What is the role of Hindu gods in Midnight's Children? 

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rushdie's construction of fragmented political identity and personal identity in the novel is one that exists outside the role of Hindu gods.  Like most religion featured in the book, Hinduism is almost an outsider in the largest issues depicted.  The Emergency, Partition, and the fragmentation of nations are realities that exist outside the unifying forces of the Hindu faith.  Rushdie is able to assert that the most profound challenges posed by identity in the modern setting are not ones that can be answered through much in way of religious faith.  Consider that when Saleem becomes "Buddha," it means little other than to bring people to certain death. Hindu gods experience the same treatment in the novel.

Shiva and Parvati- the witch could be where one sees the most elemental connection to Hinduism.  Yet, there is fragmentation here.  Parvati is able to reconstruct Saleem's memory. She is close to making him whole.  Yet, she gives birth to their son through a different father and dies in the raid in the Magician's Ghetto.  Parvati, the universal mother, is shown to be unable to make whole that which is fragmented by human hands.  Certainly, Rushdie's use of Shiva is another example of  how he sees  fragmentation intrinsic to Hinduism and the challenges of modern India.  Shiva is a force of destruction both with his knees and his own sense of self.  He fathers children, leaving them incomplete.  His trail of destruction makes him an enemy of the state when there is a regime change.  Shiva is shown to be a force of destruction, without any of the creative elements intrinsic to his namesake.  For Rushdie, the role that the Hindu deities play in the formation of modern identity is one of fragmentation.  Rushdie sees them as unwilling or unable to make whole that which is permanently fragmented or broken.