The word Hinduism was introduced in the 19th century to define the aggregate beliefs of the Arya, immigrants who left Central Asia in 1500 BC, and animist religions of native populations in India.
Basic concepts. Cosmic law rules the good order of the world, be aware and respect cosmic law. Lead the life of a good Hindu, observe rules, perform all rites, accept the caste of birth. Caste system supplies code of conduct and rites done. Encompasses all parts of life; rites but also who to take drink from, associate with, marry, etc.
Principles of Hinduism. Dharma religious law and moral code by which people can earn enlightenment. Karma is the life balance of action and reaction; individuals responsible for decisions and consequences. Leading good Hindu life will bring rebirth into a better life. Samsara is cycle of reincarnations determined by karma. Moksha is liberation from samsara; individual unites with universal timelessness, ultimate serenity, nirvana. Path to moksha is good Hindu life.
Each deity has different names, as well as different symbols, attributes, tasks and powers according to what god it represents. Each deity has a vehicle, an animal usually which serves master. Primary Hindu gods are Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
Brahma is the creator of the universe. Attributes are the rosary, the receptacle of holy water, the ladle and the book. Mount is a goose or swan. Brahma usually represented with four heads, allows him to watch over world. Very few statues of Brahma since creation is done.
Saraswati is Brahma's consort and is goddess of knowledge, learning and music. She is often portrayed with four arms, plying the veena (seven stringed musical instrument) with two hands as well as holding a rosary and a book. Sits on a lotus riding a peacock or a swan. Often a crescent moon on forehead. Worshipped by Buddhists as a form of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of wisdom.
Vishnu is the preserver of life and the world. Attributes are the conchshell, the disc, the lotus and the mace. Mount is Garuda, a mythical half-man and half-bird. He often appears in some of the following forms:
Narayan, which means "he who guides development in all fields" or universal knowledge.
Buddha, ninth reincarnation of Vishnu.
Rama, warrior who rescued wife Sita who had been taken by Ravan, demon-king of Ceylon.
Krishna, personification of manhood who bewitched 'gopis' (milkmaids and shepherdesses) with whom he frolicked. Forms of Rama and Krishna more popular in India.
Shiva, the destroyer and regenerator. Attributes are the trident, the tambourine, the tiger skin, the club, and the lingam. Mount is Nandi the bull.
Pashupati, master and protector of animals, especially of cattle, who is the friend of life.
Bhairav, the form of Shiva eager to destroy everything, including evil. Usually a black statue, with necklace of human skulls.
Hanuman, the monkey god. Symbolizes faithfulness and willingness to help. Associated with successful military undertakings and assisted Rama in fight against demon-king Ravan who kept Ram's wife Sita imprisoned for 12 years.
Ganesh, (Ganapati) one of the most popular gods in Nepal. Infallible, charitable and has power to decide fate of any human enterprise. Universal power. Shiva and Parvati's son. Shiva was away, Parvati bore a son while he was gone. Ordered son not to let anyone in. Shiva came home, young guardsman barred him from entering so he chopped off the guard's head with sword. Parvati terrorized, Shiva promised to bring him back to life by beheading the first living creature he found in the forest. Saw elephant first, so cut off its head, rushed back and put it on Ganesh's head. Ganesh always dressed in red, four arms and body covered with layers of sandalwood paste. Only one tusk, mount is a shrew, sometimes mistaken for rat or mouse. Consequently all three are sacred.
Parvati, Shiva's consort. In benevolent forms, Devi, Uma, Shakti or Annapurna as the "dispenser of abundance." As wreaking havoc, forms of Kali, Durga or Bhagavati.
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