Hinduism Overview

Hinduism: History

The sense of “history” in many of the Hindu texts called Purāṇas (“Ancient Lore”) is a sense of valorous and gracious actions; it involves learning to act with a sense of what is righteous (dharma), compassion, and gratitude. This sense of “thus it has been” is different from narrating a linear sequence of events, which constitutes a customary understanding of “history” in other parts of

Hinduism: Central Doctrines

There are many Hindu schools of thought and practice and many Hindu communities: Only a few ideas and concepts are common to most Hindus. Nevertheless, many schools of philosophy have held that acceptance of the sacred compositions called the Vedas as a source of divine authority is a litmus test of orthodoxy. In the Hindu tradition there are numerous gods and goddesses and many books

Hinduism: Dharma

Hindus today use the word “dharma” to refer to religion, ethics, and moral behaviour in general and to their religion in particular. Since the 19th century the term Sanātana dharma (the eternal or perennial dharma) has been used to designate the Hindu tradition. The behaviour recommended for each class and each stage of life is called varṇa-āśrama dharma. The responsibility to behave thus is called

Hinduism: Sacred Books

There are 4 Vedic collections, known as Ṛig, Sāma, Yajur, and Atharva. The Vedic corpus was followed by a set of books called Smṛti (remembered) literature. Though acknowledged to be of human authorship, the Smṛti is nonetheless considered inspired: Sometimes this category is divided into 3 subfields: the 2 epics, the old narratives (Purāṇas), and the codes of law and ethics (Dharma Śāstras).

Hinduism: Sacred Symbols | 6

Hinduism is known for its numerous icons and images: Deities are represented in many postures and in various materials. The question of whether these are “symbols” or reality itself has been much contested within the Hindu traditions: Some philosophical schools think of them as symbols leading a person through meditation and concentration to reality; others think of the icons in the temples as actual incarnations

Hinduism: Teachers and Leaders

Most of the important Hindu theologians in the last 1,500 years can broadly be classified as teachers of a philosophical school called Vedanta. This field of philosophical enquiry remains important in Hinduism. The term Vedanta was traditionally used to denote the Upanishads, the final part of the Vedas, but the term has more popularly been used to denote systems of thought based on a coherent

Hinduism: Social Structure

A person’s social class (varṇa, literally “colour”), subgroup or caste, sectarian community, philosophical group, and linguistic community contribute to creating the sense of “self” within the Hindu tradition. There are many communities within Hinduism, and many of them have their own chains of leaders. In addition to these communities, there are charismatic teachers (gurus) who command large followings around the world.

Hinduism: Temples and Holy Places | 9

Hindu holy texts extol the sanctity of many individual sites: For pious Hindus, to live in such places or to undertake a pilgrimage to one of them is enough to destroy a person’s sins and to assist in the attainment of liberation from the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Texts that discuss the sanctity of the holy places tend to tell how a particular

Hinduism: Festivals | 10

Hindus celebrate festivals throughout the year. There are domestic, temple, and public celebrations. The birthdays of the many deities, especially Gaṇeśa, Kṛṣṇa, and Rāma, are popular. Hindus have a lunar calendar that is periodically adjusted to the solar year; thus, while the dates of the festivals change, they come within the span of a month. Festivals can be regional or all-Indian.

Hinduism: Dresscode

Every region and every community in India has its own code of dress. Historically, most Hindu communities celebrated the body and wore clothes to enhance and adorn it. After the arrival of Islam in Northern India in the 12th century C.E., the covering of the body initially became fashionable and then a way of depicting one’s modesty, especially in Northern India. In the South there