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For hundreds of years, many people have searched for some evidence of the founder of Hinduism.

The
religion, which is open to interpretation, is a collection of paths to wisdom that is based on human reasoning
rather than a divine authority and a finger cannot be pointed at a specific founder.

The earliest indications of the term Hindu come from the Punjab and the Indus Valley in India. The culture that
was established in the third millennium BC is evidenced in the excavations of two cities. If you lived in that
region, no matter what religion you believed, you became known as a Hindu or Hindu Muslim.

Located by rivers, the culture used water for irrigating the fertile plains. The people not only used the river for
bathing but also for ritual cleansings. The waters became known as 'rivers of life' and therefore presumed to be
sacred. Hindus believe that 'religion' is just another aspect of their bodies as is breathing.

The temples that have been found have no indication of a primary deity. There are many 'gods' and
'goddesses' as symbols of creativity and the ongoing flow of life. Each village had its own unique statue to
worship. The aspect of politics mixed with religion models ancient Babylonia, where the ruler was seen as a
'son' of the mother-goddess.

Thus, this religion was subject to new philosophies that changed with time. Hinduism consists of a wide range
of beliefs that are not related to the other at all. There is no known founder of Hinduism, no creed, no single
source of authority. All related Hindu philosophies share just a resemblance to each other. There is no defined
beginning as with other religions.

With over 750 million believers, the majority of Hindus live in India. Much smaller numbers are reported in most
countries worldwide.

The Vedas are a collection of hymns and other religious texts composed in India between about 1500 and 1000
BCE. It includes elements such as liturgical material as well as mythological accounts, poems, prayers, and
formulas considered to be sacred by the Vedic religion.
Brahmanism, ancient Indian religious tradition that emerged from the
earlier Vedic religion. In the early 1st millennium BCE, Brahmanism
emphasized the rites performed by, and the status of, the Brahman,
or priestly, class as well as speculation about brahman (the Absolute reality)
as theorized in the Upanishads (speculative philosophical texts that are
considered to be part of the Vedas, or scriptures). In contrast, the form
of Hinduism that emerged after the mid-1st millennium BCE stressed devotion
(bhakti) to particular deities such as Shiva and Vishnu.
The Tripundra represents the three godly forces of creation, sustenance and destruction through the
three lines, while the ash's symbolizes purification and burning away of anava (ego), maya(illusions)
and karma (actions/deeds). The dot is symbolic of the rise or quickening of spiritual insight.

Hinduism
(Santana Dharma)
Hinduism is often referred to as Santana Dharma, a Sanskrit phrase meaning
"the eternal law",
Click here for Hindu Festivals

Divali (Diwali) (Festival of Lights)

Hinduism is the world's third most popular religion,


with around 750 million followers. The religion of
Hinduism originated in Northern India, near the river Indus,
about 4000 years ago and is the world's oldest existing
religion.

Hinduism is practised by more than 80% of India's population.

Place of Origin India


Founder Developed out of Brahminism
Sacred Text Vedas, Upanishads
Sacred Building Mandir
Major Festivals Divali
Holy Place River Ganges is one of many holy places

Who is the founder of Hinduism?

Hinduism has no founder, it developed out of Brahminism.

Hinduism is the oldest religion, it may date to prehistoric times.

What is the symbol of Hinduism?

Aum is the main symbol of Hinduism. It is the sound heard in deepest


meditation and is said to be the name most suited for God.

Hindu Artefacts

Where does the name Hindu come from?

The word "Hindu" comes from the name of the river Indus, which flows 1800 miles
from Tibet through Kashmir and Pakistan to the sea.

How is Hinduism different from other faiths?

Hinduism has no founder, single teacher nor any prophets.


Hinduism is not a Single Religion. Hinduism is the practices of a variety of different
religious groups which come out of India.

What do Hindus believe?

For many Hindus, religion is a matter of practice rather than of beliefs. It's more
what you do, than what you believe. Hindus believe in a universal soul or God called
Brahman. Brahman takes on many forms that some Hindus worship as gods or
goddesses in their own right. Hindus believe that there is a part of Brahman in
everyone and this is called the Atman.

Hindus believe in reincarnation - a belief that the soul is eternal and lives many
lifetimes, in one body after another. The soul is sometimes born in a human body,
sometimes in an animal body and sometimes in a plant body etc.. Hindus believe
that all forms of life contain a soul, and all souls have the chance to experience life
in different forms.

Samsara means going through the cycle of repeated births and deaths
(reincarnation). Hindus believe that existence of this cycle is governed
by Karma.

What is Karma?

Hindus believe that the soul passes through a cycle of successive lives and
its next incarnation is always dependent on how the previous life was
lived. (Similar to Buddhist beliefs) Karma is the cause of our particular destiny.
Misfortunes in our present life are the result of acts that we have committed in the
past. In the same way, our actions in our present lives will determine our fate in the
lives that follow. Hindus therefore aim to live in a way that will cause each of their
lives to be better than the life before.

What is Moksha?

The spiritual goal of a Hindu is to become one with Brahma. This freedom is
referred to as moksha. Until moksha is achieved, a Hindu believes that he/she will
be repeatedly reincarnated in order that he/she may work towards self-realization
of the truth (the truth being that only Brahman exists, nothing else).

What is the Hindu way of life?

For many Hindus there are four goals in human life (purusharthas);

1 Moksha - the release of the soul (Atman) from the cycle of rebirth.
The individual soul (Atman) unites with Brahman the universal soul. There are
different ways to Moksha.

spiritual - involves acquiring spiritual knowledge through yoga and


meditation. devotion to god
working selflessly for the good of society.

How a person is reincarnated is determined by karma.

2 Dharma - the code for leading one's life.


Respect for elders is considered important and many consider marriage as a son's
religious duty.

3 Artha - the pursuit of material gain by lawful means.

4 Karma- through pure acts, knowledge and devotion, you can reincarnate to a
higher level. The opposite achieves the contrary result.

How do Hindus achieve Moksha?

There are four different paths to achieve Moksha which a Hindu can take.

The Hindu can choose one or all four of the paths they are:

1 The path of knowledge - Jnana-Yoga

Spiritual knowledge -leading to the knowledge of the relationship between the soul
(atman) and God (Brahman)

2 The path of meditation - Dhyana-yoga

The idea is to concentrate so you can reach the real self within you and become one
with Brahman

3 The Path of Devotion - Bhakti-yoga

Choosing a particular god or goddess and worshipping them throughout your life in
actions, words and deeds.

4 The path of good works - Karma-yoga

This involves doing all your duties correctly throughout your life.

Why are there so many Hindu Gods?


Hindus actually only believe in one God, Brahman, the eternal origin who is
the cause and foundation of all existence. The gods of the Hindu faith represent
different forms of Brahman. These gods are sent to help people find the universal
God (Brahman).

Most Hindus have a personal god or godess such as Shiva, Krishna or Lakshmi to
whom they pray regularly.

The three most important Hindu gods (forms of Brahman) are:

Brahma - known as the Vishnu - Known as the Shiva (Siva)- known as the
Creator. Preserver Destroyer.
(Description) (Description) (Description)

Other Hindu gods include:

Saraswathi - Goddess of Wisdom - Wife of Lord Brahma. (Description)


Saraswathi is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music and all the creative arts.

Lakshmi - Goddess of Wealth - Wife of Lord Vishnu. (Description)


Lakshmi is the goddess of light, beauty, good fortune and wealth.

Parvati - regarded as a representation of Shakti. Parvati is the wife of Lord


Shiva and the Godess of household and motherhood.
(Shakti is by literal definition sacred force, power, or energy. Shakti is the personnification of Brahman as
feminine)

Ganesha - Son of Shiva and Parvati. (Description)


The Hindu god in a human form but with the head of an
elephant.(pictured right)

Pictures and descriptions of Hindu Gods


Images of Hindu Gods (updated link)

What is the Hindu place of Worship?

Most Hindus worship (puja) every day at home and have


a shrinethere. A shrine can be anything from a room, a small altar
or simply pictures or statues. Family members often worship
together. At the shrine, Hindus make offerings to a murti. A murti is
a sacred stautue of God, or a god or goddess.

The Hindu building for communal worship is called Mandir (Hindu Temple).
The temples are dedicated to different gods and are the focus of religious life.
Outside India, people mainly gather at the mandir at the weekend.

Worshippers repeat the names of their favourite gods, goddesses, and the mantras.
Water, fruit, flowers and incense are offered to the gods.

What is Hinduism's Holy book?

The most ancient sacred texts of the Hindu religion are written in Sanskrit and
called the Vedas.

Hinduism does not just have one sacred book but several scriptures.
The Vedas scriptures guide Hindus in their daily life. They also help to
preserve the religious dimensions of family and society. Hindus have
developed their system of worship and beliefs from the scriptures.

There are two main categories of the Hindu scriptures:

Shruti ("that which is heard") consists of the four Vedas and Upanishads
scriptures.
Smriti ("that which is remembered") composed of traditional texts, including
the Dharma Shastras (legal and ethical texts), the Puranas, and the
folk/historical legends known as the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

The Hindu Holy Scriptures are mainly comprised of the following works
written in the Sanskrit language:
1. The Vedas Rg-Veda (Rigveda), Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda, Atharva-Veda (see
further down )

2. The Upanisads - These consider the nature of the individual soul (Atman) and
the universal soul (Brahman.) One of the Upanishads contains the earliest reference
to the reincarnation of the soul in different bodies (transmigration) of the soul.

3. The Smrutis - (tradition) are the Laws of Manu (250 BC)

4. Ramayana - Contains the story of Rama and his devoted wife Sita. She is
kidnapped by the demon king Ravana but is later freed by Rama with the help of
the monkey god Hanuman. The poem is about how good will always triumph over
evil and Rama and Sita are held up as role models for the perfect husband and wife.

5. Mahabharata - An epic poem telling the story of a war between two branches of
a family. The Bhagavad-Gita forms part of this and means "The Song of God."

6. The Puranas - A collection of ancient tales about the different incarnations and
the lives of saints.

What are the Vedas?

The Vedas are the oldest religious texts in Hinduism. The word Veda means
knowledge. It is believed that the Vedas were orally revealed by Brahma to certain
sages, who heard them and passed them down in an oral tradition. They were not
written down; in fact this was prohibited. Because of this earliest oral tradition
continuing even now when the Vedas are available in the written form, the Vedas
are still known to be Sruti or shruti - ' that which is heard '.

The Vedas are mainly comprised of of hymns or mantras written in the Sanskrit
language. They cover various subjects, from nature to everyday life and behaviour,
and form the basis of all other religious writings. The books are so special that they
are often kept in glass cases.

The four Vedas are:

Rg-Veda (Rigveda) - The oldest and holiest Veda.


Yajur-Veda
Sama-Veda
Atharva-Veda

Each Veda is divided into four sections:


The Samhitas - The oldest portion - Contains the mantras and hymns The
Brahmanas - The ritualistic teachings - They are written in prose and explain
the hymns. The Aranyakas - The meditational section
The Upanishads - The mystic and philosophical. They consider the nature of
the individual soul (Atman) and the universal soul (Brahman.) One of the
Upanishads contains the earliest reference to the reincarnation of the soul in
different bodies (transmigration) of the soul.

The Vedas are the law. Most beliefs, concepts, and ceremonies are based on
information contained in the Vedas.

What are the practices of Hindus?

The practice of Hinduism consists of rites and ceremonies centering on birth,


marriage, and death.

There are three basic practices:

1 Worship (called Puja)

This is an integral part of the faith. Offerings (puja) are usually made to
representations of the gods.

2 Cremation

The dead are burnt not buried

3 Compliance with the rules of the caste system

The caste system was 'a division of society to preserve society' similar to the
society in ancient Egyptian times. Each group had rules of conduct to be obeyed.

The caste system divided people by occupation i.e. teachers and philosophers were
brahmins; fighters were kshatriya; shopkeepers, moneylenders and tradespeople
were vaishya; and servants and cleaners were shudra.

No caste was higher or more important (superior) to another. All were equal and
aknowledged as essential to the society.

With thanks to Nirmisha Bhatt and Smruti Desai for providing us with information about the caste system
Is pilgrimage an important aspect of Hindusim?

Yes, pilgrimage is important to Hindus.

What are the popular pilgrimage places?

Popular pilgrimage places are rivers, temples, mountains, and other sacred sites in
India. As these are sites where the gods may have appeared or become manifest in
the world.

Hinduism is generally regarded as the world's oldest organized religion. It


consists of "thousands of different religious groups that have evolved in
India since 1500 BCE." 1 Because of the wide variety of Hindu traditions,
freedom of belief and practice have traditionally been notable features of
Hinduism.

Most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic religions. They recognize a single


deity, and view other Gods and Goddesses as manifestations or aspects of
that supreme God or Goddess. Henotheistic and polytheistic religions have
traditionally been among the world's most religiously tolerant faiths. As a
result, India has traditionally been one of the most religiously tolerant in the
world.

However in 1998, a Hindu nationalistic political party the Bharatiya Janata


Party (BJP) controlled the government of India. The linkage of religion, the
national government, and nationalism led to a degeneration of the
separation of church and state in India and a decrease in the level of
religious tolerance in that country. An escalation of anti-Christian violence
was one manifestation of this linkage. With the subsequent change in
government, the level of violence has diminished somewhat, but intolerance
still exists in some areas of the country.

Hinduism has grown to become the world's third largest religion,


after Christianity and Islam. It claims about 950 million followers -- about
14% of the world's population. 2 It is the dominant religion in India, where
95% of the world's Hindus live. It is also very common in Nepal, and among
the Tamils in Sri Lanka.