Bathala is an ancient Philippine word that signifies a Supreme God or Supreme Divine Being.
Bathala (Philippines), Bhatara (Java/Indonesia) and Shiva are all high ranking deities who are part of divine trinities.
In Philippine mythology, there were three powerful gods who lived in the universe—Bathala was the caretaker of the earth, Ulilang Kaluluwa (Orphaned Spirit), a giant serpent who lived in the sky, and Galang Kaluluwa (Wandering spirit), the winged, traveling god. Bathala was a rival of Ulilang Kaluluwa and good friend of Galang Kaluluwa. Bathala outlives both of these deities and then creates the race of humanity. In the Philippines Bathala is most commonly used to indicate a male deity, but it has also rare instances of being used to indicate a female deity.
Indonesian and Sanskrit Deities
Bathala as a name for a high-ranking deity has migrated through its neighboring countries coming from faraway India. The Sanskrit word of “bhattara” actually means “noble lord”!
In Indonesian mythology, a trinity of gods, Debata na Tolu, and includes Debata Bhatara Guru and his brothers Debata Sori Pada and Debata Mangala Bulan. These three gods rule the divine realm of Banua Ginjang.
(It is very interesting to note that the Indonesian word of “debata” is related to the Philippine word of “diwata” and the Sanskrit word of “devata“—all these words indicate deities or spirits within their geo-cultural areas of use and indicate varying ranks and powers in varying realms.)
In Java, Bhatara Guru is also known as Shiva “the lord of heaven.”
Within the texts of the Ramayana, an ancient Indian epic, Shiva is the highest ranking god and Brahma and Vishnu were his sons. Brahma is the creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the destroyer—these three gods formed the trimurti, the senior gods in the Hindu pantheon.