The Hindu religion is one that has existed for many centuries. Many people seem not to understand but it is quite something simply. They have a god who is accompanied by other gods and goddesses and there are many festivals to commemorate their doings.
The Hindu religion originated in India thousands of years ago. To people raised in other faiths, Hinduism may seem very complex, but the core beliefs of Hinduism are actually quite simple to understand. For example, Hindus believe there is only one Supreme Being, Brahman; they pursue knowledge of Truth and Reality; they strive for moral order and right action; and they promote tolerance. Many Westerners also know that Hindus worship a variety of gods and goddesses who personify aspects of Brahman; take pilgrimages to holy sites; celebrate festivals throughout the year; and believe that time is cyclical. These aspects of the religion introduce some of the complexities that are fascinating to study.
Once a child is born in a Hindu family there is one harsh reality they must face and that is the caste system. This is a system that determines where you and all your generations belong. Once a lower class , always a lower class.
To be born a Hindu in India is to enter the caste system, one of the world’s longest surviving forms of social stratification. Embedded in Indian culture for the past 1,500 years, the caste system follows a basic precept: All men are created unequal. The ranks in Hindu society come from a legend in which the main groupings, or varnas, emerge from a primordial being. From the mouth come the Brahmans—the priests and teachers. From the arms come the Kshatriyas—the rulers and soldiers. From the thighs come the Vaisyas—merchants and traders. From the feet come the Sudras—laborers. Each varna in turn contains hundreds of hereditary castes and subcastes with their own pecking orders.
A fifth group describes the people who are achuta, or untouchable. The primordial being does not claim them. Untouchables are outcasts—people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings. Prejudice defines their lives, particularly in the rural areas, where nearly three-quarters of India’s people live. Untouchables are shunned, insulted, banned from temples and higher caste homes, made to eat and drink from separate utensils in public places, and, in extreme but not uncommon cases, are raped, burned, lynched, and gunned down.
Hinduism has a large number of deities. These gods and goddesses have different characteristics and are even worshipped differently.
Easily recognizable as the elephant-deity riding a mouse, Ganesha is arguably the most popular Hindu God, and one of the commonest mnemonics for anything associated with Hinduism. The son of Shiva and Parvati, Ganesha is depicted has having a curved trunk and big ears, and a huge pot-bellied body of a human being. He is the lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is also worshipped as the god of knowledge, wisdom and wealth.
The most powerful and fascinating deity in Hinduism, who represents death and dissolution. One of the godheads in the Hindu Trinity, and known by many names – Mahadeva, Pashupati, Nataraja, Vishwanath, Bhole Nath – Shiva is perhaps the most complex of Hindu deities. Hindus recognise this by putting his shrine in the temple separate from those of other deities and worshipping Shiva as a phallic symbol called the ‘Shiva Limgam’ in most temples.