Hinduism: Understanding Sanatana Dharma
Hinduism is the oldest major religion. It has about 900 million adherents; 780 million of those are in India, comprising 79 percent of that country’s population. Hindus also make up 89 percent of the population of Nepal, where there are about 19 million adherents. In the United States, roughly two million individuals are Hindu. There are many forms of Hinduism, all with unique faiths and customs. This guide teaches you about the main varieties of Hinduism, and their rituals and practices; it also introduces you to Hindu news, music and art, points out some Hindu organizations, and helps you connect with the Hindu community online.
Known as Sanatana Dharma, or “the eternal law” in Sanskrit, Hinduism is a ... read more »
The Hindu tradition is filled with unique ceremonies and customs, from the multicolored, powder-hurling festival of Holi to the solemn funeral rites. This section explores Hindu rituals and practices, including controversial traditions such as those stemming from the age-old caste system. Also learn where to find sacred Hindu texts on the Internet and where to find a Hindu temple.
- Many of the general Hinduism sites in the previous section of this guide also have information about rituals and practices. As the many types of Hinduism have varying rituals and customs, you may also want to look at the sites in the next section of this guide, “The Denominations of Hinduism.”
For general information about Hindu rituals and practices …
The American Museum of Natural History
presents an online version of their exhibition from 2001–2002 entitled “Meeting God: Elements of Hindu Devotion.” Start with the “Introduction
” to read about prayers, home worship, community worship, sacred acts, renunciation, and more; use the tabs under “Elements of Hindu Devotion” near the top of the page to navigate. Take a look at the “Portraits of Worship
” section for a gallery of photos depicting Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains at worship.
, a Web site of the Religious Studies Program at the University of Wyoming, provides this section on Hinduism. Don’t miss the “Time & Worship
” page for particularly interesting information on festivals and prayer that revolve around the Brahma-centered system of time. Also visit “Texts & Tales
” for a summary of the meaning, purpose, and structure of the Vedas and other Hindu texts.
is a blog with a helpful entry about “Hindu Rituals and Prayers,” compiled by the author to teach rituals to her children in the United States. Read about the rituals of lighting a lamp, using a prayer room, and doing Namaste, the Hindu practice of bowing in greeting. Learn more by reading part two of the rituals and prayers
For the caste system …
goes into extensive detail about the caste system. Learn about the five main castes, how the system was enforced, and its history, development, and justification. Read about the advantages and disadvantages of the system, and how it relates to modern India.
The Wall Street Journal
provides this article called “Caste Away,” published in June 2007, about the Dalits, or untouchables, in the Indian caste system. Read how, according to the article, the Dalits may be improving their lot in life, thanks to India’s globalization and economic development—especially in the high-technology sector. Don’t miss the helpful graphic illustrating the caste system’s social ladder; scroll down to find it on the right.
The Washington Post
published this article in June 2007, entitled “A 'Broken People' in Booming India.” The article presents the caste system in a different light than the previous link, and details the lives of the Dalits who sit at the bottom of India’s caste system. Read the author’s pessimistic view about the social and financial future of this group, which at one point appeared to be benefiting from the technological advances.
For sacred texts …
The Internet Sacred Text Archive
does a good job digitizing the sacred Hindu texts. Not every available interpretation and transcription is provided here but you’ll find a variety of options. Look for English and Sanskrit versions of the Vedas
, and Puranas
; the Mahabharata
epics; the Bhagavad Gita
; and some additional texts.
For temples in India …
is your best bet if you’re ever in India and looking for a place to worship. Use the left sidebar to find an abode of Ganesha, Shakti, Shiva, Vishnu, or any of the other major Hindu gods. Choose one of the abodes to get a brief sketch of the general worship customs related to that divinity, in addition to a description of temples and a summary of that god. Or search by location in India using the list of locations below the abodes on the left sidebar.
There are innumerable forms of Hinduism, as was mentioned above. The sites in this section will ... read more »
There is a vast Hindu network on the Internet waiting for your presence. Read a Hindu or Indian ... read more »
Hinduism is renowned for beautiful music and art. The Internet makes it simple to listen to a ... read more »
Most Recent Guides