Twelve Principal Deities

In addition to the four most important deities, we list a further eight.

The Trimurti

  • Brahma: The creator
  • Vishna: The sustainer
  • Shiva: The destroyer.

The Three Main Focuses of Worship

  • Vishnu: The sustainer
  • Shiva: The destroyer.
  • Shakti: (a.k.a. Devi, Parvati, Durga, etc.) The goddess (Mother Nature)

Avatars of Vishnu

  • Krishna: (top left, with his consort Radha) The cowherd boy. Sometimes Krishna – and less often Rama – is considered the original Godhead, rather than an avatar of Vishnu. The terms “Vishnu” and “Krishna” are almost synonymous, despite some debate about their respective positions.
  • Rama: (second from top left, with his consort Sita) The ideal monarch


  • Hanuman: (second from top right) The monkey warrior (connected with Rama)
  • Lakshmi: (top right) The goddess of wealth and fortune, consort of Vishnu
  • Saraswati: (bottom left) The goddess of learning and the arts, consort of Brahma
  • Ganesh: (bottom right) (a.k.a. Ganapati) The remover of obstacles, a son of Lord Shiva
  • Skanda: (second from bottom left) (a.k.a. Murugan, Karttikeya) Commander in chief of the devas (Demigods), a son of Lord Shiva
  • Surya: (second from bottom right) The Sun god, one of the “administrative gods.” He is one of five deities worshipped by the Smartas, who simultaneously venerate Vishnu, Shiva, Devi, Ganesh, and Surya. Sometimes considered a form of Vishnu (Surya-Narayana).

Note: Radha and Sita are not included in the list of twelve principal deities since they are rarely, if ever, worshipped separately from their respective husbands.