Hinduism & Hindu Sects
Hinduism,as per the historians, exists since before 5000 or more years. The word "Hindu" is derived from the name of the river "Indus" in northern India. In ancient times the river was called 'Sindhu', but it was called as river "Hindhu", by the Persians who migrated to India.
The names Hinduastan and Hindus, was derived from it.Thus the religion followed by the Hindus came to be known as 'Hinduism'.
As per the experts,the evolution of Hinduism is divided into three periods like-The Ancient (6500 BCE-1000 AD), The Medieval (1000-1800 AD), and The Modern (1800 AD to present).
Hinduism means "Sanatan Dharma" which is a Sanskrit word meaning,'An Eternal Law'.Hinduism is the world's third largest and oldest religion after Christianity and Islam.Hinduism is formed of diverse traditions and has no single founder.
Hinduism is a religion with various gods and goddesses.It is also believed that there is only one Power(God),with various versions and faces.
Before Hinduism there existed another religion in India called Brahmanism,which was followed by Brahmans who were the spiritual and moral guides of the Indian society. Brahman was a close sect but they gradually started accepting others into their sect and so was created Hinduism.The Brahmans even accepted Buddha as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
According to Hinduism, three Gods rule the world. Brahma-the creator,Vishnu-the preserver and Shiva-the destroyer.Respectively.their consorts are Goddess Sarasvati(Art and Inteligence), Goddess Lakshmi(Prosperity and wealth)and Goddess Parvati who is worshipped as Kali or Durga.
The other main Gods and Goddesses are-Elephant God,Ganesha,the son of Shiva-Parvati.Monkey God,Hanuman,the son of Wind God,Shakti, Goddess of power.Goddesses are referred to as 'Ma' means Mother.
Hindus do not follow all the Gods. Some worship Vishnu(Vaishnaites) . Shiva(Shaivites),Ganesha, Lakshmimata,Saraswatimata,Suryadev etc.Some worship Parvati as Kalimata or Durgamata.However,shri. Ganesha,Ram and Krishna are worshipped all over India.
There are four main castes in Hinduism,like-Brahmin,Kshatriya,Vaishya and Shudra and also there exist many sub castes as per the geological range.
Hindus worship gods as per their personal professions.Like,the wrestlers worship Lord Hanuman, the symbol of physical strength.Businessmen worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.The artists worship the goddess Saraswati.While begining a new venture,Ganesha is worshipped,who removes the obstacles. Hinduism believes that a person's fate is determined according to his 'Karmas'(deeds).which decides the quality of life in the next incarnation.
The good souls will get 'Moksha'(liberationfrom life and no further incarnation). After the death,the Hindus cremate the body so that the soul should not have any attachment behind. The Hindu sacred books are Scriptures,Vedas and Puran. Ramayana and Mahabharta are the most popular Hindu books. The chapters in the Mahabharat which are Krishna's philosophy are called "Bhagvad Gita",which the Major sacred book for Hindus.
The main Holy places for Hindus are Rameshwaram,Dwarka,Puri and Badrinath,whereas other holy places are Kashi,Banaras,Varanasi, Rishikesh, Nasik, Ujjain and many other places.
The holy rivers are Saraswati, Godavri, Yamuna,while the river Ganges which is called as GangaMa is the holiest and worshipped by all Hindus.
Hindus holy animals are peacocks,cobra(Naag) and cow.Tulsi plant is worshipped by Hindus.
Hinduism came in to existance after the historical meeting between the Aryans and Dravidians.Some claim that Hinduism is an Aryan culture whereas the others beleive it to be a Dravidian culture.
Hinduism consists of various sects.The main sections are Shaivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism, and Smarthism.All these sects are based on different phylosophy but have many rituals,customs,traditions in common.
Shaivites are worshipper of Lord Shiva,as the supreme being.Shaivaism has a vast literature. There are more than 200 million followers of Shaivism,all over the world.They have different schools with different phylosophy.
Shaivism has an influence,mostly in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.Also in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.Shaivism is followed.It is learnt that Shaivaism began during the period from 200 BC to 100 AD.Shaivaism spread rapidly through the singers and composers of the Puranic narratives
Shaivites apply,Bhasma,the holy ash,on their body and foreheads.Shaivites offer 'Ganja' to Lord Shiva and some of them also smoke .
Shaktas worship Goddess Shakti Mata, in her many forms like- Durga,Kali,Laxmi, Saraswati etc.She is considered to be simultaneously the source of all creation."Shaktism is dynamic Hinduism.All women are regarded as manifestations of 'Shakti', and hence they are the object of respect and devotion.
As per the Shaktism, Brahman is static Shakti and Shakti is dynamic Brahman.
The roots of Shaktism penetrate deep into India's prehistory.Shaktism has inspired great works of Sanskrit literature and hindu philosophy and it continues to strongly influence Hinduism today.
Shaktism is closely associated with Tantrism,though not all forms of Shaktism are Tantric in nature.
The popular schools of Shaivaism are the Srilua and Kalikula.Srikula is widely spread in South India,while Kalikula is in Northen and Eastern India.
Shaktas are the one of the oldest of Hindu religion and its referance is there in Indus valley civilization.
Shaktas celebrate most major Hindu festivals like Navaratri,Diwali and many more.
Vaishnavism is the monotheistic tradition worshiping Vishnu or his incarnations- Krishna and Rama, as the supreme being.Vaishnavites devotees consider to be possessed by Lord Vishnu.
The aim of the Vaishnavites is to achieve pleasure and peace from the worship of Lord Vishnu.This is the largest sect, with more than 500 million followers,all over the world.
Vaishnavites follow the custom of 'Diksha' ie initiation by the Master(Guru).The dissiple is granted a Mantra by the Guru,which is chanted as Japnam forever.
The prefix Shri is used for this sect because they have special importance for the Goddess Lakshmi,the consort of Vishnu.They believe that Goddess Lakshmi acts as a mediator between God and Human.
Vaishnavites agree to the central beliefs of Hinduism such as reincarnation,yoga,karma etc.
Vaishnavism flourished during the seventh to tenth centuries CE, and was conveyed to common people through hymns.
Presently,large Vaishnava communities are spread all over India, and particularly in Western Indian states, such as M.P. Rajasthan and Gujarath.
Vaishnavism is spread from India to abroad,since the 1900s and is now practiced in many places around the globe, including USA,UK,Africa,Russia etc.
The great hindu epics-Ramayan and Mahabharat are an important part of Vaishnav culture and philosophy.
The term Smarta is derived from the word 'Smriti', (memory).Smarthas follow Vedas and Shastras.They are the followers of Adi Shankara.Normally a person becomes member of this sect by family tradition.
Smartism has quoted many referances showing that Shiva and Vishnu is ultimately the same.
Smarthas are liberal and have choice to worship any deity they desire.They usually worship 'PanchaDevata', the five deities.
Smartas worship the six manifestations of God-Ganesha, Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu, Surya and Skanda and the choice of the nature of God is up to the individual worshipper since different manifestations of God are held to be equivalent.
Smartas are recommended to follow the Brahma form of Vedic marriage ie arranged marriage.The marriage ceremony is derived from Vedic prescriptions.Women take after the traditions of their husband's family after the marriage.
From 19th century,new sects are formed which include-Prarthana Samaj,Ramakrishna Mission,Arya Samaj,Satya Sai Organisation, Swaminarayan, Shri.Swaminarayan Sampraday and more