The vastness of Hinduism and some aspects of Indian culture have been systematically put together in this compact book Hinduism. It talks about the most revered gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon tells why Krishna is blue why is the cow sacred why do Hindu gods have so many arms and the like. A part from this ancient Indian sciences fairs and festivals Indian music musical instruments and dances and also tips on how to drive an elephant are discussed.
With such extensive information being compiled in a book like this Hinduism is the most reliable source of knowledge on the mentioned and related subjects.
Hailing from an illustrious family of Rajasthan Dharam Vir Singh after completing his post graduation in English Literature got involved, for some years with the capitol Records EMI group. His association with the travel trade for the past many years has taken him to destinations the world over. He specializes in researching and planning special interest tours and escorting them. He also organizes tours for the universities of California and Columbia as also for various American museums. He is also working on numerous interesting aspects of the history of Jaipur. This project has been placed on the selected list for the Rolex Awards, Geneva, Switzerland.
It is hard to define Hinduism. It is not a religion in a narrow sense associated with the word religion. Its comprehensiveness bypasses the human mind. No single approach is able to enunciate its basic concept and philosophy. In a very broad sense Hinduism is a way of life. From time immemorial, indigenous religious consciousness has continuously enriched it. It has been influenced by the aspirations and needs of the human society from time to time. It embraces the indigenous religions of India which have been modified almost continuously with the development of ideas and the needs of local communities. As a result Hinduism is a mixture of sects, cults and doctrines which have had a profound effect on Indian culture. In spite of this diversity there are a few of its aspects which do not rely in some way or the other on the authority of Indian religious literature the Vedas the Epics and the Puranas.
The Vedic gods who eventually became established in India may have been the result of the fusion of ideas brought by migrants and those of the indigenous people.
These deities were defined in the Vedas along with meticulous descriptions of the ceremonies that were intended to propitiate them.
There is a popular school of thought which disputes the theory of the migrants having brought in ideas and is of the opinion that Hinduism was highly developed much before. It is however nor within the scope of this book to go into this controversy.
It is evident from the Vedas that these deities were to a certain extent visualized as having human or animal forms. But it is not certain whether they were worshipped in the form of images. There remains the possibility important for its effect on the later development of images that some of the lower castes worshipped images in human or animal form and that this practice gradually spread upwards to the higher sections of society. At a much later period the Vedic deities were given human form and reproduced as images.
In response to the forces of development the old Vedic religion underwent several changes. These chiefly concerned the deities that were worshipped and the forms of ritual. Some deities changed their function or gained or lost popularity while the powers of mediation between the deity and the devotee became monopolized by the priests (Brahmins) who alone could perform the necessary rites and rituals. This made this deities remote and some the them acquired awesome aspects. Consequently while many of the old deities were relegated to minor positions in the pantheon others were elevated and new deities were introduced. Parallel with this and as a possible reaction against the strict orthodoxy of the priests the need gradually arose for a more satisfying relationship between the worshipper and the worshipped. This need for devotion (Bhakti) towards a personal god stimulated the desire for images which would make the deity more approachable. Their introduction was a slow uneven process and it is likely that images were made at first only of minor deities in the pantheon. One of the earliest references to images for worship is around the fifth century B.C. of the Yakshas (tree spirits) and Nagas (snake gods).
Further stimulus to a more personal relationship between gods and men was given by the two great epics of Indian literature the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The stories of these epics are secular in nature but they not only describe the feats of their heroes but refer to the influence that the gods had on their exploits. Thus the stories of the gods were supplemented and expanded as they were woven into the narratives and the heroes themselves got assimilated into Indian popular religion and became deified.
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