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Introduction:

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions of the world. It has about 900 million followers, mostly based in India.

Beliefs and practices:

Hinduism is very diverse, in both belief and practice. There are a number of sects and subsects, each of which have their own unique beliefs. One common thread that links most of hindus is belief in the infallibility of the vedas, and the system of four Varnas (divisions of society based on function, including the learned men or Brahmanas, the administrators or Kshatriyas, the mercantile class or Vaishyas and those who serve these three or Shudras) and four Ashrams (stages of life, including Brahmacharya or student, Grihastha or householder, Vanaprastha or retired and Sanyasa or renunciate stage).

Hindus believe in a variety of Gods. Most Hindus believe in the impersonal reality called Brahman that lies behind all existance. This Brahman is manifested in three forms of God: the creator Brahma, the preserver Vishnu and the destroyer Shiva. The creation can be divided into Purusha, the primeaval man and his feminine nature or Shakti, manifested in the mother Goddess. Most hindus believe that different religions or spiritual beliefs are paths to the same Truth or God.

Indeed, hinduism is more than a religion: it is a complete way of life, encompassing music, culture, food, elaborate rituals etc that govern human life from the time of birth till death and cremation. Hindus believe in the doctorines of Karma and rebirth.

Sub-divisions:

There are a number of sects and subsects in hinduism, each having its own unique identity.

Hindus can be divided into three broad subdivisions. The Vaishnavas are worshippers of Lord Vishnu, or Krishna, as the supreme Godhead. The Shaivites are worshippers of Shiva, and the Smartas are the believers of Brahman. There are many hindus who worship Shakti or Durga as the mother goddess. Many hindus are followers of some of the more recent gurus or reformers.

Scriptures:

The Bhagavad Gita (song of the divine) is the principal scripture of the Hindus. Hindus believe in the four Vedas as divinely inspired books of knowledge.

Festivals:

Hinduism is a religion of festivals. Each day of the calendar could be celebrated as a festival of one of the sects of Hinduism. However, the principal festivals of Hindus are Diwali (festival of lights, celebrated in November), Holi (festival of colours, celebrated in March), Dusshera (commemorating killing of Ravana), Janmashtami (birthday of Krishna), Ram Navami (birthday of Rama) etc.

Dietary requirements:

All hindus do not eat beef, as the cow is considered sacred by Hindus. Many hindus, especially Vaishnavas, are vegetarian.

Other restrictions/ customs:

Hindus are generally conservative and like to dress modestly. After death, hindus are creamated, not buried.

Manchester Contacts:

Gita Bhavan Hindu Temple

National Hindu Students Forum Manchester