The culture of Hinduism is one of the most followed religions throughout the world and has over 1 billion followers worldwide. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion, which is the belief in or worship of more than one god or deity. Although it is predominantly situated in the eastern hemisphere around India it still has a vast number of followers around the world. The Hindu religion is not based off a single founder, book or point in time. Most historians date the Hindu religion beginnings back to around 1500 BCE. The people of the Hindu religion are one as a culture but individually they are very diverse.
Who are the members of the Hindu society?
According to Cristian Violatti, of the Ancient History Encyclopedia, “Hinduism is often labeled as a religion, but it is actually more than that: it is a vast and complex socio-religious body which, in a way, reflects the complexity of Indian society.” Different languages, dialects, practices, beliefs and ideals are just a few of the characteristics that make up the socio-religious body of Hinduism. The members of the Hindu society are usually thought to be inhabitants of South Asia. A majority of the Hindu’s live in the South Asian areas of India and Nepal.
As a religion Hinduism puts into practice three different goals. The three goals are Dharma, Artha, and Kama. Dharma in the Hindu society is living life ethically and ritually correct. According to Paul Flesher from the University of Wyoming “ The primary virtue is to fulfill duties assigned to ones castes.” If a person were to try and fulfill another person’s job they would be violating their caste duty. Not only is it expected for a person to fulfill the duties of their caste but also to fulfill the duties that come with their age or stage in life. The three different stages of life in the Hindu religion are student, householder, and retired person.
The next goal in the life of a Hindu is the Artha. Artha in the Hindu society according to Paul Flesher from the University of Wyoming is “ the working for and achieving of success, in terms of both wealth and power.” Artha is a goal all Hindu people should strive for no matter what caste. It is important to find success in wealth and power to be able to provide for the family. This goal will mostly come in the householder stage of life.
Kama or pleasure is the next goal of the Hindu community. A main text in the Hindu society is the Kama Sutra. The University of Wyoming says this about the Kama Sutra:
“This includes: the producing and enjoyment of art, music, dance, drama, literature, poetry, and sex. (The "Kama Sutra," which may be one of the best-known Hindu texts in the West, is about the aesthetic pleasure of men and women; it discusses beauty, music, dance and sexual activity.) It is thus religiously praiseworthy to take part, to support, or just to appreciate any form of pleasure. This should always be done, of course, within the realm of dharma (i.e., in a virtuous manner).The Hindu community as a whole strives to accomplish these goals to be able to live ethically, achieve success, and to appreciate pleasure.
The religion of Hinduism itself has its own language apart from the people who are followers of the religion. The language of Hinduism is Sanskrit, an ancient language of India. Although many languages of Hinduism are derived from Sanskrit, the Sanskrit language itself is mostly the language of the Upanishads, Vedas and other sacred Hindu text.
Hinduism is the leading religion in India. India being as complex it is in the religion aspects doesn’t stray far from this when it comes to languages spoken. The Indian region has over one-hundred different spoken languages. According to Jason Baldridge of the University of Toledo states this about India and its languages, “With over 900 million people and more than one thousand languages, India is certainly one of the multilingual nations in the world today. It is home to the Indo-Aryan and Dravidian language families, two of the world's largest.” The official languages of India are Hindi and English.
In the Hindu culture there are sixteen different holidays/festivals that are based on the lunar calendar. One of the biggest Hindu festivals is the Kumbha Mela. This is a festival in which millions of Hindus flock to the cities of Prayag, near the Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati rivers, Haridwar, Ujjaoin, and Nasik. With the pilgrimage only happening only four times every twelve years it is seen as more of a sacred pilgrimage. This pilgrimage that millions of people take part in is the largest festival in the world. A few more community events that take place in Hindu religion through out the year are the celebrations of the Gods birthdays. Depending on which God or Gods a certain individual chooses to worship will determine if they celebrate them or not.
Daily worship in the Hindu community is an event that can bring together followers of the religion multiple times a day. This daily worship can take place in many different places such as in the home or in a temple. Certain areas might have nearby temples devoted directly to certain gods or goddesses while other temples might just be for everyday worshiping. The devotee might offer the god or goddess money, flowers, or even food to show sacrifice. The in home worship, although very similar to the temple worship, can seem a bit more complex. The householder and wife make an offer to the fire-god and then turn to ask for a blessing from the sun god. Not only do Hindu devotees take part in this ritual daily but also they usually have small shrines of gods who they find important. These shrines will be the center of the worship within the particular household.
A main text of the Hindu culture is the Vedas, or the books of knowledge, are some of the oldest literature in history. The Vedas, according to Cristian Violatti, “are a collection of hymns and other ritual texts composed in different time periods.” The spiritual foundation of Hinduism is based of the Vedas. The Vedas are four different texts: the Rig Veda, the Sama Veda, the Arthrva Veda, and the Yajur Veda. Paul Flesher writes “ The contents of the Vedas should make it clear that these texts are for the Brahmins." The Rig Veda also known as the Book of Mantra is a book of the hymns and songs of the Rig Vedic civilization. Through the hymns and songs the social, religious, and political lives of the ancient Rig Vedic civilization are described. The Sama Veda or The Book of Song is almost exactly like the Rig Veda and a lot of the information in the Sama Veda has come directly form the Rig Veda. The Yajur Veda or The Book of Ritual was created to elaborate on the ceremonies of the Hindu religion. The final Veda, the Artharva Vedaor the Book of Spell, is significant to the Hindu society due to the fact that it portrays the history of the Vedic civilization similar to the Rig Veda.
The Upanishads are a vast array of writings that are an essential part to the spiritual wisdom of the Hindu culture. The Upanishads include texts as simple as poems and also longer narratives to help portray the Hindu philosophy. Professor Russell Kirkland from the University of Georgia explains the meaning of Upanishad by saying, “The word was first used to refer to short statements and secret formulae that contained the essence of the doctrine. Later it came to refer to entire texts that dealt with esoteric knowledge.” There are over 200 different texts called the Upanishads all created from earlier versions of text from around roughly 800-600 BCE.
The Hindu culture also has literature of the Classical Hinduism period. The literatures of the Classical Hinduism era, according to Paul Flesher, are “revered but is not considered holy in the same way as the Vedas. They are termed smriti, i.e., "remembered." This means that they are traditional and originally passed on orally. They have a human rather than a divine origin.” The Sutras, which is similar to a proverb, and The Epics are the two of the better-known forms of Classical Hinduism.
As a community the Hindu culture is quite diverse and complex. The interaction of the Hindu people is brought together by important texts that have deep spiritual meaning to the Hindu culture. Many of these books outline the meanings of the Hindu religion and what is expected from the Hindu people. The Hindu culture not only interacts through different texts but also through different community events. Daily worships are the main event that the Hindu community as a whole takes part in. Although the worships can be an individual event it is still something a majority of the Hindu community participates in. The Hindu community has three different goals known as Dharma, Artha, and Kama. These Hindu goals promote success and pleasure in the Hindu society. The language of the Hindu community also contributes to the complexity and diversity of the culture as a whole. With over one-hundred different languages being spoken in India and the language of the Hindu culture being Sanskrit the complexity of Hindu language is obvious. As the Hindu community continues to grow the complexity and diversity of the culture will continue to grow as well.
MLA Works Cited:
Puja | What Are the Basic Beliefs of Hinduism? Smithsonian Institution. Web. 24 April 2015. .
Ancient History Encyclopedia. 11 May 2013. Web. 24 April 2015. .
INTRODUCTION TO HINDUISM. Web. April 24, 2015 2015. .
Hinduism-The Religous Life. University of Wyoming. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. .
Kumbha Mela. Web. 24 April 2015. .
TIME TRIP. Current Events [serial online]. December 12, 2003;103(14):2. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 24, 2015.
Baldridge, Jason. "A BRIEF BACKGROUND OF THE LANGUAGE ISSUE IN INDIA." University of Toledo. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~jason2/papers/natlang.htm>.
Interview With Ketan Bharambe
· How did you become a member of the Hindu community/culture?
o I became a member of the Hindu community because of my parents. My parents would always take me to the temple every now and then as a kid and I still go to this day. I learned much of the culture from them
· What are the common goals of the Hindu community?
o Each person has different goals that they want to achieve in the Hindu community; it’s based on what you believe in.
· What are some of the community events that you either attend or know of?
o One major community event we celebrate as a family is Dewali, which is the festival of lights. We celebrate it every November and October by decorating our house with lights and candles. Hindus celebrate this holiday for a variety of reasons. Some people celebrate Dewali for their wealth and prosperity with Lakshmi (Hindu god)
· What texts are unique to this community?
o I personally don’t have any sacred texts, but I know my parents and relative do. I do know that many of the sacred texts are in the Vedas but it isn’t considered the official text like the Bible is to Christians or the Quran is to Muslims. There are multiple texts that they use
· What language is unique to this community?
o Most Indians speak Hindi, which is the most common language in India. My family speaks both Hindi and Marathi, Marathi is the language that most people in Maharashtra speak. Both languages are similar tho
· Are there any people of the Hindu community that have special significance?
o Swamis are significant to Indian people because they are teachers of the Hindu religion