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, ... read more »
There are innumerable forms of Hinduism, as was mentioned above. The sites in this section will attempt to differentiate the various Hindu denominations from one another in terms of beliefs, practices, and the major geographic locations of its adherents.
- The faith can essentially be broken down into four forms: Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. These four denominations are further broken down into sects. A grouping tends to be characterized by its monist or dualist beliefs.
- Dualism refers to the Hindu belief that the “soul” (atman) and the “supreme spirit” (Brahman)are distinct. Monism refers to the Hindu belief that the atman and Brahman are one and the same.
- Unfortunately, the Internet is not a particularly helpful resource for the casual researcher of Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, or Smartism. There are surprisingly few high-quality sites out there on these broad topics. If you would like to find more information on your own, try searching for a more specific sect, like Sri Vaishnavism.
For Vaishnavism …
offers a general FAQ on Vaishnavism. Get the answers to common questions about the faith, including “Why is Vaishnavism relevant in today's world?” and “Is it necessary to be vegetarian, to be Vaishnava?” This site’s specific focus is a dualistic sect of Vaishnavism, Dvaita Vedânta: for more information, view the Dvaita.org
homepage or read the Dvaita FAQ
For Shaivism …
is associated with Hinduwebsite, and is a good starting point for learning about Shaivism. Explore the sects of Shaivism, learn about the main aspects of the faith, and read articles, e-texts, and prayers.
is an informative and visually appealing site about Shaivism. Find the beliefs and practices of Shaivism, a glossary of terms, stories, quotes, festivals, and books and news on this faith, all accompanied by colorful pictures.
For Shaktism and Tantric traditions …
Shiva Shakti Mandalam
contains vast amounts of information on the various Tantric traditions and the traditions surrounding Shakti. Although everything is laid out on the left sidebar, the site can still be difficult to navigate. Go to the How to use this site
section and use the Glossary
to get a better handle on everything that’s available.
has a lengthy article, “The Concept of Shakti: Hinduism as a Liberating Force for Women,” by Dr. Frank Morales, Ph.D. Although the article is not entirely concerned with Shaktism, it does provide a great deal of information on Shakti, the primary figure in the religion, and her history and contemporary significance. Don’t miss “The Shakti Principle in Spiritual Practice” section; scroll a little more than halfway down the page to find it.
For Smartism …
The Adi Shankara Advaita Research Centre
is closely affiliated with Smartist beliefs. Located in Chennai, India, it initiates lectures, seminars, and symposia, and publishes books and a quarterly newsletter called “Voice of Kanchi Math.” Learn about the organization, read some articles, and find out about events. There aren’t many general Smartist sites available on the Internet, so explore this important site to learn the basics of the denomination.
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 »
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