Hinduism, also called as 'Sanatan Dharma' (perennial wisdom), is considered
to be the oldest surviving religion in the world. With a bunch of beliefs,
philosophy and wisdom, the perspective of Hinduism has changed from time to
time. It is a set of eternal teachings comprehending eternal consciousness
and hence we may say that Hinduism is not a religion but a 'way of life'
based on endless values of the universe.
Hinduism did not originate from a single person or a single philosophy
unlike other most of the great religions of the world. With the passage of
thousand years, the religious and philosophical literature of the Hindus
have shaped up to present form and covers a vast and diverse belief and
faith. To be precise, the historic records of the Hinduism date back to four
thousand years and believed to developed in Western part of India on the
banks of Sindhu now called - Indus. When Persians invaded, they found a
civilization nestled on this area, who were called as 'Sandhus' with
reference to the river Sindhu. But due to some peculiarity in their
pronunciation, the Persians called them 'Hindus'. Since then, various
colours of beliefs and ideology have mingled with the philosophy of Hindus
making it a widely accepted philosophy. Hinduism is a religion of past and
the future, showing the light of spirituality and divinity to the entire
world defining a new path of life.
Namakarana Samskar :
Today Hinduism has become third
largest religion in the world, after Islam and Christianity. It nearly
occupy 13% of the world's population including the followers of from the
neighboring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
This is the Hindu name-giving
ceremony, performed in the home or temple 11 to 41 days after birth. The
father whispers the auspicious new name in the infants right ear.
Annaprasana Samskara :
The first feeding of solid food is
a sacred event performed by the father in the temple or home. The choice of
food offered to a child at this crucial time is said to help forge his or
Karnavedhna Samskara :
The ear-piercing ceremony, given
to both boys and girls, performed in the temple or the home, generally on
the childs first birthday. Health and wealth benefits derive from this
Chudakarana Samskara :
The head is shaven and smeared
with sandalwood paste in this rite performed in the temple or home before
age four. It is a very happy day for the child. The shaven head denotes
purity and egolessness.
Vidyarambha Samskara :
The official beginning of primary
education. In this rite, performed in the home or temple, the chiled scribes
his or her first letter of the alphabet in a tray of unbroken, uncooked,
Upanayana Samskara :
The ceremonial investment of the
Sacred thread and inititation into Vedic Study, performed in the home
or temple, usually between the ages of 9 and 15, after which a youth is
considered twice born.
Vivah Samskara :
The marriage ceremony, performed in a
temple or wedding hall around the sacred homa fire. Lifetime vows, Vedic
prayers and seven steps before God and Gods consecrate the union of husband
Antyeshti Samskara :
The funeral rite includes
preparation of the body, cremation, home-cleansing and dispersal of ashes.
The purifying fire releases the soul from this world that it may journey
unhindered to the next.
Rituals and Customs of Hinduism
Hinduism, the name itself carry a divine feeling of spirituality. A
religion which finds its root dating back to four thousand years is a
science of perfection and is a wonder to the world.
The answer to any problem, be it individual, social, national or
international, is available in the sacred books of Hinduism. The pioneers of
Hinduism, who arrived at different phases of time spreading awareness
worldwide, have enriched the faith of Hinduism with their thought and
philosophy. Over the years, some beliefs and philosophies have grown into
the minds of Hindu people which now can easily be termed as rituals and
Divinity That Binds
Hindus celebrate lifes crucial junctures by holy sacraments, or rites
of passage, called samskaras, which impress the subconscious mind, inspire
family and community sharing and invoke the Gods blessings. For the
Hindu, life is a sacred journey in which each milestone, marking major
biological and emotional stages, is consecrated through sacred ceremony.
Family and friends draw near, lending support, advice and encouragement.
Through Vedic rites and mantras, family members or priests invoke the Gods
for blessings and protection during important turning points, praying for
the individuals spiritual and social development. There are many
sacraments, from the rite of conception to the funeral ceremony. Each one,
properly observed, empowers spiritual life and preserves Hindu Culture, as
the soul consciously accepts each succeeding discovery and duty in the order
of Gods creations. The essential samskaras are the rites of
conception, the three-month blessing, hair-parting, birth, name-giving,
head-shaving, first feeding, ear piercing, first learning, puberty,
marriage, elders vows and last rites.
Do You Know
Hinduism holds a long and complex history, dates
back to some 3000 BCE. It is a blend of ancient legends, beliefs and customs
which incorporated after an years of practice. Sacrifices are still made to
complete the ritual ceremonies and to seek blessings of God and
Goddesses.... like Agni (God of Fire), Indra (God of storms), Goddess Kali.
The essential religious sacraments of childhood are the
name-giving (namakarana); head-shaving (chudakarana); first solid food
(annaprasana); ear-piercing (karnavedha); and commencement of formal study
Phases of Samskaras (Customs)
Samskaras impress upon a child its holiness and innate possibilities for
spiritual advancement. The namakarana occurs in the temple or home, eleven
to forty one days after birth. The babys name, astrologically chosen,
is whispered in the right ear by the father, marking the formal entry into
Hinduism. The head-shaving (chudakarna) is performed at the temple between
the thirty- first day and the fourth year. The annaprasana celebrates the
childs first solid food, when sweet rice is fed to the baby by the
father or the family guru. Ear-piercing, karnavedha, held for both girls and
boys during first, third or fifth year, endows the spirit of health and
wealth. Girls are adorned with gold earrings and other gold jewelry. The
vidyarambha begins formal education, when children write their first letter
in a tray of rice. The upanayana begins, and the asmavartana ends, a youths
religious study. The vedas beseech, I bend to our cause at this solemn
moment, o gods, your divine and holy attention. May a thousand streams gush
forth from this offering, like milk from a bountiful, pasture-fed cow.
Marriage The Eternal Bond
The most important sacrament of adulthood is the vivaha samskara, or
marriage rite, preceded by a pledge of betrothal. A boys coming of age
is also consecrated through special ceremony in the home. As puberty dawns,
the ritu kala home-ceremony acknowledge a girls first menses, and the
kesantha kala celebrates a boys first beard shaving. A new clothing
and jewelry fit for royalty are presented to and worn by the youth, who is
joyously welcomed into the young adult community. Girls receive their first
sari, boys their first razor. Chastity is vowed until marriage. The next
sacrament is the betrothal ceremony, called nischitartha or vagdana, in
which a man and women are declared formally engaged by their parents with
the exchange of jewelry and gifts. Based on this commitment, they and their
families begin planning a shared future. In the marriage sacrament, or
vivah, seven steps before God and Gods and tying the wedding pendant
consecrate the union of husband and wife. This sacrament is performed before
the homa fire in a wedding hall or temple and is occasioned by elaborate
celebration. The Grihya Sutras pronounce, One step for strength, two
steps for vitality, three steps for Cattle, six steps for seasons, seven
steps for friendship. To me be devoted. The essential child-bearing
samskaras are the garbhadhana, rite of conception; the punsavana,
third-month blessing; the simantonnaya, hair-parting ceremony; and the
jatakarma, welcoming the new-born child. Conception, pregnancys
crucial stages and birth itself are all sanctified through sacred ceremonies
performed privately by the husband. In the rite of conception, garbhadhana,
physical union is consecrated through prayer, mantra and invocation with the
conscious purpose of bringing a high soul into physical birth. At the first
string of life in the womb, in the rite called punsavana, special prayers
are intoned for the protection and safe development of child and mother.
Between the fourth and seventh months, in the simantonnaya, or hair-parting
sacrament, the husband lovingly combs his wifes hair, whispers sweet
words praising her beauty and offers gifts of jewelry to express his
affection and support. Through the jatakarma samskara, the father welcomes
the newborn child into the world, feeding it a taste of honey and well
being. The Vedas proclaim, That in which the, the songs and formulas are
fixed firm like spokes in the hub of a cartwheel, in which are interwoven
the hearts of all beings- may that spirit be graciously disposed toward me!
Entrance into the elder advisor stage at age 48, the marriage renewal at
age 60, and the dawn of renunciation at 72 may be signified by ceremony.
Funeral rites, antyeshti, solemnize the transition called death. Hindu
society values and protects its senior members, honoring their experience
and heeling their wise advice. Age 48 marks the entrance into the vanaprasth
asrama, celebrated in some communities by special ceremony. At age 60,
husband and wife reaffirm marriage vows in a sacred ablution ceremony called
Age 72 marks the advent of withdrawal from society, the sannyasa asrama,
sometimes ritually acknowledge but never confused with sannyasa diksha. The
anthyesthti, or funeral ceremony, is a home sacrament performed by the
family, assisted by a priest. Rites include guiding the individuals
transition into the higher planes, preparing the body, cremation,
bone-gathering, dispersal of ashes, home purification and commemorative
ceremonies, sraddha, one week, one month and one year from the day of death,
and sometimes longer, according to local custom. Through the antyeshti, the
soul is released to the holy feet of Siva. The Vedas counsel, Attain
your prime; the welcome old age, striving by turns in the contest of life.
May the Ordainer, marker of good things, be pleased to grant you length of
Hinduism - Social System
Hinduism, a religion which was not started by a single person can also be
termed as the science of leading a healthy life. It is a religion which
can't be adopted and the traditions of Hinduism passes through generation
though the blood flow.
Over the centuries and millennia, the great yogis, rishis and Bodhisattvas
have been preaching about the eternal faiths and universal customs and thus
setting some rules and parameters for the society. The religion in a whole
embraces the universal truth with an open-minded air and even the followers
are never forced to accept any particular axiom or belief. Nevertheless,
their hearts are threaded to the supreme consciousness with a tacit string
of firm trust and faith thus governing the life of society.
Caste No Bar
According to traditional Hindu view, human being are divided into four
categories on the basis of their intrinsic qualities of work. These
four-fold divisions of labour was regarded as fundamental for the society by
the end of Rig-Vedic era and was done on the basis of the need that all
person cannot be engaged in all activities. The four varnas or castes are -
Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra.
The intellectual class and is the highest of
all the Varnas. They are also called 'human god' and enjoy the privilege to
It is the second category and have the duty
to protect people by courageously fighting battles when needed. This is the
class who enjoy the royal throne of the society.
The trading class and provides for the economic
need of the society. Men in this class were engaged in agriculture, cattle
raising and trade.
The working or serving class, who contribute
their labour for the welfare of the society.
Four Stages of a Hindu Individual
According to the Hindu scriptures, which are a unique blend of the subtle
philosophies of life, the life of an individual has been divided into four
stages or 'ashrams' in order to attain salvation in life. They are -
Brahmacharya, Grahastha, Vanprastha, Sanyasa.
Brahmacharya Ashrama :
It is the first phase of life of
an individual. The duties of this life include of training and discipline of
body and mind. When a person leaves his childhood, he becomes a Brahmacharya
leading a celibate and austere life as a student and learns the arts and
science of life which will be useful for him in the long run.
Grahastha Ashrama :
It is the life of a householder and
the second phase of life after mastering in studies. Marriage is regarded
sacred and is prescribed for the sake of development of personality as well
as for the satisfaction of desires of wealth and sensual pleasure. Husband
and wives were expected to observe complete fidelity sharing the
responsibilities and duties equally.
Vanprastha Ashrama :
It is the third stage of life when
the responsibilities of home and society are complete. When well into middle
age, the individual used to leave home for the forest to become a hermit.
Sanyasa Ashrama :
The last and final stage of life which
aims at obtain spiritual freedom, not tempted by riches or honour and not
elated by success or depressed by failure and thus developing a spirit of
Over the period of time, many beliefs and philosophies have inspired
Hinduism immensely. But, still the life of a Hindu individual is roughly
governed by these basic duties and ideas which are still visible in the
Some Misguiding Facts
India has seen a number of invasions and thus the substratum of Hinduism
being shaken several times. The history has seen continuous shift of power
from one hand to another and thus forcing the policies and axioms of
religion changing according to wish of one. Over the time, some rules were
set, which were neither for the wellbeing of the society nor were included
in the basic Hindu Scriptures. Mainly they were evolved to suppress a
particular class of people of the society. Sati Daha, (a tradition where the
wife was cremated alive along with her dead husband), child marriage, animal
sacrifice, untouchable classes and many others. But now, with the study of
Hindu scriptures and Vedas in a scientific way has been abolishing such
vices from the religion giving equality to all.