Hinduism was born in India around the year 1500 b.c. It is world wide spread and has millions of followers. The word Hindu is derived from the word sindhu, means Indu river in Sanskrit; but their own definition of their religion is "those who believe in the Vedas" or those who follow the teaching(dharma) of the four classes(varnas) and stages of life (ashrams). Hinduism is a religion that is clearly concerned with many aspects of life.
Hinduism basically pays attention to what people do rather than what they think, this is reflected in the way there is more uniformity of behavior than of belief in the religion. There are more than 700 millions of Hindus around the world, and the religion is still practiced by those whose families have migrated from India to other parts of the world, such as East Africa, South Africa, Southeast Asia, the East Indies, and England.
A few usage's are observed by almost all Hindus: reverence for Brahmans (priests), and cows; no eating meat specially beef; the wide variety of beliefs and practices; and marriage between the caste.
Most Indus worship Shiva, Vishnu, or Devi, but they also worship hundreds of additional minor gods, such as Sarsuati and Ganesha depending on a particular place or to a particular family.
The ultimate authority for all Hindus are the Vedas. The oldest of the four Vedas is the Rig-Veda, which was composed in and ancient form of the Sanskrit language in northwest India. This text, consisting of 1028 hymns to a pantheon of gods, has been memorized syllable by syllable and preserved orally to the present day. The Vedas, including the Brahmans and the Upanishads, are regarded as revealed (shruti) that means " What has been heard from the gods", and no syllable can be changed.
Hindus believe that the universe is like a great cosmic egg. Inside of it are numerous "concentric" heavens, hells, oceans, and continents. They believe that time is both degenerative, which means destructive and cyclic.
It starts in the golden age, or Krita Yuga. In this time two intermediate periods of decreasing goodness occur, which lead us to the present age. The destructive phase, in which we are apparently entering is known as the Kali Yuga.
At the end of each Kali Yuga, the universe is destroyed by fire and flood, and a new golden age begins. This explains more or less, the "Big Bang" phenomenom. Which means hindus unlike "apocalyptic" religions think that the universe will be destroyed one morning, but instead that nature will renew itself with destruction.
Human life, too, is cyclic: After death, the soul leaves the body and is reborn in the body of another person. This condition of endless entanglement in activity and rebirth is called sam-sara.
Hindu believes may be divided into two groups: Those who seek the sacred and profane rewards of this world (health, wealth, children, and good rebirth), and those who seek release from the world. The principles of life were taken from the Vedas and the Upanishads. This are represented not only in the different cults of renunciation (sannyasa) but also in the ideological ideals of most individual Hindus.
The wordly aspect of Hinduism originally had three Vedas, three classes of society (varnas), three stages of life (ashrasmas), and three "goals of a man " (purushartthas), the goals or needs of women being seldom discussed in the ancient text. To the first three Vedas was added the Atharva-Veda. The first three classes (Brahman, or priestly; Kshatriya, or warrior; and Vaisya, or general populace) were derived from the tripartite division of ancient Indo-European society, traces of which can be detected in certain social and religious institutions of ancient Greece and Rome. To the three classes were added the Shudras, or servants, after the Indo-Aryans settled into the Punjab and began to move down into the Ganges Valley: The three original ashramas were the chaste student (brahmachari), the householder (grihastha) and the forest-dweller (vanaprastha) They were said to owe three debts: study of the Vedas(owed to the sages); a son (to the ancestors); and sacrifice (to the gods). The three goals were artha (material success), dharma,(righteous social behavior), and kama ( sensual pleasures ). Shortly after the composition of the first Upanishads, during the rise of Buddhism ( 6th century BC), a fourth ashrama and a corresponding fourth goal were added: The renouncer (sannyasi ), whose goal is release (moksha) from the other stages, goals, and debts.
Each of these two ways of being Hindu developed its own complementary metaphysical and social systems. The caste system and its supporting philosophy of svadharma
(" One's own dharma" ) developed withing the worldly ways. Svadharma descrive the belief that each person is born to perform a specific job, marry a specific person, eat certain food ,and have children to do likewise and that it is better to fulfill one's own dharma than that of anyone else ( even if one's own is low or reprehensible, such as that of the Harijan caste, the Untouchables, whose presence was once considered polluting to other castes) .
The primary goal of the worldly Hindu is to produce and raise a son who will make offerings to the ancestors ( the shraddha ceremony) . The second, "the renunciatory" way of Hinduism, on the other hand, is based on the Upanishadic philosophy of the unity of the individual soul, or atman, with Brahman, the universal world soul, or head-god . The full realization of this is believed to be sufficient to release the worshiper from rebirth; in this view , nothing could be closer to salvation than the birth of a child. Many of the goals and ideals of renunciatory Hinduism have been incorporated into worldly Hinduism , particularly the eternal dharma (sanatana dharma) an absolute and general ethical code that could lead to transcend all subsidiary , relative, and specific dharmas.
Although all Hindus acknowledge the existence and importance of a number of gods and demigods, most individual worshipers are primarily devoted to a single god or goddess, of whom Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma and Devi are the most popular.
Shiva embodies the apparently contradictory aspects of a god of asthetics and god of the phallus. He is the god of death and it's cult. An example are the many Shiva sects that imitate him: Kapalikas, who carry skulls to reenact the myth in which Shiva beheaded his father, the incestuous Brahma, and was condemned to carry the skull until he found release in Benare. Others are the Pashupatas, worshipers of Shiva Pashupati. " Lord of Beasts" and Aghoris the cult for whom "Nothing is horrible".
On the other hand, to his worshipers , Vishnu is eternal and supreme; he is the god, giving birth to the creator (Brahma). Vishnu created the universe by separating heaven and earth.
Several goddesses are the object of primary devotion. They are sometimes said to be various aspects of the Goddess, Devi. In some myths Devi is the prime mover, who commands the male gods to do the work of creation and destruction . This same Devi is worshiped as Durga, consorte to Brahma, femenity. As Parvati, consorte to Shiva, Mother to Ganesha(important demigod), and as Kali, Goddess of destruction and war.
Worship and Ritual
The great and lesser Hindu gods are worshiped in a number of circles of public and private devotion. Because of the social basis of Hinduism, the most fundamental ceremonies for every Hindu are those that involve the rites of passage (samskaras). These begin with birth and the first time the child eats solid food ( rice ). Later rites include the first haircutting ( for a young boy ) and the purification after the first menstruation ( for a girl ); marriage and the blessings upon pregnancy, to produce a male child and to ensure a successful delivery and the child's survival of the first six dangerous days after birth. Last are the funeral ceremonies ( cremation and, if possible, the sprinkling of ashes in a holy river such as the Ganges ) and the yearly offerings to dead ancestors.
Hinduism is a very important religion, because of it's complexity and it's popularity. This is a religion that looks at every single detail of life, is based on very ancient scriptures: before all religions(except pagan) and can be very modern at then same time. It is very accepted because it suits perfectly the chaotic situation the world is living.