Minor Deities

Administrative Gods

Indra, “the King of Heaven,” was apparently very popular in early Vedic Hinduism and is considered to be in charge of the administrative demigods. Here he is offering his obeisances to Lord Krishna in connection with the pastime, “The Lifting of Govardhan Hill.”

In addition to the twelve main deities listed previously there are also a number of minor deities (keeping in mind that certain Hindus may consider them more exalted or even Supreme!). They are generally considered to have specific roles within this universe. The main ones are also considered to have charge over the eight directions, beginning with the East and moving clockwise (i.e. Indra is in charge of the East, Agni the South East,Yama the South, etc.).

  • Indra: King of Heaven/ god of rain
  • Agni: deity in charge of fire
  • Yama: deity presiding over death
  • Surya: presiding deity of the sun
  • Varuna: presiding deity of water
  • Vayu: presiding deity of the wind (air)
  • Kuvera: treasurer of the demigods (god of wealth)
  • Soma (Chandra): presiding deity of the moon

These deities are usually associated with earlier, “Vedic” Hinduism, and are rarely worshipped today, except perhaps Surya. Still prominent, especially in South Indian temples, is the worship of the “nine planets” (see Astrology).

Minor Deities

Deva or devata means demigod. Sthala-devata specifically refers to a minor deity who has jurisdiction over a particular place – a river, forest or village. They are often worshipped in village shrines. A popular deity is Sitala (right), the goddess of smallpox, who is worshipped in the hope of avoiding the disease

Other “Higher Beings”

There are many other lesser deities and higher beings, who often appear in the various stories. These include:

  • The Asuras (demons) who always fight
  • The Devas (the gods or demigods)
  • The Apsaras (celestial nymphs)
  • The Nagas (celestial serpents)
  • The Gandharvas (heavenly singers)
  • The Rakshasas (a race of man-eaters)
  • The Prajapatis (progenitors of mankind)

“Modern” Deities

Some deities have risen to prominence more recently. They include:

  • Santoshi Ma – the goddess of contentment, worshipped mainly by ladies
  • Ayyappan – popular in Kerala, he is considered the son of Shiva and Mohini (the female incarnation of Vishnu)