May Varuna with guidance straight,
And Mitra the One-who-knows,
And Aryaman in accord with Aditya,
Guide us forth, like the wind that blows,
As with their Might Evermore
They guard the Sacred Laws,
Shelter may they vouchsafe to us,
Immortal Gods to mortal men..
The Vedic Seers of ancient India knew that mere words could not capture the essence of the Supreme Reality. However, they did not give up trying, and shared their visions as hymns dedicated to the various sentient beings guarding the natural and supernatural phenomena around them. These guardians of the Three Lokas were referred to as Devas (Sanskrit root 'Div' meaning the 'Shining One').
33 Crore Devtas but that is nothing but a myth - in Sanskrit the word koti refers to both crore as well as type and the use of the first meaning has led to the spread of this false belief. The oldest Hindu texts enumerate 33 principle Devas who were the guardians of Nature and Cosmic Creation.
The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad in fact has a clear discussion between a rishi Vidagdha and the foremost authority of those times Rishi Yagnavalkya. The younger rishi starts by asking how many gods are there and Yagnavalkya begins his answer with three thousand and three and ends by saying that they are but the manifestations of the thirty-three. These principal 33 Devas are:
The 33 Gods
The Vedas especially venerate the sons of Aditi known collectively as Adityas and are full of hymns dedicated to Indra, Agni, Surya, Varun and the like. The 12 Adityas correspond to the 12 Solar months and represent different attributes of social life. These are:
Ansh (due share),
Bhaag (due inheritance),
Dhatri (ritual skill),
Tvashtar (skill in crafting),
Surya/Vivasvan (social law),
Vaman (cosmic law).
Indra/Shakra, of course is the eldest and the undoubted leader of other Adityas and has proved his worth on numerous occasions, most famous of his exploits being the slaying of the dragon Vritra.
Indra leads the Adityas
Interestingly, these 12 Adityas were adopted into Chinese and Japanese Buddhism as guardians of the monasteries covering the four main directions, four semi-directions, above, below and the Sun and Moon.
The 12 Japanese Devas
A similar depiction is found on a rock-cut cave far away in Yazili Kaya in Turkey! This rock-cave has multiple depictions of Gods and Goddesses that resemble Hindu gods. The lower chamber in this cave shows a frieze with 12 gods carved onto it who were worshiped by the people known as Hittites.
Dhruv (Pole Star),
Indra with the Vasus
The 11 Rudras are three-eyed manifestations of the Original Rudra and include Lord Shiva, who, along with Prajapati Brahma and Shri Hari Vishnu forms a part of the highest echelons of the hierarchy amongst Gods known as the Trimurti . The respective roles of the Holy Hindu Trinity are:
The Hindu Trinity