Hinduism - Main Page
Hinduism is the oldest of the world's living religions. The term Hinduism comes from the Persian word Hindu, meaning "Indian," and thus Hinduism is the "ism" or system of belief and way of life, of the Indian people. Hinduism is a term used to broadly describe a vast array of sects to which most Indians belong and is the Western term for the religious beliefs and practices of eighty percent of the population in India.
Hindus themselves call their religion the eternal law, which means both the divine law of the universe and the moral law of the human race.
Hinduism is said to be a polytheistic religion because of their worship of many gods and goddesses. Each of these gods perform different roles and are prayed to for different needs. Although it can be said that for the HIndus, worship does not depend upon the existence of any One God who created the world or who intervenes in the affairs of man. One can be free to worship a number of gods or no god at all and still be a good Hindu. But at the same time, Hindus generally believe in the existence on one Supreme God, with many forms and shapes that he can manifest.
The concept of monotheism is not new to Hinduism, but for those outside of Hinduism it is hard to understand their concept of God as monotheistic. They belive that God will come to them in every form one desires and prays, according to one's need and wishes. Their God is beyond form, space and time, and the concept of a monotheistic God is as old as the Vedas themselves. References to One indivisible and mysterious God are found in the Rigveda itself. The concept is the central theme of all the Upanishads in which He is variously referred as Brahman, Iswara, Hiranyagarbha, Asat etc. So Hindus really see their religion as monotheistic and henotheistic, with the belief in one God that does not deny the existence of others.
Hinduism is a religion of a complex and rich religious literature, of which Bhagavadgita is a text that is appreciated all over the world. The most ancient sacred texts of the Hindu religion are written in Sanskrit and called the Vedas (vedah means "knowledge"). There are four Vedic books, of which the Rig-Veda is the oldest.
Hinduism, is as much a "way of life" as a religion and affects every aspect of life for Hindus from birth throughout their life. So for the devout Hindu, their religion is followed in every aspect of life and activity, and not just in a prayer only. The goals of Hinduism are release from repeated reincarnation through the practice of yoga, adherence to Vedic scriptures, and devotion to a personal guru. The main desire of a Hindu is not to become a perfect human being on earth or to be happy in heaven, but to become united with Brahman, the eternal, universal spirit. Various deities are worshipped at shrines; the divine trinity, representing the cyclical nature of the universe, are Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. The symbolism of Hinduism is very much present in all aspects of Indian society.
Although many Hindu reject the caste system–in which people are born into a particular subgroup that determines their religious, social, and work-related duties–it is widely accepted and classifies society at large into four groups: the Brahmin (priestly and learned class); the Kshatriya (military, professional, ruling, and governing occupations); the Vaishya (landowners, merchants, and business occupations); and the Sudra (artisans, laborers, and peasants). Below the Sudra was a fifth group, the Untouchables (lowest menial occupations and no social standing).
The Indian government banned
discrimination against the Untouchables in the constitution of India
in 1950. Observance of class and caste distinctions varies throughout
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