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Hinduism: Hinduism or Sanatan (meaning a universal religion) is considered to be the world’s oldest religion that originated on the Indian sub-continent. According to its Vedic records, its history of origin is dated between to 6,000 to 10,000 years and that is why it is considered as one of the ancient religions of the world. It is the native religion of India and it has neither a specific human founder nor a single book of reverence but rather laid its foundations on ancient sacred scriptures that were passed down the generations by a word of mouth and later written down into scripts and texts forms (Zavos, 2001).
Hinduism has a massive number of followers reaching up to one billion worldwide with majority of them (95%) being from Indian and the rest in United States ,Europe and other parts of the world. Demographically, it is the world third largest religion after Christianity and Islam. Hinduism constitutes a complex mode of worship ranging from the grand festivals like Kumbhela, which is a religious big gathering of up to 45 million people to the very simple Darshan, the devotional seeing in home shrines. Hindus worship in the numerous ancient and contemporary mandirs and shrines. Hindus regard Vedas (ancient texts) as the most ancient and the most authoritative texts of the religion and hence they form the foundation of all branches of Hinduism.
Hindu has three trinity which include Shiva, Brahman and Vishnu unlike Christian who have only one trinity. These gods represent the cycle of rebirth and reincarnation where Vishnu is responsible of preserving the universe, Shiva destroys the re-creator of the universe and Brahman create the Universe. The three goddess are the second trinity of Hindu as well as the god’s wives of the first trinity. However, all the goddesses and gods have their forms of incarnations.
Hinduism involve the worship of God and its numerous deities with the major ones being Brahma (creator) Vishnu (the preserver) and Siva (the destroyer), so depending on ones opinion Hinduism can be said to be polytheistic, monotheistic or henotheistic (which involves devotion to a single God while accepting the existence of other gods) (Zavos, 120). Modern Hinduism is categorized into two major groups: Vaishnavism (those who worship Vishnu and all other living things subservient to him) and Shaivism (stream of Hinduism who worship Shiva and believes that Shiva is the destroyer and the creator of the universe).
Hinduism is based on the principle of Brahman that states that the universe is one and all realities are a unity, Devine entity that is simultaneously at one with the universe who transcends it as well. In Hinduism human beings are preserved to be trapped a Samsara which is a meaningless cycle of birth death and rebirth with karma ;ones accumulated sum of good and bad deeds and these determines on which level in the caste system will one be born in the nest cycle life.
Ancient Hindus worshiped and interacted with their gods in a slightly different way as compared to contemporary mode of Hinduism. According to ancient Hindu scripts ancient
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In the Vedic religion, there were no temples of worship as compared to contemporary Hinduism where there are millions of temples and mandirs build for worship. Hindus worshiped in the open and temples were first constructed in India in 200 years and it marked the transition of Hinduism from the Vedic religion of ritual sacrifices to the religion of Bhakri or love and a devotion to a personal deity. Ancient temples were constructed of wood and brick but in later times, use of stone became a preferred building material. Temples constructed in the medieval era varied in architectural styles and often symbolized the ruler at the time and his richness and devotion.
In ancient Hinduism, the followers worshiped nature and had gods that represented each element of nature for instance the god of wind, god of fire, god of the sea and god of light. More over, Hindus worshiped animalistic deities (Sacred animals that represented various gods).they believed that animals just like human shad spirit and soul. Sacred animals in Hinduism are cows, monkeys, tortoises and elephants.
According to ancient Hindu texts, Hindus worshiped mother goddess with great reverence than it is in modern Hindu religion. Contemporary Hindu followers put a great regards in worshiping of personal deities who represent their God who is the overall deity.
According to ancient Hindu texts, there is evidence that suggests that ancient gods intermarried with humans and that gods had human characters and would come to humans in several avatars. These gods had spirits not different with that of humans and interacted freely as they both worshiped the Brahma who is their overall deity. There is no such kind of relationship between Hindu gods and its worshipers. The type of human interactions with gods depended on individual position in the caste system and those in higher caster were regarded to be more close to gods than those in the lower caste levels.
There was no priestly class in ancient Hinduism but today priest are the ones responsible for leading the worshipers in temples.
In ancient Hinduism, social mobility in the caste system was allowed though it was very difficulty. The social caste system was involved of two dynamic social systems one based on age (Varna) and the other Asrama that clearly defined individuals roles and responsibilities sin the society. From time to time people could move from one caste to another or establish a new one. In the contemporary Hinduism, the evolving caste became unfair to those in the lowest order and was gradually disregarded as it was seen to be discriminatory (Ghanshyam, 45). Caste system though still plays an important factor in modern in arranging for of Hindu marriages. The government in 1947 abolished caste system and hence caste discrimination is now illegal in India. In modern Hinduism, the social system has been degraded and no longer a main major religious characteristic of Hinduism.
Ancient Hinduism was not oppressive to women and most scholars believe that women had somewhat important roles they played in the rituals of the early Vedic period, but with time the Vedic ritual became more complex and the importance of roles women played diminished gradually. Also during this period, there were other ritual traditions that women were allowed to participate in.
In ancient Hindu religion, some sacred rituals and ceremonies for instance the ritual of scared dance and music offering were practiced. Some of these traditional sacred rituals (upacharas), changed with time. A classic example of a change in Hinduism ancient traditions and rituals in the past few hundred years, is the replacement of the music offering and dances which are sacred which were prescribed by Agama Shastra, with the modern offerings of rice and sweets.
In ancient Hinduism the Vedic rites of fire-oblation (yajna) were often practiced but are just now only occasional practice in the modern Hindu religion, these practices are however are highly revered in theory.
According to Vedic scripts, in ancient Hinduism, slaughter of animals was permitted but this ritual has virtually disappeared in modern Hinduism. It is in the 19th and 20th centuries that, prominent figures of Indian spirituality like Swami Vivekananda, Swami Sivananda and Ramana Maharshi emphasized the importance of ahimsa.
In ancient Hinduism, the Brahmins never allowed members of the lower caste to enjoy equal status privileges. There is little tolerance mostly for lower section of the Hindu community which in any fact their own people. This has been the norm over the years that it is until recently such lower sections of the community were allowed to read Vedas which was another important religious scriptures. In addition to that, these individuals were not in any way they were also not allowed to enter the temples, where Brahmins were worshiped, and worship god. These class of people did not as well allowed to draw water in the same well with others and neither would share their foods with higher castes. This rules were applicable either in social or religious gathering.
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In ancient Hinduism, sacrifices were offered to God through its subordinate gods but in modern Hinduism, food is instead offered to personal gods or individuals before eating. By offering of food to god and deities, internalization of sacrifices were achieved by eating what is being sacrificed, which is being believed as making the persons body being a sacrifice to god. It is also widely believed by Hindu community that offering gods with food is a sign of devotion or self surrender. It is also believed that those who eat food being scarified to gods would not be harmed by any tamasic or rajasic which would be in the food. (Houben Et al, 45)
In ancient Hinduism, there were a less number of Hindu sects and gods as compared to modern Hindu religion where many sects have emerged with increased freedom on an individual worshiping any god he or she wishes. Many of these are as a result of varying believes in the interpretation of the Hindu texts. Modern Hinduism involve occasional especially during religious festivals going to temples for worship but many prefer worshiping at home where one often creates a shrine with icons dedicated to their chosen form or forms of god. In most cases, temples are dedicated to a deity that is primary while associated deities to most multiple deities Hindus perform their worship through icons (murtis) which each icon serves as a tangible link between the worshiper and his or her supreme God. The image or the designated is often considered a manifestation of God, as God is immanent. According to the Hindu texts the Padma Purana makes clear that the mÅ«rti is not to be thought of just as mere stone or wood but as a manifest form of the Divinity.
In ancient Hinduism image worship and veneration of multiple deities was a common religious practice but in the recent times, there have evolved sects of Hinduism that prohibit such religious practices. It more of fire sacrifices of the Vedic fire and Vedas, which Gandhi thought that (ahimsa). The precludes which were used were not only meant to inflict physical injury but also hatred, having evil thoughts, being dishonest or speak harsh words which do not conform with ahimsa (Farquhar, 62).
Generally, in ancient Hinduism, people worshiped their dead parents “honored dead” by going to their gravesites and live behind flowers, candles or lighted lamps or food (Kenneth, 35). This was a practice carried out mainly by the Indo-Europeans who in the months of May and November they mostly worship their parents. At the sometime those who were dead were being honored as well but such religious practices are not practiced in contemporary Hindu religion.
Ancient Indians did not tolerate religion which was opposing the religion or even comment badly about it. However, present day Hindus exhibit a greater degree of religious tolerance. This secular attitude of the present day Hindus is because of their recent past characterized by their modern education, an increased sense of responsibility from increased awareness of ancient religion and heritage. However, political and social change over the years have compromised the ancient Hindu which the Hindu has never embraced it and they have been trying to stop it but they have not been able to address all incoming changes
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