There are a lot of people in the world who believe that Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. They see it as a religion with many gods, from Ganesh to Vayu, representing the elements of the natural world. Such a hierarchy to them is confusing and illogical, with infinite gods operating on infinite levels to control every aspect of human life. There are even practicing Hindus and learned scholars who, believing themselves to have a good understanding of Hinduism, promulgate this confused notion.
First of all, a guiding principle of Sanatan Dharm is Eko Devah: One God. This means there is only one Divine, omnipotent, omnipresent, everlasting, ever-loving Being Who is unlimited in all aspects and functions. Bhagwan (God) is above all things material, beyond the veil of maya that separates the souls from God. (For the sake of this post, I will use the capital ‘G’ to discuss Divine God.) However, Divine God does appear to souls in different Divine forms (such as Ram and Krishna), and we can love Him in whatever form we like. But every form of Divine God is internally one and the same.
Celestial gods, on the other hand, are like the ’employees’ of God’s mayic (material) power. These gods, like Vayu, Kamdev, Indra and Agni, reside in swarg exhibiting the same petty behavior as the souls on Earth. They are not spirits or forces of unconquerable might. They are limited beings like us.
Regardless of where this notion of polytheism came from, it has unfortunately become very popular. I’ve talked to people on three continents who’ve asked me how many gods I worship. Some who ask are genuinely curious, others are mocking, and plenty just don’t know. But inside I know, and I think we all know that the quantity of God’s Divine forms isn’t what matters. What matters is that They are the forms of one God, and how we experience and cultivate our relationship with our chosen form of God is what shapes our faith.