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Hinduism In Rajasthan – The Eternal and Universal Truth

Numerous exquisite temples and ancient shrines spread across Rajasthan stand testimony to the rich Hindu heritage of the state. The principal population of the state being Hindus, the traditions and culture of the state follow the divine spirituality of Hinduism.
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The Prelude
Hinduism, also called as 'Sanatan Dharma' (perennial wisdom), is considered to be the oldest surviving religion in the world. With a bunch of beliefs,
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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.
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.

Namakarana Samskar : 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 infant’s 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 her destiny.

Karnavedhna Samskara : The ear-piercing ceremony, given to both boys and girls, performed in the temple or the home, generally on the child’s first birthday. Health and wealth benefits derive from this ancient rite.

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, saffron rice.

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 and wife.

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
... A to Z of Hinduism     ... Social Life    

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.
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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 sacraments.

Divinity That Binds
Hindus celebrate life’s crucial junctures by holy sacraments, or rites of passage, called samskaras, which impress the subconscious mind, inspire family and community sharing and invoke the God’s 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 individual’s 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 God’s 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 (vidyarambha)

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 baby’s 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 child’s 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 youth’s 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 boy’s coming of age is also consecrated through special ceremony in the home. As puberty dawns, the ritu kala home-ceremony acknowledge a girl’s first menses, and the kesantha kala celebrates a boy’s 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, pregnancy’s 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 wife’s 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!” more..

Bidding Adieu
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 shashtyabda purti.

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 individual’s 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 days.”

Hinduism - Social System
... A to Z of Hinduism     ... Social Life    

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.
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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.

Brahmin : The intellectual class and is the highest of all the Varnas. They are also called 'human god' and enjoy the privilege to worship God.

Kshatriya : 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.

Vaishya : The trading class and provides for the economic need of the society. Men in this class were engaged in agriculture, cattle raising and trade.

Shudra : 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 equanimity.

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 Hindu society.

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.

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