Overview of Hinduism

Hinduism is a very old religion. Indeed, it is the oldest major religion that is still practiced around the world today. It is unknown how and when Hinduism began, or who founded the religion. Whilst Hinduism is particularly common in India and nearby areas, it has spread around the world, including to Singapore. It is amongst the main religions followed in Singapore today.

If you’re keen to know more about Hinduism, here are some basic facts to help you out:

Beginning of Hinduism

Whilst nobody really knows when Hinduism began, it is known that it started in India. Although it is common around the country, and there are many sacred temples and shrines throughout India, the city of Varanasi is especially significant. Varanasi sits on the banks of the River Ganges, itself considered to be a very holy river, and is one of India’s most sacred places. It is also one of the most important places for Hindus in general, from all over the world.

Different Schools and Branches of Hinduism

Hinduism has three main branches – Vaishnva, Shaiva, and Shakti. These different branches can be combined together though, and it is not uncommon for Hindus to follow different parts of each varying belief system. Several other religions can trace their roots back to Hinduism, and there are also those that have been heavily influenced by Hinduism. They include Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism.

Concept of One God

There is a belief in one singular divine being, or god, within Hinduism. Whilst there are many depictions and forms of this one god, the different deities are said to be the numerous incantations of a solo supreme god. The Hindu god has no gender, and can assume different roles as required. Some famous forms of the Hindu god include the elephant deity of Ganesha, said to be the god of wisdom, Rama, who represents virtue, Krishna, who stands for love, joy, and happiness, and Shiva, the destroyer. Devotees can seek out a particular form of the god depending on their needs at any particular time, but, ultimately, all Hindus worship the same one god.

Religious Teachings

Teachers within the Hindu faith are called gurus. Their purpose is to assist people with learning and developing their own spirituality. There is no head of the religion, however. Teachings are taken from the ancient scripts, known as Vedas. There is little cohesion between the Vedas and, unlike many other global religions, there is not one singular religious book that Hindus must learn and follow.

Common Ideas

Hindus believe that people should live in harmony with the universe, nature, and the cosmos, a concept that is known as Dharma. The principle of Karma is a part of Hinduism, whereby people affect their own outcome based on their actions. Karma is essentially the cause and effect of actions. Reincarnation is another common belief within Hinduism, with followers believing in a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Some Hindus practice yoga, some meditate, others are avid astrologers, and there are those who practice tantra.

Stages of Life

A Hindu passes through four stages, known as ashramas, in their life. A person is said to be in Brahmacharya when they are young and still learning about the religion, the world, and life. The next stage is Grihastha, and this is the stage in which a person typically works, earns a living, gets married, and starts a family. When a person retires and has raised their family they enter the stage of Vanaprastha. And the final stage is called Sanyasa. This is the stage in which people should cast off any worldly ties and move to a spiritual place, in preparation for death.

Hinduism is quite a complex religion, with many things to learn. This is a very basic overview to help you understand more about one of the oldest religions in the world, and one of the major religions practised in Singapore.