Hinduism

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Religious Studies
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Hinduism

Hinduism

Brahman refers to a unchanging ultimate reality which exists beyond the ever-changing everyday world of appearances.Brahman in the world is like the salt in the ocean, it's invisible but everywhere.

Origin:As one of the world's oldest religions, Hinduism dates back to at least 2000 BCE and developed, as well as flourishes mainly in India and Nepal. Its roots are in the Indus Valley Civilization, and developed from the religious ideas of both the people of the Indus Valley and a nomadic people called the Aryans. Hinduism wasn't founded by one individual. Rather, Hinduism developed slowly, over a period of time and is now very varied.

Fun Fact: Hindus refer to the religion as "sanatana dharma", which translates to "eternal teaching" or "eternal law."

Brahman

SoulsHindus believe that each living being's soul, called "Atman," is part of Brahman (the universal soul). Others, however, see Atman and Brahman as distinct and different things.

Holy Scriptures:The sacred books were written in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India. It's unknown when they were compiled, but are believed to have been written before CE.1. Vedas: For centuries, the Vedas were passed on orally. The oldest and most sacred of the 4 Vedas is the Rig Veda.

"Om" (or "Aum") is the sacred symbol and sound. Its meaning leads up to Brahman .

Fun Fact: There are over 750 million Hindus in the world today!

2. MahabharataPossibly the world's longest poem, it has over 100,000 verses and tells the life-long strife between 2 lines of princes and the resulting war. 3.UpanishadsThey consist of philosophical discussions that teach about Brahman and various ways to achieve moksha. 4.RamayanaBelieved to have been first written by a man named Valmiki, the Ramayana tells the life story of Rama and Sita, two Hindu gods.

Gods and Goddesses:Hinduism has thousands of gods and goddesses, and it's believed that all these different deites are different aspects of Brahman.Hindu Trinity: Brahma, Vishu, and Shiva are associated with the creation, preservation, and destruction of the world. This is thought to be an eternal, never-ending cycle. Together, they're known as the trinity (or Trimurti). meaning "3 forms."

Shiva:Role: Shiva is the destroyer, and is also known as the liberator. This is because it is through destruction that re-creation is possible. He's also the husband of Parvati and father of Muruga and Ganesha. Appearance: He's often shown as an awesome figure, with 4 arms, matted hair, a crescent moon on his head, and a snake around his neck. His upper right hand is sometimes shown holding a drum on which he beats out the rhythm of his dance: the dance of liberation and re-creation. Lastly, he has a third eye in the middle of his forehead, which symbolizes many things, including his wisdom.

Brahma:Role: Brahma is the creator. He's also the husband of Saraswati, the goddess of learning.Appearance: Brahma has 4 heads, and can see in all directions.

Vishnu:Role: Vishnu is the preserver of the universe. His wife is Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and beauty. Appearance: One of Vishnu's most notable traits is his blue skin, and is often shown playing the flute. Avatars: He's said to have come down into the human world in various physical forms, known as avatars.For example, he first came down as Matsya (the fish), then Kurma (the tortoise), and then Varaha (the boar) as his third avatar. His seventh and eighth avatars were Rama and Krishna, two human forms.His tenth and last avatar hasn't appeared yet. It's said that at the end of the present age, Vishnu will come to Earth as Kalki, riding a white horse, to destroy the wicked and re-establish order.

Brahma sitting on a lotus flower

Worship:Worship (known as "puja") may take place in a temple or at home. Home: Puja at home tends to bring together the whole family, and takes place before the family shrine which is usually decorated with pictures and statues of the deities. The family members light a lamp and pray together each day at the shrine. Temples:Hindus believe that temples are the homes on Earth of gods and goddesses, so, many are very orante. There aren't any strict rules about when Hindus should go to the temple. Many choose to go on particular holy days and festivals. At other times, they visit the temple and take part in temple rituals only when they please. Most temples are dedicated to a particular god or goddess. Usually a statue of the deity (a "murti) is kept in a shrine in the innermost part of the temple. During worship, Hindus walk clockwise around the shrine. Through "darshana", or direct eye contact with the murti, Hindus believe that they can communicate with the god, and make special requests or gain spiritual insights. Hindus may bring offerings such as fruit and flowers. Each temple has a Brahmin priest, who places the offerings before the deity to be blessed. The blessed offerings are later given back to the people, so bringing the deity's blessing to them. The priest may also make a mark of blessing (called a tilaka) with red powder on a person's forehead.

Holiday:Diwali:Diwali is a 5 day festival that takes place between October and November. It's a time when Hindus worship Lakshmi,the goddess of wealth and beauty. The festival also celebrates the triumphant return from exile of Rama, accompanied by his wife Sita. It marks the beginning of the new Hindu year. The name Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word "Dipavali," or "lights." Light represents knowledge, and the trimup of good over evil. Diwali is often known as the "festival of lights," and houses and temples are decorated with small clay lamps called diyas. People set of fireworks to drive away the darkness, and to light the path home of Rama and Sita. Before Diwali, houses are cleaned thoroughly and then decorated. In some places, people paint geometric designs (called "rangoli" patterns) on the ground outside their homes. It's thought that Lakshmi will enter a clean and beautfiul house, and bless those who live there. Diwali is a time for putting on new clothes, visintg relatives, and exchanging cards, presents, and sweet foods.

Holiday:HoliHoli marks the beginning of spring. It commemorates the death of Holika, a wicked woman whom legend says tried to kill her nephew for being a follower of Krishna. On the night before Holi, huge bonfires are lit and modesl of Holika are burned. On teh day of Holi itself, people remeber the pranks that Krishna, as a cowherd, used to play on the milkmaids. There are processions, singing and dancing, and people throw powdered dyes and water at eachother (in memory of Krishna's mischievous tricks). At Holi, people take the opportunity to visit and greet eachother.

DeathHindus believe that living things don't have just one life, but are all trapped in an endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth. This cycle is called samsara, and is seen as difficult and pointless. Hindus hope eventually to be freed from it. It's symvolized by a wheel, known as the wheel of life, and is kept spinning by karma, or action. Death Customs:After a person dies, it's believed that the soul comes back in another form. It's thought that dying close to the River Ganges may save a person from many rebirths and so bring them closer to moksha (the ultimate spiritual goal). A dying person who can't get to the river may be given water from it to drink. According to Hindu teaching, a person's body is no longer needed after death. So, Hindus burn, or cremate, the dead. In India, the body is placed on a pile of logs and the eldest son lights the fire. 3 days later, the ashes are collected and placed in a river. Hindus living in other countries may be cremated in a building called a "crematorium" rather than on fire. It's common to take the ashes and scatter them in the River Ganges.

Diwali diyas


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