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Ishta-Deva or Ishta Devata (Sanskrit: ईष्ट देवता,
iṣṭa-deva(tā), literally "cherished divinity" from iṣṭa
"desired, liked, cherished, preferred" and devatā "godhead, divinity,
tutelary deity" or deva "deity") is a term denoting a worshipper's
favourite deity within Hinduism.
It is especially significant to both the
wherein practitioners choose to worship the form of God that inspires
them. Within Smartism, one of five chief deities are selected. Even in
denominations that focus on a singular concept of God, such as
Vaishnavism, the Ishta Deva concept exists. For example, in
Vaishnavism, special focus is given to a particular form of Lord
Vishnu or one of his Avatars (i.e.
Krishna or Rama), and similarly
within Shaktism, focus is given to a particular form of the Goddess
Parvati or Lakshmi. The
Swaminarayan sect of
Vaishnavism has a
similar concept, but notably holds that
Shiva are different
aspects of the same God.
2 Worship forms
3 See also
5 External links
The "worship of the five forms" (pañcāyatana pūjā) system, which
was popularized by ninth-century philosopher Śaṅkarācārya among
orthodox Brahmins of the Smārta tradition, invokes the five deities
Ganesha, Vishnu, Shiva, Devī, and Sūrya. This system was
instituted by Śaṅkarācārya primarily to unite the principal
deities of the five major sects (Gāṇapatya, Śaiva, Vaiṣṇava,
Shakta and Saura) on an equal status. The monistic philosophy preached
by Śaṅkarācārya made it possible to choose one of these as a
preferred principal deity and at the same time worship the other four
deities as different forms of the same all-pervading Brahman.
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Murti of Ishta Dev of Sindhi people Jhulelal
Typically a practitioner worships their Ishta-Deva through the form of
a murti. This worship may involve offering items to their chosen
divinity such as incense or flowers, reciting mantras, singing their
names and offering prayers.
Remembering the deity and internally building a relationship with (or
through) them is considered essential to the practise. Within the
Advaita schools it is believed that the human mind needs a concrete
form to understand the divine that ultimately can never be defined.
Just as one can understand the abstract concept of a color only after
one has seen a concrete form, one can only realize the deity through a
form of murti. In contrast, the
Dvaita schools believe the Supreme
Being to possess a divine form, and offer worship to their Ishta-Deva
as either a representation or direct expansion of the Supreme Person.
For example, Vaishnava schools offer worship exclusively to murtis of
Vishnu, or his associated avatars such as
Krishna or Rama.
Shaivites worship Shiva, either figuratively, or through his Lingam
Shaivism contains both monistic and dualistic traditions
either (or both) of the above approaches may be applicable.
Henotheistic aspects of Hinduism
^ V. S. Apte, A Practical
Sanskrit Dictionary, p. 250.
Archived from the original on 17 March 2012. Retrieved 25 September
2011. Missing or empty title= (help)
^ Grimes, John A. Ganapati: Song of the Self. (State University of New
York Press: Albany, 1995) p. 162.
^ Dating for the pañcāyatana pūjā and its connection with Smārta
Brahmins is from p. 163, Courtright, Paul B. Gaṇeśa: Lord of
Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings. (Oxford University Press: New York,
1985). ISBN 0-19-505742-2
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