Hinduism is a blend of various civilizations, races and cultures. Although, it is known as one of the major religions of the world today, Hinduism is more commonly referred to as a “way of life.” Hinduism was founded on teachings and scriptures that are based on some scientific principles and theories.
What do Hindus Believe?
Hindus believe that there is one supreme power that has created this universe. This supreme power governs the universe and will also destroy the universe in the times to come. They call this supreme power the Supreme Soul or Parmatma. They believe that this Supreme Soul is immortal or lives forever.
They visualize GOD in the form of Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh, which is often called a Trimurti. This is also known as the Hindu Trinidty, the manifestation of one god in three gods.
1. Lord Brahma: God of creation or Generator
2. Lord Vishnu: God who governs or Preserver
3. Lord Shiva: God of destruction or Destroyer
The Hindus believe that the “Supreme Soul” resides in everything – whether it is living or dead. They believe that it is present in human beings, animals, birds, plants and micro-organisms in a “transferrable form.”
This transferrable form is called the soul or Atma and they believe that even if a living being dies, the soul does not die. The soul is also immortal and upon death of a living being it enters a new body during its birth.
For example if a human being dies the soul leaves the “dead body” but springs “life” into another body which may be reborn as a bird, animal, bacteria, plant or even as human being again! So Hindus believe in life after death (i.e. reincarnation).
Hindus also believe that God (Deva) is present even in lifeless things like stones, wood, water or any visible or invisible matter that exists in this universe. In short, Hindus believe that God is present everywhere and in everything in one form or the other.
Since they believe that God is present everywhere, Hindus worship all the five elements of nature: 1. Earth (Prithvi) 2. Air (Vayu) 3. Water (Jal) 4. Sky (Akash) 5. Fire (Agni)
This is why Hindus worship plants and animals during festivals and in their routine lives.
Hindus are “henotheistic” in the sense, they believe in worshipping one God without denying the existence of other Gods. They worship numerous Gods but they consider that all the Gods are manifestations or reincarnations of the three main Gods i.e. The Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh.
For example, Hindus worship Rama and Krishna as Gods but then they consider them only as forms of Vishnu who was reborn in different eras.
Similarly, there are also numerous Gods (Devas) which the Hindus believe have originated from the five elements of nature. For Example, Lord Hanuman was the son of the Wind (Vayu) and Goddess Sita was the daughter of the Earth (Prithvi)
What do Hindus practice?
1. Puja: Worshipping the idol or deity
2. Bhajan: Singing hymns, prayers and devotional songs.
3. Seva: Performing all devotional work like cleaning a temples etc.
4. Yadnya: Making holy sacrifices of devotional items to the fire.
There are numerous festivals in Hinduism that are celebrated for various reasons. Some of the main Hindu festivals are:
Diwali: The Festival of light when crackers are burnt to mark the arrival of Lord Rama to his kingdom after his victory over a demon named Ravana.
Navratri: A nine day festival worshipping Goddesses when Hindus fast, pray, sing and perform devotional dances around the deities.
Dusshera: This festival is the last day of Navratri festival. They worship the arms and ammunitions, tools and machinery, objects of academic importance like books and writing instruments. This festival marks the day of victory of Lord Rama over demon Ravana and is celebrated as the symbol of victory of the Good over the evil.
Holi: The festival of colors. The welcoming of spring and a time when good overcame evil.
Rakhi: The sister ties a knot of satin thread around her brother’s hand. The brother thus commits himself to protect his sister at all times.
Besides the above there are numerous festivals that are celebrated by Hindus. Janmashtami is celebrated to mark the birth of Lord Krishna. Also, there are festivals for the end of the harvesting season or festivals where Hindus worship farm animals. The Hindus worship snakes during a festival known as Nagpanchami since snakes protect their fields by eating rodents. One of the festivals is about worshipping Banyan trees, yet there is another where the Hindus worship the Ocean.
Hindus Believe in the Four Stages of Life
The Hindus believe that there are four stages (Ashramas) in a person’s life and that the person should perform duties that are suitable to a particular stage in his life. The four stages are:
1. Apprentice (Bramhacharya Ashrama): This is a student stage of life until the person attains an age of 25 years.
2. Householder (Grihastha Ashrama): This is when a person should get married, start a family, work hard and take care of his wife and kids until he turns 50.
3. Forest Dweller (Vaanprastha Ashrama): In this Ashrama after 50 years of age, he should retire and renounce all worldly pleasures. He should now spend time primarily praying.
4. Renouncer (Sannyasa Ashrama): One of the ancient scriptures notes that a Hindu should end worldly pleasures and bonding with family, friends and head to the forest for meditation. This will ensure that he attains the path of eternal peace or moksha where he will be freed from the cycle of rebirth.
The biggest teaching of Hinduism and Hindus is that the whole world is my family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam). Hindus believe that people from all over the world are a part of their family.
As mentioned in the post What is Hinduism? Hinduism is more about living day-to-day life based on scientific principles and Hindus practice these principles as a part of their lives rather than as a religion.