The answer to whether Indians believe in multiple gods, or polytheism, would depend on the specific religion the person believes in. Hinduism does include multiple gods that are worshiped, while Sikhs only believe in one god, so they would be monotheistic.
Examples of Hindu gods would be Ganesha, “the lord of all living things” (Gods, Goddesses, Epics, n.d.); and Brahma, who is “the creator of the world” (Gods, Goddesses, Epics, n.d.). Each of the Hindu gods often have a different role, and there is a rich mythology involving relationships between the gods with one another, and with humans. Hindus also believe in three main gods, which include Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, or the god of preservation; and Shiva, the god of destruction. From this perspective, Hindus are clearly polytheistic because they do believe in multiple gods, although these gods differ in the amount of power they have.
Sikhs, on the other hand, do not believe in multiple gods. Instead, they are monotheistic, as they believe in “One Supreme Reality” (Singh, 2014) that would be considered a singular god, or all-powerful force or entity. This would classify as monotheism, although Sikhs also place reverence on the title of Gurus. Gurus would be individuals who are enlightened and teach according to the will of the One Supreme Reality, but this does not make them gods. Additionally, the reverence is given to the office of the Guru, and not a personal devotion to the person who inhabits this office. Therefore, Sikhs are not polytheistic because they do not believe in multiple gods.
The answer to the question asking whether Indians are polytheistic is therefore dependent on the religion of the individual or community. Hindus are polytheistic, while Sikhs are monotheistic. Both are major religions in India, although there are more Hindus than Sikhs.
- Gods, Goddesses, Epics. (n.d.). PDF handout.
- Singh, P. (2014). Sikh Traditions. In Asian Religions: A Cultural Perspective. ed. Randall L. Nadeau. Wiley Blackwell.