Vedic gods

March 17, 2015 · updated February 15, 2022

Hinduism incorporates a vast pantheon of deities, some of whom are manifestations or combinations of others. Most of the deities mentioned in the Vedas are no longer worshipped; much of today's popular devotion centers around the major deities of Shiva, Vishnu, and the Goddess.

The Vedas describe a number of deities, most of whom are personified forces of nature. The most oft-mentioned are Indra, Agni, Soma, and Varuna.

Indra is the chief deity and the god of war and rain, the greatest concerns of the people at that time. He separated the heavens and the earth by defeating Vrtra, a snake-dragon representation of chaos and obstacles.

Another Vedic myth describes his defeat of Vrtra using wind and a thunderbolt as his weapons, enabling the monsoon rains to end. Indra must be strengthened with the drink soma, provided by worshippers, to accomplish this task.

Agni is the fire of sacrifice, and thus a mediator between man and the gods, and Soma is the hallucinogenic drink of the sacrifice. The personalities of the latter two are left largely undeveloped.

Another significant Vedic deity is Varuna, who is associated primarily with issues of morality, guilt and forgiveness. Varuna is the god of the rita, a concept having to do with faithfulness to allegiances, both between humans and gods and humans and one another. Thus Varuna is the god petitioned for forgiveness, deliverance from evil, and protection.