Hindu Religion is a dominant Eastern religion ranking third in the world.
What is Hinduism:
In simple words, Hinduism is a way of life, which helps you to liberate from the cycle of birth and rebirth.
In other words, Hinduism is a conglomeration of different doctrines and traditions mainly based on Vedas and modified from time to time by great saints without changing the basic teachings of the religion and the main aim of life i.e. salvation (liberation from cycle of birth and rebirth).
Some people define Hinduism as the way of life followed by people in India, which is only partially true. Though Hinduism was not a religion and was just a way of life followed by people of India and most of the Asia, it is now identified as a separate religion. There is no single book or a single doctrine, which can describe Hinduism. In order to understand Hinduism, you need to know all the streams of thoughts within Hinduism. Hinduism is a very vast religion and there are quite a handful number of books on which it is based. Lots of Hindu customs, traditions, and beliefs differ from region to region and climate conditions. There is a considerable difference between the Hinduism in scripture and Hinduism followed practically. In this article, we will describe Hinduism with minute details and everything that is related to Hinduism.
Meaning of the words Hindu and Hinduism:
The words Hindu and Hinduism are geographical terms and have no real meanings. The real name of Hinduism is “Sanatan Dharma (Eternal Religion).”
The word Hindu refers to the people who live in the vicinity of river Sindhu in India. Sindhu is a Sanskrit word for the river Indus. Therefore, the way of life they were following was termed as Hinduism i.e. the religion of the Hindus. The word Hindus is believed to be first used by Persians. There is no mention of word Hindu or Hinduism in any Hindu scriptures.
India is also called as Hindustan as majority of people living there are Hindus.
Other names by which Hinduism is known as:
1. Vedic religion.
2. Hindu Religion.
3. Hindu Dharma.
4. Vedic Dharma.
5. Sanatan Dharma.
6. Indian Religion.
7. Agama Hindu Dharma.
Different sects and thoughts in Hindu Religion:
1. Shaivism: Those who follow Shaivism, consider Lord Shiva as the Supreme Being.
2. Shaktism: Those who follow Shaktism, consider Goddess (Devi) as the Supreme Being.
3. Vaishnavism: Those who follow Vaishnavism, consider Lord Vishnu as the Supreme Being.
4. Smartism: Those who follow Smartism, believe in the authority of Vedas and they accept all the major Hindu deities.
5. Advaitism: Advaitism is the realization that existence is non-dual.
6. Mahanubhav Panth: This sect considers Lord Krishna as the Supreme Being.
7. Modern Hinduism: It is a new unofficial sect which is followed by most of the Hindus worldwide. They do not bother about any sect. They worship all deities and think they are part of one God. They follow paganism too. Most of them are unaware of what Hindu scriptures actually say.
8. Aghori: Aghoris want to attain salvation by the methods, which normal people do not follow. Their path is very bizarre for common people.
9. Paganism: Lots of aborigines in India follow Paganism.
10. Vedic Hinduism: It is based on Vedas and Upanishadas and follow the teachings and rituals described in these books only.
History of Hinduism:
Hinduism is the oldest known religion on the earth. Its history dates back to 2500 B.C. but some people believe it is even older than that and can be dated back to 7000 B.C. or before that. Recent discovery of Dwaraka (a city from Mahabharata) corroborates this claim.
It is very difficult to illustrate history of Hinduism as there are no written records available but from the evidences found at the excavation sites in different parts of India, history of Hinduism can be dated back to 2500 B.C. Lots of work is still pending in this regard.
Once upon a time, Hinduism was expanded to all over Asia. Traces of Hinduism are found in Russia, Japan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and other non-Hindu countries also. Most of these parts were 100% Hindu territories.
Who is the founder of Hinduism?
Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma is not founded by a single person as it was not founded as a religion.
What is the concept of God in Hinduism?
By scriptures, Hinduism is a monotheistic religion but in practice, it is a polytheistic religion where Hindus worship more than one deity. According to Vedas, there is only one God called Brahman and idol worship is not allowed. Hindus believe that other deities are manifestations of Brahman. Hence, worshiping the deities is equivalent to worshiping the Supreme Reality.
Bhagvadgita also advocates monotheism and gives emphasis on worshiping one God, but Bhagvadgita advocates worship of Lord Krishna who is the incarnation of Brahman, the Supreme Reality.
Upanishadas advocate the symbol Aum as the only form of God.
To fulfill the needs in physical world, Hindus worship different deities. If you want wisdom, then worship Lord Ganesha. If you want power, worship Lord Hanuman. If you want money, worship Goddess Laxmi.
God is considered as Saguna as well as Nirguna i.e. personal as well as impersonal. Saguna means with some characteristics like human body and qualities and Nirguna means formless and without any qualities.
Key Hindu scriptures:
Vedas, Upanishadas, Bhagvadgita, Smritis, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Puranas are the key Hindu scriptures. Ramayana, and Mahabharata also have a great religious importance in Hinduism but cannot be considered as Hindu scriptures. There are four Vedas and 18 Puranas in total. There are four Upvedas and 18 Uppuranas also. Rigveda is the most sacred and authoritative book of Hindu Religion. Rigveda is the oldest scripture of all. Following is a list of main Hindu scriptures:
Ayurveda (Medical Science)
Dhanurveda (Military Science)
Gandharvaveda (Musical Knowledge)
Shilpveda (Science of Architecture)
Symbols of Hinduism:
9. Saffron Flag
16 Samskaras in a Hindu’s Life: 16 Samskaras are the 16 rituals which are performed at particular stages of life. Now a days so many rituals are not performed but some of them are still being followed.
1. Garbhadhana: First Samskara done immediately after the marriage.
2. Pumsavana: A ritual done in the third month of pregnancy.
3. Simanatonayana: A ritual done in the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy.
4. Jatakarman: A ritual done immediately after a male child is born.
5. Namakarana: Naming ceremony performed on the 12th day of the birth.
6. Nishkramana: A ritual done when child is first taken out of the house.
7. Annaprashana: When child starts to eat solid food in the sixth month.
8. Chudakarna: Cutting the child’s hair for the first time.
9. Karnavedha: Ear piercing.
10. Vidyarambha: Starting the education of a child.
11. Upanayana: Thread ceremony
12. Praishartha: Learning of Vedas and Upanishadas.
13. Keshanta and Ritushuddhi: Keshanta is for boys and ritushuddhi is for girls.
14. Samavartana: Ceremony at the end of formal education.
15. Vivaha: Marriage ceremony.
16. Antyeshti or Antim Sanskar: A ritual done at the time of cremation.
Major Hindu Beliefs:
Reincarnation: Hindus believe that all the living beings have a soul (soul) inside them, which is a part of the Supreme Soul (Parmatma). The soul is immortal. It cannot be killed, burnt, or caught. If someone dies, it is the body which has perished, not the soul. Soul changes body as we change the clothes. It passes from one body to another body. Depending upon our deeds, we reincarnate on the earth as a living being.
Buddhism and Jainism also believe in reincarnation. Since ancient times, there are hundreds of examples of reincarnation. Examples of reincarnation are found in the people of all religions including Christianity and Islam, which do not trust in reincarnation.
Karma: Karma is what we do in the day-to-day life. Karma is classified as Bad Karma (Paap) and Good Karma (Punya) i.e. bad deeds and good deeds. If you kill or hurt someone, it is a bad Karma and if you help someone, it is a good Karma. Karma plays an important role in reincarnation. Depending upon your Karma, you get reincarnated as a human being or as an animal. Your entire life depends upon the Karma you did in the past life and in the present life. If you have enough collection of good Karma, your life is easy. If you have a collection of bad Karma, then you are bound to suffer.
Salvation: This cycle of reincarnation continues years after years and Yuga after Yuga. Therefore, our soul is subjected to continuous sufferings even if it changes bodies. There is only one way to end this cycle and that is through salvation. As we know, our soul is part of the Supreme Soul, when it becomes one with that Supreme Soul, we attain salvation. To attain salvation, you need a human body and we get the human body after our soul travels through 8,400,000 species. Therefore, the ultimate aim of a human life should be to attain salvation.
Hinduism shows us different paths, which would help us attain salvation.
Dashavatar: “Dash” means Ten and “Avatar” means incarnation of a divine being into human form. Hindus believe that whenever Dharma weakens or the sins on the earth increase to the limit, Lord Vishnu incarnates on the earth and protects the Dharma. Following are the 10 incarnations of Vishnu known as Dashavataram:
10. Kalki Avatar.
Other than Lord Vishnu, other deities like Shiva, Maa Parvati, etc. also incarnate in Hindu forms from time to time. Hindu mythology is full of stories about incarnations.