Origin of the Concept of Many Gods

Editor’s Note: We remind readers that Gun means attributes or properties, Aakaar means shape, the prefix Sa means with and the prefix Nir means without.

In an earlier article , we had discussed the concept of Sa-Gun and Sa-Aakaar , or a Divine Entity with properties, attributes and shape. The question still remains how and why these properties were chosen.

Recall from our welcome article that creators and thinkers who developed their insights of Eternal Dhama were utterly fearless in their minds. No dogma restrained their enquiries and no previous commitment prohibited their adventures in philosophic speculation. They were not constrained by any existence of a previously defined God or Prophet. The Vedic Sages were deep believers in Divinity and they saw the existence of Divinity in many phenomena. 

They used these phenomena to contemplate the attributes the Supreme Divine Entity in a way that is similar to modern Representation Theory of Mathematics. 

Mathematics involves study of objects of unknown stuctures, shapes & properties. How does one go about doing that? One way is to project the unknown structure onto a known structure and study the projected image in the known structure. Then Mathematicians use the properties of this image to look back into the unknown structure and make hypothesis about the unknown structure.

This technique is called Representation Theory and the projected image of the unknown object is called a “Representation” of the unknown structure. Each projected image probably gives only a partial answer about the unknown structure. So Mathematicians try to construct as many different representations as they can to get a better understanding of the unknown structure.  

We see similar analysis in the writings of the Vedic Sages. They looked at various natural phenomena and saw evidence of Divinity in that phenomenon. For example, they looked at the power of a violent whirwind or a hurricane  and its ability to sweep solid structures from its path. If a physical wind on earth can have this power they asked, how awesome must be the power of the Supreme Divine Entity? So they imagined a Divine Wind as one of the subsets or attributes of the Supreme Divine Entity and called it Marut or Vayu

In mathematical terminology, a great burst of earthly wind became a representation of the awesome power of the Supreme and the part of the Supreme that projected this representation was called Marut or Vayu.
Anyone who has seen a forest fire rage in California can understand the awesome power of that natural phenomenon. The Vedic Sages looked at this power of Fire, its ability to purify, to protect from cold & to destroy and wondered about the awesome power of the Supreme Divine Entity. So they imagined a Divine Fire as one of the subsets or attributes of the Supreme Divine Entity and called it Agni.  

In this manner, different representations of the Nir-Gun and Nir-Aakaar Supreme Entity were created and the subsets of the Supreme Entity that created these earthly representations were given names like Agni, Indra, Marut, Varun among others. People were free to worship the representations they preferred and eventually these representations came to be called Gods.  

This is the context of the Vedic hymn:

इन्द्रं मित्रं वरुणं अग्निम आहुर्योहो दिव्यः स सुपर्न्नो गरुत्मान
Indram, Mitram, Varunam, Agnim, Aahuryoho Divya Sa Sapurno Garutman
They call him Indra, Mitra, Varun, Agni, heavenly noble-winged Garut-man

एकं सत विप्रः बहुधा वदन्ति
Ekam Sat Vipraha Bahudha Vadanti
To What is One Truth, the Sages give different Titles
Rg-Ved, I. 164.46

Each of the names, Indra, Mitra, Agni, Varun given by Sages is a Representation or an image of specific properties attributed to the Supreme in the Sa-Gun and Sa-Aakaar concept. And all these Representations are essentially part of one Nir-Gun and Nir-Aakaar Supreme Entity. They are not Gods or entities independent from each other but an integral part of one Eternal Entity.  

PS: The name Marut may not be as familiar to readers as Agni. But everyone knows the great Hanuman from Ramayan. The birth name of Hanuman was Maruti or the son of the Divine Wind Marut.

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