Throughout the world, culture plays a pivotal role in everyone’s lives; whether it be through food, songs, festivals, or everyday life, without culture, the world would all be the same. In the country of India, the main birthplace to over four of the world’s largest religions, there is a blend and mixture of all sorts of people and personalities. The main religion that resides in India, is Hinduism, with one billion followers; 15% of the world’s population (Hays, 2016). In Hinduism, like all religions, traditions are an everyday lifestyle and a huge part of their lives. One of their biggest and most well-known traditions is the festival of Holi. Holi is filled with vibrant colors, exciting music and food, surrounded by a devoted and amiable community. Hinduism is a large complex religion consisting of devoted followers who partake in many traditions, such as Holi, to appreciate and understand the history of the past and honor the deities.
Hinduism is the world’s largest religion, dating back to more than 4,000 years, it has over 900 million followers and is Indias number one religion. Around 1500 B.C., the Indo-Aryan people migrated to the Indus Valley, and their language and culture blended with that of the indigenous people living in the region. Its origins are difficult to trace back due to the fact that it doesn’t have a founder, but it is said to have originated “between 2300 B.C. and 1500 B.C. in the Indus Valley, near modern-day Pakistan. But many Hindus argue that their faith is timeless and has always existed” (Editors, 2017). The Epic, Puranic and Classic Periods took place between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D. Hindus began to emphasize the worship of deities, especially Vishnu, Shiva and Devi. Most forms of Hinduism are “henotheistic, which means they worship a single deity, known as Brahman, but still, recognize other gods and goddesses” (Editors, 2017). Hindus worship many gods and goddesses in addition to Brahman, who is believed to be the god responsible for the creation of the world and all living things. They also worship Vishnu: the god that preserves and protects the universe; Shiva: the god that destroys the universe in order to recreate it and Devi: the goddess that fights to restore dharma. These three deities are said to be some of the most powerful in the religion, and they are prayed to more than three times a day. A few other gods are Krishna: the god of compassion, tenderness and love; Lakshmi: the goddess of wealth and purity; and Saraswati: the goddess of learning.
One of the key thoughts of Hinduism is “atman,” or the belief in the soul. This philosophy holds that living creatures have a soul, and they’re all part of the supreme soul. The goal is to achieve “moksha,” or salvation, which ends the cycle of rebirths to become part of the absolute soul. Hindu worship, which is known as “puja,” typically takes place in the Mandir (temple). Hindus either can worship at the temple or home, and many have a special shrine dedicated to certain gods and goddesses. The offerings are an important part of Hindu worship, and it is common practice to present gifts, such as flowers or oils, to a god or goddess. One fundamental principle of the religion is the idea that people’s actions and thoughts directly determine their current life and future lives. Thus, Hindus strive to achieve dharma, which is a code of living that emphasizes good conduct and morality.
Hindu culture is one that revolves around love and respect for others and can be seen through how they go about their everyday life caring for others, and in doing so, they are a step closer to achieving dharma. Hinduism is a multifaceted religion that includes, philosophy, theology, practicality, and diversity. It is a religion that consists of a “complex set of interrelationships among many sorts of people, belief systems and practices, rather than a single uniformed structured, bureaucratically organized, and centrally codified religion”(Mittal et al., 15). Hinduism embraces many religious ideas. For this reason, it’s sometimes referred to as a “way of life” or a “family of religions,” as opposed to a single, organized religion. This way of life is celebrateed and apprecotated thorughout India and has been for many centuries. Along with these traditions, there is a more exciting part of the Hindu culture; the festivals.
One of the most ethnic and diverse festivals is the Hindu festival of Holi. Holi is a two day ancient festival of India and was originally known as ‘Holika’ which takes place before and after the full moon of the month, usually in March, when the sun enters the sign of Aries; signifying the begining of spring (Crooke, 55). As well as marking the start of spring, Holi is also known as “The festival of love” and celebrates fertility and color. The origins of Holi come from a mix of Hindu mythology including the popular legend of Hiranyakashyap – a demon king who wanted to be immortal. The story is he wanted everyone to worship him as a god but his own son, Prahlada, chose to worship Vishnu instead, which offended his father. One day the demon king asked his sister Holika, who had a magic shawl that could not catch fire, to sit on a raging fire with Prahlada in her lap. As the fire burned the shawl flew from the Holika’s shoulders onto Prahalada and she perished while he survived. The god Vishnu, impressed by Prahalada’s devotion, then appeared and killed the demon king, Hiranyakashyap. Another Hindi legend remembered over Holi is the tale of Lord Shiva and Kaamadeva. It is believed Kaamadeva, the god of passion, woke Shiva from his deep meditation so he could save the world (Miller, 2019). That is why Hindus light bonfires, to signify the fire of Holika burning Prahlada. Historically, Holi is celebrated to honor new life and bring to light the fact that good overthrow evil. The tradition of throwing colored powder and water is believed to originate from the mythological love story of Radha and Krishna. Krishna, the Hindu god depicted with dark blue skin, is believed to have complained to his mother about Radha’s fair complexion. To ease her son’s sadness, his mother suggests he Radha’s skin color by smearing her with paint. It’s believed that this is where the custom of smearing loved ones with color during Holi came from (Miller, 2019).
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