What is Hinduism?
Hinduism is one of the oldest living religions in the world. Hinduism has its origins in India, the country where most Hindus live. But there are also major Hindu Communities in Nepal, the Middle East, Fiji and Mauritius. Other Hindus live and work in parts of the world such as Britain, the Netherlands, North America. Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. Religion plays an important role in the life of the Hindus. It is the way of life and how they perceive the world. Hindus call their faith 'Sanatana Dharma' which means eternal doctrine of eternal law. Hinduism is a lively, colorful and flexible faith that can be shaped in various ways.
The beginning of Hinduism
Hinduism is a religion unusual in that it has no founder and no holy book. It began about four thousand years ago in the time of the Indusdalbeschaving in northwest India. Archaeologists have found Indus images that show an early picture of the great Hindu god Shiva. In about 1500 BC were people from Central Asia, Northern India inside. They brought their own faith and their ideas mingled with those of the people of the Indus valley. Hindus revere still some Aryan gods like Agni, god of fire and still read Aryan sacred texts like the Rig Veda.
Het geloof van de Hindoes
The faith of the Hindus
Hinduism is more a way of life than having a number of fixed beliefs. It can be shaped in various ways. Some Hindus pray every day, others rarely. Praying and visiting the temple is not required. To everyone is left to decide this themselves. But all Hindus did share some beliefs. Hindus believe that when a person died his soul lives on and is reborn in another body, human or animal. The quality of the next life depends on the way they behaved in the previous life. In a well-lived life, one is reborn into a higher form of life than a poorly lived life. This chain of actions and their effects is called karma. The ultimate purpose of the life of a Hindu is moksha or redemption, detachment of the cycle of samsara. The better each rebirth, the closer you come to moksha. Moksha is also seen as the moment when your individual soul, atman, merges into the Supreme Spirit Brahman.
Gods and Goddesses
Most Hindus believe in a supreme spirit Brahman. But Hindus do not pray as Christians or Muslims to Allah for God. Instead, they worship hundreds of gods that show different aspects of Brahman. Hindu gods are often depicted with many heads or arms, each holding a sacred object. These are symbols of their special powers, and the aspect that they represent Brahman.
The Hindu Trinity
The three main Hindu gods are Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer). Vishnu and Shiva are all beloved gods, many temples dedicated to them.
Brahma, the first of the three Hindu Trinity, is the creator of the universe. He is depicted with four heads that look at the four cardinal directions. He rides swans or sits on a sacred lotus. His wife is the goddess of arts and education Saraswati. Brahma has four hands, which he always raises one of blessing.
Vishnu is the protector of the universe. He is often depicted in an eagle or sleeping on a giant serpent. His wife is Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty and wealth.
Shiva is the destroyer of evil in the universe. He has a trident as a symbol of destruction. On his head he wears the third eye of knowledge. Shiva riding a big bull called Nandi. Shiva's wife is the goddess Parvati.
Rama en Krishna
Rama and Krishna are worshiped throughout India as gods. Rama is the hero of the poem Ramayana and represents courage and virtue. Krishna is something more naughty and love doing wonders. He is the key figure in the Bhagavad Gita, a part of the poem Mahabharata.
Holy books and stories
The Hindus have no holy book like the Bible for Christians, but have many different scriptures. Before they were written down, they were passed down orally for a long time. The language used by the people was Sanskrit, the language of the Aryan people. Sanskrit is the sacred language of India and is still studied today, though it is not spoken.
The oldest sacred texts are four collections of hymns, prayers, rules for rituals and sacrifices and spells: the Vedas. These were collected about 3,500 years ago by the Aryans. The oldest and best known is the Rig Veda. It is still an important holy book of the Hindus. It contains more than a thousand hymns of the ancient gods and goddesses.