According to gradphysics.com, the Hinduism belongs alongside Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism to the five major world religions.
The religion has approximately 949 million followers, most of whom live in India. In contrast to the other world religions, Hinduism has no founder, as the Christians see in Jesus Christ or the Muslims in Mohammed. There are a multitude of gods in the Hindu religion, among which the god Brahma is the most important. One of the central beliefs of the Hindus is the transmigration of souls. When a living being dies, the soul leaves the body and takes possession of another living being. The holiest site for the Hindus is in the Indian city of Benares. Here the believers bathe in the water of the Ganges to cleanse themselves of their sins.
Central components of faith
The Hindu religion consists of numerous currents. Common to all directions is the belief in karma and the idea of transmigration of souls. The Hindus understand karma (literally: “the deed”) to be a spiritual concept that is responsible for rewarding good deeds and punishing bad ones. Closely related to this is the idea of rebirth and the transmigration of souls. In this regard, the fate of each individual depends on their lifestyle. Whether he is born again as a human, an animal or a plant is decided on the basis of his good or bad deeds. During the transmigration of souls, referred to by the Indians as “samsara” (wandering around), the soul of all living beings moves to another body after death or – in the case of plants – after dying. For example, someone who was a person in a previous life may be an ant or a tree in another life.
Man can only achieve salvation from this cycle when he renounces the world or comes to true knowledge. The mind therefore plays a major role with the Hindus. Those who have achieved salvation are in a state of perfect bliss. Achieving this state is the highest goal of every Hindu – meditation and special yoga exercises accompany the way there. The aim of yoga is to control the body in such a way that the mind calms down, gathers and radiates positive energies.
The gods of the Hindus
There are a multitude of gods in Hinduism, the supreme god being Brahma. He is the creator and ruler of the world and stands for the first, the eternal and the absolute power. His wife is Saraswati, the goddess of learning. The second most important god is Vishnu. Its job is to preserve and save the world. According to Hindu belief, he has already saved the threatened world nine times. In doing so, he took on the shape of various living things and was, for example, a fish, a turtle, a boar and a dwarf. He is depicted as a god with four arms in which he holds a club, a shell, a throwing disc and a lotus flower.
Vishnu’s wife Lakshmi is the goddess of happiness. Together with Brahma and Vishnu, Shiva forms the supreme triumvirate of the world of gods. On the one hand Shiva can destroy the world, on the other hand he is the savior. His residence is in the Himalayas, the highest mountains in the world. His wife, the goddess Durga, provides food and fights against demons.
The god Krishna, to whom many heroic deeds are ascribed, is also popular with the Hindus. In addition, there is a special god for every weather phenomenon and all other natural phenomena. For example, Indra is responsible for the rain, Surja for the sun, Soma for the moon, and Waju for the wind. God of fire is Agni, god of water Waruna. Love falls into the realm of Kama, death falls to Jama.
The box order
The caste system plays an important role in the organization and practice of religion. It is officially banned in India today, but it still forms the basis of social and religious life. Everyone belongs to one of the four castes. You are born into a caste and remain a part of it for life. Only after death, the transmigration of souls and the rebirth can one come into a different caste.
The topmost caste is the Brahmin caste. It includes the priests and all religious leaders. They study and interpret the scriptures, conduct the worship services, and organize the sacrificial ceremonies. The second group is the Kschatrija caste. Its members represent the nobility and the warriors. They support the Brahmins in their religious activities. The third caste, called Waischja, is the caste of farmers and traders. They watch over the economy and are supposed to increase the country’s wealth. At the lowest level is the Shudra caste. The Shudras are the servants who are supposed to support the members of the top three castes. They include people from simple backgrounds, such as craftsmen, day laborers and seasonal workers.
Outside the caste system are the pariah. They have no rights and have to do those jobs that are generally considered to be of low service, such as working as a street sweeper or grave digger.
Precepts of belief
Hinduism subjects its adherents to a number of strict regulations. Anyone who violates this must expect severe penalties. The cows enjoy particular reverence among the Hindus. They are considered sacred and therefore must not be killed – the consumption of beef is therefore strictly forbidden. The sanctity of the cows is based on their agricultural utility. Snakes are also sacred in Hinduism, as they are seen as symbols of fertility and wealth. Of all snakes, the cobra is the most sacred animal. The lotus flower occupies a special position among plants. It is considered sacred because of its beauty.
Another important ritual are the ritual ablutions to which the believers have to undergo in all religious ceremonies. Only those who have undergone such ablution are considered “pure” in a religious sense.
Festivals, processions, pilgrimage sites
Religious festivals have a prominent place in Hinduism. They take place in the temples and on the streets. In Hinduism, the temple represents the cosmos par excellence – the most sacred area of a Hindu temple is located in the temple tower, which is seen as the center of the universe. Due to the multitude of gods, the year is literally peppered with religious festivals. An important festival of the Hindus, which is celebrated in February, is the “Night of Shivas”. The focus is on the homage to the linga, a stone which, according to the Hindus, contains the divine powers of Shivah. Durga, Schiwas’s wife, is celebrated with its own ten-day festival in autumn. Holi is a colorful, happy festival similar to Carnival.
Once a year every Hindu should take a trip to one of the great pilgrimage sites. There are over a thousand holy places in India alone. The best known is Varanasi, which was formerly called Benares and which is located directly on the Ganges. The believers scatter the ashes of their dead in the river and take a bath themselves to get rid of their sins. Older Hindus come to Benares to die in this holy place. They hope for the end of the transmigration of souls and redemption. Another important pilgrimage site is in Haridwar. The god Vishnu is said to have left a footprint here. The famous Vishnus temple is located in Puri. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims flock here at the chariot festival in summer.
|Number of Hindus worldwide *)|
|approx. 949 million|
|Main distribution area|
|large Hindu communities (over 1 million Hindus) outside India|
|Nepal (religion of the royal family)|
|Indonesia (especially Bali)|
|important festivals (selection)|
|Holi (festival of colors; February / March)|
|Mahashivaratri (the great festival in honor of Shiva; February / March)|
|Ramnavami (Rama’s birthday; March / April)|
|Janmashtami (Krishna’s birthday; August, September)|
|Divali (Festival of Lights; October / November)|
|most important pilgrimage festival|
|important pilgrimage sites, holy places (selection)|
|Mount Kailas in Tibet|
|*) Status: 2010|