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Q: Hinduism - polytheistic or monotheistic? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: Hinduism - polytheistic or monotheistic?
Category: Relationships and Society > Religion
Asked by: fiercepam-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 27 Jan 2004 09:46 PST
Expires: 26 Feb 2004 09:46 PST
Question ID: 300780
Hi there, this is my first time using Google Answers, and it's a
question I've been wondering about ever since my 11th-grade World
Religions class (so a good 5 years!).

Hinduism has three *main* aspects of Brahman - Vishnu (preserver),
Shiva (destroyer), and Brahma (creator).  And not Vishnu nor Shiva nor
Brahma are actual gods *separate* from Brahman, but just aspects or
roles of Brahman. And Brahman has thousands of forms or "roles"
(manifestations?), but none of them are *actual* different gods (even
if they are called gods), because Brahman is the One Truth, or the
Absolute Truth.

Christianity has the Holy Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Holy
Spirit. God is the "absolute truth", as is Brahman, but The Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit are all different aspects or roles or
manifestations of this absolute truth or absolute God. They're not
actually different gods or separate from God.

So, the question: why is Christianity considered to be a monotheistic
religion and Hindusim considered to be a polytheistic religion?

Christians worship Jesus and Mary and the Holy Spirit of God as part
and parcel of showing their faith to God, or of worshipping God. And
just as Hindus pay homage to or worship the different aspects of
Brahman, worshipping those aspects is just a way of worshipping and
loving the Absolute Truth God, Brahman.

I hope that was clear - I'm sorry if I'm muddling it. 

This has been the subject of much debate among friends and I and we've
never really come to any solid conclusions. Western ignorance about
Hinduism has been the prevailing theory. Do Hindus consider Hinduism
to be polytheistic? The Hindu friends I've asked have been too
"Westernised" to really know.

Thank you very much for any help, in advance.

Request for Question Clarification by techtor-ga on 28 Jan 2004 08:52 PST
Hello Fiercepam,
I believe Beckyp's posting below is very helpful, though I have found
on the net many articles supporting the idea that Hinduism is closer
to monotheism than polytheism. I doubt thought that there is a final
resolution to this, as there are many people with different opinions
about the same thing, so a "once and for all" answer would likely be
inexistent. I wonder though if references to online articles
discussing this issue about Hinduism would be enough for you as an

Clarification of Question by fiercepam-ga on 28 Jan 2004 10:18 PST
Hi Techtor,

I would love the articles and discussions you have found. I myself
believe that Hinduism is closer to monotheism than to polytheism or
henotheism. I knew that I would not get a definite answer, but am
interested in opinions, discussions, available articles, etc. I'd been
unable to find any of these, although maybe I just didn't look hard
enough, or didn't spend enough time trying to separate the good from
the bad. I hope no one thinks I'm silly for even asking this question,
or for leaving the question open after Becky posted her comment.

I know I won't get the answers to the universe for $20 ;-) But I have
been wondering about this for five or six years now, and Google
Answers is the last resort ;-)

Thanks for your help!
Subject: Re: Hinduism - polytheistic or monotheistic?
Answered By: techtor-ga on 28 Jan 2004 11:29 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello Fiercepam,
I have collected a list here of URLs to websites that discuss the
issue of the polytheism or monotheism of Hinduism, and most are in
favor of the latter. These are not all the articles that can be
collected about the topic, but I believe they are the most useful:

May 2002 - Hinduism--Monotheism and Polytheism Reconciled
- A very good article on the topic.

Re: [Assam] Polytheism and Monotheism - Message board posting
- This is a message revealing one opinion of someone, with two links
to other articles in suppor of the montheistic aspect of Hinduism.

Hindu Scriptures Which May Support Monotheism
- Quotes of Hindu scriptures that may favor monotheism in their meaning.

Polytheism and development of universal ethics
- K. K. Verma, Ph.D. and Rashmi Saxena, Ph.D.
- Here is one article favoring a polytheistic view of 

Polytheism | Encyclopedia
- Here is an article with a section discussing that the henotheism
that describes the Hindu belief system is being argued over whether it
is actually polytheistic or monotheistic.

David Frawley - Awaken Bharata - Sarva Dharma Samabhava - (page2)
- A little piece saying that the polytheism of religions such as
Hinduism has been misinterpreted.

Polytheism in the Old Testament
- Has a comment on Hinduism as monotheistic.

A Hindu Replies
- Looks like a message posting that explains the theism of Hindu God(s).

A Brief History of Religion and Faith
- Here's an article that calls Hinduism polytheistic, but it mentions
One Supreme God, and that there are Hindu factions.

Hindu website - Hinduism FAQ - Hinduism and polytheism
- A website about Hinduism answering a question that the polytheistic
beings understood by outsiders are actually manifestations of the same

OM - Spiritual Organization for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs - Information on Hinduism
- Another site explaining Hinduism believes in actually one God.

American Hindu Association - Q&A
- A question with an answer that Hinduism in a one-God religion.

Are Indic Traditions Polytheistic?
A Position Paper by David Gray, PhD

RELS 120 / March 2, 1998
- In this article, the answer at the bottom says that Hinduism seems
polytheistic, but the explanation after indicates a form of

False propanda against Hinduism
- Also refutes the idea that Hinduism is polytheistic. - Hinduism is not a religion?
- An article about Hinduism. - Hinduism
- Another expert speaks about Hinduism

Buddhism and Hinduism monotheistic ?
Subject for further study by theologians and other religious experts.

HINDUISM - from Cult Awareness and Information Centre Australia

Pace IN Academy - Hinduism
- Another explanation about Hinduism from an academic institution

Hindu Unity.Org - Is Hinduism a polytheist religion?
Dr K N Bastola
- Calls Hinduism a "monotheistic polydeitic religion".

UNC Asheville - Hinduism
- A site that collects links to other websites about Hinduism

AndStuff - HinduPresuppositions
- Also supports a more monotheistic point of view.

The Hindu Student Council at the University of Maryland - FAQ
- More support for Hindu's monotheism.

Go! Online - Ancient Religion On The Rise
by William G. Wells

These are not all, but I hope this is a good list. There are a host of
other sites with opinions that Hinduism is polytheistic, but they are
not in-depth articles, and probably "general public" articles that are
meant for starters, but do not have the best ideas about the topic.

Google Search terms used:
hinduism polytheism monotheism
hinduism polytheistic
hinduism monotheistic

I hope this answer has you what you need. If you need anything else,
or have a problem with the answer, do please post a Request for
Clarification before rating and I shall respond as soon as I can.
Thank you.
fiercepam-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $4.50
thank you - this wealth of resources and the weeding out of the bad is
just what I was looking for =) I appreciate the wonderful comments
I've gotten here, too! Thanks again.

Subject: Re: Hinduism - polytheistic or monotheistic?
From: beckyp-ga on 27 Jan 2004 18:11 PST
Hi fiercepam,

I've spent a lot of time in India as a tourist, not for religious or
even spiritual reasons.  However, the intensity with which Hinduism is
practiced caused me to ask the same question ... among many others!

Here is one explanation:

"What is the Hindu definition of God--monotheistic or polytheistic? 

Hinduism is both a monotheistic and a henotheistic religion. Hindus
believe in one supreme God who created the universe and who is
worshipped as Light, Love and Consciousness. Hindus were never
polytheistic, but were always henotheistic. Henotheism is defined by
Webster's as "the belief in or worship of one God without denying the
existence of others."  "

Based solely on my observations and discussions with a few Hindu
priests,  Hindus tend to pray (puja) to God ... in general ... which I
assume would be Brahman.  Then they pray to specific gods in their
pantheon of gods for specific things, like good health, good fortune,
happiness and the like.  They usually adopt a personal god (one of the
millions) and focus on the specific attributes and aspects of that

During my visits, I often see many similarities to Christianity,
particularly Catholicism.  Icons, statuary, holy water, ringing bells
AND praying to saints.  While the saints were real people, the Hindus
freely admit that their religion is based primarily on myth coming
down through the stories in the Vedas and other books of their
religion.  (Monkeys usually don't fly!)  Then again, these stories
probably have a grain of truth in reality in the distant past.

Here is another link that discusses the issue:

I used the search the following search terms:

Hinduism polytheistic monotheistic

Very simple answer to a very complex religion!
Subject: Re: Hinduism - polytheistic or monotheistic?
From: fiercepam-ga on 28 Jan 2004 05:20 PST
Hi BeckyP =)

I agree completely about the similarities to Catholicism.
Unfortunately my Religions teacher in high school didn't agree with me
(or he couldn't see past the end of his nose). I had tried Google
searches years ago for those same terms you posted - but didn't have
any luck! Guess I should have tried again.

That explanation does make sense. Thank you for the links, I shall
read them today and do a little more searching of my own while at


Subject: Re: Hinduism - polytheistic or monotheistic?
From: libby-ga on 28 Jan 2004 19:17 PST
This is just to add to the answer provided.  Your question sparks an
interesting discussion.  Perhaps the answer to your question about the
classification Hinduism as polythistic may be found in who is doing
the ?considering?  Hinduism comes in at least as many flavors as
Christianity.  Anyone who takes the effort to understand it will
discern what you have.  Perhaps the confusion stems from Hinduism?s
rich iconography, exposure to popular religious practice rather than
its philosophical underpinnings or just western ethnocentricity.

Do Hindus consider themselves to be polytheistic?  It depends on who
you ask and how you phrase the question.   I think most would be
astonished at the idea that there is more than one ultimate reality.  
But also puzzled at the suggestion that their use of various
manifestations of God to describe, conceptualize or communicate about
the divine adds up to polytheism.    Polytheism is unsophisticated ?
One could hardly study Sankara and come away with that judgment.

The list of links provided by techtor-ga was terrific - one more I like is
Subject: Re: Hinduism - polytheistic or monotheistic?
From: techtor-ga on 29 Jan 2004 07:42 PST
Thanks for the 5-star rating and the tip! :)

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