How Many Hindu Gods Are There?

Study Groups
The Hindu deity Vishnu in the form of a boar, approx. 1000. India; probably Northern Rajasthan state. Stone (schist). Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, The Avery Brundage Collection, B62S15+. Photograph © Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

How Many Hindu Gods Are There?

Robert Goldman & Sally Sutherland Goldman
January 20, 2024
10:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Koret Education Center, Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco
$40 per person Society members; $50 per person non-members after museum admission. Advance registration must be received by SAA by Jan. 13, 2024.

How Many Hindu Gods Are There? (Be Careful Before You Answer!)

The pot is a god. The winnowing fan is a god.
The stone in the street is a god.
The comb is a god. The bowstring is also a god.
The bushel is a god and the spouted cup is a god.
Gods, gods, there are so many
there’s no place left for a foot.
There is only one god.
He is our Lord of the Meeting Rivers. (Shiva)

Basavaṇṇa (12th century CE)
(Translated by A.K Ramanujan)

This study group will explore the fascinating history of the representation of divinity in Hindu India from prehistoric times through the religion of the Vedas and the efflorescence of devotional sectarian Hinduism in the Sanskrit epics and puranas. We will also discuss the medieval and early modern vernacular devotional poets and the lived beliefs and practices of Hindus in the modern world. Lectures and discussions will focus on both polytheistic and monotheistic developments in Hindu theology and mythology and will explore the principal male and female deities of the three major strands in the grand fabric of the Hindu faith, Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism (worship of goddesses) along with their incarnations, manifestations, and associated divinities.

Robert P. Goldman, PhD and Sally J. Sutherland Goldman, PhD are the primary translators of the multi-volume annotated Valmiki Ramayana published by Princeton University Press, and long-time members of the faculty in the Department of South & Southeast Asian Studies at University of California, Berkeley. Robert Goldman is Professor of the Graduate School and Catherine and William L. Magistretti Distinguished Professor of Sanskrit Emeritus, and Sally Sutherland Goldman is Senior Lecturer Emerita of Sanskrit. The Goldmans have been beloved speakers to SAA audiences on many occasions, and are widely recognized as leading experts on Sanskrit literature and Indian epics.

Participants will have time to have a quick lunch in the museum's cafe, Asian Box. (Lunch cost is not included in the registration fee.) Refreshments (coffee, tea, water, and cookies) will be provided.

Recommended Books:
1. The Rig Veda: An Anthology, Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty, Penguin Classic Books
2. Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puritans, Cornelia Dimmitt and J.A.B van Buitenen

Both books are available for purchase on Amazon.

Suggested Readings

Presentation Files:

How Many Gods Vedic

Ancient Deities

Avatāras of Viṣṇu

Śakti - The Goddesses

Śiva and the Holy Family

Advance registration for this program is now closed.



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