If Hindus believe in one God, then who are the numerous gods and goddesses they worship in their temples?
The concept that Hindus worship many gods is a myth. It stems from the misunderstanding of Hindus’ unique approach to worshipping God which can be explained in two ways. God has endless attributes and aspects. Although God is formless, to make worshipping more tangible and focused for ordinary Hindus, many forms and names were given to each of God’s major attributes and aspects. For example, God creates, sustains and dissolves this world; each of these three aspects or functions is represented in a beautiful image, and worshipped as Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the sustainer) and Shiva (the regenerator), respectively. This concept is similar to the Christians’ worship of the Holy Trinity-the Father, the son and the Holy Ghost. It would be false to say that Christians believev in three gods.
The Bhagawata school of thought teaches that there are different divine beings or demigods who live in unseen worlds and serve. They are empowered by and subordinate to God. Again, Hindus have male and female names and images for these demigods whose worship is recommended, but not mandatory, for specific benedictions. This idea can be compared to the Christians’ belief in guiding angles. It must be emphasized that the above mentione ideas cater to the needs of aspirants who are at a lower level in the beginning of their spiritual quest. Those who evolve to a higher stage do not require such aids to worship. Many Hindus do not believe in any of the above concepts, and worship a formless and abstract God.
This Q/A was taken from the book Hinduism: Myth and Reality written by Ajit Adhopia and published by Inderlekh Publication.