The most important religion in Indian is Hinduism and is one the oldest in the world.

The word Hinduism derives from the Persian term “Hindu” or from the Sanskrit “Sindhu”, which means river. The word is related to the people who inhabited the Indus Valleys (where North India is currently located).

In this article I’m going to approach the sacred texts of this religion, its main guiding principles, its gods and the religious rites that are performed.

Vedas

Hinduism bases itself on thousands of books and scriptures, with Vedas being the first and the most important, since they are deemed as a divine revelation. These revelations were orally transmitted from generation to generation and were gathered on paper between 1500 and 900 B.C.

Guiding Principles

To understand the belief of a Hindu one needs to know his religion’s principles:

  • Samsara: the cycle of death and rebirth, which the spirit has to go through until it reaches Moksha;
  • Karma: everyone has a spirit, which has a path that depends on the actions taken (the evil or good that are done can affect or reward this life or the other).
  • Moksha: final liberation (of the cycle of death and rebirth);
  • Dharma: moral duty, the path to truth.
  • Maya: the notion that the world we live in has many illusions.

Gods

It is believed that there’s a single divine force, but one that assumes countless forms.

The gods. These are similar to Man, as they also eat and drink, love and hate. It is estimated that there are maybe 330 million… and a Hindu can choose one among many to practice his worship.

However, these are the 3 essential forces of the universe, the 3 main gods:

  • Brahma: the creator of the Universe. He has 4 faces looking in the 4 directions and he has 4 hands (his consort is the goddess Saraswati);
  • Vishnu: the maintainer of the order of the universe, he’s the God of Protection. He has 4 hands and his blue color symbolizes infinity. He assumes different forms when the world is under threat;
  • Shiva: the destructor, in order to build something new. He has long hair, the Ganges River in his head, and 2 or 4 arms. He is above all worshiped as a phallus, a symbol of eroticism and sexual energy. Kali, one of the incarnations of Parvati, is his consort.

Religious rites

Most Hindus practice religious rites on a daily basis, in their homes or in a place of worship, in honor of their chosen god(s). The rites should always include:

  • Darshan: bonding experience by being in the presence of a holy person;
  • Puja: flower or food offerings (among other things) to divine images, something that can last few minutes or several hours.

When I was in India I saw many temples and people practicing their worship. They are in every street, square and alley. For me, it made perfect sense to apprehend what Indians believe in and the ways they practice their worship.

I hope that with this text you can understand it a little bit better.