Hinduism is the
third most popular world religion with 750 million followers, in which 80% of
India’s population are Hindus. The doctrines of Hinduism date back to 4,000 BC,
making it the oldest existing religion. Despite its popularity, the Hindu faith
is probably the most complicated religion as it was developed from various
customs of the Indian people.
As a result,
Hinduism is the only major world religion without a single founder. Despite
efforts to locate an exact date and place of the start of the religion, the
earliest found origin of Hinduism is from the people of Punjab in the Indus
Valley in India. In addition, Hinduism also developed out of the philosophy of
Brahmanism. The beliefs of Hinduism have changed over time and are now open to
other religions, is not easy to divide into sects. However, there are four
major sects which focus on devotion to a single god or goddess, Bhakti.
Vaishnavism is the sect with the most followers and they worship Vishnu, the
protector, and his deity’s Krishna and Lakshmi. They believe that Brahma, the
creator was born from Vishnu. Followers of Shaivism engages in Bhakti with the
god of destruction: Shiva, although they believe that Shiva is the creator.
Shaktism is another widely practiced denomination in Hinduism. Shakti people
worship the deity Devi, usually in the form of Shakti. Based on Hindu
scriptures, Devi saved the world from a buffalo-headed demon. Lastly, Smartism
is a denomination in the Hindu faith that worships 5 deities: Vishnu, Shiva,
Devi, Ganesh and Surya. However, Hinduism is practiced differently in various
countries based on the individual and their commitment to the faith.
differences between the different denominations, all Hindus believe that there
is an everlasting god, Brahman, who is the Alpha and Omega, the universal soul.
However, Brahman can transform into many gods and goddesses known as the
different Deities. The main ones include Brahma the creator; Vishnu the
protector and Shiva the destroyer. Hindus believe that the body is perishable
while the soul is imperishable. The soul, also known as atman, is a part of all
living things: including animals, plants and objects. The majority of Hindus
believe that the atman will reunite with Brahman once it escapes from the cycle
of life; others believe that the atman and Brahman will remain separate but in
each other’s company. Nonetheless, a Hindus’ goal is for their atman to escape
the cycle of life and death (samsara) and reunite with Brahman, the universal
soul. A core principle of Hinduism is reincarnation which is the belief that we
live multiple lifetimes in different bodies. Some Hindus believe that reincarnation
happens immediately after death, others believe that the atman enters swarg or
narak, a realm entered after death. However, a common Hindu doctrine is Karma
which is the theory that our actions have consequences and that misfortunes are
caused by one’s evil actions. According to Hindu teachings, Karma does not only
decide how life on earth will look but also decides if we are reincarnated to a
higher or lower being depending on our merit. Merit can be earned through
dharma which is the moral obligation to do good. Nevertheless, dharma on its
own is not able to liberate humans from samsara; there is only one way to
escape the cycle of reincarnation, Moksha. There are four ways to achieve
Moksha: Jnana (Yoga), the path of spiritual knowledge, which instigates a
relationship between the Atman and Brahman; the path of meditation, Dhyana
(Yoga), the concept is to find your true self so you can be one with Brahman.
Furthermore, the path of devotion, Bhakti, which is picking one god or goddess
to worship throughout your whole life and the path of good works known as Karma
(Yoga), which is performing your responsibilities in your earthly life are also
paths to achieve Moksha. These beliefs are demonstrated through worship.
Hence, Worship has
a key role in Hinduism and can be practiced at home and at the Hindu temple
which is known as a Mandir. Most Hindu households have a shrine, a room of
worship, which usually contains an altar and a murti, a sacred statue of a god
or goddess. Worship, also known as puja, is an individual act rather than a
communal one. Rituals of puja are classified into three groups. Firstly, Nitya
rituals are customs performed daily and include: reciting the name of the
chosen deity; offerings such as flowers, coconuts, sweetmeats, rice and fruits
being presented to the murti and prayers known as mantras are also offered to
the deity. Secondly, Naimittika rituals are performed at Hindu festivals and
are considered to be important. Kamya rituals, such as pilgrimage, are optional
but are believed to bring delight to Brahman.
Hindus are instructed to perform the Five Great Sacrifices three times a
day but only the most devout Hindus do so. Hindus believe that worship is an
act of devotion towards Brahman, however Hindus also worship to receive merit.
Hindu beliefs and
worship are recorded in several holy books some of which are ancient. The most
ancient and important Hindu scriptures are known as the Vedas which guides
Hindus in their daily life and are written in Sanskrit (an ancient language).
Hindus believe that the Vedas were revealed by Brahma to saints and were passed
down from generation to generation orally therefore they are known as the
Sruti, ‘that which is heard.’ The Vedas contain hymns (songs) and mantras
(prayers) which teach Hindus about: nature, daily life and conduct and are
usually kept in a glass case because of their importance and holiness in the
Hindu faith. There are four Vedas which are divided into four sections: the
Samhitas are mantras and hymns; Brahmans are teachings that explain the
Samhitas. The Aranyakas is the section about meditating and the Upanishads
enlighten Hindus about the Atman and the Brahman. Other Hindu scriptures
comprise of Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. Ramayana are poems that address
marriage; Mahabharata is also a poem which includes the Bhagavad- Gita (The
song of god) and the Puranas are ancient tales about saints. The Hindu sacred
scriptures are the foundation of the religion.
colorful and thrilling festivals are based on the scriptures, but only three
will be outlined. The Hindu festival that celebrates the coming of spring is
called Holi, it takes place in February or March (Phagun); Hindus make a
bonfire to eradicate any evil spirits. It is also known as the festival of
colors because people throw paint and colorful powder to symbolize the equality
of all humans, regardless of gender, race or economic class. Diwali is the
festival of lights and celebrates the triumph of good over evil. It honors the
Hindu god of wisdom and takes place during October or November for a five day
period. All buildings and homes are illuminated with oil lamps to invite the
goddess of wisdom into their house. Hindus celebrate Diwali by feasting and
exchanging gifts. Navarti is a religious holiday which is celebrated in honor
of Lakshmi (goddess of wealth), Saraswati (goddess of knowledge) and Durga
(goddess of valor). The festival lasts for nine days in which some Hindus fast
or eat only a fruit a day, on the last day Hindus go to the temple to pray and
offer food to the goddesses.
Hinduism are both very influential world religions in spite of their many
differences. Both religions have the idea of one universal God, however in
Hinduism Brahman is worshiped in numerous manifestations but Christians only
worship one God. In addition, Hindus believe in the Trimurti (also known as the
Trinity) which consist of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; even if the theology is
similar to Christianity, Hindus don’t believe that the three gods are one. The
Christian faith emphasizes on the idea of heaven, likewise Hindus believe in an
afterlife. Nevertheless, the Hindu belief of reincarnation and samsara cycle
are extremely different than the beliefs of Christianity. Moreover, both
religions have confidence in a soul and the idea that our bodies are perishable
but that our souls last for eternity. The main difference between the two
religions is that Hindus believe that one is saved by one’s acts, dharma and
moksha, while Christians believe that there is nothing one can do to achieve
salvation and the blood of Jesus Christ is the way to heaven. Overall, despite
their many differences, both Christianity and Hinduism have strong values of
peace, unity and love.
Hinduism is a religion with numerous followers all around the world who have
individual approaches on how to practice Hinduism. It is a religion with
colorful festivals, ancient scriptures, unique beliefs and worship styles.
Hinduism is a virtuous religion with several noble morals.