Culture and religions

India is home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world. The Sanskrit, its literary language, is the oldest language still in use and the Vedas, dating from the twelfth century B.C., is considered the oldest scriptures.

Modern India is a secular state. The existing religions in India go from system practices Vedic beliefs, to Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.

The Islam was established in the north and India from the twelfth century onwards. It reached its peak during the Mongol dynasty.

Buddhism flourished during the Maurya Dynasty III century B.C.

In the second millennium A.C. the Vedic period in India, dating the lasting division of Indian society Brahamin (priest), Kshatriya (warrior), Vaishya (merchant), and shudra (Labrador).

Buddhists, Jains and Hindus Indians contemplate the land of India as sacred. In a country where there are 330 million gods and goddesses, divinity can be reached by humans.

Buddhism

Mahayana Buddhism emerged at the end of the first millennium BC. Mahayana is the most practiced form of Buddhism in Tibet, China, Korea and Japan. The gods of Buddhism were surrounded by a group of nourished myths.

 The story of Buddha's enlightenment is very important in Buddhism. Siddhartha Gautama was a historical figure, a prince of the Shakya, a small state, located alongside modern India and Nepal. The old age, sickness and death became the three marks of impermanence.

Siddhartha met five ascetics who practiced extreme austerities in their search for truth. The future Buddha refused food until the navel touched his spine. From these experiences he reached the conclusion that the body needs energy to feed the search for the mind of enlightenment, and later abandoned these extremes of renunciation.

Hinduism

Hinduism is a religious tradition of India. In Sanskrit it is known as Sanatana Dharma (eternal religion) or vaidika dharma (Vedic duty).

In Hinduism there is diversity of belief, but basically Hindus believe that behind the visible universe (maya), to which they attribute successive cycles of creation and destruction, there is another unchanged eternal existence. Leave the cycle of reincarnation (samsara) and return to the spiritual universe is the greatest of all achievements for Hindus.

Jainism

Jina comes from Sanskrit, meaning conqueror, which through austerity, conquered their minds, passions and bodies to attain freedom from endless cycle of reincarnation. Jainism is still the one that most asceticism requires of all Indian religions. Its purpose is not the glorification of an absolute god, but the achievement of personal perfection through the gradual abandonment of the material world. It is the belief in an extreme form of ahimsa (nonviolence), which requires that no living being must be damaged because for Jainism all living creatures have to help each other.

Gods of India

In India there are 330 million Gods. We will only enumerate the most relevant to the Hindu religion.

Brahma

He is the creator, despite having few temples or devotees dedicated to his worship. It is said that it created the universe and then withdrew leaving Vishnu, the Preserver, to keep it. Brahma is usually represented with four faces, four books of the Vedas. Sometimes it is represented on a lotus emerging from the navel of Vishnu, a reference to his birth from a lotus.

Vishnu

The conservative, it comes in many forms being the most popular of the ten avatars. It is the Dharma protector and guardian of humanity. It is a solar deity who fights on the side of good and goes down to earth to help humanity.

Shiva

Siva is both destroyer and creator, god of asceticism and procreation.

It is the oldest of all the deities of the world. It is phallic, always erect, symbol of regeneration, silent power model of ascetic concentration and wild wind of change. As lord of yoga, Shiva transcends the illusory nature of reality. Siva is absent and is portrayed or meditating in remote Himalayan either in form and linga, symbol of the phallus. The power to act in reality is personified in female form, Sati and Parvati, and destructive goddess Kali and Durga.

Kali

The black, it is the destroyer, the fearsome goddess with long red tongue. His enemies are devoured by his cavernous mouth. The image of Kali is the most terrifying of all Hindu deities and it is so adored than feared by his devotees.

Ganesh

The god of elephant head, it is the Lord of the principles of Hinduism and it is the benign Obstacle Remover. His mount is the rat, known for its cunning, and its immense popularity is based on both their traps and their joyful availability to fix the problems of his devotees. The birth of Ganesha is celebrated in the Ganesha Chaturthi festival on the fourth day of the lunar month Bhadrapada, August-September in the state of Maharashtra whose capital is Mumbai.

Hanuman

The Ramayana Monkey hero is the most faithful of Rama. He is the personification of Bhakti (devotion) who gladly offers his life to the service of his god. He is the son of Vayu, Vedic god of wind, which inherits the strength of hurricanes and the ability to fly. Hanuman, the most versatile of the epic heroes warriors, also has the ability to morph into whatever he wants.

Khisna

It is both the most seductive and the most accessible of the major Hindu deities. He is a loyal ally of humans and he won’t stop to help his friends. It is the eighth avatar of Vishnu, sent to earth to fight against evil and fight for the right, whenever the Dharma (righteousness) is threatened by the forces of darkness. The cult of Khisna is popular throughout India. The sacred shrines are concentrated in the north.

Laxmi

She is the goddess of wealth and fulfillment. She is the consort of Vishnu. She represents all the good things of earthly life. She is worshiped across India as the goddess of good luck and good fortune.

Chinnamasta

The Great Goddess of Wisdom, it has been a popular Hindu deity from the twelfth century.

Rama Durga

It is a manifestation of Devi, it is venerated as the terrible aspect of benign Goddess Parvati, daughter of the Himalayas. Durga exists in its own right, killing the demons of ignorance with the power (shakti) of its ferocity. It has been revered by Hindus to end with the buffalo-demon Mahishasura.

Culture

The Dance

It has its origins in the Vedas. It is a ritual, a symbolic form of worship performed in almost all the ceremonies of the social and religious life. Dance is sacred and dancers are hired on civil events, weddings, births, crops and religious precessions. Khatakali, the sacred dance of Kerala, South India, is amongst the most developed in the country. It is a dance at a temple that lasts all night. All men are adorned with billowing skirts, elaborated headdresses and motley makeup. Green represents mobility, a green and red drawing anger, black the demons and ghosts and orange….

Much of the content of classical dance comes from Hindu mythology and local legends.

The music

In Hindu mythology the sacred syllable Om represents the essence of the universe, is the buzz of atoms and the music of the spheres and the sound generally represents the primary energy.

It is believed that the principles of Indian music were already present in the verses and recited of Samaveda.

There are two main traditions of classical music: Hindustani school of northern India and the school of Karnataka in the south. The first is more influenced by Persian and Central Asian cultures. The second is based on traditional and indigenous precepts.

Puja

It is any Hindu ceremony from a simple ritual at home until an elaborate public festival in which images of the gods are worshiped. They are governed by rules that are in the Shastras and Agamas (scriptures) and have probably changed little in the last two thousand years. The bid can be held two or three times a day, at sunrise and sunset and sometimes also at noon and sunset.

Mandalas

They are diagrammatic representations of the universe used in Hindu and Buddhist tradition as aids to meditation and as part of sacred rituals. Mandala means circle and its most important symbolic function is circular container of sacred space.

Ramayama

Ramayama is one of the great Sanskrit epics, which helped to develop a more popular and pious religion. It is not dominated by sacrificial ritual elements controlled by the Brahmins. It is a popular source of religious teachings. Actions of Rama in the epic Ramayana are governed by the Dharma, the law of social and cosmic foundation. The Ramayana is a treatise on moral and ethical precepts.

The Karma

The law of karma is the cause of our particular destination, the law of nature which ensures that we become what we think or do. The misfortune of our present life is the result of actions we have committed in the past. Our actions in this life determine our destiny.

The Upanishads

They are a collection of texts that were composed mainly between VII and V centuries BC. They form the last part of the Vedas and are called the Vendatas (Conclusion of the Vedas). The 108 Upanishads texts are of great importance in the Hindu religion.

Castes

The caste system in India is a hereditary system of social stratification that has existed in the subcontinent for about 3000 years. In this system the social classes are defined by a number of endogamous groups known as Jati. The caste system is deeply linked to Hinduism (one of the three main religions of India).

- Brahmins: is the highest, this breed is associated with the cause of ritual purity as priests of the gods.

- Kshatriya or warrior: contains several castes. These were traditionally kings or nobles, but there were scribes and other court officials.

- Vaishya: Farmers and merchants.

- Shudra: traditionally occupied in farming.

- Harijans: they are below the Varnas (sons of God) four. They are known as the Untouchables.

some religion icons on a wall
Ganesha, hindu god
Representation of Kali, destruction godess
Dancing woman statue from India
Budha statue

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