Hinduism recognizes over ninety-thousand dieties, but each of the gods and goddesses is an aspect of one single power. Three of these gods have risen to a level of importance above all the others. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are the gods of the Hindu Triad. Although they are aspects of one power, the three gods of the Hindu triad have vastly different roles (Leach 423).
Most Hindus view Brahma as the supreme god, or the most important member of the triad. When Hindus talk about the single spiritual power that all the gods are part of, they refer to it as Brahma (Smith, Johnathan91). Brahma's role within the triad is that of the creator. He created Earth, along with the rest of the universe. Some Hindus believe Brahma is remote and uninvolved with the world, so they do not place much emphasis on worshiping him (Smith, Houston 47). Brahma was worshiped most commonly from 500 B.C. to 500 A. D., after which his popularity declined (Smith, Johnathan 92). .
Vishnu is the preserver god of the triad. He protects and sustains life on Earth. He is responsible for keeping the universe in motion. Vishnu is a Sanskrit term meaning "he who acts or pervades" (Smith, Johnathan 93). Vishnu comes to Earth occasionally in one of ten avatars or incarnations (Bowker, 57). Hindus believe that Buddha was an avatar of Vishnu. Krishna is Vishnu's most popular incarnation. Krishna's name in Sanskrit means "black" which is perhaps why he is portrayed with very dark skin (Smith, Johnathan 93). Rama is the name of one of Vishnu's other popular incarnations. Krishna and Rama are both worshiped in Hindu festivals throughout the year, as are many other gods and goddesses (Embree 32). .
Shiva is the destroyer and the god of death. It is therefore surprising that he is by far the most popular god in Hinduism. He is the oldest god in India, dating back long before modern Hinduism (Embree 102). Shiva's followers view him as the supreme god, placing little emphasis on worshiping Brahma or Vishnu.