Hinduism is believed to be the oldest of major religions of the world. Hinduism believes that there is only one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, bothCreator and Unmanifest Reality, called “Brahman or Paramatma (not to be confused with Brahma of Trinity).” However, it does not advocate the worship of any one particular deity; therefore Hinduism cannot be compared with any particular belief system. Hinduism is a collection of religious, philosophical, and cultural ideas and practices that originated in India that is in continuity and in perpetual evolution even today. Unlike other religions, Hinduism is a way of life (Dharma) focused on Karma, the law of cause and effect, that allows freedom from the circle of life and death, Hindu believes in reincarnation, and eventually a Moksha, an union with the Supreme Being (Paramatma). Hinduism considers all life to be sacred therefore requires every man to practice Ahimsa (not to be confused with non-violence), restrict thinking and speaking of ill words, and killing of any life-form.
Sometimes during the era of the great sages Valmiki and Vyasji, Hinduism redefined Supreme Being and introduced a new concept of Trinity, the most fundamental of Hindu deities, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – creator, preserver and destroyer respectively. The Trinity collectively represents the Only One, the Supreme Being. The sages found it as an easier explanation to common Hindu worshiper.
Each deity has a consort. Creator Brahma needed knowledge, therefore Saraswati, Goddess of Knowledge, became his consort. Preserver Vishnu needed wealth, therefore Laxmi, Goddess of Wealth became his consort and Destroyer Shiva needed Strength, therefore Parvati, Goddess of Shakti (Strength) became his consort.
Today, Hindu worships three main deities, Vishnu, Shiva and Shakti. Their followers are known as Vaishnava, Shivaism and Shakti-ism. Both, Vishnu and Shakti have been associated with Avatars (not to be confused with re-incarnation) to give platform to the section of Hinduism that worship Father God and Mother God.
Hindu also worships other forms of God, such as Ganesha, an elephant headed God, Hanuman, a monkey God. At some point in Hinduism, the sages wanted to stop killing of life-form other than human. Therefore they introduced non-human, from animal kingdom, life-forms with each deity to protect them. Killing of protected life-forms would have angered the relative deity and could have brought curse on the killer. Such message was much powerful that forced the Hindu to practice Ahimsa.
Hindu cremate their body after death because according to Hinduism the human body is made of five part, earth, water, fire, air and ether. The human body becomes lively when soul enters and becomes dead when soul departs. The body has no other function but to provide temporary housing for the soul and therefore by cremating the body the organic remains become part of the nature. One bigger advantage of cremation is that it destroys any diseases a person had prior to death, it brings closure to the family and it does not require large cemeteries.
Hinduism must be very old if we consider arguments from Arun K. Bansal and Prof. N.S. Rajaram. According to their theory, Lord Krisha was born July 21, 3228 BC. Lord Krishna is the eight Avatar of Lord Vishnu. Does that mean Hinduism predates all other theories? What is interesting is the story of Bhimketka paintings, that dates back to 30,000 years. In the epic of Ramayana and Mahabharata, the exact birth date is recorded for Lord Rama and Lord Krishna. We know now that in order to have such calendar, one must possess knowledge of stars position and movements in space, science to confirm such movements, and mathematics to calculate such complex information. What kind of knowledge they had? How long did it take them to finalize their calculation that is an absolute fact even today?
Photo courtsey of: wikipedia
Interesting reading about Hinduism by Huston Smith: