Vishnu - a Hindu god - Ancient India
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Who is Vishnu?

Vishnu
Vishnu

January 2017 - Vishnu was one of the Hindu gods. He was mentioned in the Rig Veda as a god of light and the sun, but people first began to worship Vishnu as a really important god around 300 BC.

About this time, people began to think about Vishnu as being like the sun's energy, everywhere, invisible, all-powerful, part of everything. So in this way Vishnu became a much more powerful god than before. Mostly people worshipped Vishnu by offering him flowers, or incense, or food, or by praying to him or playing music for him. People did not usually sacrifice animals to Vishnu, because by 300 BC animal sacrifice was going out of fashion.


Vishnu tries to kill Lakshmi

Because Vishnu was a sky god, paintings of Vishnu often showed him with dark blue skin, like water-filled clouds (Compare this to the Egyptian god Amon, who is also sometimes blue.) Vishnu's wife was the goddess Lakshmi, who was the goddess of shiny brightness, and so also the goddess of shiny things like gold - the goddess of being rich and lucky.

People thought of Vishnu as being reincarnated over and over again in different forms. So Vishnu was often worshipped in the form of Krishna, which was one of his reincarnations.

Another reincarnation of Vishnu was as the god Rama, whose story is in the great poem, the Ramayana, written about 300 BC under the Mauryan Empire.

Learn by doing: Hinduism
More about the Ramayana

Bibliography and further reading about Vishnu:

Shiva
Krishna
More about Hinduism
Ancient India
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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