Hindus say that their faith is timeless and has always existed but researchers believe Hinduism formally started somewhere between 2300 B.C. and 1500 B.C. in the Indus Valley, near modern-day Pakistan. Hinduism does not have one founder but is instead a combination of various beliefs. Around 1500 B.C., the Indo-Aryan people migrated to the Indus Valley, and their language and culture blended with the indigenous people living in the region. Because of the language barrier it is hard to decipher what really went on in this time period, but researchers came to the conclusion that this religion seems to have temple rituals and ritual bathing in the ‘great bath’ found at Mohenjo-Daro. There is some evidence of animal sacrifice at Kalibangan, a number of terracotta figurines have been found, they looked like goddess images, and a seal depicting a seated figure surrounded by animals that some researchers thought to be a model of the god Shiva (Brodd, J. 2016).
The period where the Vedas were calm was known as the Vedic Period and lasted from about 1500 B.C. to 500 B.C. The early Vedic religion centered on the sacrifice and sharing the sacrificial meal with each other and with the many gods (devas), (Brodd, J. 2016).
The Puranic and Classic Periods took place between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D. Hindus began to enforce the worship of deities, particularly Vishnu, Shiva and Devi. Dharma was a concept, like a way of living that means law, duty, and truth which is central to Hinduism. It was conveyed in texts known as Dharma Sutras and Shastra which recognize three sources of dharma: revelation, tradition, and good custom, (Seaman, D. 2017). The idea of dharma was introduced in new texts, and other faiths, for instance Buddhism and Jainism.
Later on between 1757 and 1848, the British controlled India and at first, the new rulers allowed Hindus to practice their religion without interference. However later the Christian missionaries wanted to convert the people. Many reformers emerged during the British Period, during all of this, the well-known politician and peace activist, Mahatma Gandhi, comes in leads a movement that sided for India’s independence. He influenced the religion a lot, especially his teachings on non-violence, (Seaman, D. 2017). Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 a year after India became independent. British India was split into what is now India and Pakistan, and already in this time Hinduism became the major religion of India. In the 1960s, Hindus migrated to North America and Britain, to spread the faith and philosophies to the western world.
In this religion a caste system was/is handled. It is a social hierarchy in India that divides Hindus based on their karma and dharma. It is believed that the system dates back more than 3,000 years. The four main castes in order from highest to lowest is Brahmin: the intellectual and spiritual leaders, Kshatriyas: the protectors and public servants of society, Vaisyas: the skillful producers, and Shudras: the unskilled laborers, (Brodd, J. 2016). Many subcategories also exist within each caste but they all center around those main ones. There is one last one that is added but in some regions it is not recognized and those are the untouchables. They are a class of citizens that are outside the caste system and considered to be in the lowest level of the societal hierarchy. For centuries, the caste system has determined every aspect of a person’s social, professional and religious status in India. When India became an independent nation, its constitution banned discrimination based on caste but the caste system is somewhat still standing even if it not intended. For example any of the old customs are overlooked, but some traditions, such as only marrying within a specific caste, are still embraced.
The teaching concepts are mostly all the same what varies is the way to practice the traditions or the rituals. Also which deities they worship or recognize more than others. Brahma is believed to be the supreme God, the force present in all things, the god responsible for the creation of the world and all living things is one of the main gods. Following this are the next more recognized. The god that preserves and protects the universe is known as Vishnu. The god that destroys the universe in order to recreate it, Shiva. Devi, the goddess that fights to restore dharma. Krishna, the god of compassion, tenderness and love. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and purity. Saraswati, the goddess of learning. (Brodd, J. 2016) Their worship, known as puja, normally takes place in the Mandir which means temple. Hinduism people can visit the Mandir any time they please as well as they can also worship at home, or like many have a special shrine dedicated to certain gods and goddesses where they can go to. The giving of offerings is an important part of Hindu worship, it’s a common practice to present gifts, like flowers or oils, to a god or goddess.
There are many sacred texts Hindus value instead of holding just one holy book. Around 1500 B.C the primary texts, known as the Vedas, were composed. This collection of sacred verses and hymns contain revelations received by ancient saints and elders that were written in Sanskrit. The Vedas contain of: The Rig Veda, The Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda. The Hinduism people believe that the Vedas transcend all time and don’t have a beginning or an end. Along with these Vedas the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, 18 Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata are also considered important texts in Hinduism, (Chatterjee, P. 1992).
Hindus believe in the doctrines of samsara, this means the continuous cycle of life, death, and reincarnation. They also believe in karma which is the universal law of cause and effect this is the idea that people’s actions and thoughts directly defines their current life and future lives; this is considered one of the essential principles of the religion. One of the key thoughts of Hinduism is atman in other words the belief in soul. This philosophy preaches that living creatures have a soul, and they’re all part of the supreme soul. The goal is to ends the cycle of rebirths to become part of the absolute soul which you achieve through moksha, or salvation. Hindus strive to achieve dharma, which we learned is a code of living that emphasizes good conduct and morality. The Swastika is Hinduisms symbol, which represents good luck, later it became linked with evil when Germany’s Nazi Party made it their symbol. The Om is also a Hinduism symbol and it is a sacred sound and a spiritual symbol that signifies the essence of the ultimate reality, consciousness or Atman, (Brodd, J. 2016).
In conclusion Hinduism mostly is referred to as a way of life, which is why the way you practice this religion is not judged but respected just as long as you have the fundamentals, which are believed to be the best way for oneself, and if you respect the others way of practicing.
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