The One and many Gods of Hinduism

Cathy Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hinduism is commonly thought to represent polytheism. This label reflects a superficial perception of how the gods were and are understood. This essay explores the idea that Hinduism, (itself a relatively modern, externally imposed label), has many understandings… that it is polygnostic. It takes a journey through the evolution of a range of Hindu conceptions of deity, from the philosophical and abstract through to the deeply personal. Although such modern commentators as Richard Dawkins claim that the possibility of Hinduism including a monotheistic stream is deceptive, this essay traces monotheistic stances through a range of India’s rich theological and philosophical trends. Noting that individual Hindus are just as likely to think that: ‘There are many gods’; ‘only one god’; ‘many gods in one’; or that ‘god has two aspects’; ‘god is a trinity’; ‘The world is god’; ‘I am god’; ‘I am close, but different to god’; god is love’; ‘god is beyond qualities’, and even, ‘there is no god’, the essay supports the now famous quotation from Crooke, that “among all the great religions of the world, there is none more catholic than Hinduism”.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-27
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


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