As the oldest living and third most populous religion in the world, the history of the Indian faith is linked to the human narrative. Started when the ancient Aryans migrated to the Indian subcontinent, their cultures and traditions became the basis for modern-day Hinduism. This basis were the Vedas – religious texts which define truth for Hindus.
Believed to be delivered by heavenly scholars, the scripts have been preserved by word of mouth. By the Classical era, the creation of the Dharma Sutra and Shastra texts helped enhance faith and define central ideas. Dharma, the belief of an inherent duty for every Hindu, was also formed.
This lead to the caste system, a definite hardening of the social pyramid which split families into four categories: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Sudras. This limited interclass marriages and hindered lower class opportunities. During this time, the three central Gods, Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu were founded. Temple worship was increasingly becoming prevalent and modern Hinduism was primarily founded by 1500 CE. Because of Hinduism’s massive history, the current Hindu belief system is varied and complex. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion, meaning that they believe in multiple Gods. This leads to dedicated temples for each deity, most frequently of the Trimurti: Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu.
These three Gods are the most important and show frequently in Indian texts. Karma is another prevalent theme – the belief of the returning of your good or bad actions. This karma carries over to subsequent lives, which determines a Hindu reaching nirvana, (moksha) or rebirthing as a lower creature. Puja, or Hindu worship, defines a substantial part of adherents’ lives.
The worship usually happens at family shrines or local temples, where Hindus give thanks, ask for assistance, or consult the divine. Worship is a daily task, and colorful festivities are common. Devotees are almost always aided by priests, who can perform rituals and give blessed offerings. Ringing of bells, passing of flames, chanting, and dance are regular religious acts. From this multilayered culture, the result is an abundance of art and beauty, reflected upon their many artistries. Architecture is a popular outlet for Hindu creativity, and Hindu temples are a common beautiful product. Lavished with decoration and sculptures, the shrines are magnificently grandiose.
Temple also usually tell stories: a temple to Vishnu tell about his incarnations, a temple for Shiva tell about his combative feats, and Kali’s temple tell about her victories against demons. Festivals are a ritualistic part of Hindu life too, shown by Hinduism’s many holidays. One of these is Diwali, the festival of lights. Signifying the victory of light over darkness, Hindus light candles on the darkest night of each year, celebrated in an annual five-day festival.