Monothiestic religions said that there is only one God and there are many false gods. Prophet, Shankaracharya of Advaita philosophy says there is nothing but God in this world. That means everything in this world is manifestion of the God’s power. Multiple gods (which Hindus worships as ista devatas (favourite Gods) or one who is doing good for them) are essentially the sub energies of the same one God or different names of one God. Adi Shankara though advocated and promoted Vedic polytheism (in the worship of the main six gods: Surya, Ganapati, Vishnu, Shiva, Devi, and Skanda (in all their multitude of manifestations and variations)) he asked the Hindus to look them as one Divine reality. Just as a woman can be looked upon differently by different people: mother, by her children; sister, by her sisters; husband by her spouse, etc.
Indram Mitram Varunamagnimahuratho divyaha sa suparano garutamaan |
Ekam sadvipro bahuda vandyatyagnim yamam maatarishwaanmaahuh ||
‘They (the men of wisdom) call him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, and he is the heavenly, noble-winged Garutman. The God is one, but sages call it by many names; they call it Agni, Yama, Matarishvan (and so on).
One may now wonder why Puranas mention Shiva, Vishnu, Agni, Yama, Indra, etc as seperate Gods/demigods. This question has been answered by great prophets like Ramanujacharya and Madhwacharya as below:
Antaryami (residing in the heart or the source) of each demigods is one God, which the prophets called as Lord Vishnu. The prayers when addressed to demigods it is addressed to “antaryami” of each devata which is Vishnu (or Narayana or Krishna). This is also emphaised in Srimad Bhagavatam. Everything in this world is a manifestation of the God doesn’t mean that they are equal to God in power; they are just a portion of God’s energy. Dvaitha and Vishistadwaitha philosophies of Ramanujacharya and Madhwacharya infact gave clearer picture of Vedas.
By addressing the antaryami using the names of these devatas (angels) God along with all devatas will be satisfied. ie. all names finally indicate God. Lord Krishna says: A devata worshipper attains fruits of his/her devotion to that devata, since I provide fruits of actions through those devatas, and those devatas were assigned to take such positions by me”. Other reference to this truth is from Kenopanishat where devatas are taught a lesson as to who is the power behind them. In fact all the devatas (angels) have kept the name of Vishnu just we name kids after Gods and great personalities all Gods have taken names of the Supreme God.
The reciprocation between the demigods and society is explained in Bhagavad-gita (3.10-12). It is stated that in the beginning the Lord of all beings created men and demigods along with the sacrifices to Lord Vishnu that were to be performed. The Lord blessed them saying that these sacrifices will enable men to prosper and attain all desirable things. By these sacrificial duties the demigods will be pleased and the demigods will also please you with all the necessities of life, and prosperity will spread to all. But he who enjoys what is given by the demigods without offering them in return is a thief.
In this way, it was recommended that people could perform sacrificial rituals to obtain their desires. However, by the performance of such acts they should understand their dependent position, not only on the demigods, but ultimately on the Supreme Being. As further explained in Bhagavad-gita (3.14-15), all living beings exist on food grains, which are produced from rain, which is produced by the performance of prescribed sacrifices or duties. These prescribed duties are described in the Vedic literature, which is manifest from the Supreme Being. Therefore, the Supreme is eternally established in acts of sacrifice.
Although the demigods may accept worship from the human beings and bless them with particular benedictions according to the sacrifices that are performed, they are still not on the level of the Supreme Lord Vishnu. Rig-veda (1.22.20) explains: “The demigods are always looking to that supreme abode of Vishnu.”
In Bhagavad-gita, however, Lord Krishna points out that men of small knowledge, who are given to worldly desires, take delight in the flowery words of the Vedas that prescribe rituals for attaining power, riches, or rebirth in heaven. With their goal of enjoyment they say there is nothing else than this. However, Krishna goes on to explain (in Bhagavad-gita 7.21-23) that when a person desires to worship a particular demigod for the temporary and limited fruits he or she may bestow, Krishna, as the Supersoul in everyone’s heart, makes that person’s faith in that demigod steady. But all the benefits given by any demigod actually are given by Krishna alone, for without whom no one has any power. The worshipers of the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but worshipers of Krishna reach Krishna’s spiritual abode.
Thus, as one progresses in understanding, it is expected that they will gradually give up the pursuit for temporary material pleasures and then begin to endeavor for reaching the supreme goal of Vedic knowledge.