More Hinduism pages
information on India - Religions in India
Hinduism is a religion with various gods and
goddesses. According to Hinduism, three Lords rule the
world. Brahma: the creator; Vishnu: the preserver and
Shiva: the destroyer. Lord Vishnu did his job of
preserving the world by incarnating himself in different forms at
times of crisis.
The three Lords that rule the world have consorts and
they are goddesses. Consort of Brahma is Sarasvati;
goddess of learning. Vishnu's consort is Lakshmi; goddess
of wealth and prosperity. Shiva's consort is Parvati who
is worshipped as Kali or Durga.
Along them there are a number of
other gods and goddesses. To name a few of them, there is
Ganesh, who has an elephant's head and he is also a son
of Shiva and Parvati. Hanuman, who is an ape. Surya, Lord
of sun. Ganga Ma, goddess of river Ganges. Samundra, Lord
of the sea. Indra, king of the gods ( but he isn't an
important god). Prithvi, goddess of earth. Shakti,
goddess of power. The Hindus call their goddesses 'Ma'
Some gods have more than one name. Shiva is also known
as Shankar, Mahadev, Natraj, Mahesh and many other names.
Ganesh is also called Ganpati. God Vishnu incarnated 9
times to do his job and in his every appearance he had a
different form which are also worshipped as gods. Among
his appearances, he appeared as Rama, Krishna, Narsimha,
Parsuram and Buddha. Krishna also has different names,
Gopal; Kishan; Shyam and other names. He also has other
titles with meanings like 'Basuri Wala' which means the
flute musician and 'Makhan Chor' which means the butter
stealer. There are also gods who can change their forms,
for example: Parvati can change into Kali or Durga.
Not all of these gods are worshiped by all Hindus.
Some Hindus worship only Vishnu. Others worship only
Shiva. Others worship only the goddesses and call these
goddesses collectively as Shakti meaning power. Many
of these goddess worshipers worship Parvati in her images
as Kali or Durga. People who worship Shiva or Vishnu also
worship characters and images connected with these gods.
Vishnu worshipers (Vaishnaites) also worship his
appearances. Shiva's worshipers (Shaivites) also worship
images of bull called Nandi, who was Shiva's carrier and
a unique stone design connected to Shiva. There are also
Hindus who worship all the gods. There are some gods who
are worshiped all over India like Rama and Krishna and
other gods who are worshiped more in one region than the
other like Ganesh who is worshiped mainly in west India.
Hindus also worship gods according to their personal
needs. People who engage in wrestling, body building and
other physical sports worship Hanuman, who in Hindu
legends was an ape with lot of physical strength.
Businessmen worship Lakshmi, goddess of wealth.
Though Hindus worship different idols, many Hindus believe in one God and perceive in these
different gods and goddesses as different faces of the
same one God. Others believe that idolatry is the
wrong interpretation of Hinduism.
Hindus believe in reincarnation. The basic belief is
that a person's fate is determined according to his
deeds. These deeds in Hinduism are called 'Karma'. A soul
who does good Karma in this life will be awarded with a
better life in the next incarnation. Souls who do bad
Karma will be punished for their sins, if not in this
incarnation then in the next incarnation and will
continue to be born in this world again and again. The
good souls will be liberated from the circle of rebirth
and get redemption which is called 'Moksha' meaning
freedom. Hindus normally cremate their dead ones, so that
the soul of the dead would go to heaven, except in a few
cases of Hindu saints, who are believed to have attained
The main Hindu books are the four Vedas. They are Rig
Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. The
concluding portions of the Vedas are called Upanisads.
There are also other holy books like Puranas, Ramayana,
Mahabharta etc. The different gods and goddesses in the
Hindu mythology are derived from these books. Ramayana
and Mahabharta are the most popular Hindu books.
The main story of Ramayana is the story of Lord Rama.
Rama was born in a royal family and was suppose to be the
king, but because of his step- mother, he was forced to
exile from his kingdom for fourteen years. During this
period his consort Sita was kidnapped by a demon called
Ravan, who was king of Lanka. Rama with the help of his
brother, Lakshman, and an army of monkeys under the
leadership of Hanuman, rescued Sita. Many Indians believe
that the present day Sri Lanka was then the kingdom of
Mahabharta is a family epic. In this epic the Pandva
family and the Kaurav family who are cousins fight with
each other for the control over a kingdom. Kaurav family,
which consisted of 100 brothers rule an empire. The five
Pandva brothers ask for a small kingdom which belongs to
them. The Kauravs refuse to give the Pandvas the kingdom
so there is a war between the Pandvas and the Kauravs in
which it is believed that all the kingdoms of that period
in India took part. In this war the Pandvas, with the
help of Lord Krishna win the war. Before the commencement
of the war, while the two armies are facing each other,
one of the Pandva brothers Arjun gets depressed. Arjun is
depressed because he has to fight against people whom he
knows, loves and respects. At this point Krishna, (who
was also a king of a kingdom, and participated in this
war only as the chariot driver for Arjun) convinces Arjun
to fight. Krishna lectures Arjun about life, human beings
and their religious duties. He explains to Arjun that he
belongs to a warrior caste and he has to fight for that's
his destination in this incarnation. Those chapters in
the Mahabharta which are Krishna's discourses on
religious philosophy are called Bhagvad Gita. Because of
it's importance the Bhagvad Gita is considered as a
separate holy book. Another Hindu holy book that deals
with religious duties is 'Law of Manu' or the 'Dharma
In the wars that occur in the holy books, as in
Mahabharta, the different sides had different war weapons
which had characters similar to modern day war weapons.
In some stories the traveling vehicles were normally
birds and animals. But these animals and birds had
features similar to modern day aircrafts. There were even
aircrafts with over velocity of light. The main war
weapons were bows and arrows. But these arrows were more
like modern missiles than simple arrows. These arrows
were capable of carrying bombs with destructive power
similar to modern day chemical, biological or even atom
bombs. Other arrows could be targeted on specific human
beings. There were even arrows capable of neutralizing
other arrows, similar to modern day anti-missiles.
Hindus have many holy places. Badrinath, Puri, Dwarkha
and Rameshwaram are four holiest places for the Hindus.
Other holy places are Varanasi, Rishikesh, Nasik,
Pushkar, Ujjain and other places. Some rivers are also
holy to them. Among them are Godavri, Yamuna and above
all Ganges which the Indians call Ganga. Another holy
river is Sarasvati and it is invisible. Hindus also
worship and respect some animals and birds like cobra,
apes, peacocks and cow. Hindus also respect some trees
and bush trees. The famous and the most respected bush
tree is Tulsi.
Some of the Hindu customs, which exist or existed, do
not have their bearing in Hindu scriptures but became
part of Hinduism in different ways and fashion. For
example, the Hindus see in cow a sacred animal.
Religiously there is no reason to see cow as sacred and
it is believed that cows were made 'sacred' to prevent
their slaughter during periods of droughts and hunger.
Cobra worship also is not found in Hindu scripts. This
custom became part of Hinduism when some Indian tribes
who use to worship cobra adopted Hinduism. Burning of the
widow on the dead husband's pyre also has no religious
justification. This custom, outlawed in 1829, was
probably brought to India by the Scythians invaders of
India. Among the Scythians it was a custom to bury the
dead king with his mistresses or wives, servants and
other things so that they could continue to serve him in
the next world. When these Scythians arrived in India,
they adopted the Indian system of funeral, which was
cremating the dead. And so instead of burying their kings
and his servers they started cremating their dead with
his surviving lovers. The Scythians were warrior tribes
and they were given a status of warrior castes in Hindu
religious hierarchy. The different castes who claimed
warrior status or higher also adopted this custom.
There are four castes
in Hindu religion arranged in a hierarchy. The highest
caste is Brahman, and they are the priest caste of
Hinduism. After them are the Kshatria, who are the
warrior castes. After them are the Vaishya caste , who
are business people. And after them are the Sudra, who
are the common peasants and workers. Below these four
castes there are casteless, the untouchables. The four
castes were not allowed to have any physical contact with
Each caste is divided into many sub-castes. The
religious word for caste is Varna and for sub-caste Jat
or Jati. But sometimes in English the term caste is used
in both cases. Religiously, people are born in a caste
and it cannot be changed. Each caste has some compulsory
duties, which its members must do. Each caste has
professional limits which decides what profession each
caste can follow. Each caste members can have social
relations only with its caste members. Religiously this
includes marraige and even eating only with caste
members. Please note that socially the caste system is
different from the religious form of caste system.
How did Hinduism originated is a difficult question.
The accepted theory is that Hinduism was evolved after
the historical meeting between the Aryans and Dravidians.
Some claim that Hinduism is mainly an Aryan culture
whereas the others claim that it is mainly a Dravidian
culture. Religiously the Vedas
were given by Brahma.
Before Hinduism there existed another religion in
India called Brahmanism and its followers were called
Brahmans. The Brahmans were the spiritual and moral
guides of the Indian society. The members of this
religion were a close sect and others could not join it.
The Brahmans slowly started accepting others into their
religion and so was created Hinduism which included in it
the customs which were not part of the Vedas. One of
the reasons the Brahmans accepted others to their
religion was the fear to loose their status as moral
guides to priests of a new religion that started in
India, namely Buddhism. The Brahmans even accepted Buddha
as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and part of his teachings and philosophy
like non-violence into their religion.
The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions
Am I A Hindu?/the Hinduism Primer
Bhagavad-Gita: The Song of God