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Vishnu and Lakshmi (Kashmir, 1000s AD now in Los Angeles)

Vishnu and Lakshmi (Kashmir, 1000s AD now in Los Angeles)

A Hindu god

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 him as a really important god around 300 BC.

What’s the Rig Veda?
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In the Mauryan Empire

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.

What is the sun made of?
The Mauryan Empire
The end of animal sacrifice

Mostly people worshipped him by offering him flowers, or incense, or food. Or they prayed to him or played music for him. People did not usually sacrifice animals to him, because by 300 BC animal sacrifice was going out of fashion.

Sunshine breaking through the clouds

Sunshine breaking through the clouds

Why does Vishnu have blue skin?

Because he was a sky god, paintings of him often showed him with dark blue skin, like water-filled clouds. (Compare this to the Egyptian god Amon, who is also sometimes blue.) His 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.

The god Lakshmi
History of gold

A small green stone statue of Vishnu

The Hindu god Vishnu, from the village of Staraya Maina (Old Maina), ca. 600-1000 AD

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

Who is Krishna?
What’s the Ramayana?
A Ramayana project

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:


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