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Hindu society was traditionally divided into four classes, called varnas within what is commonly called the caste system. What varna a person was in was based on occupation —

  • the Brāhmaṇas (also anglicised as Brahmins): teachers and priests;
  • the Kṣhatriyas: warriors, kings and administrators;
  • the Vaishyas: farmers, merchants, herdsmen and businessmen; and
  • the Shūdras: servants and labourers.

Each of these classes was called a varṇa, and the system was called Varna Vyavasthā.

Originally every caste was given equal importance. Later, as time passed, vested interests crept in. Caste, originally determined by the qualities and aptitudes of the individual, was made hereditary by people in positions of power and authority. As a result, some castes were made superior or "higher" and others inferior or "lower."[1] The caste system gradually expanded to include several sub-castes (jati), along with a class of outcastes (Dalits) and the practice of social discrimination against the Shūdra and Dalit classes.

Today it is often debated whether the caste system is an integral part of the Hindu religion sanctioned by the scriptures or or is simply an outdated social custom.[2] While the scriptures contain some passages that can be interpreted to sanction the caste system, they also contain indications that the caste system as it exists today is not sanctioned, and both sides in the debate are able to find scriptural support for their views.Cite error: A <ref> tag is missing the closing </ref> (see the help page).

Many social reformers, including Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), have criticized the problems caused by caste discrimination.[3] The saint and religious teacher Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886) taught that

"lovers of God do not belong to any caste . . . . A brahmin without this love is no longer a brahmin. And a pariah with the love of God is no longer a pariah. Through bhakti (devotion to God) an untouchable becomes pure and elevated."[4]

The caste system is observed today especially among rural and uneducated Hindus; it is not observed as much in large cities. The government of India has passed several laws attempting to remedy the problem of caste discrimination.[5]

Hinduism (Sanskrit: हिन्दू धर्म, Hindū Dharma, also known as सनातन धर्म, Sanātana Dharma) is a religion that originated on the Indian subcontinent. The term Hinduism encompasses many religious beliefs, practices, and denominations. Most Hindus believe in a supreme cosmic spirit called Brahman, who is worshipped in many forms, represented by individual deities such as Vishnu, Shiva and Shakti. Hinduism centers around a variety of practices that are meant to help one experience the divinity that is everywhere and realize the true nature of the Self.

Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world, with approximately 1 billion adherents (2005 figure), of whom approximately 890 million live in India.[6] Other countries with large Hindu populations include Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Mauritius, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Fiji, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States (see article Hinduism by country).

Hinduism is considered to be the oldest living religion in the world.[7][8] Unlike most other major religions, Hinduism has no single founder[9][10] and is based on a number of religious texts developed over many centuries that contain spiritual insights and provide practical guidance for religious life. Among such texts, the Vedas are the most ancient. Other scriptures include the eighteen Puranas and the epic poems Mahabharata and Ramayana. The Bhagavad Gita, which is contained within the Mahabharata, is a widely studied scripture that also summarizes the spiritual teachings of the Vedas.[11]

Core concepts[edit]

Modern Hinduism evolved from the ancient Vedic tradition (Vaidika paramparā). Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism all share some similar philosophical and spiritual traits with Hinduism, as all these religions originated in India, and all focus on self-improvement for the ultimate purpose of attaining personal spiritual experience.

Themes common to the value system of Hinduism are the beliefs in Dharma (individual ethics, duties and obligations), Samsāra ("rebirth"), Karma ("action"), and Moksha ("salvation").

God & the soul[edit]

God: both principle and person[edit]

Hinduism is sometimes called a polytheistic religion, but strictly speaking, this is not entirely accurate. Hinduism believes in One God, but recognizes that the One God can appear to humans in multiple names and forms.[12]


According to the monotheistic and pantheistic theologies of Hinduism, God is, in the highest sense, One: formless, infinite, and eternal. God is changeless and is the very source of consciousness. God is beyond time, space, and causation and yet permeates everything and every being. Being formless, God is beyond gender.[13] When God is thought of as this infinite principle, God is called Brahman. Brahman is the Absolute reality: it is pure existence and knowledge. Brahman does not exist; it is existence itself. It is not all-knowing; it is knowledge itself.

However, when human beings try to think of the infinite God, they project the limitations of their finite minds on God. The human mind cannot think other than in human terms. Therefore, it projects human limitations, such as personality, motherhood, and fatherhood on God. In reality, God does not have any such attributes, according to Hinduism.[14] It is not considered harmful to project such attributes on God; on the contrary, it is considered helpful because the myriad names and forms of God one finds in Hinduism are all ways for humans to approach the divine. Therefore, the Hindu scriptures depict God not only as an abstract principle or concept, but also as a personal being, much like the God in the Judeo-Christian religions.

Despite Hinduism's belief in the abstract principle of the infinite Brahman, most Hindus worship God on a day-to-day basis in one of God's less abstract personal forms, such as Vishnu, Shiva, or Shakti. Hindus worship these personal forms of God for a practical reason: it is easier to cultivate devotion to a personal being than to an abstract principle.

The Hindu scriptures declare that Brahman (the impersonal God) cannot be described in words, but can be understood only through direct spiritual experience. Nevertheless, for the benefit of others, the ancient Hindu sages who experienced Brahman attempted to describe their experiences. Their words were preserved in the ancient Vedic texts now known as the Upanishads.[15]

Several mahā-vākyas, or great sayings, indicate what the principle of Brahman is:

  • "The Self (or the Soul) is Brahman " (ayam ātmā brahma)[17]
  • "You are that" (tat tvam asi),[19]
  • "All this that we see in the world is Brahman", (sarvam khalv idam brahma),[20] and
  • "Brahman is existence, consciousness, and happiness" (sachchidānanda brahma).[21]

Thus, Brahman is conceived of as the very essence of existence and knowledge, which pervades the entire universe, including every living being. The goal of Hinduism is to somehow "wake up," and realize our own connection to the divine reality that may be called Brahman or God.[22] Because God is everywhere, he (or she, or it) is also present within us.[23]


When God is thought of as Creator, he is called Brahmā (not to be confused with Brahman), and is represented visually as shown in this temple carving.

When God is thought of as the supreme all-powerful person (rather than as the infinite principle called Brahman), God is called Īśvara or Bhagavān. Īśvara is a word used to refer to the personal aspect of God in general; it is not specific to a particular deity. Īśvara transcends gender, yet can be looked upon as both father and mother, and even as friend, child, or sweetheart.[24] Most Hindus, in their daily devotional practices, worship some form of this personal aspect of God, although they believe in the more abstract concept of Brahman as well. Sometimes this means worshiping God through an image or a picture. Sometimes it just means thinking of God as a personal being.

Depending on which aspect of Īśvara one is talking about, a different name will be used—and frequently a different image or picture. For instance, when God is talked about in the aspect as the creator, God is called Brahmā.[25] When referred to in the capacity as preserver of the world, God is called Vishnu. When referred to in the capacity as destroyer of the world, God is called Shiva.

Many of these individual aspects of God also have other names and images. For example, Krishna and Rama are considered forms of Vishnu. All the various deities and images one finds in Hinduism are considered manifestations of the same God, called Īśvara in the personal aspect and Brahman when referred to as an abstract concept.

In their personal religious practices, Hindus worship primarily one or another of these deities, known as their "ishta devatā," or chosen ideal.[26] The particular form of God worshipped as one's chosen ideal is a matter of individual preference.[27] Regional and family traditions can play a large part in influencing this choice.[28] Hindus may also take guidance about this choice from their scriptures.

Although Hindus may worship deities other than their chosen ideal from time to time as well, depending on the occasion and their personal inclinations, it is not expected that they will worship—or even know about—every form of God. Hindus generally choose one concept of God (e.g., Krishna, Rama, Shiva, or Kali) and cultivate devotion to that chosen form, while at the same time respecting the chosen ideals of other people.[29]

Devas & devis[edit]

Krishna, an avatāra of Vishnu, reveals his universal form to the devotee Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. This image indicates that all deities are forms of the One God, and that God is everything that exists. Artwork © courtesy of The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

The Hindu religion speaks of many individual deities, called Devas. Goddesses are called devīs. The various devas and devīs are personifications of various aspects of one and the same God (Ishvara).[30] For instance, when a Hindu thinks of Ishvara as the giver of knowledge and learning, that aspect of Ishvara is personified as the deity Saraswati. In the same manner, the deity Lakshmi personifies Ishvara as the giver of wealth and prosperity.[31] This does not imply that Ishvara is the Lord of all the other deities; Ishvara is just the name used to refer to the personal God in general, when no particular deity is being referred to.

The devas (also called devatās) constitute an integral part of the colorful Hindu culture. These various forms of God are depicted in innumerable paintings, statues, murals, and scriptural stories that can be found in temples, homes, businesses, and other places. In Hinduism the scriptures recommend that for the satisfaction of a particular material desire a person may worship a particular deity.[32] For example, shopkeepers frequently keep a statue or picture of the devi Lakshmi in their shops. The elephant-headed deva known as Ganesha is worshipped before commencing any undertaking, as he represents God's aspect as the remover of obstacles. Students and scholars may propitiate Saraswati, the devi of learning, before taking an exam or giving a lecture.

The most ancient Vedic devas included Indra, Agni, Soma, Varuna, Mitra, Savitri, Rudra, Prajapati, Vishnu, Aryaman and the Ashvins; important devīs were Sarasvatī, Ūṣā and Prithvī. Later scriptures called the Purānas recount traditional stories about each individual deity.

Vishnu and Shiva are not regarded as ordinary devas but as Mahādevas ("Great Gods" ) because of their central positions in worship and mythology.[33] The Purānas also laud other devas, such as Ganesha and Hanumān, and avatāras such as Rāma and Krishna (see below). Goddesses are worshiped when God is thought of as the Universal Mother. Particular forms of the Universal Mother include Lakshmī, Sarasvatī and Parvatī, Durgā, and Kālī.

There are some Hindus who consider the various deities not as forms of the one Ishwara, but as independently existing entities, and may thus be properly considered polytheistic to some extent.

Avataras (incarnations of God)[edit]

Main article: Avatar

Many denominations of Hinduism, such as Vaishnavism and Smartism, teach that from time to time, God comes to Earth as a human being to help humans along in their struggle toward enlightenment and salvation (moksha). Such an incarnation of God is called an avatāra. In some respects, the Hindu concept of avatara is similar to the belief found in Christianity that God came to the earth in the form of Jesus. However, whereas most Christians believe that God has assumed a human body on only one occasion, Hinduism teaches that there have been multiple avatars throughout history--and that there will be more in the future. Thus Krishna, an incarnation of God, says:

Whenever righteousness declines
And unrighteousness increases,
I make myself a body;
In every age I come back
To deliver the holy,
To destroy the sin of the sinner,
To establish righteousness.[34]

The most famous of the divine incarnations are Rama, whose life is depicted in the Ramayana, and Krishna, whose life is depicted in the Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavatam. The Bhagavad Gita, which contains the spiritual teachings of Krishna, is one of the most widely-read scriptures in Hinduism.


Most Hindu thinkers agree that the spirit or soul, the true "self" of every person, called the ātman, is eternal.[35] It is believed that the Spirit of God and the spirit of man have existed and will continue to exist throughout all eternity. According to schools influenced by the concept of Advaita (non-duality), the human spirit and God's Spirit are not seen as ultimately distinct. They believe that the core spirit, or "Self", of every individual person is identical with God's Spirit.[36] According to the Upanishads, whoever gains insight into the depths of his own nature and becomes fully aware of the ātman as the innermost core of his own Self, will also realize his identity with Brahman, the divine source of the whole universe, and will thereby reach salvation.[37] According to the Dvaita ("dualistic") school, on the other hand (often associated with the Vaishnava tradition), the ātman is not identical with God, although it is dependent on Him, and salvation depends on the cultivation of love for God and on God's grace.[38]

Heaven and hell[edit]

"Heaven" and "Hell" may exist, but heaven is not necessarily considered the ultimate goal in Hinduism. This is because heaven and hell are believed to be temporary. The only thing that is considered eternal is divinity, which includes God as well as the ātman (the soul). Therefore the ultimate goal is to experience divinity.[39]

The Vedas and later scriptures[edit]

The Naradiyamahapuranam describes the mechanics of the cosmos. Depicted here are Vishnu the Maintainer with his consort Lakshmi resting on Shesha Nag. The great sage Narada and Brahma the Creator are also pictured.

Whereas most major religions of the world base their beliefs on certain books which adherents believe are the words of God or other supernatural beings, Hinduism is based on "the accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by different persons in different times."[40] The earliest records of these laws are called the Vedas. Hindus do not claim that God or any person created the Vedas; the Vedas are said to be without beginning and without end. "Just as the law of gravitation existed before its discovery and would exist if all humanity forgot it, so is it with the laws that govern the spiritual world."[41] The Vedas have therefore been called apaurusheya ("not man-made").[42] The ancient sages who first discovered the spiritual knowledge known as the Vedas are called rishis.[43]

The Vedas were transmitted orally, in verse form to aid memorization, for many years before they were written down.[44] The earliest hymns (mantras) of the Vedas, contained in the Rig Veda, date back to at least 1000 BC.[45] Over many centuries, the teachings of the Vedas were expanded upon by other sages, and other scriptures were written. Some of the most prominent of these scriptures are the Bhagavad Gita, the Brahma Sutras, and the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Most Hindu scriptures were written in the Sanskrit language, which is widely used even today in religious and literary settings.

In contrast to the Biblical canon in mainstream Christianity, the Hindu scriptural canon is not closed — Hindus believe that since the spiritual truths of the Vedas are eternal, they may continue to be expressed in new ways in the future.[46] New scriptures may continue to be written to express the truths of the Vedas in ways that will be accessible to the people of different times and places.[47] Still, however, there is a special veneration for ancient scriptures since they have been validated by many sages and thinkers over the course of many years.

Many Hindus may even venerate the scriptures of other religions, since it is believed that the One Divinity can reveal itself in innumerable ways. A much-quoted pada (verse) from the Rigveda that emphasizes the diversity of paths to the one goal is:

ekam sat viprā bahudhā vadanti
Truth is one, the wise call it by many names
Rig Veda 1.164.46c

Thus, Hinduism accepts a large number of scriptures, and remains open to any new revelations. Because the same eternal spiritual truths can be viewed from innumerable perspectives, there is relatively little theological quarrel among Hindu denominations.[48] However, some denominations may be more inclined toward this all-inclusive attitude than others. For instance, although followers of Advaita Vedanta and Smartism often place heavy emphasis on the view that God can be worshipped in any form, many members of the Vaishnava sect believe that spiritual liberation can be attained only through submission to God in the form of Vishnu.[49]

Hindus do not focus on whether the stories found in the scriptures are historically accurate — they are more concerned with the spiritual lessons found in the scriptures.[50] Hindus readily admit that their scriptures contain a mix of historical fact, myth, and spiritual truths — their main concern is the deeper spiritual meaning of the various stories and teachings. Hinduism exegesis often leans toward figurative interpretations of scriptures rather than literal ones.

It is believed that a sage today can realize the same truths that the ancient rishis realized. For this reason, Hindus may venerate the words of a modern saint — Sri Ramakrishna, Sai Baba, or Sri Ramana Maharshi, for example — as much as those of the ancient teachers. Hindu sages, in contrast with Judeo-Christian and Muslim prophets, do not focus on predicting the future or warning of the judgment of God. They are more concerned with two things: (1) teaching mystical truths, and (2) providing guidance regarding how one can become morally, spiritually, and physically pure.

See also Classification of Scriptures, below

The goal of life (jīvan-lakshya)[edit]

The goal of life is stated variously as the realization of one's union with God, attainment of the vision of God, attainment of perfect love of God, realization of the unity of all existence, perfect unselfishness, liberation from ignorance, attainment of perfect mental peace, or detachment from worldly desires. The goal is to have the direct experience of divinity, regardless of precisely how one may choose to define it. The experience of divinity is the only thing that can give one true peace and happiness, and salvation from suffering and ignorance. According to Hindu thought, one does not necessarily have to wait until death to attain salvation — it is possible to achieve it in this very life. One who attains salvation while living is called a jīvan-mukta.[51]

Multiple ways to reach the goal (yoga)[edit]

Main article: Yoga

In whatever way a Hindu might define the goal of life—and multiple definitions are allowed—there are several methods (yogas) that have been developed over the centuries for people of different tastes and temperaments. Paths one can follow to achieve the spiritual goal of life include:

  1. Bhakti Yoga (the path of love and devotion),
  2. Karma Yoga (the path of right action),
  3. Rāja Yoga (the path of meditation) and
  4. Jñāna Yoga (the path of mystical understanding).[52]

Bhakti yoga is prescribed for people of emotional temperaments. Karma yoga is prescribed for people of more outwardly active temperaments. Raja yoga is recommended for meditative people. And Jnana yoga is meant for the rational person. It is typical for Hindus to combine two or more of these paths into their spiritual life to create a path that suits their personal temperaments.[53]

A few schools believe that only one or two of these paths leads to salvation. For example, some followers of the Dvaita school hold that Bhakti ("devotion") is the only path. A large number of Hindus, however, believe that although one particular path may be best for them, another path may be better for another person, and any path—if followed sincerely—can lead to God.[54]

Note: Although to many westerners the word yoga may evoke images of stretches and stress reduction, yoga in the Hindu religion is a spiritual practice whose primary goal is self-realization.[55]

Bhakti yoga[edit]

The bhakti school emphasizes cultivation of love and devotion for God as being the path to salvation. Followers of bhakti ("bhaktas") typically worship God as a divine incarnation, such as Rama or Krishna, or as some other aspect of the personal God. Bhakti tends to attract those who are emotional by nature. Followers of the bhakti path strive to purify their minds through the chanting of God's name (japa), prayer, the singing of hymns (bhajan), and by treating all living creatures with compassion (dayā). Whereas the followers of the jnana yoga seek the realization that "My inner soul is none other than God," followers of bhakti yoga "wish to taste sugar, not to become sugar."[56] Therefore, bhaktas seek to enjoy communion with God, but do not seek to merge their consciousness with God completely as the followers of jnana yoga do.

Karma Yoga[edit]

The followers of karma yoga seek to achieve mental equilibrium and perfect unselfishness by performing their duties in the world in a dedicated but mentally detached manner. According to Hinduism, work, which is inevitable, has one great disadvantage. Any work done with attachment to its fruits generates a kind of psychological bondage, or anxiety, in the mind of the worker.[57] Therefore, followers of karma yoga emphasize the following injunction in the Bhagavad Gita:

Do your duty, always; but without attachment. That is how a man reaches the ultimate truth; by working without anxiety about results.[58]

Many followers of karma yoga try to attain mental detachment from the results of their work by mentally offering the results of every action to God, thus combining karma yoga with bhakti yoga. However, it is also possible for even an atheist to follow karma yoga by simply remaining mentally detached from the results of his or her work by means of willpower.

Raja yoga[edit]

The followers of Raja yoga seek to realize spiritual truths through meditation. Raja yoga, also known simply as yoga, is based on the Yoga Sutras (aphorisms on yoga) of the sage Patanjali.[59] Through the practice of meditation, followers of this path seek to gradually gain control over their own thoughts and actions, rather than being controlled by their impulses as most people are. They seek to attain one-pointed concentration and perfect equanimity of mind.[60] Ultimately, through meditation, the followers of raja yoga seek knowledge: by concentrating all the energies of the mind inward, they seek to perceive whether they have souls, "whether life is of five minutes or of eternity, and whether there is a God."[61] Thus, the highest goal of raja yoga is God-realization, or experiencing the Ultimate Truth.[62]

The actual act of sitting down for meditation, however, is only the tip of the iceberg in Raja yoga. The disciplines of raja yoga actually consist of eight steps, of which dhyāna (meditation) is only one.[63] According to Patanjali, the eight practices of Raja yoga are:

  1. Yama: Restraining harmful thoughts and impulses.
  2. Niyama: Cultivating good habits.
  3. Āsana: Learning proper posture for prolonged meditation.
  4. Prānāyama: Control of prana, or life force.
  5. Pratyāhāra: Withdrawing the senses from their objects of enjoyment.
  6. Dhāranā: Fixing the mind on the object of contemplation.
  7. Dhyāna: Uninterrupted contemplation (meditation).
  8. Samādhi: Total absorption of the mind in the object of contemplation.[64]

As with the other yogas, Raja yoga may be combined with bhakti yoga, karma yoga, or jnana yoga to create a customized path suitable for an individual aspirant. The aspects of raja yoga that deal with physical exercises (especially āsana) are known collectively as hatha yoga. Although in western countries hatha yoga is commonly practiced in isolation to improve physical health or for relaxation, the traditional Hindu view is that hatha yoga and the other practices of raja yoga are interconnected and have to be practiced simultaneously.[65]

Jnana yoga[edit]

Jnana Yoga has been called the path of rational inquiry, and is prescribed for people to whom reason appeals more than faith.[66] The followers of jnana yoga emphasize a two-step process to help one attain salvation:

(1) viveka, the practice of discriminating between things that are impermanent (i.e., worldly pleasures) and those that are permanent (i.e. God and the soul), and

(2) vairāgya, renunciation of unhealthy attachment to things that are impermanent.[67]

For monks (called sanyāsīs or sādhus ) and nuns (sanyāsinīs), renunciation may mean actual physical departure from worldly activities such as marriage and earning money. For the vast majority of people, however, renunciation means mental detachment from selfish desires while continuing to fulfill family and community obligations.[68] By focusing the mind on Divinity instead of the desire for selfish gain, one can maintain a healthy mental equilibrium in the face of the inevitable highs and lows of life.

It is on account of ignorance (or māyā) that humans identify themselves with their physical bodies and their egos (the sense of "I" and "mine"). These are impermanent, and thus ultimately unreal. The true "self" of every person—the only part of a person that is permanent—is the inner soul, called the atman. Further, the atman of each person is eternally connected to the atman of every other person, with God, and with all existence.

To take an analogy, each individual soul is like a wave on a shoreless ocean.[69] The ocean is the Infinite Brahman. When a person sees rightly, he comes to understand that each wave is part of the ocean. Similarly, the highest realization that the followers of jnana yoga strive to attain is that all living beings are essentially none other than the infinite, eternal Brahman.[70] Having this realization makes one naturally treat all people with love and compassion, since one understands that by doing good to others, one actually does good to oneself. It also removes all fear of death.

Jnana yoga is often associated with the Vedanta school of philosophy, although Hindus of the Vedanta school may incorporate elements of bhakti yoga and the other yogas into their spiritual practices as well.

Karma and reincarnation[edit]

The doctrine of karma is the law of cause and effect. It states that everything we do leaves an impression in our mind, which determines what kind of people we will become in the future. If we regularly perform good actions, we will develop good tendencies. If we do bad things, we will develop bad tendencies, which naturally can cause bad things to happen in our lives.[71] Since Hinduism believes in reincarnation, it follows that our actions in this life can determine what kind of tendencies we will be born with in subsequent lives. Virtuous actions take the soul closer to the Supreme Divine and lead to a birth with higher consciousness. Evil actions hinder this recognition of the Supreme Divine, and the soul takes lower forms of worldly life. Therefore, Hinduism teaches, we should try to behave in a virtuous manner as much as possible, so that we will develop good habits and tendencies both in this and the next life. Over the course of time, if one can sufficiently purify the mind and intellect, one can attain the goal of life: experience of the highest truth, which is God.[72] Throughout this process, some see God as the "Divine Accountant" taking account of our deeds, while others consider the natural laws of causation sufficient to explain the effects of karma.[73]

The concept of reincarnation: "Just as the dweller in this body passes through childhood, youth and old age, so also at death he merely passes into yet another kind of body."--Bhagavad Gita. Image copyright BBTI

The cycle of birth and death is called samsāra. According to the doctrine of reincarnation, the soul (atman) is immortal, while the body is subject to birth and death. The Bhagavad Gita states that

Worn-out garments are shed by the body;

Worn-out bodies are shed by the dweller within the body. New bodies are donned

by the dweller, like garments.[74]

Hinduism teaches that the soul goes on repeatedly being born and dying. One is reborn on account of desire: a person desires to be born because he or she wants to enjoy worldly pleasures, which can be enjoyed only through a body.[75] Hinduism does not teach that all worldly pleasures are sinful, but it teaches that they can never bring deep, lasting happiness or peace (ānanda). So long as the soul mistakenly identifies itself with the ego (the sense of "I" and "mine", called ahamkāra in Sanskrit), it will have worldly desires, which will cause it to be reborn again and again.[76]

After many births, every person eventually becomes dissatisfied with the limited happiness that worldly pleasures can bring. At this point, a person begins to seek higher forms of happiness, which can be attained only through spiritual experience. When, after much spiritual practice (sādhanā), a person finally realizes his or her own divine nature—ie., realizes that the true "self" is the immortal soul rather than the body or the ego—all desires for the pleasures of the world will vanish, since they will seem insipid compared to spiritual ānanda. When all desire has vanished, the person will not be reborn anymore.[77]

When the cycle of rebirth thus comes to an end, a person is said to have attained moksha, or salvation.[78] While all schools of thought agree that moksha implies the cessation of worldly desires and freedom from the cycle of birth and death, the exact definition of salvation depends on individual beliefs. For example, followers of the Advaita Vedanta school (often associated with jnana yoga) believe that they will spend eternity absorbed in the perfect peace and happiness that comes with the realization that all existence is One (Brahman), and that the immortal soul is part of that existence. Thus they will no longer identify themselves as individual persons, but will see the "self" as a part of the infinite ocean of divinity, described as sat-chit-ananda (existence-knowledge-bliss). The followers of dualistic schools ("dualistic" schools, such as bhakti yoga), on the other hand, expect to spend eternity in a loka, or heaven, where they will have the blessed company of their chosen form of God (some form of Ishvara) throughout eternity. Dvaita, a Vaishnavite school, believes in eternal company with Vishnu. The two schools are not necessarily contradictory, however. A follower of one school may believe that both types of salvation are possible, but will simply have a personal preference to experience one or the other. Thus, it is said, the followers of Dvaita wish to "taste sugar," while the followers of Advaita wish to "become sugar."[79]


Since the Hindu scriptures are essentially silent on the issue of religious conversion, the issue of whether Hindus evangelize is open to interpretations.[80] For the most part, though, Hindus do not evangelize.[81] Regarding conversion, those who view Hinduism as being an ethnicity more than a religion (as some secular Jews view Judaism) tend not to believe that one can convert to Hinduism. However, those who see Hinduism primarily as a philosophy, a set of beliefs, or a way of life generally believe that one can convert to Hinduism by incorporating Hindu beliefs into one's life and by considering oneself a Hindu.[82] The Supreme Court of India has taken the latter view, holding that the question of whether a person is a Hindu should be determined by the person's belief system, not by their ethnic or racial heritage.[83]

There is no formal conversion process, although in many denominations the ritual called dīkshā or "initiation" is seen as being the beginning of spiritual life, much like baptism in Christianity. In any case, most Hindu denominations do not actively seek to recruit converts because they believe that the goals of spiritual life can be attained through any religion, so long as the religion is practiced sincerely.[84] There are a number of Hindu "missionary" groups that operate missions in non-Hindu countries for purposes of providing guidance to the public that can be applied to spiritual life within any religion, whether or not one converts to Hinduism. Examples are the Vedanta Society (also known as the Ramakrishna Mission) and the Self-Realization Fellowship.


Nearly all Hindu practices seek to accomplish a single purpose: increasing a person's awareness of the divinity that is present everywhere and in everything. Therefore, the Hindu tradition has developed numerous practices meant to help one think of divinity even in the midst of everyday life. The more a devotee can think holy thoughts, the sooner he or she can purify his or her mind, which is the way to salvation. According to one teacher:

The ideal of man is to see God in everything. But if you cannot see Him in everything, see Him in one thing, in that thing you like best, and then see Him in another. So on you go. . . . Take your time and you will achieve your end.[85]

Pūjā (worship)[edit]

Most observant Hindus engage in some type of formal worship (pūjā) both in the home and in temples. In the home, Hindus usually have a special room, or part of a room, that is used as a shrine, and which contains a picture or statue symbolizing the individual's chosen form of God (ishta). The devotee enters the shrine at dawn and at dusk to make an offering to God, symbolized by placing items such as food, water, and flowers before the image, waving incense and a lighted candle, ringing a bell, and/or waving a fan. The devotee thus symbolically offers to God items that can be enjoyed by each of the five senses. Other practices in the home include meditation (dhyāna), the chanting of God's name or names (japa), and the recitation of scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita.

Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Parvati (pictured left). He is widely worshipped as Vignesh, the remover of obstacles.

Before performing pūjā, the devotee bathes and wears washed clothes. Ladies do not engage themselves in any sort of pūjā during the first four days of menstruation or for a month after birth of a child. It is also customary not to perform pūjā during the first sixteen days after the death of a family member. This period is known as sūtak, ashaucha, or mritakasūtaka, and is explained as resulting from a temporary state of ritual impurity.[86]

Visiting temples is not obligatory for Hindus.[87] Many Hindus go to temples only during religious festivals. Temples are not used for weddings, funerals, or as social hubs—they are primarily used for formal worship. Often there will also be devotional singing (kīrtana) and religious discourses. Hindu temple priests (pandās) are salaried workers, hired by temple authorities to perform ritualistic worship. They are not to be confused with swāmīs or sanyāsins (all-renouncing monks, who do not work for money).[88]

Priests begin to perform temple worship at daybreak, and continue to perform various rituals until late in the evening. During the worship the priest makes various offerings to God, such as food, drink, flowers, and perfume. As the human mind can think only in human terms, God is worshipped in the form of a person. The priest is fully aware that God does not need any of the things that he is offering, but he offers them to God as a token of love and devotion. Often, devotees visiting the temple bring their own food to the temple, or purchase it from vendors outside. The priest takes the food from the devotees and offers it to God on their behalf. After the offering, the food is considered to be sanctified (prasāda), and is freely distributed by the priest—depending on the particular temple—to the devotees, wandering monks or nuns, and the poor. Eating prasāda is considered spiritually beneficial.[89]

Besides home and temple worship, observant Hindus try to perform every action as an offering to God. They try to do their duties in the world, but without seeking any personal benefit, thinking instead that they are doing the work as an offering to God. This type of worship is called karma yoga, and is considered higher than ordinary formal worship. Thus, in the Bhagavad Gita God (as Sri Krishna) states,

"Perform every action with your heart fixed on the Supreme Lord.

Renounce attachment to the fruits.

Be even-tempered in success and failure; for it is this evenness of temper which is meant by yoga. . .

In the calm of self-surrender, the seers renounce the fruits of their actions, and so reach enlightenment"[90]

Worship of God through images[edit]

Main article: Murti
The dancing posture of Siva, known as the Nataraja, is often said to be the supreme statement of Hindu art on account of its multi-faceted symbolism

Hindus worship God through images (murti), such as statues or paintings, which are symbols of God's power and glory. Through such tangible symbols a Hindu tries to establish contact with the intangible God. Just as a photograph of a person's father is not his real father, so also an image symbolizing some powers or glories of God is never considered to be God Himself. It only helps the devotee to remember God. The image, which is a symbol, acts like a link between God and His worshipper.[91]

According to another view, it is not incorrect to think that God is in the image because God is everywhere. Thus the Padma Purana states that the mūrti is not to be thought of as mere stone or wood but as the manifest form of the Divinity.[92]

Although most mūrtis are more or less anthropomorphic, the deity Shiva is worshipped symbolically in the form of a pillar-like stone called a lingam.

A few Hindu denominations, such as the Arya Samaj, do not believe in worshipping God through images.

The guru-disciple tradition[edit]

In many Hindu denominations, spiritual aspirants are encouraged to have a personal spiritual teacher, called a guru. The student is expected to follow the instructions of the guru and to sincerely strive to reach the goal of spiritual life.[93]Gurus may teach to each student a special mantra, which is a name of God, a holy phrase, or other sacred words, which the student repeats to himself or herself daily at dawn and dusk, and as much as possible at other times. The chanting of a mantra is called japa. Japa is meant to increase remembrance of God and to elevate the mind so that it will become purer and able to experience God. The guru may also give the student instructions in meditation and other practices.

Only a person with an exemplary life and high spiritual attainments can be a guru. A true guru must never charge any money for the guidance that he or she gives to the student, although a student may give voluntary gifts to the teacher as a token of appreciation (guru-dakshinā). A teacher who violates the sacred time-honored prohibition against charging money is said to bring disgrace on himself and his religion.[94]

Japa and Mantra[edit]

Main article: Mantra

A mantra is a holy syllable, word or phrase used for recitation or chanting.[95] The sacred mantra Om, found in the most ancient portions of the Vedas, is of such importance that it has come to symbolize the Hindu religion itself, like the cross in Christianity or the crescent of Islam. The chanting of a mantra is called japa. A devotee may chant aloud or silently, and will often repreat the mantra a specified number of times, counting the number of repetitions on a rosary (japa-mālā) or on the fingers.

Mantras are chanted, through their meaning, sound, and chanting style, to help a person focus the mind on holy thoughts or to express love and devotion for God. Mantras often give courage in exigent times and serve to help invoke one's inner spiritual strength.[96] Indeed, Mahatma Gandhi's dying words are said to have been a two-word mantra to the Lord Rama: "Hé Ram!"'.

One of the most revered mantras in Hinduism is the Gayatri Mantra.[97] Many Hindus to this day, in a tradition that has continued unbroken from ancient times, perform morning ablutions at the bank of a sacred river (especially the Ganga/Ganges) while chanting the Gayatri and Mahamrityunjaya mantras.


Varanasi, on the banks of the sacred Ganges River, is the oldest living city in the world and is one of the most sacred places of pilgrimage for Hindus of all denominations.[98]

Pilgrimage is not mandatory in Hinduism as it is in Islam. Nevertheless, most Hindus who can afford to do so undertake one or more pilgrimages during their lifetimes. There are many Hindu holy places (tīrtha-sthānas) in India. One of the most famous is the ancient city of Varanasi, otherwise known as Benaras or Kashi. Other holy places include Kedarnath and Badrinath in the Himalayas, the Jagannath temple at Puri, Rishikesh and Haridwar in the foothills of the Himalayas, Allahabad (also known by the ancient name Prayāg, located at the confluence of multiple holy rivers), and Rameshwaram in the South. The largest single gathering of pilgrims occurs during the Kumbh Mela festival, which occurs in different cities on a rotating basis. Hindus who can afford to do so make a pilgrimage to the town of Gaya once in their life to offer sacrifices and pray for the well-being of their ancestors.

Most places are considered holy because they are associated with some event in history or mythology, or with the life of a saint or other holy person.[99] For instance, the town of Mathura is holy because it was the birthplace of Krishna.


Satsang (fellowship) is the Hindu practice of gathering together for the study or discussion of scriptures and religious topics. Devotees may gather together independently or under the guidance of a scholar (pandit) or a monk (sanyāsī). This practice sometimes also called sadhu-sanga (the company of rightous people).[100]

Devotional singing[edit]

Devotional singing, called bhajan or kirtan, is an important part of Hindu worship in several parts of India. Devotional singing may take place in temples, in ashrams, on the banks of holy rivers, in the home, and in many other places. Religious songs may be sung individually or congregationally. Hymns may be in the ancient Sanskrit language, or in modern languages such as Hindi, Bengali, or Tamil. Musical instruments accompanying devotional singing frequently include the tanpura, harmonium, and tabla.


Bathing (snāna) in sacred rivers, and particularly in the Ganga, is believed to spiritually purify a person.[101]


Main article: Hindu denominations
The temple of Pashupatinath in Nepal is regarded as one of the most sacred places in Shaivism.

Many Hindus do not claim to belong to any particular denomination at all.[102] However, scholars frequently categorize contemporary Hinduism into three or four major denominations: Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and sometimes Smartism or Advaita Vedanta. These denominations differ primarily in the particular forms of God worshipped, and in the rituals and traditions that accompany worship of that form of God. Vaishnavism worships God in the form of Viṣhṇu; Shaivism worships God as Shiva; Shaktism worships a female divinity or Goddess, Devī; while Smartism and Advaita Vedanta believe in an impersonal or pantheistic God without focusing on any particular form of God.

There are also many movements that are not easily placed in any of the above categories, such as Swami Dayananda Saraswati's Ārya Samāj, which condemns image worship and veneration of multiple deities, focusing instead on the Vedas and the Vedic fire sacrifices (yajña). Traditions such as the Ramakrishna movement incorporate elements from all the major denominations and stress that God-realization can be achieved through any denomination so long as it is followed sincerely. In Tantra, the Goddess is considered the power of Shiva, and thus represents a combination of the Shaiva and shākta denominations.

Although, as in every religion, there are some persons who view their own denomination as superior to others, Hindus more commonly consider other denominations to be legitimate alternatives to their own. The concept of heresy found in some other religions is therefore generally not an issue for Hindus.


Main article: History of Hinduism


Sacred Mount Kailash in Tibet is regarded as the spiritual abode of Shiva.

The roots of Hinduism date from around 5000–3000 BCE. The earliest evidence for elements of the Hindu faith is sometimes claimed to date back as far as 5000 BCE,[103] though the beliefs and practices of pre-classical era (1500-500 BCE) are more accurately called the "Vedic religion."

The Aryan invasion theory dates the roots of Hinduism to about 1500-500 BCE, based on linguistic and literary data from the Rig veda, a scripture composed around the mid 2nd millennium BCE. Recent archaeological evidence, in contrast, points to the possibility that Vedic culture might have existed more than a millennium earlier, leading to the Out of India theory.[104][105]

The Vedic period[edit]

Modern Hinduism grew out of the knowledge described in the Vedas. The earliest of these, the Rigveda centers on worship of celestial spirits such as Indra, Varuna and Agni, and on the Soma ritual. The early Indo-Aryans would perform fire-sacrifices, called yajña (यज्ञ), with the chanting of the Vedic mantras, but they built no temples, idols or icons. Probably animals were also sacrificed in larger yajñas, as claimed by Buddhist and Jain texts. The most ancient Vedic traditions exhibit strong similarities to Zoroastrianism), as well as to other Indo-European religions.[106]

The influence of Buddhism & Jainism[edit]

The religions of Buddhism and Jainism arose in North India in the sixth century B.C.[107] The Buddha accepted many tenets of Hinduism, but taught that to achieve salvation one did not have to accept the authority of the scriptures, the caste system, or even the existence of God.[108] Many Hindus converted to Buddhism, and even many of those who did not convert were influenced by Buddhist teachings. Both Buddhism and Jainism influenced Hinduism with their emphasis on compassion for all life.

Epic & Puranic periods[edit]

The epic poems Ramayana and Mahabharata were written roughly 400 B.C. to 200 A.D., although they were probably transmitted orally for many years prior to this period.[109] These epics contain both secular and mythological stories of the rulers and wars of ancient India, as well as stories about the avataras Rama and Krishna. The later Puranas recount tales about various Gods and Goddesses, their interactions with humans, and their battles against demons. The Gupta dynasty (c. 300-500 A.D.) is associated with a proliferation of ornate art and extensive literature in the Sanskrit and Tamil languages.[110]

Islam & Bhakti (12th-17th Centuries)[edit]

Beginning around 1173, successive waves of armies from Muslim countries invaded and, to varying degrees, consolidated control over North India.[111] and many Hindus converted to Islam. , such as Akbar, were more tolerant.

Hinduism during this period underwent one of the most profound changes in its history, due in large part to the influence of the prominent teachers Ramanuja, Madhva, and Chaitanya.[112] Followers of the Bhakti movement moved away from the abstract concept of Brahman to a focus on the more accessable avataras, especially Krishna and Rama.[113] A new attitude toward God—emotional, passionate love—replaced the old approaches of sacrificial rite and meditation on the formless Absolute Principle.[114]


The four pursuits of life[edit]

Hinduism recognizes four legitimate pursuits in life, known as puruṣhārthas. The four puruṣhārthas are:

  1. kāma (satisfying the desire for sense pleasure)
  2. artha (acquisition of worldly possessions or money)
  3. dharma (observance of religious duties)
  4. mokṣha (liberation achieved through God-realization)[115]

Among these, kama is considered the lowest because this urge is common to both man and animals, and because it is rooted in selfishness. Artha is higher because it is mainly observed in humans, and can be performed for unselfish reasons. Dharma is higher than kama and artha because it is inherently based on unselfishness, and moksha is the highest because God-realization is the ultimate goal of life, whose attainment results in lasting happiness and perfect unselfishness. Moksha is also known as Mukti, Samādhi (union with God), Nirvāṇa, or escape from Samsāra (the cycle of births and deaths).[116] However, even kama and artha are considered legitimate pursuits, so long as they are performed responsibly, as intermediate stages on the path to the realization of God. Thus it is said that artha and kama are to be pursued like a river which is bounded by dharma and moksha on the two sides.


Main article: Mandir
File:Tirumala svtemple.jpg
Most Hindu temples (mandirs) have their principal shrine facing the rising sun and their entrance facing east except for Hanuman Temples which face South. An important aspect of the temple design is that it is intended to lead from the temporal world to the eternal one. Shown here is the Tirupati temple, the most visited religious shrine in the world and the second richest religious shrine after the Vatican.[117]

Hindu temples inherited rich and ancient rituals and customs, and have occupied a special place in Hindu society. They are usually dedicated to a primary deity, called the presiding deity, and other subordinate deities associated with the main deity. However, some mandirs are dedicated to multiple deities. Most major temples are constructed as per the āgama shāstras and many are sites of pilgrimage. An important element of temple architecture and many Hindu households in general is Vaastu Shastra, the science of aesthetic and auspicious design.

For many Hindus, the four Shankarāchāryas (the abbots of the monasteries of Joshimath, Puri, Shringeri and Dwarka — four of the holiest pilgrimage centers — sometimes to which a fifth at Kanchi is also added) are viewed as the four highest Patriarchs of the Hinduism.

Ashramas (stages of life)[edit]

Traditionally (though not feasible for most of today's lay Hindus), the life of a Hindu was divided into four Āshramas ("phases" or "stages"). They are

The first quarter of one's life, Brahmacharya ("meditation, or study of the Brahman") is spent in celibate, controlled, sober and pure contemplation under a Guru, building up the mind for the realization of truth. Grihastha is the householder's stage, alternatively known as samsara, in which one marries and satisfies kāma and artha within one's married and professional life (see section on ashrams). Vānaprastha is gradual detachment from the material world. This may involve giving over duties to one's children, spending more time in contemplation of the Divine, and making holy pilgrimages. Finally, in Sannyāsa, one renounces all worldly attachments, often envisioned as seclusion, to find the Divine through detachment from worldly life and peacefully shed the body for the next life (or for liberation).[119]

Note: the word āshrama (or āshram) is also used to refer to a building which is devoted to religious activities. Usually monks or other spiritual aspirants reside in an ashram, and spiritual seekers may visit the ashram to study the scriptures, meditate, or worship. This type of āshram may contain a monastery or convent (math), a temple, library, and/or other facilities for spiritual practice and religious education.

Varnas & the caste system[edit]

Hindu society was traditionally divided into four classes, called varnas within what is commonly called the caste system. What varna a person was in was based on occupation —

  • the Brāhmaṇas (also anglicised as Brahmins): teachers and priests;
  • the Kṣhatriyas: warriors, kings and administrators;
  • the Vaishyas: farmers, merchants, herdsmen and businessmen; and
  • the Shūdras: servants and labourers.

Each of these classes was called a varṇa, and the system was called Varna Vyavasthā.

Originally every caste was given equal importance. Later, as time passed, vested interests crept in. Caste, originally determined by the qualities and aptitudes of the individual, was made hereditary by self-interested people in positions of power and authority. As a result, some castes were made superior or "higher" and others inferior or "lower."[120] The caste system is likened to the class system, based on wealth, that is found in Europe. The caste system gradually expanded to include several sub-castes (jati), along with a class of outcastes (now known as Dalits) and the practice of social discrimination of the Shūdra and Dalit classes.

Today it is often debated whether the caste system is an integral part of the Hindu religion sanctioned by the scriptures or or is simply an outdated social custom.[2] The caste system is observed today especially among rural and uneducated Hindus; it is not observed as much in large cities, and the government of India has passed several laws attempting to remedy the problem of caste discrimination.[121]

The most ancient scriptures—the Shruti texts, or Vedas—place very little importance on the caste system, mentioning caste only rarely and in a cursory manner. Later scriptures, however, such as the Bhagavad Gītā (4.13) state that the four varṇa divisions are created by God, and the Manusmṛiti categorizes the different castes.[122]

However, at the same time, the Gītā says that one's varṇa is to be understood from one's personal qualities and one's work, not one's birth.[123] A hymn from the Rig Veda seems to indicate that one's caste is not necessarily determined by that of one's family:

"I am a bard, my father is a physician, my mother's job is to grind the corn." [124]

Thus, while the scriptures contain some passages that can be interpreted to sanction the caste system, they also contain indications that the caste system as it exists today is not sanctioned, and both sides in the debate are able to find scriptural support for their views.

Many social reformers, including Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), have criticized the problems caused by the degenerated caste system.[125] The saint and religious teacher Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886) taught that

"lovers of God do not belong to any caste . . . . A brahmin without this love is no longer a brahmin. And a pariah with the love of God is no longer a pariah. Through bhakti (devotion to God) an untouchable becomes pure and elevated."[126]

Ahimsa, vegetarianism, and the cow[edit]

Main articles: Ahimsa, Sacred cow and Vegetarianism

Hinduism advocates the practice of ahimsa—non-violence and respect for all forms of life—human as well as animal, because the divine soul is believed to permeate all.[127]The term ahimsa first appears in the Upanishads, and is the first of the five Yamas, or eternal vows/restraints in Raja Yoga. The influences of Buddhism and Jainism helped to enhance the importance of ahimsa.

Related to the concept of ahimsa, a large section of Hindus embrace vegetarianism in a bid to respect higher forms of life. While vegetarianism is not a dogma or requirement, it is recommended as a sattwic (purifying) lifestyle. About 30% of today's Hindu population are lacto-vegetarian, especially in orthodox communities in South India, states like Gujarat (which has had significant Jain influence), and in many Brahmin and Marwari enclaves around the subcontinent.[128] Some avoid even onion and garlic, as they are regarded as rajasic foods. Another 20% of the Hindu population practice vegetarianism on certain days, especially on holy days.

Hindus who do eat meat nevertheless generally abstain from beef. Some even avoid the use of cow's leather products. This is possibly because the largely pastoral Vedic people, and subsequent generations, relied so heavily on the cow for milk and dairy products, tilling of fields and fuel for fertilizer, that its status as a 'caretaker' led to identifying it as an almost maternal figure (hence the term gau mata, or Cow Mother). While most contemporary Hindus do not worship the cow (though many venerate her, as they do all life), the cow still holds an honored place in Hindu society as a symbol of unselfish giving. There exists a legal ban against cow-slaughter in almost all states of the Indian Union.[129]

Hindu festivals[edit]

Main article: Hindu festivals
Diwali a major Hindu Festival is also known as the "Row of Lights"

Hinduism has many festivals. Mark Twain, after visiting the Kumbh festival in the 1890s, wrote "It is wonderful. The power of faith like that can make multitudes of the old and the weak the young and the frail to enter without hesitation or complaint."

Some widely observed Hindu festivals are,

There are many additional festivals as well, some of which are celebrated primarily by certain denominations or in certain localities.[130]

Schools of Hindu philosophy[edit]

Main article: Hindu philosophy

The six Āstika or orthodox schools (those which accept the authority of the Vedas) of Hindu philosophy are Nyāya, Vaisheṣhika, Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Pūrva Mīmāṃsā (also simply called Mīmāṃsā), and Uttara Mīmāṃsā (also called Vedānta).[131] The six schools are known as "Shat Astik (Hindu) Darshana."

File:Yoga instructor.jpg
In Hinduism, Yoga is considered to be a way of attaining spiritual goals. The earliest written accounts of yoga appear in the Rig Veda, which began to be codified between 1500 and 1200 BCE.

The Heterodox Nāstika schools—those which do not rely on the authority of the Vedas—are Buddhism, Jainism and Lokāyata.

Although these philosophies are usually studied formally only by scholars, their influences can be found in many religious books and beliefs held by average Hindus.

Themes and symbols[edit]


Main article: Tilaka

The tilaka (or tilak) is a mark worn on the forehead and other parts of the body for spiritual reasons. Hindus traditionally wear tilaka, in one form or another, as a mark of faith in a particular tradition.[132] Hindus may wear tilaka always or especially on religious occasions. The shape of the tilaka often represents devotion to a certain deity. For example, a 'U' shape thilaka usually represents Vishnu and is commonly seen among Hare Krishna followers.

To denote marriage and auspiciousness, married women today commonly wear on the forehead a decorative dot, or bindī. In Southern India, this is called pottu (or bottu). Normally a red bindi or pottu is worn by married women. Among North Indian married woman, the red bindi is worn at the central upper portion of the forehead where the hair starts. Among South Indian married woman, the red pottu is worn at the centre between both the eyebrows.

It is common among South Indian unmarried woman or young girls to wear a black pottu to denote their status.


Vibhuti is the holy ash obtained from sacred puja rites involving fire. It is used on the forehead, normally as three horizontal lines representing Shiva. Some Hindus meld both the three horizontal vibhuti lines of Shiva and the 'U' shape thilaka of Vishnu in an amalgam marker signifying Hari-Hara (Vishnu-Shiva).


Among the most revered symbols in Hinduism, three are quintessentially a part of its culture, and representative of its general ethos:

Aum (or Om, ) is the sacred symbol that represents God (Brahman). It is prefixed and sometimes suffixed to all Vedic mantras and prayers. It is often said to represent God in the three aspects of Vishnu (A), Shiva (U) and Brahmā (M). As the divine primordial vibration, it represents the one ultimate reality, underlying and encompassing all of nature and all of existence. The written syllable serves as a deeply significant and distinctly recognizable symbol for Hindu dharma.

Swastika is a symbol connoting general auspiciousness. It may represent purity of soul, truth, and stability or, alternatively, Surya, the sun.[133] Its rotation in four directions has been used to represent many ideas, but primarily describes the four directions, the four Vedas and their harmonious whole. Its use in Hinduism dates back to ancient times. Nazism used a tilted version of this symbol[134] under the name Hakenkreuz, and associated it with the notion of "purity of race".

Sri Chakra Yantra or Yantra of Tripura Sundari (commonly referred to as Sri Yantra) is the most ubiquitous yantra in Hinduism. The Sri Yantra is a mandala primarily formed by nine interlocking triangles. Four of these triangles are orientated upright representing Shiva - the masculine. Five of these triangles are inverted triangles represent Shakti - the feminine. Together the nine triangles form a web symbolic of the entire cosmos, a womb symbolic of creation and together express non-duality. All other yantras are derivatives of this supreme yantra.

Classification of scriptures[edit]

Main article: Hindu scripture

The overwhelming majority of Hindu sacred texts are composed in the Sanskrit language. Indeed, much of the morphology and linguistic philosophy inherent in the learning of Sanskrit is sometimes claimed to be inextricably linked to study of the Vedas and relevant Hindu scriptures. Hindu scripture is called Shāstra. The scriptures may be divided into two parts: Shruti and Smriti.

Shruti (Vedic literature)[edit]

Main article: Śruti
The Rig Veda is one of the world's oldest religious texts. Shown here is a Rig Veda manuscript in Devanagari, early 19th century.

The Hindus refer to the Vedas (वेद, literally, "Knowledge") as Shruti (literally, "that which has been heard"), since they were handed down orally from teacher to disciple throughout many generations.[135] The Vedas are said to have been eternal truths originally realized in deep meditation by the ancient sages called Ṛiṣhis . Scholars have not been able to date the written form of the Vedas with much certainty, but even the most conservative scholars place them at 1200 B.C. or earlier.[136] While many modern Hindus may never read the Vedas, they revere the Vedas as the spiritual foundation out of which later, more widely-read scriptures (smriti) developed.

The Vedas have been divided in various ways. One simple way is to divide the Vedas into two sections according to their subject matter:

  1. The Karma Kānda ("the action part"), deals with karma, rituals, and sacrifices, the purpose of which is to attain material prosperity on earth and the benefits of heaven after death, and
  2. The Jnāna Kānda ("the knowledge part"), is concerned with the spiritual Knowledge that brings liberation from ignorance and realization of the Ultimate Truth. The Upanishads constitute a major portion of the Jnāna Kānda.[137]

The Upaniṣhads contain the bulk of the Vedas' philosophical and mystical teachings. The teachings of the Upanishads emphasize several key points (which are interpreted variously by various schools of thought):

  1. The deepest source of all reality, called Brahman, is identical with the innermost self of man (ātman).
  2. As long as one does not realize this relationship, one is subject to a seemingly endless round of rebirths (sansāra).
  3. A conscious realization of the essential identity of the ātman and Brahman leads to liberation from sansāra.[138]

See also: Shrauta


Main article: Smriti

The Hindu texts other than the Shrutis are called, as a group, the Smṛitis (lit., "memory"). All of them laud the Vedas. The most notable of the Smritis are the Itihāsas (epics), such as the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa, considered sacred by almost all Hindus. Also widely known are the eighteen Purāṇas ("ancient histories"). The Purāṇas (not historical in the usual Western sense) impart Vedic ideas through vivid narratives concerning various stories and adventures of various deities, and their interactions with humans. Prominent Purāṇas include the Srīmad Bhāgavatam, the Devī Mahātmya (an ode to God as the Divine Mother), the Yoga Sūtras (a key meditative yoga text by the sage Patañjali), the Tantras, and the Manusmṛiti, as well as the Mahanirvāṇa Tantra, Tirumantiram and Shiva Sūtras.

The Rāmāyaṇa, the Mahābhārata and many Purāṇas, which today's Hindus read far more widely than the Vedas, do much to inspire the temple and icon worship of modern Hinduism. Many Hindus attach more importance to the ethics and the metaphorical meanings derived from these texts than to the literal narratives themselves. Other important scriptures are the sectarian Hindu Āgamas, which are texts related to rituals and worship dedicated to Viṣhnu, Shiva and Devī. The Shruti is generally held to take precedence over the Smṛiti in any apparent dispute.[139]

Bhagavad Gita[edit]

Main article: Bhagavad Gita

Bhagavad Gītā (भगवद् गीता), often referred to as the Gītā, is one of the most popular sacred texts of Hinduism. It is an integral part of the epic Mahābhārata and contains philosophical sermons taught by Kṛiṣhṇa, an incarnation of Viṣhṇu, to the Pāṇḍava prince Arjuna just before a great war. The Bhagavad Gītā is described as the essence of the Vedas.[140]


  1. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism at 25 (Viveka Press 1994). For a survey of other theories regarding the origins of caste, see Elenanor Zelliot, "Caste in Contemporary India," in Contemporary Hinduism, Robert Rinehart, Ed. (2004) ISBN 1-57607-905-8
  2. ^ a b Caste System View of Scholars
  3. ^ Elenanor Zelliot, "Caste in Contemporary India," in Contemporary Hinduism, Robert Rinehart, Ed. (2004) ISBN 1-57607-905-8
  4. ^ M, Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Translation by Swami Nikhilananda 155 (Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 8th Printing 1992) TEST
  5. ^ See Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism at 26 (Viveka Press 1994)
  6. ^ Adherents
  7. ^ An Introduction to Hinduism, "The Origin of Hinduism" on
  8. ^ Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations by David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)
  9. ^ Osborne, E: "Accessing R.E. Founders & Leaders, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism Teacher's Book Mainstream.", page 9. Folens Limited, 2005
  10. ^ Klostermaier, K:"A Survey of Hinduism", page 1. SUNY Press, 1994.
  11. ^ See Gītā Dhyānam
  12. ^ See generally, Swami Bhaskarananda, The Essentials of Hinduism (Viveka Press 1994) ISBN 1-884852-02-5
  13. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Ritualistic Worship and Its Utility
  14. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Ritualistic Worship and Its Utility
  15. ^ See Swami Nikhilananda, The Upanishads: A New Translation, Vol. I (5th Ed. 1990) ISBN 0-911206-15-9.
  16. ^ Aitareya Upanishad 3.3
  17. ^ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5,
  18. ^ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10,
  19. ^ Chhāndogya Upanishad 6.8.7 et seq.
  20. ^ Chhāndogya Upanishad 3.14.1
  21. ^ Nrisimhauttaratāpini, cited in Swami Nikhilananda, The Upanishads: A new Translation Vol. I
  22. ^ See generally, Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda ISBN 81-85301-75-1
  23. ^ The presence of God within the heart of every living being is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita at 9.29, 15.15 and 18.61, which says that God is the source of inner direction and that it is through God's power alone that we have consciousness.
  24. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism (Viveka Press 1994) ISBN 1-884852-02-5
  25. ^ See generally, C.J. Fuller, The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India (Princeton 2004) ISBN 0-691-12048-X
  26. ^ Karel Werner, A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism at 80 (Curzon Press 1994) ISBN 0-7007-0279-2
  27. ^ Harman, William, "Hindu Devotion" 106 in Contemporary Hinduism, Robin Rinehard, ed. (2004) ISBN 1-57607-905-8
  28. ^ Harman, William, "Hindu Devotion" 104 in Contemporary Hinduism, Robin Rinehard, ed. (2004) ISBN 1-57607-905-8
  29. ^ Louis Renou, The Nature of Hinduism 55 (New York 1962)
  30. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hindusim 73-74 (Viveka Press 1994) ISBN 1-884852-02-5
  31. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hindusim 73-74 (Viveka Press 1994) ISBN 1-884852-02-5
  32. ^ Bhagavata Purana 2.3.1-9. [1]
  33. ^ C.J. Fuller, The Camphor Flame 32 (Princeton 2004) ISBN 0-691-12048-X
  34. ^ Bhagavad Gita, IV 7-8
  35. ^ Monier Williams, Religious Thought and Life in India 27 (New Delhi 1974)
  36. ^ Monier Williams, Religious Thought and Life in India 27 (New Delhi 1974)
  37. ^ Karl Werner, A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism at 37 (Curzon Press 1994) ISBN 0-7007-0279-2; Monier Williams, Religious Thought and Life in India 27 (New Delhi 1974); See also the Vedic statement "ayam ātmā brahma" (This Atman is Brahman).
  38. ^ Karl Werner, A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism at 37 (Curzon Press 1994) ISBN 0-7007-0279-2
  39. ^ Bhagavad Gita IX.20-21
  40. ^ Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda Vol III. 118-120; Vol. I. 6-7.
  41. ^ Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda Vol. I. 6-7.
  42. ^ Swami Harshananda, "A Bird's Eye View of the Vedas," in Holy Scriptures: A Symposium on the Great Scriptures of the World (2d Ed.) ISBN 81-7120-121-0
  43. ^ Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda Vol III. 118.
  44. ^ Sargeant, Winthrop, Introduction to The Bhagavad Gita at 3 (New York, 1984) ISBN 0-87395-831-4
  45. ^ Coulson, Michael, Sanskrit: An Introduction to the Classical Language (2d Ed. 1992) ISBN 0-8442-3825-2
  46. ^ Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda II.374 (18th Printing 1995) ISBN 81-85301-75-1
  47. ^ Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda II.365-74 (18th Printing 1995) ISBN 81-85301-75-1
  48. ^ Brahmachari Siddheshwar Shai v. State of West Bengal (Supreme Court of India), available at [2]
  49. ^ See Monier Williams, Religious Thought and Life in India 64, 66 (New Delhi 1974)
  50. ^ See Swami Nikhilananda, The Upanishads: A New Translation Vol. I, at 8 (5th ed. 1990) ISBN 0-911206-15-9
  51. ^ Karel Werner, A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism (Curzon Press 1994) ISBN 0-7007-0279-2
  52. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism (Viveka Press 1994) ISBN 1-884852-02-5
  53. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism (Viveka Press 1994) ISBN 1-884852-02-5
  54. ^ See Monier Williams, Religious Thought and Life in India 116 (New Delhi 1974)
  55. ^ Contemporary Hinduism, Rinehart, Robin (Ed.) (2004) ISBN 1-57607-905-8
  56. ^ See Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
  57. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism 132 ISBN 1-884852-02-5
  58. ^ Bhagavad Gita Ch. III, ISBN 1-56619-670-1
  59. ^ Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms II.29, English translation & commentary (side-by-side with original Sanskrit ) in Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda Vol.I, 29 ISBN 81-85301-75-1
  60. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Meditation: Mind & Patanjali's Yoga 7 (Viveka Press 2001) ISBN 1-884852-03-3
  61. ^ Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda Vol. I, 131 ISBN 81-85301-75-1
  62. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Meditation: Mind & Patanjali's Yoga 7 (Viveka Press 2001) ISBN 1-884852-03-3
  63. ^ See Patanjali's Yoga Sutras
  64. ^ Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms II.29, English translation (side-by-side with original Sanskrit) in Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda Vol.I, 29 ISBN 81-85301-75-1; See also Swami Bhaskarananda, Meditation: Mind & Patanjali's Yoga 37 (Viveka Press 2001) ISBN 1-884852-03-3 , citing Patanjali's Yoga Sutras
  65. ^ Mani, Vettam, Purāṇic Encyclopedia 898 (Delhi 1998) ISBN 81-208-0597-6
  66. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Meditation, Mind, and Patanjali's Yoga (Viveka Press 2001) ISBN 1-884852-03-3
  67. ^ Karel Werner, A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism (Curzon Press 1994) ISBN 0-7007-0279-2
  68. ^ See Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism 112 (Viveka Press 1994) ISBN 1-884852-0205
  69. ^ Swami Vivekananda, Vedanta, Voice of Freedom, Ed. Swami Chetanananda 71 ( 1990) ISBN 0-916356-63-9
  70. ^ SeeSwami Vivekananda, Vedanta, Voice of Freedom, Ed. Swami Chetanananda 71 ( 1990) ISBN 0-916356-63-9
  71. ^ Strictly speaking, no action is inherently good or bad. This concept is illustrated by Krishna's injunction to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gītā to fight in a battle against his own relatives, which Arjuna argued was wrong under any circumstances. Sri Krishna taught Arjuna that the rightness or wrongness of an action depends on the motivation with which it is performed, not on the nature of the action itself.
  72. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism, 79-86 (Viveka Press 1994) ISBN 1-884852-02-5
  73. ^ [[3]]
  74. ^ Bhagavad Gita II.22, ISBN 1-56619-670-1
  75. ^ See Bhagavad Gita XVI.8-20
  76. ^ See Swami Vivekananda, Jnana Yoga 301-02 (8th Printing 1993)
  77. ^ Rinehart, Robin, ed., Contemporary Hinduism19-21 (2004) ISBN 1-57607-905-8
  78. ^ Karel Werner, A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism 110 (Curzon Press 1994) ISBN 0-7007-0279-2
  79. ^ Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Translation by Swami Nikhilananda (8th Ed. 1992) ISBN 0-911206-01-9
  80. ^ "Does Hinduism Accept Newcomers?"
  81. ^ See Conversion to Hinduism
  82. ^ name=conversion>"Does Hinduism Accept Newcomers?"
  83. ^ Brahmachari Siddheshwar Shai v. State of West Bengal (Supreme Court of India), available at [4]
  84. ^ See Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism pp. 189-92(Viveka Press 1994) ISBN 1-884852-02-5
  85. ^ Swami Vivekananda, Vedanta: Voice of Freedom, Ed. Swami Chetanananda (1990) ISBN 0-916356-63-9
  86. ^ Michaels, Alex, Hindusim: Past and Present 137-42 (Princeton 2004) ISBN 0-691-08953-1
  87. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism 157 (Viveka Press 1994)
  88. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism 157 (Viveka Press 1994) ISBN 1-884852-02-5
  89. ^ See Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism 156 (Viveka Press 1994) ISBN 1-884852-02-5
  90. ^ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter II
  91. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism 137 (Viveka Press 1994) ISBN 1-884852-02-5
  92. ^ arcye viṣṇau śīlā-dhīr. . . narakī saḥ.
  93. ^ See Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism 107 (Viveka Press 1994)
  94. ^ See Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism 107 (Viveka Press 1994) ISBN 1-884852-02-5
  95. ^ Karel Werner, A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism (Curzon Press 1994) ISBN 0-7007-0279-2
  96. ^ "Mantra and Japa"
  97. ^ [[[Rig Veda]] 3.62.10
  98. ^ "Oldest City in the World"
  99. ^ Karel Werner, A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism at 121 (Curzon Press 1994) ISBN 0-7007-0279-2
  100. ^ "Hinduism" on Microsoft Encarta Online
  101. ^ Karl Werner, A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism (Curzon Press 1994) ISBN 0-7007-0279-2
  102. ^ Karl Werner, A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism at 73 (Curzon Press 1994) ISBN 0-7007-0279-2
  103. ^ "Hindu History" on names a bath and phallic symbols of the Harappan civilization
  104. ^ Hinduism: A religion with prehistoric roots
  105. ^ Demise of the Aryan Invasion Theory By Dr. Dinesh Agarwal
  106. ^ The Ṛgvedic deity Dyaus, regarded as the father of the other deities, is linguistically cognate with Zeus—the king of the gods in Greek mythology, Iovis (gen. of Jupiter)—the king of the gods in Roman mythology, and Ziu in Germanic mythology[5]. Other Vedic deities also have cognates with those found in other Indo-European speaking peoples' mythologies; see Proto-Indo-European religion.
  107. ^ A.L. Basham, Ed., A Cultural History of India (Oxford 1999) ISBN 0195639219
  108. ^ Sir Charles Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism,Vol. I (London 1954)
  109. ^ Robin Rinehart, Contemporary Hinduism 28 (2004) ISBN1-57607-905-8
  110. ^ A.L. Basham, Ed., A Cultural History of India (Oxford 1999) ISBN 0195639219
  111. ^ A.L. Basham, Ed., A Cultural History of India (Oxford 1999) ISBN 0195639219
  112. ^ A.L. Basham, Ed., A Cultural History of India (Oxford 1999) ISBN 0195639219
  113. ^ A.L. Basham, Ed., A Cultural History of India (Oxford 1999) ISBN 0195639219
  114. ^ J.T.F. Jordens, “Medieval Hindu Devotionalism,” in A.L. Basham, Ed., A Cultural History of India (Oxford 1999) ISBN 0195639219
  115. ^ Werner, Karl, A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism (Curzon Press 1994) ISBN 0-7007-0279-2; Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism 7
  116. ^ See Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism 7
  117. ^ "Tirupati temple"
  118. ^ S.S. Rama Rao Pappu, "Hindu Ethics", 165-68, in Contemporary Hinduism (2004) ISBN 1-57607-905-8
  119. ^ S.S. Rama Rao Pappu, "Hindu Ethics", 165-68, in Contemporary Hinduism (2004) ISBN 1-57607-905-8
  120. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism at 25 (Viveka Press 1994). For a survey of other theories regarding the origins of caste, see Elenanor Zelliot, "Caste in Contemporary India," in Contemporary Hinduism, Robert Rinehart, Ed. (2004) ISBN 1-57607-905-8
  121. ^ See Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism at 26 (Viveka Press 1994)
  122. ^ Manu Smriti Laws of Manu 1.87-1.91
  123. ^ This view is supported by records of great sages who became Brahmins. For example, the sage Vishvāmitra was a king of the Kṣhatriya caste, and only later became recognized as a great Brahmin sage, indicating that his caste was not determined by birth. Similarly, Vālmiki, once a low-caste robber, became a great sage. Veda Vyāsa, another sage, was the son of a fisherwoman Sabhlok, Prem. "Glimpses of Vedic Metaphysics". Page 21
  124. ^ Rig Veda 9.112.3
  125. ^ Elenanor Zelliot, "Caste in Contemporary India," in Contemporary Hinduism, Robert Rinehart, Ed. (2004) ISBN 1-57607-905-8
  126. ^ M, Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Translation by Swami Nikhilananda 155 (Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 8th Printing 1992) TEST
  127. ^ Monier-Williams, religious Thought and Life in India (New Delhi, 1974 edition)
  128. ^ Deep Vegetarianism (1999) by: Michael Allen Fox.
  129. ^ Krishnakumar, R. (August 30-September 12, 2003). "Beef without borders". Frontline (Narasimhan Ram). Retrieved 2006-10-07. 
  130. ^ For an expanded list, see end of this article.
  131. ^ name=Philosophy>"Schools of Philosophy"
  132. ^ Monier-Williams, Sir Monier; et al (1899). "A Sanskrit-English Dictionary". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2006-07-10.  Entry: tilaka
  133. ^ Karel Werner, A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism 147-48(Curzon Press 1994) ISBN 0-7007-0279-2
  134. ^ Karel Werner, A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism 147-48(Curzon Press 1994) ISBN 0-7007-0279-2
  135. ^ Swami Nikhilananda, The Upanishads: A New Translation Vol.I, at 3 (5th Ed. 1990) ISBN 0-911206-15-9
  136. ^ Swami Nikhilananda, The Upanishads: A New Translation Vol.I, at 7 (5th Ed. 1990) ISBN 0-911206-15-9
  137. ^ Swami Nikhilananda, The Upanishads: A New Translation Vol.I, at 3 (5th Ed. 1990) ISBN 0-911206-15-9
  138. ^ See Karel Werner, A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism 166 (Curzon Press 1994) ISBN 0-7007-0279-2; Monier-Williams, Religious Life and Thought in India 25-41 (New Delhi 1974)
  139. ^ "The Smritis" by Swami Sivananda
  140. ^ Sarvopaniṣado gāvo, etc. (Gītā Māhātmya 6). Gītā Dhyānam, cited in Introduction to Bhagavad-gītā As It Is.


  1. Read 150 Vedic scriptures online
  2. R. Balasubramanian, "Advaita Vedanta". History of Science, Philosophy, and Culture in Indian Civilization, vol. II, part 2, 2000.
  3. Thom Brooks, 'In Search of Shiva: Mahadeviyakka's Virashaivism', Asian Philosophy 12 (2002): 21-34.
  4. Mascaró, Juan (trans.). 2003. The Bhagavad Gita. Penguin Classics. 160-page revised edition (originally published in 1962), with preface by author and introduction by Dr. Simon Brodbeck. [6]
  5. Chaudhuri, Nirad C. 1979. Hinduism: A Religion to Live By. Chatto & Windus, London. ISBN 0-7011-2225-0
  6. Easwaran, Eknath (trans.). 1988. The Upanishads. Penguin Arkana.
  7. (Article on) Rigveda. Britannica Concise Encyclopedia
  8. Rigveda (English trans. by Griffith)
  9. "Hinduism" on Microsoft Encarta Online
  10. Bhagavad Gita
  11. Sinha, H. S., 1993, Bhāratīya Darshan Kī Rūparekhā (Hindi), Motilal Banarasidas, Delhi–Mumbai–Varanasi.
  12. Acharya, S. S., (Ed. & Hindi trans.), 2004, (Shukla) Yajurveda (Sanskrit with Hindi translation), Sanskriti Sansthan, Bareily.
  13. Acharya, S. S., (Ed. & Hindi trans.), 2004, Brihadāranyakopanishad (Sanskrit with Hindi translation), Sanskriti Sansthan, Bareily.
  14. Vanita R., "The self is not gendered: Sulabha's debate with King Janaka". NWSA Journal, Vol. 15, Iss. 2, pg. 76, 2003.
  15. René Guénon "Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines" ("Introduction générale à l'étude des doctrines hindoues", 1921)
  16. René Guénon "Man and His Becoming according to the Vedânta" ("L'homme et son devenir selon le Vêdânta", 1925)
  17. René Guénon "Studies in Hinduism" ("Études sur l'Hindouisme", 1966)
  18. Benjamin Walker Hindu World: An Encyclopedic Survey of Hinduism, (Two Volumes), Allen & Unwin, London, 1968; Praeger, New York, 1968; Munshiram Manohar Lal, New Delhi, 1983; Harper Collins, New Delhi, 1985; Rupa, New Delhi, 2005, ISBN 8129106701.

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