Deva (Hinduism)

Deva (Hinduism)
The male Lokapala devas, the guardians of the directions, on the wall of Shiva temple, Prambanan

Deva (देव in Devanagari script) is the Sanskrit word for god or deity, its related feminine term is devi. In modern Hinduism, it can be loosely interpreted as any benevolent supernatural beings. The devs in Hinduism, also called Suras, are often juxtaposed to the Asuras, their half brothers.[1] Devs are also the maintainers of the realms as ordained by the Trimurti. They are often warring with their equally powerful counterparts, the Asuras.



The Sanskrit deva- derives from Indo-Iranian *dev- which in turn descends from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word, *deiwos, originally an adjective meaning "celestial" or "shining", which is a PIE (not synchronic Sanskrit) vrddhi derivative from the root *diw meaning "to shine", especially as the day-lit sky. The feminine form of PIE *deiwos is PIE *deiwih2, which descends into Indic languages as devi, in that context meaning "female deity".

Also deriving from PIE *deiwos, and thus cognates of deva, are Lithuanian Dievas (Latvian Dievs, Prussian Deiwas), Germanic Tiwaz (seen in English "Tuesday") and the related Old Norse Tivar (gods), and Latin deus "god" and divus "divine", from which the English words "divine", "deity", French "dieu", Portuguese "deus", Spanish "dios" and Italian "dio", also "Zeys/Ζεύς" - "Dias/Δίας", the Greek father of the gods, are derived.

Related but distinct is the PIE proper name *Dyeus which while from the same root, may originally have referred to the daytime sky, and hence to "Father Sky", the chief God of the Indo-European pantheon, continued in Sanskrit Dyaus. The bode of the Devas is Dyuloka.


The Vedas, the earliest comprehensive literature, contain mantras for pleasing the Devas to obtain blessings. The Rig Veda, the earliest of the four, enumerates up to 33 Devas.

Some Devas represent the forces of nature and some represent moral values (such as the Adityas/Asuras Varuna and Mitra). The main Devas addressed in the Rig Veda are Indra, Agni (fire) and Soma, the latter two representing modes of sacrifice, called yagna. The post-Rig vedic Aitareya Brahmana in its opening stanza suggests a hierarchy among Devas.[2] Many of the deitiess taken together are worshiped as the Vishvedevas, the "all-deities". Varuna has the dual epithet of Deva and Asura. Ishwara is the only god.

Savitŗa, Vishnu, Rudra are Demi-Gods and (later given the exclusive epithet of Shiva, "auspicious one"), Prajapati (later identified with Brahmā), and devis (female deities) such as Ushas (dawn), Prithvi (earth) and Sarasvati.


The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says there are 33 devas in the celestial world, in terms of performance of yagnas. They are eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Indra, and Prajapati, these groups, however, are mentioned already in the Rugved.


Puranas describes genealogy and histories as remembered by the teller. As per Purana, Brahamdeva had seven assumed sons (manasputra) called saptarushi. They were Marichi, Atri, Angira, Pulastya (Kulastya), Pulaha, Kratu and Wasishtha. Marichi had a son called Kashyapa. Kashyapa had thirteen wives: Aditi, Diti, Danu, Duhita, Kadru etc. The sons of Aditi are called Aditya, the sons of Diti are called Daitya, the sons of Danu are called Danava and the sons of Duhita are called Duheva or Deva. Duhita's sons Deva were: Vishnu, Yama (Dharma) and Indra.

Nature and Hinduism

According to Vedas, the 33 devas, are frequently referred to as Asuras "twinkeling, unsleeping, eternal orbs of light". It means worship of devas are a worship of the skies and principle forces of life. Primary Devas include Varuna (Jupiter), Mithras (Venus) and Savitri (moon).

Classical Hinduism

Nature Devas are responsible for elements or objects such as fire, air, rain and trees - most of them assumed a minor role in the later religion. Certain other deities rose into prominence. These higher Devas control much more intricate tasks governing the functioning of the cosmos and the evolution of creation. Mahadevas, such as Lord Ganesha, have such tremendous tasks under their diligence that they are sometimes called themselves Gods under the Supreme One God. The Trimurti is composed of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva. (Note: Mahadeva generally refers to Śiva)

There are also many other lesser celestial beings in Hinduism such as the Gandharvas (celestial musicians), or their wives, the Apsaras (celestial dancers).

Vayu, the Lord of the wind, is an example of an important Deva. Also, Death is personified as the Dev Yama.

Devs, in Hinduism, are celestial beings that control forces of nature such as fire, air, wind, etc. They are not to be confused with the One and the only Supreme one God or His personal form, Saguna Brahman which can be visualized as Viṣṇu or Śiva. God (see Ishvara) or Brahman (the Supreme Spirit) is the ultimate controller. A famous verse from the Katha Upanishad states: “From fear (here, power) of Him the wind blows; from fear of Him the sun rises; from fear of Him Agni and Indra and Death, the fifth, run." In actuality,Ishvara Brahman is the only Ultimate Reality, and all Devs are simply mundane manifestations of Him.[citation needed]

The Vaishnavites (who often translate deva as "demigod") cite various verses that speak of the devas' subordinate status. For example, the Rig Veda (1.22.20) states, oṃ tad vishṇoḥ paramam padam sadā pashyanti sūryaḥ: "All the surs (i.e., the devas) look always toward the feet of Lord Vishnu." Similarly, in the Vishnu Sahastranama the concluding verses state: "The Rushis (great sages), the ancestors, the devs, the great elements, in fact all things moving and unmoving constituting this universe, have originated from Narayana," (i.e., Vishnu). Thus the Devas are stated to be subordinate to Vishnu, or God.[citation needed]

In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna himself states that worshipers of deities other than the Supreme Lord, Vishnu, are incorrect (Gita 9.23) as such worship leads only to temporal benefits, rather than to the Lord Himself (Gita 7.23). Krishna also says: "Whatever deity or form a devotee worships, I make his faith steady. However, their wishes are granted only by Me." (Gita: 7:21-22) Elsewhere in the Gita Lord Krishna states: "O Arjuna, even those devotees who worship other lesser deities (e.g., devs, for example) with faith, they also worship Me, but in an improper way because I am the Supreme Being. I alone am the enjoyer of all sacrificial services (Seva, Yagna) and Lord of the universe." (Gita: 9:23)

In pop culture

  • In computer game Rappelz Devas (theists, demigods) are race which is against asuras (demons, atheists)

See also


  1. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica
  2. ^ agnir vai devānām avamo vishṇuḥ paramas, tadantareṇa sarvā anyā devtā - "Agni is the lowest and Vishnu is the highest among Devas. All other deities occupy positions that are in between." 1.1.1

External links

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