Hinduism, unlike many other religions such as Christianity, does not have one person who developed and promoted
it. It consists of the principles and practices of thousands of religious groups that are indigenous to India and the surrounding
countries. It was established in 1500 BCE and is believed to be the world's oldest organized religion.
Although many people classify Hinduism as Trinitarian or Polytheistic the most accurate classification of
Hindus is Henotheistic. Henotheistic means that they recognize only one power or deity (Brahma) but acknowledges other powers
as other sides of the all-mighty ruler.
One of the most important Hindu beliefs is the "Transmigration of the Soul". This is similar to
reincarnation. Called samsara, it is the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth over and over again. Karma, the total sum of good
and bad deeds in your lifetime, determines if you will be reborn at a higher or lower level in your next life. If, after many
lives, the sum of your good deeds is very high, you may be able to escape samsara, which is considered the ultimate goal of
all humankind, called moksa. Sins will transfer you to be reborn at a lower level, or if you were really bad, to an animal.
Any unfairness in the world is seen to Hindus as deserved and natural punishment for sins in your previous life.
There are four goals of Hinduism. Moksa is the most important of them, and them comes dharma, which is righteousness
in religion, artha, which is material and economic success, and kama, which is contentedness and mental success.
Hindus are typically known for being very tolerant of other faiths. A Hindu saying is, "The truth is
One, but different Sages call it by Different Names." Said by Ekam Sataha Vipraha Bahudha Vadanti.
For centuries, the Hindu caste system was a major judicial, political, and social power in India and Nepal.
Here's how it worked:
Each Hindu belonged to one of the thousands of communities, called Jats. The Jats were grouped into four
social classes which determined where they could work, who they could marry, and what punishment they got for crimes they
committed (ex. Bramins where exempt from the death penalty). Around 1000 BCE, it was possible to, through hard work, to move
between castes. Then, suddenly for unknown reasons, the system became unbendingly rigid. The Jat you were born in, you died
in. The four castes are:
Bramins- The highest caste. They were priests and academics
Kshatrias (Chetris)- They were the rulers and the military
Vaishyas (Basya)- They were the farmers, landlords, and merchants
Sudras- The lowest caste. They were the peasants, servants, and workers in non-polluting jobs.
The other classification was Dalit. They were the untouchables, the outcasts (literally). These people worked
in what was considered "polluting jobs". They were forbidden from coming in contact with any member of the other
four castes. In some places, even having contact with their shadow was considered polluting. Many Dalit have converted to
other religions in the recent years.
The caste system is still intact today, although the rules are not quite as strict. It is illegal to discriminate
against the untouchables. All castes are treated equally by law, and the only segregation takes place socially.