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How to recognize Buddhist and Hindu Gods and Goddesses

How to recognize Buddhist and Hindu Gods and Goddesses

hindu sculpture
Buddhist and Hindu sculpture

With around 33 million different deities in the Hindu religion, it is easy to get some of them mixed up. Artists from centuries ago devised a cleaver way to tell them apart. You can tell Buddhist and Hindu deities apart through a combination of features. These features are the way they sit or stand, cloths they wear, their ornaments, and many other hints. This article gives you tips on how you can recognize Buddhist and Hindu deities while on your Kathmandu sightseeing tour.

Key attributes

There are several key attributes that will help you identify Buddhist and Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The most important is body language. Body language includes sitting or standing, the number of hands and heads, the symbols made by the hands, and what the deity is doing with their body. Another key attribute is possessions because some deity’s will have a certain object. The last key attribute that I’ve noticed is the inclusion of animals.

Body language

Many Buddhist and Hindu gods and goddesses have multiple poses to represent their complex nature. This list only identifies the most common poses of the most common deities because 33 million descriptions would take a long time to write.

buddhist and hindu gods
Krishna playing the flute

You can identify Krishna in his typical pose, standing cross-legged and playing the flute. It is rare for other deities to have this pose, but Lokeshvara will sometimes be seen with this body language.

buddhist and hindu gods

The Buddhist goddess Yajrayogini will stand with one leg in the air, however Vishnu can be seen doing the same when he is about to take a large step.

buddhist and hindu gods
Indra king of gods

Indra is often depicted as sitting with one leg crossed and the other leg slightly raised in the royal position. He is the king of the Gods after all. He is also the only deity with a horizontal 3rd eye.

buddhist and hindu gods
Old lady Mahalakshmi

If you ever see a sculpture that looks like the skeleton of an old women, you can be certain it is Mahalakshmi

buddhist and hindu gods

The Buddhist goddess with 5 extra eyes 1 on each hand and foot and with a 3rd eye is Tara. She is also seen with the hand position mudra varada, which represents giving or granting a favor.

buddhist and hindu gods

Vajradaka is a Buddhist god that devours evil. He can be identified by an upturned face and an open mouth.

hindu sculpture
Maitreya sitting European style

Only Maitreya and occasionally Buddha sit in a chair with their feet on the floor.

buddhist and hindu gods
Buddhist deities

Buddhist deities normally sit cross legged with their feet turned up. Their hands are normally in the bhumisparsa-mudra or dharmacakra-mudra position.

buddhist and hindu gods
Sadakshari Lokeshvara

Avalokiteshvara has 2 common forms. One is Sadakshari Lokeshvara, who is the lord of the 6 sylabols “om, mani, padme, hum.” He is a always seated with 4 harms. Two of his hands are in the greeting position.


buddhist and hindu gods

The Buddhist goddess Vasudhara is represented by a body with 1 head and 6 arms. The hands hold the book of knowledge, grain, jewels, and a water vessel.

buddhist and hindu gods

The Buddhist god Hevajra is identified by his 4 faces and 16 arms. Each of his hands holds a skull cup. Sometimes the cups have items inside them.

Maitreya may also be identified by her in the sitting crossed legged position, her feet turned up, one hand in the teaching mudra position, and the other holding a water vessel.

budhist and hindu gods
Vajradhara, not only does he want to rock, he is prepared with a bell and a lighting bolt.

Vajradhara holds a bell and a thunderbolt in his hands, which are crossed in front of his chest.

buddhist and hindu gods
Padmapani Lokeshvara

Avalokiteshvara has two common positions, one is Padmapani Lokeshvara with one hand in the giving position and the other carrying a lotus

buddhist and hindu gods

Namasangiti is identified by his 6 arms with 5 hand poses. He performs the offering gesture with one hand, while another is above his head holding a water vessel, his third hand is performing the teaching gesture, his 4th hand is giving nectar, and his last 2 hands are in the meditation position holding a bowl.

Animals/ vehicles

The Hindu god Jambhala has a jewel spitting mongoose.

Yama has a bull head and a buffalo mount

Vishnu has a humanized bird, which reminds me of bird person.

Shiva has a bull mount

Ganesh rides around on a little mouse.

Chamunda does not have a mount, but he is often seen sitting or squatting above human figures.



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