Showing posts with label Village Deities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Village Deities. Show all posts

Hinduism - What Are Village Deities?

 



According to popular Hindu tradition, the universe has 330 million gods.

The richness of this mythic imagination can be seen in the composition of the Hindu pantheon, in which hundreds of major and minor deities have been given form, identity, and mythic history.

Yet aside from these deities, who have been given an identifiable form, there are also a host of village deities found throughout India.

In most cases, the village deity is exactly that—the deity who protects, watches over, and acts as a divine over seer for a particular village or locale.

One of their most common functions is to protect the village from disease, either of people or livestock, and to provide remedies when disease strikes.

They are also the guardians of the village, defending it from ghosts and unseen powers, as well as protecting the villagers from danger and misfortune.

The authority of these deities is generally quite limited—in most cases, it does not extend beyond the village itself.



In most cases, village deities have no well defined mythic history, form, or personality.

At times they will have a temple dedicated to them, but in other cases the village deity is believed to be associated with a particular tree or is represented by a post in the village square.

Village deities are usually nonvegetarian, demanding animal sacrifices and offerings of blood in exchange for their services.

Relationships with these deities are highly pragmatic—the villagers make offerings, and the deities protect, but beyond these offerings there is usually little organized worship.

If these deities have any organized priesthood, it is almost always non-brahmin because the impurity (ashaucha) generated by animal sacrifices would be unacceptable to brahmins.

These priesthoods are intermediaries between the deity and the villagers, usually communicating with the deities through dreams or possession.

In this way the deities’ wishes become known, and problems or concerns can find their solution.

In some cases, local deities have gained greater stature and have been assimilated into the pantheon.

For female deities, this process is fairly simple, since they can be brought into the pantheon by claiming that their temples are one of the Shakti Pithas, a network of sites sacred to the Goddess that spreads throughout the subcontinent.

Each Shakti Pitha marks the site where a body part of the dismembered goddess Sati fell to earth, taking form there as a different goddess; all these individual goddesses are thus seen as manifestations of a single great Goddess.

Male deities are more typically incorporated into the pantheon as incarnations of the deity Vishnu, and three major instances of the former are Jagannath, Vithoba, and Venkateshvara.

Village deities are less usually considered to be avatars of the god Shiva, although this has occurred with Khandoba, an important regional deity in the state of Maharashtra.

See also pitha.


~Kiran Atma


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