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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Truth behind 33 crore (330 million) gods in Hinduism

The fact of the matter is, there exist NO 33 crore Gods.. The exact word that occurs in the Vedas for 'crore' is Koti (कोटी) which in many languages like Marathi literally indicate the numerical value of crore. But are we really to take that meaning?
If we go deep in the language of Sanskrit, we understand that the word Koti indeed does mean 'crore' but more correctly, it means 'types'. So 33 Koti Gods means 33 types or families of Gods.
Accepting this, then who are those 33 'families' of Gods which we have?  Plus, do Gods like Durga, Gnpati, Skanda,etc have any place in that?

So here are the 33 families of Gods- 12 Adityas + 11 Rudras + 8 Vasus + 2 Ashwini Kumar = 33 Families
The last two families of Ashwini Kumar are replaced by Indra and Prajapati sometimes. But this seems improbable since Indra or Prajapati was a general post with many people being named as Indra or Prajapati at many times.

Let us see these people in detail-
12 Adityas or द्वादशादित्य are the sons of Aditi and hence called Adityas. The names of these 12 Adityas are Tvashta (त्वष्ट), Pusha (पूषा ), Vivasvan (विवस्वान), Mitra (मित्र ), Dhata (धाता), Vishnu (विष्णू), Bhaga (भग), Varuna (वरुण), Savitru (सवितृ ), Shakra (शक्र ), Ansha (अंश ) and Aryama (अर्यमा). The Rigveda has just eight of these Adityas with certain Brahmanas mentioning all 12 of them. The Puranas unanimously mention the number to be 12. Their mother Aditi along with these are praised in the Rigveda as proper Gods. These were the sons of Kashyapa rishi. One of these Aditya, Vivasvan was the father of Vaivasvat Manu from whom the genealogies of kings started.

11 Rudras or एकादशरुद्र are those Rudraganas who are said to have originated from Brahmadeva's anger. Their names are Manyu (मन्यु), Manu (मनु), Mahinas (महिनस ), Mahan (महान ), Shiv (शिव ), Rutudhvaj (ऋतुध्वज ), Ugrareta (उग्ररेता ), Bhava (भव), Kaal (काल ), Vamdev (वामदेव) and Dhrutavrat (धृतव्रत). Their names vary in different scriptures but the number remains same.

8 Vasus or अष्टवसू are sons bron from Dharma rishi and Vasu. Their names are Drona (द्रोण ), Pran (प्राण ), Dhruva (ध्रुव ), Aka (अक), Agni(अग्नी), Dosha (दोष), Vasu (वसू) and Vibhavasu (विभावसु ).

The 2 Ashwini Kumars were born from the Sun and were the doctors of the Devas. These tow had helped Chyavan Bhargav rishi to regain his youth.

If we see, many scriptures do clarify on the truth of these 33 families of Gods. If one observes, major Gods like Brahma, Vishnu, Ganpati, Shakti,etc don't find place in here. It seems these 33 families of Gods were the oldest and were worshiped but got replaced by Gods having a larger role to play in our lives. But over time the meaning of 'koti' got changed and we started to believe that there were indeed 33 crore Gods.

But does that really matter ? Because looking at the current state, we have at least 100 Gods which are worshiped in some form or other. THAT is our real asset- Our Polytheism and the overwhelming tolerance of people worshiping different Gods. This ability of ours has led us to believe that the whole world is ours. Because, after all, Every type of worship leads to the same thing- Paramatma or Brahman..

|| एकं सत् विप्र बहुदा वदन्ति ||

It has been documented in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad - Chapter 3.

Śākalya         : "How many gods are there?"
Yājñavalkya  : "Three hundred and three." Then he says, "Three thousand and three."

Śākalya         : "Is this the answer that you give me to my question, how many gods are there? Three thousand and three; three hundred and three! Have you no other answer to this question?"
Yājñavalkya  : There are thirty-three gods.

Śākalya         : "All right!" (not satisfied with answer) ...Tell me again properly; how many gods are there?"
Yājñavalkya   : "Six are there."

Śākalya         : "How many gods are there. Tell me again. Think properly."
Yājñavalkya   : "Only three gods are there."

Śākalya         : "How many gods are there? Tell again.
Yājñavalkya   : "Two gods are there."

Śākalya         :  "Tell again; how many gods are there?"
Yājñavalkya   :  "One and a half gods"

(Then he was very much upset)

Śākalya         :  "What is this you say, one and a half gods. Tell again properly; how many gods are there?"
Yājñavalkya  :  "One god is there,"

Śākalya         : "All these numbers that you have mentioned – three thousand and three, three hundred and  three – what are these gods? Give the names of these gods, the deities."
Yājñavalkya  :   "All these three thousand and all that I mentioned – they are not really gods. They are only   manifestations of the thirty-three. The thirty-three are the principal manifestations, and others are only their glories, radiances, manifestations, magnificences or forces, energies,  powers."

Śākalya         : "But what are these thirty-three?"
Yājñavalkya   : "The thirty-three gods are eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Ādityas, then Indra and Prajāpati – these make thirty-three gods."

Śākalya         : "What are these Vasus which are eight in number?"
Yājñavalkya   : "Fire is one deity; earth is one deity; air is another; the atmosphere is one deity; the sun is one deity; the heaven is one deity; moon is one deity; the stars are one deity. These constitute eight groups"

Śākalya         : "Why do you call them Vasus?"
Yājñavalkya   : "Everything is deposited as it were in these constituent principles. Therefore, they are called Vasus."

Śākalya         : "Who are the Rudras?"
Yājñavalkya  : "The ten senses and the mind make eleven. These are the Rudras."
Śākalya         : "What are the twelve Ādityas, the suns?"
Yājñavalkya   : "They are twelve forces of the sun, takes away the vitality of people."

Śākalya         : "Who is Indra? Who is Prajāpati?"
Yājñavalkya   : "The rain cloud can be called Indra. Sacrifice can be called Prajāpati."

Śākalya         : "What do you mean by rain cloud?"
Yājñavalkya   : "By rain cloud I do not actually mean the cloud, but the lightning which is the embodiment of energy."


  1. OR you could look at each of the gods as an essence of the one God; that this individual god is just an aspect of the one. This perspective lends itself to work with other faith paths and opens that door...

  2. Can you Please quote the sanskritized documented dialouge between
    Śākalya and Yājñavalkya from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad as what you have quoted in english translated version above.

  3. Nice very informative,thanks for sharing.

  4. Nice very informative,thanks for sharing.

  5. Which Sanskrit book is the meaning of 33 koti is said to be 33 types of god?? And if it was mistranslated in marathi then why it was not corrected that time itself??
    I think now you all got scared as people and getting educated and no more believing blindly.. That's why now you people started making stories.. Any way good job.. Hahahha

    1. Found this, second sloke:

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  7. I have difficulty to swallow your contentions. Hindus have 330 +million gods and goddesses, no doubt. No point in sticking on 33 gods.

    In fact Yajnavalkya in Bri. Up. did not mention 'koti' during his debate with Sakalya. Question of 33 crore does not arise here. It is another contexts and shastras, not here. The great master suggests there (Bri. Up Chapter 3) that the gods and devatas are various facets of brahma (ब्रह्म).

    In fact Yajnavalkya started with 3003 and went on explaining the number of gods to 303, 33, 6, 3, 2, 1.50, and ultimately to one! No constext of koti, type, crore, etc. arise in this debate. Again, advaita considers the number (any number) the same as belief system of dvaita! Pluraty of devas, whether 1.5 or one or 2 or ... 3003 or 330 millions does not matter.

    Next, Hindu literature and belief system have 330 million (33 crore) is an established fact. Why feel ashamed on 330 million devatas and squeeze on 33? What is the difference between 330 million and 33? Polytheism is our specialty, be proud! Please read the write-up by a Udaya Lal Pai in his blog: