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 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.
- 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.
For general information about Hinduism …
has a comprehensive section on Hinduism, but you’ll need to scroll past the ads that typically appear at the top of each page. Don’t let this deter you, though, because the site is a great introduction to all aspects of the Hindu religion, with an extensive archive of articles and vivid pictures. Some of the articles are original to ReligionFacts; others are drawn from a variety of sources. Learn that the god “Ganesha swallows the sorrows of the Universe,” or that the swastika is an ancient Hindu symbol for good luck, later misused by the Nazis.
lays out many elements of the religion in a series of short articles focusing on Hindu ideology, history, and culture. As this user-friendly site is primarily concerned with health and lifestyle, the sections on Hindu culture (clothes, music, and art) and Hindu festivals and weddings are especially detailed.
“Religion & Ethics” section provides trustworthy facts about the religion and interesting features. Answer questions you may have about the religion, on matters such as the significance of the various Hindu gods or the controversy over the impact of the Aryans on the Hindu religion.
For a more in-depth look at the Hindu religion …
Heart of Hinduism
is based on the textbook of the same name; commonly used in the United Kingdom, it’s produced by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness Educational Services. Although this society is specifically affiliated with the Hare Krishna movement, the site broadly explores the different Hindu belief systems. Learn the concepts of Hinduism in a unique and easy-to-comprehend way: for example, the relationship between body and soul is described using an image of a car and driver.
is an extensive source on the religion, covering basic and more advanced topics on Hinduism; it also provides information on Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism. Look for a very helpful page that pinpoints the differences between Hinduism and Buddhism. Also find articles on Hindu theology, translations of sacred texts, and Hindu news.
is the site of the Sanskrit Religions Institute, and it brings together books, articles, links, and scholarly material about Hinduism. Take a look at A Hindu Primer, a recently written (and not yet complete) topical guide to Hinduism. Don’t miss the Vedic Chants page to hear a number of audio recordings.
is a very interesting resource. Find information here on topics you may not find anywhere else, such as “Hinduism & Quantum Physics” and Hinduism and “Procrastination.” The graphic design is lacking and the font size is small (go to “View” on your browser options and increase the text size), but the site is definitely worth a look despite its visual flaws.
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