Why Are Hindu Deities
Portrayed in Wrathful Forms?
Hindu Gods and Goddesses
often have fierce forms, including possessing fangs, wearing
garlands of skulls, being adorned with snakes, and other frightening
appearances. Even those that are benefic may carry various weapons.
This may disturb people, particularly those who do not understand
symbolic language and who may be opposed to the use of images in
The Divine transcends our
ordinary sensory perception of the world. It dwarfs our mind and
ego. It includes death and goes beyond it. It consumes everything.
Experiencing this Infinite Reality is very humbling, even
frightening to we are trapped in the world of limitation, as it
takes away our ordinary identity and may make the world appear to be
unreal. Spiritual realization is like death because it is the
dissolution of our ego, or sense of separate self. Such apparently
terrible Deities show these experiences of transcendence, in which
even evil, death and suffering must be integrated into a Truth
beyond all duality.
There is another way in
which the Divine is frightening. It destroys all the forces of
ignorance, illusion and negativity. It destroys all the demons that
dwell in our minds. As such a destroyer of negativity it may appear
fierce or as a warrior, but it is only something that those trapped
in negativity need fear.
It is easy to see God in the
beautiful and beneficent, but to enter into the Oneness we must also
see God in the terrible and transformative. Without recognizing the
Divine even in death we cannot go beyond death. Because of this
Hindu and Buddhist traditions have always recognized the importance
of wrathful Deities. They have never encouraged that we become
wrathful and harm other people in the name of our God.