By: Ronit Singhal, Selase Buatsi, and Marisa Thakady
Origin of Hinduism
- The origin of Hinduism dates back to 5,000 or more years ago.
- The word “Hindu” is derived from the name River Indus, which flows through northern India.
- It was earlier believed that Hinduism was brought to India by the Aryans who invaded the Indus Valley Civilization and settled among the banks of the Indus River.
Basic Religious Beliefs
- Although some Hindu believe in one main God, Hinduism is considered a polytheistic religion by most because they worship many different Gods. Others do consider it a monotheistic religion, but again you will mainly here it called a polytheistic religion.
Classification of Religion
- Hinduism can be classified into six types:
- Folk Hinduism - Hinduism according to local customs spanning thousands of years; even beyond vedic era.
- Vedic Hinduism - Traditional Hinduism practised by Brahmins, especially Shrautins.
- Vedantic Hinduism - One of the modern types of Hinduism; practised by Smartins based on Upanishads.
- Yogic Hinduism - Based on Patanjali's Yoga sutras.
- Dharmic Hinduism - Based on the concept of Karma, societal rituals etc.
- Bhakti (Devotional) type - Based on pure devotion to God.
Branches or Divisions of the Religion
- These are the Major Branches of Hinduism
- Vaishnavites = 580,000,000
- Shaivites = 220,000,000
- neo-Hindus and reform Hindus = 22,000,000
- Veerashaivas (Lingayats) = 10,000,000
Diffusion of Hinduism
- Ideas diffused through the Indus valley around 2000 B.C. into urban areas where it became more popular. Aryan migrants came to the Indus valley around 1000 B.C. and became the dominant culture. Scholars believe the Aryans brought the polytheistic views to the Hinduism religion.
- Hindus do not hold religious functions or congregational worship, rather they worship privately at home. Temples are used to house shrines for specific gods.
- The seven ancient holy towns include: Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Varanasi, Kanshipuram, Dvaraka, and Ujjain.
Where Hinduism is Practiced Today
- Hinduism is practiced in India, Nepal, parts of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Trinidad, Mauritius, Surinam, South Africa, Kenya, U.K., Canada and USA. As the result of immigration, Hinduism is spreading all around the world. Plus, people in the west are becoming more interested in eastern religion and spirituality.
Number of Followers
- Hinduism is practiced in India, Nepal, parts of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Trinidad, Mauritius, Surinam, South Africa, Kenya, U.K., Canada and USA. As the result of immigration, Hinduism is spreading all around the world. Plus, people in the west are becoming more interested in eastern religion and spirituality. Below is a picture illustrating the distribution of followers globally.
Key Figures and Important People
- Some of the main Gods Hindus adhere to are:
- The God Vishnu (preserver)
- The God Shiva (destroyer)
- The God Brahma (creator)
- Lakshmi (purity and wealth)
- The God Brahman (pervades everything)
- Hinduism does not have a specific hearth so there is not an important person that started the religion. Also it dates back to time when there was no recorded history, making the hearth even more unclear.
- There is not just one holy book in Hinduism because the religion does not have a central authority. Also because they believe there are multiple paths to reach God and the individual should decide what way is best to worship God. This means that not everyone does the same thing, for example not everyone has the same holy book.
- The four vedas (probably the most common texts)
- The Rig Veda
- The Sama Veda
- The Yajur Veda
- The Atharva Veda
- The Ramayana
- The Bhagavad Gita
- The Upanishads
Since Hinduism has been around for longer than any other religion there are numerous symbols. Each symbol has a different meaning. A few of them are:
- The Aum
- This is a universal symbol that represents the three main god; Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
- The Swastika
- This symbol is negative to many people but it actually is a symbol of good luck.
- The lotus
- This is a plant used to represent creation and Vishnu, Brahma and Lakshmi.
Place of Worship
- Most Hindu worship individually at home. They use shrine built at home.
- Bathing in the River Ganges (a river that is important because they believe it flows from Shiva hair)
- Hindu Temples are not used as a gathering place for people to worship. Instead they are built as a home to one or multiple gods.
- There are also pilgrimages to visit.
Impact on Social and Family structures
- Scripture recommends that Hindus live a simple life “free of unnecessary complications”. So they live a simple life that is much in tact with nature. They let all animals roam free and undomesticated, use water from rivers or wells, cook over open fires, etc. They live a simple life that basically consists of worshiping, eating, working, and sleeping.
- The women of the family usually cook and do housework while the men provide the income. Also the make the decisions, but the women do have influence. When a woman and man get married the woman joins his family but doesn't cut off contact from her own family. Also they care for their parents in their elderly age. It is like paying a debt back to their parent for raising them. Hindu families are very close. However the relationship between Hindu families is becoming more distant because the younger generation, especially outside of India, value independence and freedom.
Impact on Cultural beliefs and expectations
It is expected that everyone do what is “right” because everyone suffers their own consequences. This belief causes people to stay in harmony with nature and do good deeds because they will be rewarded after death.
Although Hinduism was the first religion and is now practiced all around the world, why has it stayed predominantly clustered in South Asia?