God in Hinduism

The concept of God in Hinduism varies in its diverse traditions.[1][2][3][4] Hinduism spans a wide range of beliefs such as henotheism, monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, pantheism, pandeism, monism, agnosticism, atheism and nontheism.[1][2][5][6]

Forms of theism find mention in the Bhagavad Gita. Emotional or loving devotion (bhakti) to a primary god such as avatars of Vishnu (Krishna for example), Shiva and Devi emerged in the early medieval period, and is now known as Bhakti movement.[7][8]

Contemporary Hinduism can be categorized into four major traditions: Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism worship Vishnu, Shiva, and Devi — the Divine Mother — as the Supreme respectively, or consider all Hindu deities as aspects of the formless Supreme Reality or Brahman. Other minor sects such as Ganapatya and Saura focus on Ganesha and Surya as the Supreme.

Hindus following Advaita Vedanta consider Ātman within every living being to be the same as Vishnu or Shiva or Devi,[9][10][11] or alternatively identical to the eternal metaphysical Absolute, called Brahman in Hinduism.[12][13][14][15][16][17] Such a philosophical system of Advaita or non-dualism as it developed in the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy, especially as set out in the Upanishads and popularised by Adi Shankara in the 9th century has been influential on Hinduism.[18][19][20]

Hindus following Dvaita Vedanta consider that the individual Self, known as jīvātmans, and the eternal metaphysical Absolute called Brahman in Hinduism exist as independent realities, and that these are distinct.[21][22] Such a philosophical system of Dvaita or dualism as it developed in the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy, especially as set out in the Vedas and popularised by Madhvacharya in the 13th century has been influential on Hinduism.[23] Especially the influence of Madhva's philosophy has been most prominent and pronounced on the Chaitanya school of Bengal Vaishnavism.[24] Madhva says that in the beginning there was only one God and that was Narayana or Vishnu and refused to accept any claims that other Hindu deities, such as Brahma or Shiva, might be equally the highest.[25]