Questions & Answers

What are the main beliefs of Hinduism?

Despite the many diverse strands of Hinduism, most Hindus share some common beliefs.

Here are just a few:

  • There is one supreme, all-powerful loving God who is the ultimate creator, sustainer and destroyer of all things.
  • God manifests on earth to revive Dharma and liberate souls.
  • God is present in and can be worshipped through murtis (ritually-infused sacred images).
  • The goal of human life is for the soul to be liberated from the perpetual cycle of births and deaths so as to remain eternally in the blissful service of God in his transcendental abode.
  • The guidance and grace of a spiritually enlightened guru is essential for an aspirant seeking liberation.
how many types of Hindu Samskaras?

There are sixteen main Sacraments (Samskaras).These range from conception to funeral ceremonies.

The wedding rituals, Vivaha: Vivaha is the rite of passage and rituals associated with marriage. While there are many rituals in Hinduism, vivaha (wedding) is the most extensive personal ritual an adult Hindu undertakes in his or her life. The wedding rites and ceremonies begin with the engagement of a couple, and extend to rites of passage after the completion of wedding. They are typically very colourful, and celebrations may extend for several days. The detailed rituals and process in a Hindu wedding vary.

Intent to have a child ritual, Garbhadhana: Garbhadhana also called Garbhalambhanam, literally means attaining the wealth of the womb. It is a private rite of passage, marking the intent of a couple to have a child. It is a ceremony performed before conception and impregnation. In some ancient texts, the word simply refers to the rite of passage where the couple have sex to have a child, and no ceremonies are mentioned.

Quickening the fetus rite, Pumsavana: Pumsavana is a composite word of Pums + savana. Pums mean “to grind, a man, a human being, a soul or spirit”, while savana means “ceremony, rite, oblation, festival”. Pumsavana literally means “quickening a being or male”, usually translated as “quickening a male fetus, bringing forth a male baby”. It is a ritual conducted when the pregnancy begins to show, typically in or after the third month of pregnancy and usually before the fetus starts moving in the womb.

Parting hair and baby shower, Simantonnayana: Simantonnayana also called Simanta or Simantakarana literally means “parting the hair upwards”. The significance of the ritual is to wish a healthy development of the baby and safe delivery to the mother. Simantonnayana ritual is described in many Gryhasutra texts, but Kane states that there is great divergence in details, which may be because the rite of passage emerged in more a recent era, before it receded into the background.

Childbirth ceremony, Jatakarman: Jātakarman literally means “rite of a new-born infant”. It is a rite of passage that celebrates the birth of the baby. It is the first post-natal rite of passage of the new born baby. It signifies the baby’s birth, as well as the bonding of the father with the baby. In Hindu traditions, a human being is born at least twice – one at physical birth through mother’s womb, and second at intellectual birth through teacher’s care, the first is marked through Jatakarman sanskara ritual, the second is marked through Vidyarambha or Upanayana sanskara ritual. During a traditional Jātakarman ritual, the father welcomes the baby by touching the baby’s lips with honey and ghee (clarified butter), as Vedic hymns are recited.

Naming the baby ritual, Namakarana: Namakarana literally means “ceremony of naming a child”. This rite of passage is usually done on the eleventh or twelfth day after birth, and sometimes the first new moon or full moon day after the 10th day of birth. On the day of this samskara, the infant is bathed and dressed in new garments. His or her formal name, selected by the parents, is announced. The naming ritual solemnizes the child as an individual, marking the process by which a child is accepted and socialized by people around him or her.

Baby’s first outing, Nishkramana: Nishkramana literally means “going out, coming forth”, is the rite of passage where the parents take the baby outside the home and the baby formally meets the world for the first time. It is usually observed during the fourth month after birth. On this ritual occasion the newborn is taken out and shown the sun at sunrise or sunset, or the moon, or both. Alternatively, some families take the baby to a temple for the first time.

Baby’s first solid food, Annaprashana: Annaprashana literally means “feeding of food”, and the rite of passage marks the first time a baby eats solid food, typically containing cooked rice. Most Gryhasutras recommend this ritual in the sixth month, or when the child shows the first teeth, with slow weaning of the baby from breast feeding to other sources food. Some texts recommend continued breast feeding of the child, as the child adapts to the various foods. The ritual is usually celebrated with cooked rice, in a paste of honey, ghee and curd. Sankhyayana Gryhasutra recommends that fish, goat or partridge meat gravy be added to the solid food that baby tastes for the first time, while Manava Gryhasutra is silent about the use of meat. The mother eats with the baby, the same food.

Baby’s first haircut, Chudakarana: Chudakarana (literally, rite of tonsure), also known as choulam, caula, chudakarma, or mundana is the rite of passage that marks the child’s first haircut, typically the shaving of the head. The mother dresses up, sometimes in her wedding sari, and with the father present, the baby’s hair is cut and the nails are trimmed. Sometimes, a tuft of hair is left to cover the soft spot near the top of baby’s head.

Baby’s earlobe piercing rite, Karnavedha: Karnavedha literally means “ear-piercing”. This is a minor rite of passage that is not mentioned in most Gryha-sutras. Those that mention it state different schedules, with some suggesting that the ritual within the first four weeks after birth, others suggesting within the first year. The purpose of this optional ritual is primarily an ornamentation of the body, and is part of the baby’s socialization process and culture emersion. The piercing is usually done with a clean gold thread, or silver needle.

Child’s commencement to knowledge, Vidyarambha: Vidyarambha literally means “beginning of study”. It is also known as Akshararambha or Aksharasvikara. It is a ritual that celebrates as a milestone, the child’s formal attempt to learn means of knowledge. This includes steps where the child, helped by the parents and other family members, does one or more of the following: writes letters of the alphabet, draws mathematical numbers or shapes, and plays a musical instrument.

Child’s entrance into school, Upanayana: Upanayana literally means “the act of leading to or near”.  It is an important and widely discussed samskara in ancient Sanskrit text. The rite of passage symbolizes the leading or drawing towards the self of a child, in a school, by a teacher. It is a ceremony in which a Guru (teacher) accepts and draws a child towards knowledge and initiates the second birth that is of the young mind and spirit.

Vedarambha: Praishartha (or Vedarambha) is the rite of passage that marked the start of learning the Vedas and Upanishads in Gurukulam or Pathashala (school). It was a fire ritual (yajna), where the teacher and the student sat together, with the teacher reciting initiation hymns and the student following. This ritual is missing in older texts, and Pandey suggests that the later tradition recognized the difference between getting accepted in a school, and the actual start of Veda studies when the student is ready to learn those texts.

Keshanta and Ritusuddhi: Keshanta (literally, getting rid of hairs) is the first shave of a youth’s facial hair. This was typically observed about age sixteen, and the emerging beard and moustache were shaved. The ceremony included gift giving such as to the barber and the teacher at his school. The coming of age ceremony ended with the student reciting his vow of chastity and the code of Brahmacharya.

Graduation ceremony, Samavartana: Samavartana, or Snana, is the ceremony associated with the end of formal education and the Brahmacharya asrama of life. This rite of passage includes a ceremonial bath. This ceremony marked the end of school, but did not imply immediate start of married life. Typically, significant time elapsed between exiting the Brahmacharya stage of life and the entering of Grihastha stage of life.

Cremation ritual, Antyeshti: Antyesti (literally, last rites or last sacrifice), sometimes referred to as Antima Samskaram, Antya-kriya, Anvarohanyya, or Vahni Sanskara, are the rituals associated with funeral. This samskara is not mentioned in the lists of samskaras in most of the grhyasutras and other texts that discuss samskaras. The details and procedures of this rite are given in separate texts, dealing only with this topic.

What are the denominations of Hinduism?

Each of Hinduism’s philosophies, schools and lineages shares a common purpose: to further the soul’s unfoldment to its divine destiny. Nowhere is this process better represented than in the growth of the renowned lotus, which, seeking the sun arises from the mud to become a magnificent flower. Its blossom is a promise of purity and perfection.

Saivism:  Saivite Hindus worship the Supreme God as Siva, the Compassionate One. Saivites esteem self discipline and philosophy and follow a satguru. They worship in the temple and practice yoga, striving to be one with Siva within.

Shaktism: Shaktas worship the Supreme as the Divine Mother, Shakti or Devi. She has many forms. Some are gentle, some are fierce. Shaktas use chants, real magic, holy diagrams, yoga and rituals to call forth cosmic forces and awaken the great kundalini power within the spine.

Vaishnavism: Vaishnavites worship the Supreme as Lord Vishnu and His incarnations, especially Krishna and Rama. Vaishnavites are mainly dualistic. They are deeply devotional. Their religion is rich in saints, temples and scriptures.

Smartism: Smartas worship the Supreme in one of six forms: Ganesha, Siva, Sakti, Vishnu, Surya and Skanda. Because they accept all the major Hindu Gods, they are known as liberal or non-sectarian. They follow a philosophical, meditative path, emphasizing man’s oneness with God through understanding.

What is the interpretation of God in Hinduism?

In Hindu monotheism, the concept of God varies from one sect to another. Hinduism (by its nature as a regional rather than a doctrinal religious category) is not exclusively monotheistic, and has been described as spanning a wide range of henotheism, monotheism, polytheism, pane theism, pantheism, pan deism, monism, atheism and nontheism etc.

The philosophical system of Advaita or non-dualism as it developed in the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy, especially as set out in the Upanishads and popularised by Adi Shankara in the 9th century, would become the basis of mainstream Hinduism as it developed in the medieval period. This non-dualism postulates the identity of the Self or Atman with the Whole or Brahman, and can be described as monism or pantheism.

Forms of explicit monotheism find mention in the canonical Bhagavad Gita. Explicit monotheism in the form of emotional or ecstatic devotion (bhakti) to a single external and personal deity (in the form of Shiva or Vishnu) became popular in South India in the early medieval period. Ecstatic devotion to Krishna, a form of Vishnu, gained popularity throughout India during the middle Ages and gave rise to schools of Vaishnavism. Ecstatic devotion to Goddess Durga became popular in some parts of India in the later medieval and early modern ages. Vaishnavism, particularly Krishnaism, Shaktism and some forms of Shaivism remain the most explicit forms of monotheistic worship of a personal God within Hinduism. Other Hindus, such as many of those who practice Shaivism, tend to assume the existence of a singular God, but do not necessarily associate God with aspects of a personality. Rather they envisage God as an impersonal Absolute (Brahman), who can be worshipped only in part in a human form.

Brahman is the name given by Hinduism to the One Absolute or Supreme Reality or God that is All-Powerful, All-pervading, beyond Forms and Attributes (Nirgun). Three primary aspects of Brahman commonly worshipped by the Hindus with form and attributes (Sagun) in relation to the Universe are called

  • Brahma (Creator), his consort Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge).
  • Vishnu (Preserver), his consort Lakshmi (Goddess of Prosperity).
  • Shiva (Destroyer), his concert Parvati (Goddess of Shakti, who also takes the forms of Durga and Kali).
What are the Goals of Human Life (Purushartha) defined in Hinduism?

Purusartha is a key concept in Hinduism, which holds that every human being has four proper goals that are necessary and sufficient for a fulfilling and happy life.

  • Dharma – signifies behaviours that are considered to be in accord with RTA, the order that makes life and universe possible, and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and ‘‘right way of living’’. Hindu dharma includes the religious duties, moral rights and duties of each individual, as well as behaviours that enable social order, right conduct, and those that are virtuous. Dharma, according to Van Buitenen, is that which all existing beings must accept and respect to sustain harmony and order in the world. It is, states Van Buitenen, the pursuit and execution of one’s nature and true calling, thus playing one’s role in cosmic concert.
  • Artha – signifies the “means of life”, activities and resources that enables one to be in a state one wants to be in. Artha incorporates wealth, career, activity to make a living, financial security and economic prosperity. The proper pursuit of artha is considered an important aim of human life in Hinduism.
  • Kama – signifies desire, wish, passion, emotions, pleasure of the senses, and the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, with or without sexual connotations. Gavin Flood explains Kama as “love” without violating dharma (moral responsibility), artha (material prosperity) and one’s journey towards moksha (spiritual liberation).
  • Moksha – signifies emancipation, liberation or release. In some schools of Hinduism, moksha connotes freedom from saṃsāra, the cycle of death and rebirth, in other schools moksha connotes freedom, self-knowledge, self-realization and liberation in this life.

What are the Stages of Life (Ashrama) defined in Hinduism?

An Ashrama (āśrama) in Hinduism is one of four age-based life stages discussed in ancient and medieval era Indian texts. The four asramas are: Brahmacharya (student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (retired) and Sannyasa (renunciation).

The Ashramas system is one facet of the Dharma concept in Hinduism. It is also a component of the ethical theories in Indian philosophy, where it is combined with four proper goals of human life (Purusartha), for fulfilment, happiness and spiritual liberation.

Under the Ashram system, the human life was divided into four periods. The goal of each period was the fulfilment and development of the individual. While some Indian texts present these as sequential stages of human life and recommend age when one enters each stage, many texts do not state the Ashramas as four alternative ways of life and options available, but not as sequential stage that any individual must follow, nor do they place any age limits.

Brahmacharya (student life): Brahmacharya represented the bachelor student stage of life. This stage focused on education and included the practice of celibacy. The student went to a Gurukul (house of the guru) and typically would live with a Guru (teacher), acquiring knowledge of science, philosophy, scriptures and logic, practicing self-discipline, working to earn dakshina to be paid for the guru, learning to live a life of Dharma (righteousness, morals, duties).

Grihastha (household life): This stage referred to the individual’s married life, with the duties of maintaining a household, raising a family, educating one’s children, and leading a family-centred and a dharmic social life. Grihastha stage was considered as the most important of all stages in sociological context, as human beings in this stage not only pursued a virtuous life, they produced food and wealth that sustained people in other stages of life, as well as the offspring’s that continued mankind. The stage also represented one where the most intense physical, sexual, emotional, occupational, social and material attachments exist in a human being’s life.

Vanaprastha (retired life): The retirement stage, where a person handed over household responsibilities to the next generation, took an advisory role, and gradually withdrew from the world. Vanaprastha stage was a transition phase from a householder’s life with its greater emphasis on Artha and Kama (wealth, security, pleasure and sexual pursuits) to one with greater emphasis on Moksha (spiritual liberation).

Sannyasa (renounced life): The stage was marked by renunciation of material desires and prejudices, represented by a state of disinterest and detachment from material life, generally without any meaningful property or home (Ascetic), and focussed on Moksha, peace and simple spiritual life. Anyone could enter this stage after completing the Brahmacharya stage of life.

What are the Spiritual Paths (Yogas) of Hinduism?

The four paths of Yoga: There are four traditional schools of Yoga, and these are: Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Raja Yoga. While a Yogi or Yogini may focus exclusively on one of these approaches to Yoga that is quite uncommon. For the vast majority of practitioners of Yoga, a blending of the four traditional types of Yoga is most appropriate. One follows his or her own predisposition in balancing these different forms of Yoga.

  • Jnana Yoga: Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge, wisdom, introspection and contemplation. It involves deep exploration of the nature our being by systematically exploring and setting aside false identities. Jnana is a cognitive event which is recognized when experienced. It is knowledge inseparable from the total experience of reality, especially a total or divine reality. In Indian religions, it is knowledge which gives release from bondage. Jnana yoga is the path towards attaining jnana. It is one of the three classical types of yoga mentioned in Hindu philosophies, the other two being karma yoga and bhakti. In modern classifications, classical yoga, being called Raja yoga, is mentioned as a fourth one, an extension introduced by Vivekananda. While classical yoga emphasizes the practice of dhyana (meditation), Jnana yoga states that knowing suffices for liberation.
  • Bhakti Yoga: Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion, emotion, love, compassion, and service to God and others. All actions are done in the context of remembering the Divine. Bhakti yoga is a spiritual path or spiritual practice within Hinduism focused on the cultivation of love and devotion toward God. It has been defined as a practice of devotion toward God, solely motivated by the sincere, loving desire to please God, rather than the hope of divine reward or the fear of divine punishment. It is a means toward a state of spiritual liberation or enlightenment through the “realisation”, or the attainment of “oneness” with God. Bhakti yoga is often considered by Hindus to be the easiest way for ordinary people to attain such a spiritually liberated state, because although it is a form of yoga, its practice is not as rigorous as most other yogic schools, and it is possible to practice bhakti yoga without needing to become a full-time yogi.
  • Karma Yoga: Karma Yoga is the path of action, service to others, mindfulness, and remembering the levels of our being while fulfilling our actions or karma in the world. Karma yoga or the “discipline of action” is a form of yoga based on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Sanskrit scripture of Hinduism. Of the three paths to realization, karma yoga is the process of achieving perfection in action. Karma yoga is said to be the most effective way to progress in spiritual life. Found in the Bhagavad Gita, karma yoga is a part of nature. Karma yoga is taught by teachers of Zen who promote tranquillity. Karma yoga is an intrinsic part of many derivative types of yoga, such as Natya Yoga. Karma yoga is often understood as yoga of selfless (altruistic) service.
  • Raja Yoga: Raja Yoga is a comprehensive method that emphasizes meditation, while encompassing the whole of Yoga. It directly deals with the encountering and transcending thoughts of the mind. Raja yoga is a term with a variety of meanings depending on the context. In Sanskrit texts Raja yoga refers to the goal of yoga (which is usually Samadhi) and not a method of attaining it. Classical tantric texts use the term raja yoga to refer to the consumption of sexual emissions in their practices. The term also became a modern retronym, when in the 19th-century Swami Vivekananda equated raja yoga with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
What are the Doctrines of Hinduism?
  • Theory of Karma (Law of Cause and Effect): Every person is responsible for his/her actions; each individual creates his/her destiny. The theory of Karma is the application of the law of cause and effect to moral experience. The law of karma means that all actions good or bad produce their consequences in the life of the individual who acts, provided they are performed with a desire to the fruits thereof. Now if some good or bad actions are thus found to produce certain good or bad effects in the present life, it is quite reasonable to maintain that all actions will produce their proper effects in this or another life of the individuals who act. The Law of karma is this general moral law which governs not only the life and destiny of all individuals but even the order and arrangement of the physical world. But on the psychological level the law of karma affirms the freedom of the self. Freedom is a real possibility and the individual can control his desires and direct them in a proper channel by virtue of his discrimination and reason.
  • Theory of Reincarnation: Soul (Atma) goes through a cycle of birth and death until final liberation (merge with Paramathma). Is reincarnation possible from a scientific, rationalist point of view? For my purposes today I’m going to argue that it is. We will never, however, be aware of it, and indeed “we,” as we like to think of ourselves, will be completely out of the picture. I’m going to approach the problem from the point of view of quantum mechanics–a field about which I understand almost nothing, although discussing it permits others to assume I have gone mad.
What are the Festivals of Hinduism?
  • Rama Navami – Birth day of Lord Rama (March/April)
  • Krishna Janmastami – Birth day of Lord Krishna (Aug/Sept)
  • Ganesha Chaturthi – Birth day of Lord Ganesha (Aug/Sept)
  • Navaratri (Nine Nights)/Dussehra (Ten Days) – Worship of Three Goddesses- Durga (Power), Lakshmi (Wealth), and Saraswati (Knowledge. (Sept/Oct)
  • Diwali (Festival of Lights, 5 Days) – Victory over Evil (Victory of Lord Krishna over Narakasura, Coronation of Lord Rama) (Oct/Nov)
What is the greatness’s of Hinduism?

Hindus make bold to be the inheritors of a great and exceptional civilization. And they are.Indeed, a wider recognition of this ancestral greatness would solve a number of contemporary problems Hinduism faces.

Separatism, the phenomenon that Hindu sects declare that they are non-Hindu and back-project that they never have been Hindus, is largely due to the bad reputation of Hinduism. Nobody wants to stay on a sinking ship (especially not the rats, the true nature of most defectors). Hinduism is slandered as “caste, wholly caste and nothing but caste”, and when at all it is admitted to be something else on top, it must be widow self-immolation, child marriage, dowry murders, nowadays the rapes that make headlines, and other human rights violations.

superstitious, incoherent, flaky, and worst of all, weak. Hinduism has an intensely bad image, and that is why the Jains, Buddhists, Lingayats, Sikhs, Arya Samajis, Ramakrishna Mission and others insist that they are not Hindus, while another category of malcontents defect by converting to Christianity or Islam.

The Hindu territory has constantly been shrinking for more than a thousand years: Kabul, most of Southeast Asia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, de facto also Kashmir and parts of the Northeast, these have all been lost. But the conceptual domain of “Hindu” has also been shrinking. Originally, Muslim invaders introduced the term as meaning: all Indian Pagans (non-Abrahamics), whether Buddhists, Jains, tribals, low-castes, high-castes, and by implication also younger sects like Virashaivism, Sikhism, the Arya Samaj or the Ramakrishna Mission.

The insistence by many castes that they are “not Hindus” stems from two circumstances: the very negative reputation of Hinduism, contrasting with its fair name in de 19th century; and the fogginess around the definition of “Hinduism”, only aggravated in recent decades by a deliberate manipulation of the word’s meaning.

  • Freedom of Worship God – You can worship any form of the God, by any name of the God.
  • Freedom of Worship Place – You can worship at Temples, at Home, by the Bank of a river, or any place you like.
  • Freedom of Worship Time – You can worship any day of the week, any time of the day.
  • Freedom of Worship Path – You can select any spiritual path (Yoga) or Chant any Mantra you like.