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Unpacking Hindu traditions that scour the land of Kerala

With 54.83% of Kerala’s population identifying themselves as Hindus, Hinduism is the largest religion in Kerala. The mythical tales surrounding Kerala's origins are rooted in Hinduism. Kerala yielded a range of saints and religious movements. Born in Kerala, Adi Shankara was a religious theologian who made a significant contribution to Hinduism and spread the Advaita ideology. He was a driving force behind the establishment of four mathas in Sringeri, Dwarka, Puri, and Jyotirmath. Another religious person who authored Narayaniyam, a selection of verses in admiration of the Hindu deity Krishna, was Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri. Kerala is home to a variety of Hindu practices. In Kerala, various Shiva and Vishnu sects exist. Lord Krishna is extensively revered throughout Kerala, with Guruvayur Temple being among the most well-known temples for the worship of Lord Krishna. The Hindu texts that are commonly studied in Malayalee traditions are the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, the Puranas and the Upanishads. 


The Vedas

The Vedas are a collection of Hindu scriptures that date back to the Vedic era in North India. The texts, written in Vedic Sanskrit psalms, are the earliest form of Sanskrit literature and the earliest Hindu writings that exist . The Vedas are considered 'Apauruseya' by Hindus, which implies "not of a man, but spiritual, impersonal, and authorless." In Hinduism, information in the Vedas is thought to be immortal, transcendent, and not composed by a sentient or heavenly source, but rather seen, heard, and conveyed by sages. The Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda are the four Vedas.


The Bhagavad Gita

The Gita is framed by a conversation between Pandava prince Arjuna and his mentor Krishna. Arjuna is concerned by an intellectual and spiritual predicament about the violence and bloodshed that the righteous war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas will end up causing. He is unsure whether he should abandon the war,  and thus, seeks Krishna's advice, the answers to which form the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna is advised by Krishna to "complete his Kshatriya (warrior) responsibility to enforce his Dharma" through Karma’s "altruistic acts." The Krishna-Arjuna interactions encompass a wide range of transcendental subjects, including moral dilemmas and metaphysical concerns that extend far beyond the war Arjuna is facing.


The Puranas 

The Puranas are an extensive category of Hindu literary works that encompass a broad variety of topics encyclopedically, especially mythology and other classical folk tales. Many of these scriptures, mainly written in Sanskrit but also in local dialects, are titled after prominent Hindu deities including Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, and Goddess Devi. There are 18 Maha Puranas and 18 Upa Puranas (Minor Puranas)


The Upanishads

The Upanishads are a compilation of Hindu texts that comprise some of Hinduism's fundamental theoretical constructs. The Upanishads are also known as Vedanta, which can indicate either "the last passages, segments of the Veda" or "the element, the highest intention of the Veda." Brahman (Ultimate Reality) and Atman (Soul, Self) are prominent concepts in all the Upanishads. 


FAQ’s: 


Q1. Who are the most prominent Hindu deities that are worshiped in Kerala? 


The most prominent Hindu deities that are revered in Kerala are Lord Vishnu and Shiva and Brahma. There are many cults and literary pieces that can be attributed to these deities. 


Q2. Who is Adi Shankara? What is he known for? 


Adi Shankara is a renowned scholar and philosopher in Hindu traditions, who was born in the state of Kerala. He is known for creating the Advaita Vedanta school of philosophy in India.