Uniqueness of Hinduism

History of Hinduism

Of all the existing religions of the World, Hinduism is the oldest. There is no definitive year that can trace the origin of Hinduism. It has withstood the test of times and has evolved while retaining its core principle.

Hinduism is the third largest religion of the world with nearly 90% of its followers living in India, Nepal, Mauritius and Fiji. Countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh has significant number of Hindu populations. Good number of Hindus also live in USA, UK, France, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

The Uniqueness of Hinduism

Hinduism is a unique religion in several aspects.

  • Unlike other faiths, Hinduism doesn’t have a preceptor.
  • The appropriate date tracing the origins of Hinduism is not known.
  • Hinduism has the highest number of Gods.
  • There are several saints who worked for the upliftment of the Hindus and spread the faith.
  • Worship of nature is an integral part of Hinduism.
  • Hindu faith has the highest number of annual festivals.
  • Hinduism has the highest number of sacred texts.
  • Many diverse philosophical thoughts exist in Hinduism.
  • Hindus see God in everything.

Gods of Hinduism

Hindus worship several Gods, there are nearly 330 million Gods. The principal deities of Hinduism are Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, Lord Maheshwara (Shiva) and their consorts Goddess Saraswathi, Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Parvathi.

Lord Ganesh, Lord Subrahmanya, Lord Anjaneya, Lord Surya, Lord Ayyappa, are some of the other Gods who are popular. The Hindus also offer worship to Navagrahas (nine planets) and Ashta Digpalas (Gods of eight directions).

Major Hindu gods like Shiva, Vishnu and Parvati are worshipped in different forms. Each of their varied forms have different names.

The Guru-Sishya tradition

The Guru-Sishya tradition occupies a special place in Hinduism. The spiritual master is termed as ‘Guru’ and the student as ‘Sishya’. The Gurukul system of education existed widely across ancient India.

The students irrespective of their social status would go and live with the Guru to learn from him. The Guru and his wife will take care of the students who come to them and would treat them as their child. Until they receive the requisite knowledge and skills, the sishyas stay with the Guru and Guru patni.

The Gurus are accorded a very high status, they were seen as God.

The sacred texts of Hinduism

There are several sacred texts in Hinduism of which Srimad Bhagavad Gita is the most popular. Gita transpires as a conversation between Sri Krishna, the eight avatar of Lord Maha Vishnu and Arjuna, one of the Pandavas. Krishna motivates and instils confidence to a dejected Arjuna who refuses to fight the Kurukshetra war.

There are four Vedas , viz Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana. The Rig Veda is the oldest among the four. The teachings in Vedas are classified as Sruthi and Smriti. There are many Puranas that tell the stories of Gods. Amongst the Puranas, eighteen are important, Vishnu Puran, Shiva Maha Purana, Linga Puran, Padma Puran are some of the 18 major puranas.

There are two epics, namely Ramayana and Mahabharata. Ramayana written by Sage Valmiki tells the story of Lord Ram, the seventh incarnation of Lord Maha Vishnu and Mahabharata written by Sage Veda Vyasa tells the story of the fight for throne in the Kuru Kingdom. These two epics are world famous and have been translated in several languages.

Festivals of Hinduism

Of all the existing religions, Hinduism has the greatest number of festivals. Big and small, there are hundreds of Hindu festivals. Some festivals are observed by all the Hindus irrespective of their sect; Diwali and Navaratri are festivals that are celebrated by everyone.

There are many festivals like Onam, Berthiaume, Raksha Bandhan, Chhath and more which are specific to people of a particular region or sect. Also, there are many festivals that honour a village deity.

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