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Saturday, November 17, 2007



   

Hinduism is one of the most ancient religions of the world and the only surviving ancient religion. Hinduism as we know it today was not a religion per se but a way of life. According to Swami Vivekananda, one of the great thinkers of modern age, centuries of invasion by monotheist religions made people who live in the land of the Sindhu (River Indus) Hindus and the British later started calling it Hinduism. 

The Hindus, i.e., the followers of Hinduism, account for over 80% of India's total population.  Hinduism teaches the existence of one Supreme Universal Spirit, but allows its adherents to worship the Almighty (Ishwar, Paramatma, or Parabrahma) in any form they like.  Thus the various Gods are all different manifestations of one God.

Hinduism also divided the population into Varna or classifications loosely translated as castes. Unlike the modern interpretation and means of classification, castes were based on the nature of individuals and not by birth. The four Varnas were Brahmana (or Brahmin who is teacher, priest, philosopher), Kshatriya (a King, warrior, administrator), Vaisya (trader, farmer, artisan), and Sudra (one who does not possess great qualities).

 

Therefore, those who could control their mind and senses, were considered austere, pure, and upright, displayed forbearance and knowledge, had reached a state of realization of the ultimate truth, and believed in the cycle of life and death were called Brahmanas. Those with strength, boldness, fortitude, dexterity, bravery, generosity, and sovereignty were called Kshatriyas. Those who engage in agriculture, cattle-rearing, and trade were called Vaisyas. Those who indulge in performing services for profit for other people were called Sudras.

Over time, this Varna system was confused with the employment system called Jati and the classification of humans was corrupted to a brutal point where some people were considered low and others high. However, social reformers over the centuries have reduced caste distinctions to be more inclusive. The Constitution of democratic India forbids discrimination in any form and allows demographic representation. The current debate over the caste system and reservation  is purely political manipulation of some for their own benefit.

Hinduism has a very large body of profound philosophy. The timeless Vedas and Upanishads form the backbone of Hindu philosophy. The Ramayana and Mahabharata are considered the major Puranas but there are many more such as the Shiva, Vishnu, Devi, Skanda Puranas that give a deep view into ancient land, people, and philosophy. Hindu philosophy does not force one thought process on people—it allows people to choose their own way to reach God. 

Navaratri - by Soumya Sitaraman

A mould of hope - by Soumya Sitaraman

Timeless Thiruvarur - by Aravind & Soumya Sitaraman

Brhadeeshwaram - by Usha Kris

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