the universe as God) and monism (the concept of an eternal being and the world existing as one).
The Holy Triad
All Hindus can be classified into three sects: the Vaishnaivas (worshippers who center their beliefs around Vishnu), the Shaivas (centered around Shiva), and Shaktas (centered around the feminine goddesses of Hinduism). These sects embrace the idea henotheistic, in which difference sections of a religion adhere to certain gods or goddesses. However, Hinduism differs from a typical henotheistic religion as all of the Hindu gods stem from the one eternal being of Bhagvan.
Sources:
http://history-of-hinduism.blogspot.com/2013/05/hinduism-belief-in-one-god.html
http://www.patheos.com/Library/Answers-to-Frequently-Asked-Religion-Questions/Is-Hinduism-polytheistic.html
http://www.columbiaseminary.org/coffeetalk/122.html
http://www.hinduhumanrights.info/hinduism-not-simply-a-monotheistic-religion/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/concepts/concepts_1.sh
tml#h6
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