In Hindu traditions they are known as benevolent and divine beings, while in Zoroastrianism they are considered evil beings. In Buddhism, Devas are known as Gods who live in the various heaven realms as a reward for their previous good deeds, but they are still subject to rebirth and eventually reincarnate. These beings are heavily noted in various forms from Thai, Japanese and Cambodian cultures all the way to Tibetan, Indian and Chinese culture. Before we break down the differences between the Asuras and the Devas, we need to understand what a Deva actually is. In Sanskrit the word ‘Deva’ translates to, “heavenly, divine, anything of excellence”. In the Bhagavad Gita (7.20), we clearly hear Krishna warn that one should not make the mistake of considering the Devas as lowly Anya, “other” or “different” from Krishna. Meaning they are not separate from the Unified Transcendental Reality.
This essentially states that Devas or Devi (female), are equated to make up the Godhead. In the earliest Vedic scriptures, all supernatural beings are considered to be Devas. In other Hindu texts like the Upanishads, Puranas and Itihasas, we then see separation between the Asuras and Devas. Think of this as being the split and dividing of the two from each other. The separation was when Devas became known as good, and Asuras became known as bad. Those terms are loaded though and one should see this more as a separation between the self serving and the selfless.
Devas and Asuras in the Vedic lore are very similar to the Olympian Gods and Titans of Greek mythology. We know that both are referred to as powerful beings, but they respectfully have different orientations and inclinations. Bhagavata Purana describes the Devas as “limbs” or “arms” of God. This Godhead that I mentioned earlier differs from Christian Mythology by saying the worship of any particular deity equates to worshipping the whole. These are considered to be parts of one being, and though separate, they are one. This translates to all divine beings making up the Godhead, so even different cultural mythologies are included. The term Ista Devata (one’s “desired form of God”) is used when encompassing all higher beings. The Asuras would be more so seen as nature spirits and demigods. Think of them as a higher tier of Fae. There's long been a power struggle and conflict between the Asuras and the Devas.
Shiva- Also known as Rudra before the second century, he later became what we call Shiva. Often times he is referred to as Adiyogi, which translates to “the first Yogi”. We also need to understand the name Shiva itself, which means “that which is not”. We can take this in two ways, Shiva is the Adiyogi, or existence itself birthed the yogic traditions. What I find fascinating is the Puranas essentially describe Shiva as an extraterrestrial and actual physical being that descended upon mankind and shared higher sciences with the whole of humanity. I had an interesting experience that proved to me the literal existence of Shiva. I was meditating a few years back, and I chanted a Shiva Mantra for over 2 hours straight while lying in Shivasana Pose. Something that can't be disproven by myself then occurred, in the middle of my chanting I felt a physical presence enter the room and it was a black silhouette with divine radiance that approached me. It laid its hands on my head and I immediately understood and learned a full Sanskrit prayer that I had no knowledge of before. Just as soon as the silhouette appeared, it was gone and I realized that I had met Shiva. Mount Kailash is said to be the abode of Shiva, and Russian researchers have discovered some incredible things that provide deeper context to some Vedic texts. Mineral contents from the mountain were tested and said to have been heated perfectly in the same fashion as ground that's been in contact with meteorites. The difference however is that the mountain has been proven to be man made and constructed of a 100 or more pyramids to create a super pyramid, seismic testing has shown the shapes of pyramids under the rock and snow. How can a man made mountain be comprised of meteorites? Take into account all of the UFO sightings at this mountain and even reports from the United States Air Force. Read up on accounts of people who have met Shiva, and the story becomes more clear that he just may be a real being. Let's not forget the documentation from Mexico, India, China and several other countries showing the history of the 7 Saptarishis. These 7 Rishis took the deep Vedic teachings of Shiva and spread them across the globe. One thing that should be understood which is often mis portrayed, Shiva is known as “The Destroyer”, this doesn't make him evil. Understand that destruction falls into play with breaking chains and oppression, destroying the ego and ending things so that new things may come forth. Destruction is both a valid and needed construct of existence and creation.
Ganesh- Many things were lost in translation and improperly turned into what we now see Ganesh as. In the Vedic origins, Ganesh was an acolyte of Shiva and not the elephant headed deity we see him as today. Some believed he was a thought form turned Tulpa, created by Shiva; but this too is incorrect. Ganesh, also spelled Ganesa or Ganesha is known by other names like Ganapati, Vinayaka, and Pillaiyar. He is described as the ‘Lord of Good Fortune’, who provides prosperity, fortune and success. He is also said to open roads and lay waste to obstacles, in Feng Shui his statues are said to cycle the dragon currents of a home properly. By the Puranas we find he's the living embodiment of fortune, but unlike Rahu, he is not meant to be seen as a literal being. Ganesh is a force, a current and as such we understand this in the portrayal of a God. These currents may be witnessed in a supernatural manner, but as far as it being who Ganesh truly is, that requires the breaking apart of story. Separate the man from the idea and the truth is in the middle.
Vishnu- In Christianity you’ll hear of the Trinity, which is composed of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. This is similar to the Hindu Trimurti (or Triumvirate), Vishnu is known as ‘The Preserver’, Brahma is ‘The Creator’ and Shiva is ‘The Destroyer’. What is probably the most unique thing about Vishnu is his ability to use avatars to enact his will through. Some of these avatars he worked through include, Matsya - The Fish, Kurma - The Tortoise, Varaha - The Boar; and countless others. A couple of the most prominent were Krishna and various Buddha’s, with the ability to move through several constructs and beings within varying shapes or vessels, one is able to see more of what I'm talking about with Devas that are currents of energy and not singular living entities. Vishnu himself is more of what you would call a ‘Godform’ and with mantra or sadhana practices devoted to him, many have seen or felt his presence. Vishnu is also a prime example of a being who would consciously reincarnate within multiple forms at the same time.
Brahma- Before he was Brahma, he was known as Prajapati. He is known as the grand creator just as in Egyptian mythology we have Atum, also known as Rah. Amun-Ra is considered the supreme version of Rah, and in Greek mythology according to testimony from ancient Greek historiographers in Libya and Nubia he was seen as Zeus. Brahma is all of these beings, different cultures have different names, but the role he plays is one in the same. It is a little lengthy, but something worth sharing from the Bhagavad Gita is as follows in 7.1-7, I'll paraphrase it for simplicity. Krishna says to Prtha: “By practice of yoga in full consciousness of Me (Brahma), with your mind solely focused, you can know Me, fully without doubt. I shall give you this knowledge, which is phenomenal and numinous. If you know just this, nothing further shall remain to be known. Out of a million men, one may achieve perfection, and of those who achieve perfection, only one can truly know Me. Earth, air, fire, ether, water, the mind, intelligence and your false ego -- together this constitutes My separate material energies. There is another, superior energy of Mine, it comprises all living entities who exploit the resources of this material, it is inferior nature. All beings have their source in the two natures. All that is material and all that is spiritual, know without doubt that I am origin and dissolution. No truth is superior to Me, all of creation rests upon Me.” This is Brahma! When you look at being said here in this passage, it bares a striking resemblance to how Jesus spoke of his father in the Bible, the Gita was written far before the Bible or Quran ever came into the picture. It would appear that no matter the religion or source, no matter what the story is, there is always some older text or story that echoes the same consistent notes on a creationary figure, and yet they are all clouded in mystery, fables, and the unknown.
Saraswati- A highly revered Hindu Goddess, she holds dominion over aesthetics. This includes music, the arts as a whole, learning and wisdom. She has been compared in many ways to Greek mythology. Numerous comparisons have been made of Apollo and her, combined with having the mental prowess of the Greek goddess Athena. She is also called Sarasvati and 108 other names, which are composed with mantras. The song of 108 names is called, “Ashtottara Shatanamavali of Goddess Saraswati”. She is the wife of Brahma and what some refer to as the union of the two Trimurti’s. Lakshmi, Parvati and Saraswati compose what you could call the feminine or Yin Trimurti. They assist within the maintenance, creation and destruction of existence that Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu collectively wrought. If you were to add the composition of Mankind and the spiritual planes with both Trimurtis, you would wind up with a cosmic equivalent of the Bagua 8 Trigram. She is definitely a ‘Godform’, and if one were to devote a sadhana or have a vested interest in connecting to her, I assure you it is possible to feel her divine radiant presence. Saraswati plays a role in other Asian religions, such as Buddhism and Jainism. Accounts that reference her date back as far as 1700-1100 BC, the Rigveda is where she's first mentioned. The Mahabharata even mentions her directly being the creator of the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda. In many historical and religious texts of times far gone it is not uncommon to hear it mentioned that at some point a divine being lent wisdom to whatever was written, but can we really know, how would we know?
Durga- I know Devi Durga to be real, I've felt her power and called upon her in many cases I've worked of the paranormal nature. I've witnessed white light take shape from my mouth, while uttering her mantras against malevolent entities. Parashakti, Devi, Shakti, Bhavani, Parvati, Amba and countless other names compose her identity, she is a principal and pantheon force. She is the “Warrior Goddess”, and closely resembles Sekhmet from Egyptian mythology. Her purpose centers around combating the evils of the world, and malevolent intelligent forces that threaten peace. She has a Divine Shakti form which contains combined energies from all the gods in the form of weapons and emblems (mudras). Durga is the other half of Shiva; what I mean is that he's the physical and cosmic form, while she is the living expression. A man is said to leave all of his purity at the threshold of a brothel, once he enters. This makes the soil surrounding a brothel, highly virtuous. When creating a statue of Goddess Durga, this pure soil is gathered from brothels and then it is used in carving the idol. Purity in itself is what defeats evil, this is what makes Durga so powerful and fierce.
Hanuman- There's been numerous reports of encounters with Hanuman in the Himalayas, including a massive group of people who witnessed him in 1999. A secret mantra from Piduru Mountain in Sri Lanka, was taught to the tribal people by Hanuman himself. When performed, this mantra summons him to physically appear before you. It is documented by those tribes people in records dating back for centuries, that Hanuman visits them every 41 years. It is common belief that Lord Hanuman resides on the Gandmadan Mountain and in the Satyuga Era, he took form as Rudra in a shared form with Shiva. Pawanputra Hanuman was also an incarnation of Lord Shiva, the two are very closely related in many ways within the Vedas. Giant footprints dating from hundreds of years to millions of years old, have been found all over Asia, and they are attributed to Hanuman. A photo taken in 1988 has been widely circulated, the photo was anonymously taken by a devotee who was said to not have lived after sharing the picture of Hanuman. Just like Saraswati having a prayer composed of mantras that contain 108 names, so too does Hanuman have at least 108 names. So much can be said about this glorious and divine being, and as far as deities go, Hanuman has no shortage of people claiming to have proof showing that he still walks among us.
Indra- He is not just a Vedic deity in Hinduism, but also a guardian deity within Buddhism. In Jainism, he plays a different role as the king of the highest heaven known as Saudharmakalpa. With Greek and Norse mythology, we find close relations of Indra with Zeus and Thor. We can even draw more similarity within traditions of the Canaanite’s primary deity, known as Baal. He was considered to be the most important god within the Vedic religion. As later texts appeared, he adopted a lesser, but still major role in Hinduism. Vrishakapi was once Indra’s pet, until after the Vedas; he became Hanuman. The reason Indra is not worshipped by the majority of Hinduism today, is because the advent of Krishna, the avatar of Vishnu becoming supreme God. There used to be a festival in his honor called “Indrotasava”, within North India. Indra is not just the name of a God, but it is a position, an arrangement, or chair that one holds for a time. This is similar to how Jesus became the focus of Christianity and worship of him is worship of the father, but before Jesus came along it was just worship of the Abrahamic god.
Kali- Many have christened her “Goddess of Death”, but more appropriately she should be seen as the Goddess of Time as well. Those who worship Kali, in fact worship eternity; because eternity is the mother of time. It was taught to me by a master that I trained with, to not call Kali without Shiva first. It was later explained to me when I asked another teacher why, “how can you have time without space?” Kali, like Shiva is more of a real being and less of a current that was personified. Some of the negative stigma attached to Kali, comes from a secret cult of murderers that roamed India dating back at least as far as the 13th century. The Thuggee’s were a group that killed in the name of Kali, they often gained their victim’s trust and would catch them off guard. They believed in bloodless kills and the usual method was strangulation with a rumal, (the yellow silk handkerchief each thug wore, usually around their waist); but an occasional neck-breaking or even poisonous tinctures were used. Kali is considered to be an aggressive form of Durga, and the last avatar of Vishnu. Her tantric sadhana is supposed to be the most dangerous path that one can take. In the “Niruttra Tantra”, Shiva says ”one should only worship Kali when they are ‘Virabhava’ (hero, or one with courage); or even Divyabhava(divine).
The Devas themselves are pictorial versions of ideas and states of being. What I mean is that to make something attainable and personable, we tend to personify it so that it becomes familiar and approachable. The very ideas are not necessarily worshipped as beings, but meditated upon so that they can be attained. Some of these beings are in fact literal and others are concepts that we make into physical forms for deeper understanding. Think of them as conscious currents that may adopt an image we can understand and become closer to. With some instances though, you'll see these currents of energy project within a form that we can grasp. This is not what this energy actually looks like, but can be seen as a shell or vessel through which it operates within.
I did not describe all the Devas, because there are 33 core ones and countless Pantheon beings; plus if you wanted to count all Hindu deities it's a total that amounts to around 33 million and probably even more. I feel if we hit on a few of the main ones and separate some of the myths from actual accounts, this begins to paint a more clear picture. In actuality they all exist within the mind’s of men, but some actually walked upon the ground we live on. Most of these beings like I said, are merely concepts and states that we can touch and feel or even forms of consciousness. With centuries of worship, they have become real in ways and some of the energies we are describing have taken shape in the images we've given them.
This way of thinking only applies to a portion of them however, just as some were actual beings, there’s a third category that may surprise you. We can go as far as to say that some Devas are higher celestial beings and nature spirits that happened to be lumped into the category of Deva. One can not make the blanket statement that a Deva is a God, a Deva could also be a higher echelon nature spirit or what Christian's call Angels. The Devas can be concepts and conscious energies or mislabeled myths of humans that were glorified through the ages. If you really dig, you can even find extraterrestrial or faery type beings labeled as Devas. It's such a fascinating classification of being, simply because we can not call it one thing collectively.