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Hinduism is a religious belief observed by millions of people all over the world. It has been established thousands of years ago, making it one of the oldest religions in the world. (BBC) In addition, the population of advocates who support Hinduism is massive, thus making it the third largest religion in the world. (Religious Tolerance) It is said to have originated in India, however it has not been recognized to any person based on its creation and development. (Das)
Early History of Hinduism
Hinduism has been traced to emerge during 3000 BCE, and its practice have been prominent in placed such as Punjab valley, Indus valley, and Mohenjo-Daro among others. The people within these communities practiced Hinduism. They also have a distinct set of beliefs and practices that were present during their time. For instance, religious practices such as worship were done beside the rivers, around fires, etc. However, time has changed these practices and found its way to learning all the different religious practices in the past and fuse it together to make a single religious practice. (BBC)
Hinduism was also influenced by other religions such as Jainism and Buddhism. The emergence of these religions influenced the formation of Hinduism later on. After the establishment of Hinduism, several religions also influenced the traditions and ideas that lays the foundation of the religion. For instance, Islamic practices such as the mystical traditions and beliefs have the same ideologies with that of Hinduism, despite their conflicts in territory and expansion. (BBC) Aside from the influences of other religious factions, Hinduism was also influenced by Western traditions. Missionaries attempted to convert followers of Hinduism into Christianity. However, this only angered and challenged the Hindu population, thus pushing them to restore the old Hinduism faith. The revival of Hinduism took place during this time. Old practices and traditions were relearned and implemented. (BBC)
Beliefs and Practices
The Hindu practice believes in a single god, whom they call Brahman. They believe that he was the one who created the universe and all the living things that inhabit it. However, several factions within the religion worship different gods. Three groups are divided according to the god that they worship. For instance, one group worships Vishnu. Another group worships Shiva. The third group worships a mother goddess, whom they call Shakti. These three gods are believed to be united in one, and that is Brahman. (BBC)
The practice of Hindu rituals and traditions are observed and taught even before the conception and birth of a child. For instance, there are prayers for parents in order for them to be able to guide and protect their children. There are also several ceremonies such as the welcoming of the newly born child, a ceremony for naming the child, and even ceremonies before the child’s ears are pierced or before his hair is cut. (BBC)
The unique characteristic of Hinduism is that it believes in reincarnation. They believe that when people die, they come back to the world in a completely different form. In addition, one’s behavior or morals where predict whether one will become something or someone that is good or desirable in the next life. For instance, people who have been behaving badly will become undesirable creatures in the next life. While people who have been good to themselves and to others will be reflected in one’s life after death. Moreover, reincarnation depends on the caste system. (Contender Ministries)
The aim of believing in Hinduism and practicing their beliefs and traditions is to achieve nirvana. Nirvana is the highest state of being wherein one is untied from the cycle of reincarnation. This happens when one fulfills all his duties and responsibilities to his family and society. Meditation is also instrumental in achieving salvation, thus leading to eternal peace and state of mind, as embodied in the principle of nirvana. Through meditation, one is liberated from ignorance and is enlightened with knowledge and wisdom. Lastly, the road to nirvana entails self-sacrifice and surrender. People who practice Hinduism must be able to submit to the gods through worship and rituals, and being able to exist in this world within the path of god. (Contender Ministries)
Hinduism has four main denominations and the other three are mentioned above. The denominations of Hinduism depend the god that they worship, the doctrine that they follow, and the beliefs and traditions that they wish to practice. For instance, the Vaishnavas worship Vishnu. They also value devotion to their god. Shaivas worship the most popular god in India who is Shiva. Shaivas practices are mostly based on meditation and gaining knowledge. (The Heart of Hinduism) Shaktas worship Shakti, wherein sexual relations is utilized in order to connect with the god (Dominguez). The doctrine of the Shaktas believe in the power of action that is in doing well to others. The last denomination of Hinduism is called Smarta. Smartas worship five gods. Like the Shaivas, the Smartas value knowledge and meditation. (The Heart of Hinduism)
The Gods and Godesses
Aside from the gods and the goddesses aforementioned, Hinduism also recognize gods and their mystical powers. For instance, they believe in Indras. Indras is the god of storms who guides warriors in their quest to win over battles. Agni is the god of fire, and Varuna who is in charge over the order and the organization of the world. They also believe that Varuna is a wise god who always seeks the truth through moral views and reasoning. Varuna also knows the wishes, desires, and mysteries of man. (BBC)
Like all other religions, Hinduism also has sacred texts wherein all their beliefs, practices, traditions, and ideologies are written. Examples of these sacred texts include the Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas. The Vedas is an old sacred text, which includes all songs and hymns, chants and prayers, and traditions and ritual practices. Like the Vedas, the Upanishads is an old sacred text wherein the philosophies of Hinduism are discussed. The Upanishads guides man in his quest to achieve Nirvana and establish a connection with Brahman. These shall be accomplished through continuous prayer and meditation. Lastly, the Puranas contains all information pertaining to the world. It contains the events in the past that led to the creation of the world, and includes its destruction. Other sacred texts, however less popular than the ones mentioned above include The Laws of Manu, The Sacred Laws of the Aryas, The Satapatha Brahmana, etc. (John Bruno Hare)
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