Hinduism Beliefs and Basics

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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.

Hinduism Beliefs and Basics

Known as Sanatana Dharma, or “the eternal law” in Sanskrit, Hinduism is a conglomeration of different beliefs that have evolved in the Indian subcontinent over millennia. As a result, Hinduism is not easy to codify. For example, some Hindus worship many Devas, or “heavenly beings," while others pay special attention to only a few. The links in this section attempt to explain the basic concepts of the Hindu faith. 

Dulcinea's Insight

  • As you read through these links, keep in mind that although Hinduism has certain major tenets, there is great diversity in the beliefs and practices of the religion. One link may present only one interpretation of the religion.
  • If you type “India” and “religion” into a search engine, you’ll find plenty of resources on Hinduism. In the process, you’ll also come across information on Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, religions that also have strong roots in India.

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For general information about Hinduism …
For a more in-depth look at the Hindu religion …
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Rituals and Practices of Hinduism

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.

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  • 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.”

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For general information about Hindu rituals and practices …
For the caste system …
For sacred texts …
For temples in India …
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The Denominations of Hinduism

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.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • 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.

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For Vaishnavism …
For Shaivism …
For Shaktism and Tantric traditions …
For Smartism …
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The Hindu Community

There is a vast Hindu network on the Internet waiting for your presence. Read a Hindu or Indian online newspaper, post on some Shaivism forums, view a Hindu mother’s blog, or find a future spouse, date, or friend on one of the Hindu dating and matrimonial sites.

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  • Many of the newspapers don’t restrict their content to Hinduism. The newspapers mentioned below devote most of their attention to the current events of India, which often involve Hindu issues.
  • Dating sites can ask for a lot of personal information. Just realize that you don’t have to include everything they ask for to find the girl/guy of your dreams.
  • Most of the organizations offer memberships, which may or may not require payment. Many of these organizations also offer newsletters; subscribe to stay updated with events or news.
  • One of the themes in this guide has been the fact that Hinduism is the majority religion in India, shaped by Indian culture and values. However, many dating Web sites are not solely for Hindus, but for Indians in general. Take note that you often have the option on these sites to restrict your search to Hindus, or even a specific denomination or sect of Hindus.

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For connecting with the Hindu community …
For Hindu news …
For Hindu blogs …
For Hindu organizations …
For Hindu dating and matrimonial sites …
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Hindu Music and Art

Hinduism is renowned for beautiful music and art. The Internet makes it simple to listen to a melodic mantra or admire an exquisite sculpture of Shiva.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Some of the sites that offer streaming audio require a plug-in. If you’re not sure if you have the proper plug-in, the site should let you know what you need to download or direct you to a Web site that offers the plug-in.

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For Hindu art …
For Hindu music …
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