One of the main questions I get from people in Norway regarding India is about religion. It seems to be some kind of a perception that Indians are very religious and that this play a very important part of their daily life.
Like most other things in India, I don’t think there is really any black or white answer to this. The religious part of India is much more complex than such. First of all it is not the case that everyone in India is Hindus. India has the third largest population of Muslims, if my sources are correct. And there are also quite a few people of other religions too.
So what is Hinduism all about then? Even after two years in Mumbai, I think it is difficult to pinpoint. So during one of my trips to a local bookshop (I have quite many of those) I picked up a small book in Norwegian called Hva er Hinduisme (what is Hinduism). I found the book so good and interesting that I decide to translate parts of it. The book is written by Professor Knut A. Jacobsen, and I’m sure he knows exactly what he writes about. So any mistakes you might find here is due to my translation.
The word “Hinduism” was created by Europeans who wanted to understand the religion in India. The Christians used it first, but the Hindus later adopted it as a word for their religion. The word “Hindu” was created by the Iran is and meant “people living east of the river Indus”. The word “Hinduism” is then a construction as such, but it points to ancient old religious traditions.
Hinduism has a different perception of Gods than what there is in Christianity. The Vishnu its believes that Vishnu is the highest God while the Shiva its believe that Shiva is the highest God. But they still believe in the same. In Hinduism it is also possible that different Gods can act together. There is not only one superior God. Some people say that before the word Hinduism was created it was not seen as one but rather many different religions. Hinduism is not a religion where you have one founder or one holy book. And it is not a religion where you have one specific church or a set of doctrines. It is a mosaic that has been created with more and more areas have been integrated into a religious network.
The different regional versions of Hinduism are connected to a vast number of languages and cultures. This means that the same God or Goddess can have different names in different places but still be the same God, if you kind of understand what I mean.
Holy places and pilgrimage trips to those places are important part of the Hinduism. I have already written about Kumbh Mela, which is the biggest religious festival in the world. And you can also read more about some of the Holy places like Nasik and Varanasi
I hope this small blog post have given you some introduction to Hinduism. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask or comment. I will do my best to answer.
Talk to you soon!