Provide an overview of your “assigned” religion.
Essay should include information regarding (at minimum):
• # of adherents
• predominant global location(s)
• origins and history (incl. major changes over time)
• main tenets and beliefs (incl. behavior while on earth; what happens after death; treatment of others of same faith/different faiths; etc.)
• basis for main tenets and beliefs
– 2-3 pages (minimum)
– Times New Roman
– 12 pt font
– 1” margins
•Assumed audience: Your classmates
Hinduism is a major world religion that originated on the Indian subcontinent. It comprises various beliefs, rituals, and philosophical systems that guide the actions of its adherents. Most scholars hold that this region started during the Indus Valley civilization between the third and second millennium BCE. However, it was not until the early nineteenth century that British writers coined the term “Hinduism” in reference to religion. Hinduism differs remarkably from other religious communities because it accepts the multileveled and pluralistic nature of its traditions. Hindus hold the view that truth must always be sought through multiple sources rather than dogmatic proclamations. The aim of this paper is to explore the history of Hinduism, its changes over time, as well as main tenets and beliefs.
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Hinduism’s doctrines are expressed in numerous sacred texts that are written in both vernacular languages and Sanskrit, an ancient language from which many languages in northern India are derived. These languages have greatly contributed to the spread of religion in different parts of the world. The religion also spread through performing and visual arts. By the fourth century CE, Hinduism had become a dominant religion across Southeast Asia, and it remained this way for the next 1,000 years. By the start of the twenty-first century, nearly one billion people practiced Hinduism in the world, with India’s Hindus constituting about 80 percent of the world’s Hindu population (Narayanan 6). Although Hinduism is present around the world, it is mostly associated with its distinctive presence in the Indian subcontinent and many parts of Southeast Asia.
Religion has undergone numerous changes throughout its history. Although it emphasizes personal spirituality, its history is intricately linked with various socio-economic and political developments. For example, during the Indus Valley civilization, ritual bathing and temple rituals are believed to have been dominant practices among Hindus. The emphasis on goddess worship, sacrifice, and ritual bathing shows that there were continuities between the strand of Hinduism that was being practiced during the Indus Valley civilization and later strands of the religion. It is also worthwhile to note that aspects of sacrifice and ritual purity were common to other religions being practiced at the time.
During the Medieval period, the concept of devotion, or bhakti, was dominant in Hinduism, and this trend emerged following the fall of the Gupta Empire. Hindu philosophers wrote their own commentaries about Hindu scriptures, thereby propounding new theologies. During the pre-modern period (1500-1757 CE), Islam emerged as a formidable political and religious force on the Indian subcontinent. During this time, many Hindu temples were destroyed and Hindu practice restricted. Nevertheless, further developments in bhakti or devotional Hinduism occurred. For instance, the Sant tradition emphasized elements of bhakti, Islamic mysticism, and yoga.
Further changes in Hinduism occurred during the British period, which lasted between 1757 and 1947. The British at first allowed Hindus to continue practicing their religion but later on introduced Christianity through missionary work. These British efforts led to a move by many Hindu scholars to promote the idea of the “Hindu Renaissance” or a new reawakening. In this renaissance, Hindu was promoted as an ethical, rational, Vedic religion emphasizing an eternal, impersonal God. The scholars felt that the doctrines of Hinduism had been marred by superstition, hence the need to campaign for the reawakening. This campaign triggered the rise of Hindu missionary movements that spread the religion to the West. It also contributed greatly to the rise of Indian nationalism.
Across the history of Hinduism, several tenets and beliefs have remained unchanged. The first element of Hinduism that remains unchanged is a doctrine, whereby the relationship between the world and the divine is defined. The element of doctrine also explains the role of Karma in shaping one’s destiny. Karma is defined as the influence of one’s present and past actions on one’s present life as well as future lives. The element of practice also remains unchanged whereby a common fabric of ritual behavior is promoted. Hindus worship images or icons, and this is called Puja or “honoring the deity”. When a ritual is performed by a priest in a temple, it is referred to as Archana.
Hinduism is also defined by the element of society, whereby a highly stratified social structure, known as a caste system, is promoted. The hierarchical social order comprises of four classes or varnas: Shudras (servants), Vaishyas (commoners), Kshatriyas (nobles and warriors), and Brahmans (priests). Other than society, Hindus are also drawn together by the element of narrative, whereby stories concerning major figures in the religion have historically been told. Examples of Hindu figures who have been immortalized through stories include Krishna, Rama, Sita, Parvati, and Shiva. These stories are normally used to articulate a wide range of tensions relating to social inequities and righteous behavior.
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In conclusion, this paper has examined various aspects of Hinduism, notably its origin, the changes it has undergone throughout its existence, and its core tenets and beliefs. As it turns, out, Hindu is a unique religion that promotes the pursuit of truth through multiple sources. However, like all other religions, its development has been intricately linked with various socio-economic and political developments affecting its adherents. Despite the historical changes, several elements of the religion have remained unchanged, such as the caste system, the role of karma, the worship of images or icons, and the way the relationship between the world and the divine is defined.
Narayanan, Vasudha. Hinduism. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 2010. Print.