Hindu Religion

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  Hindu Religion


The beginning of religious diversity in India goes back to the protohistoric past of the country. There is substantial physical evidence of the existence of extensive religious activity in urban centers associated with the Indus Valley or Harappan civilization spread over the northwestern, northern and western parts of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent. It is reasonable to speculate that somewhat different types of religious beliefs and rituals would have existed in the rural hinterland. The city’s cultures are generally believed to have been overridden by nomadic Aryan-speaking peoples of Central Asian origin around 1500 BCE. They brought their own religious beliefs and practices, and these focused on the creative and destructive forces of nature. According to this generally accepted view, the Aryans probably owed little in their religious life to the Dravidian-speaking peoples whom they had driven out of their homeland.

scholars who do not accept the general view, but h

The Arappan culture as an outgrowth rather than a major break, whether entirely internal or aided by a limited migration, maintain that old and new cultures co-existed, and that the latter were religiously influenced by the former. and absorb both linguistic elements (see Parpola, 1994). It took many centuries for Vedic religion and Sanskrit to acquire the forms in which they have been handed down to us.

The resulting religion was characterized by internal variations reflecting social, religious and scholastic divisions. Scholars have written about a state religion, centers with ritual ablutions (great baths) in temples

citadel of Mohenjo-Dharo), worship of gods and goddesses, and perhaps animal sacrifice. In addition to public (state) and private (household) customs, differences reflecting clan-based cleavages also seem to have existed (see Possehl 1982). The principal source of our knowledge of the religious life of the Aryans, in addition to numerous archaeological sites, is the collection of sacred literature called the Vedas (wisdom, knowledge), which are believed to be ever-existent (eternal) and therefore eternal for any human being. There is a shortage. author (Apaurusheya) and spread over about a thousand years.

The earliest of the Vedic texts is the Rig, which has been dated to no later than 1200 BCE (but is probably much older). Its ten books of hymns in praise of gods and goddesses probably represent ten family traditions among brahmins (ritual experts) and took several centuries to compose. The Sama and Yajur Vedas extend the scope of the Rig to music and ritual, respectively. Finally, the Atharva Veda is considered to represent the absorption of folk religions into the Vedic corpus, which resulted in significant changes. These religions were encountered by the Aryans when they moved east into the Ganges valley and adopted more systematic methods. In fact, the valley came to be known as the home of the Aryans, Aryavat. Thus, deities become devalued and magical spells and rites transcended (see Flood 1996; Brockington, 1992).

In addition, the Vedas became the basis of a vast textual flourishing, including manuals for ritual performance (Brahmanas, Aranyakas), and judicious speculative treatises (Upanishads, also called Vedanta, the culmination of the Vedas), which date us to close to 300. Let’s bring B.C. Schools of Vedic learning and ritual, called ‘Shakhas’ (branches), flourished, at times creating a cultural climate of plurality within the Vedic framework.

But that is not all; Vedism gradually gave way to the emergence of Hinduism on a subcontinental scale, which brought into existence more texts on more diverse subjects, notably the Grihya Sutras, which are guides to the performance of domestic rituals, and the Dharma Sutras, Which have social ethics and law as their subject matter. In addition there are the Sraura Sutras which are technical treatises on the correct procedures for the performance of Vedic rituals of public importance. The Grihya Sutra has a regional character: the text followed in one part of the country may be unknown in another. Vedic treasury is considered

Prakat is said to be based on sruti (that which is heard) and constitutes the first source of dharma understood as religious practice. With the Sutras we come to another source, namely, Smriti (that which is remembered), and these texts are attributed to human authors.

Even later than the Sutras are the Dharma Shastras, which continue with similar themes but in much greater detail. The most famous of these texts today is the Manav Dharma Shastra, which is attributed to a sage named Manu, and is therefore also known as the Manu Smriti. It is believed to have been composed between 200 BC and 300 AD, which rules out single authorship. What is the institutional framework for the conduct of both domestic life and public affairs in this and other similar texts?

In domestic life the principal principles of varna (social class) and ashrama (stage of life) are considered for the definition of appropriate rituals and worldly affairs. While universal norms (sarva sadhana dharma) have not been completely eradicated, but have been maintained as the foundation of all religious conduct, it is the varna- and ashrama-specific rules that emerge as predominates. Thus Hinduism is defined as Varna-Ashramadharma. Not only the householder but also the king, is bound by his respective duties as defined in terms of varna and ashrama (see Lingatt 1973). For those who rejected such divisions, especially tyagis (sanyasis), they were even divided into sampradayas (sects) from at least the time of the composition of the Mahabharata (400 BC–400 AD). Is. It is clear that different regional, varna (including occupation), and ashram identities define the appropriateness of behavior in particular circumstances. From this point of view Hinduism could only be a family of beliefs and practices and Hindu society

  A union of communities.

The speculative or philosophical concerns of the Brahmanical tradition were formulated as different systems of orthodox thought (jnana) and called ‘versions’ (darshana) of life based on the Vedas. Each of you visions, six in number, has its own authoritative texts. The thought or reflection that comes from each situation is not exclusive in the manner of various guides to ritual performance and social behaviour. The ‘core’ text of each philosophy deals with extra-contextual (paramarthik) knowledge, and transitive (practical) knowledge built into or contained in it.

Together they form what can only be called a complex whole.

There are six schools: (i) Samkhya (‘Calculation’) which stresses the ontological duality of matter (Prakriti) and ‘Self’ (Purusha); (ii) Yoga (‘joining’, ‘mixing’) which forms a pair with Sankhya in terms of its metaphysics; (iii) Mimamsa (Vedic interpretation) which takes a pluralistic view of reality; (iv) Vedanta (‘the perfection of the Vedas’), grouped with Mimamsa, which denies the reality of the many; (v) Nyaya (logic) and (vi) Vaisheshika (dialecticism), considered a pair, deal with logical, ontological and dialectical issues within an empiricist, pluralistic (more precisely atomistic) framework (see Haryana 1949). ). The primacy that Vedanta monism has enjoyed in contemporary literature on India does little justice to the internal diversities of Brahmanical thought, even in dealing with similar issues, or with its own method of dealing with them. To prevent mutual incompetence.

The antecedent multiplicity of scriptures, metaphysics and social organization which are the background of Hinduism and indeed partly constitute it, are characteristic of Brahmanical orthodoxy. This conservatism has not gone unnoticed. Indeed, the challenges surfaced long before any major external threats emerged. Followers of the public Vedic ritual called śrūtra (śruti, ‘revelation’) place first those who preferred domestic rituals, whether smartas (followers of the smṛtis or dharma shastras) or purāṇikas (those who organized their religious lives). do) based on the Puranas, which are mythological accounts of gods, goddesses and other supernatural beings as well as the actions of humans, the lives of kings and ascetics).

However, the latter two categories of Hinduism are not non-Vedic.

The Tantras are texts that their followers claim to have revealed to the Tantriks, who are non-Vedic. Tantric rituals reveal considerable diversity, but generally refer to secret rituals often performed at special sites such as cremation grounds. Occurs characteristically, and often night. Thus, tantric rituals invoking the power of the Supreme Goddess are performed at night.

These are performed at the famous temple of Puri (Orissa), where the mythological Lord Jagannath (an incarnation of Vishnu, the patron deity of Vaishnavas) and his divine consort are worshipped. publicly performed during the day (see Marglin 1985). The annually celebrated ‘Car Utsav’ (Rath Yatra) is dedicated to him.

While the worship of Vishnu is combined with that of Devi (goddess) and Shiva in Smarta-mythological traditions, in some parts of the country, especially in the south, mutually exclusive and often hostile cults center on the two sects. Of God. From the beginning of the fifth century, Vaishnavism was divided into the sects of Pancharatras and Vaikhanas. Similarly, Pashupati, Kapalika and Kalamukh sects were prominent among Shaivas (see Lorenzen 1972). Beginning in the seventh century, Vaishnavism and Shaivism began to produce specific literary texts called Samhitas and Agamas, respectively. Each sect claimed the supremacy of its own deity over the authority of the latter.

In the development of these theistic traditions, from around the last centuries of the last millennium BCE, many elements from various sources, including high cultural and folk religious traditions, converged. Personal devotion to one’s chosen deity (bhakti), whether Vishnu in his various avatars, including especially Rama and Krishna-Vaisudeva, or Shiva, is a distinctive feature of these cults, and originated in the south and then spread to the north. This devotionalism found expression in emotionally charged poetry, especially among Vaishnavas from the sixth century and later among Shaivites, although the devotion of the latter was more rigid (see Ramanujan 1973, 1981).

Expectedly, the devotee’s relation to the deity, whether expressed in human (anthromorphic) words or through abstract formulations, constitutes the core of the speculative thought of these religious traditions, ranging from absolute monism (advaita), Associated with the name Shankara ( c.788–820), non-dualism (vishishtadvaita) worthy of Ramanuja (c.1017–1137) and dualism (dvaita) expounded by Madhva


In the thirteenth century. The teachings of the latter two sages combine the metaphysics of the Upanishads with the theism of the Vaishnava and Shaiva sects.

Associated with these two is a third tradition, namely the worship of the great goddess, Devi, which emerged virtually independently as the Shakta (शक्त, ‘power’) tradition. Here too the roots go back much further in time, perhaps as far back as the Harappan culture, and later developments involve an amalgamation of mythological, tantric and folk deities and ideas. In the form of Lakshmi, the divine consort of Vishnu, the great goddess is presented as the gentle bearer of auspiciousness; As Uma-Parvati, she is

Divine consort of Shiva, mother of the universe; And as Durga or Kali, the supreme manifestation of divine power, she is the fearsome destroyer of evil and is greater than all male deities through the pooling of whose powers she comes into being. At the village level she appears as goddesses who bring and remove disease and misfortune, such as Sheetla, the goddess whose appearances were attributed to smallpox (see Hawley and Wolf 1996).

The Hindu religious tradition, we have seen, is characterized by strong pluralistic tendencies emanating from various sources and inspirations. It has attempted to assimilate non-Hindu religious ideas and practices and has dealt with internal dissension through far reaching measures. Sometimes, this strategy has failed and resulted in breakaway sects, which over time developed into independent religions such as Buddhism and Jainism, adding a new dimension to India’s religious pluralism.

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