This blue marble

– and yet it spins

330 million deities

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nepal-24-webHow many Hindu deities are there? 3? 3000? 330 million? A different number is thrown into the air every time somebody dares to pose the question. The stories of Iliad and the names and attributes of Greek deities are holiday reading compared to the embroidered tapestry that is Hinduism.

How much must Hindu children struggle in school in order to remember even a small fraction? Perhaps some child stayed up late to memorize the story of Narasimhadeva, the lion god who slayed the demon king?

nepal-22-webOr that Vishnu the protector god travels on the back of an eagle?

nepal-23-webOr that goddess Kali is the manifestation of destruction, blackness, and power over time?

Kathmandu is crowded with temples. Each temple holds several deities, or forms of deities, each and one somehow interlinked back to the two main gods Shiva and Parvati. Dizzying: how can anyone choose who to worship and for what specific purpose?

Perhaps the number of gods is irrelevant: there may be as many faces of God as there are people. The ancient Hindus believed there were 330 million souls on this planet – and thus also 330 million deities: one for each one of us as we all are manifestations of God. Perhaps this is the truth? After all, the common greeting “namaste” translates as “I greet the divine within you”.

Perhaps it does not matter. Perhaps what matters is the thought that is carried with the tika dye and chime of bells. Perhaps all that matters is that the pigeons carry the prayers whispered to rice grains with them, up into the heavens.

nepal-8-web(Kathmandu and Bhaktapur, Nepal; January 2015)

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