Hinduism

.. is taught that Vishnu is the supreme cause, thus identifying him with Brahma, and also that his special work is to preserve: In the beginning of creation, the great Vishnu, desirous of creating the whole world, became threefold; Creator, Preserver, Destroyer. In order to create this world, the Supreme Spirit produced from the right side of his body himself as Brahma; then, in order to preserve the world, he produced from his left side Vishnu; and in order to destroy the world, he produced from the middle of his body the eternal Shiva Some worship Brahma, others Vishnu, others Shiva; but Vishnu, one yet threefold, creates, preserves, and destroys: therefore let the pious makes no difference between the three. In pictures Vishnu is represented as a black man with four arms: in one hand he holds a club; in another a shell; in a third a chakra, or diseus, with which he slew his enemies; and in the fourth a lotus. He rides upon the bird Garuda, and is dressed in yellow robes. This deity is worshipped not only under the name and in the form of Vishnu, but also in one of his many incarnations.

Whenever any great calamity occurred in the world, or the wickedness of any of its inhabitants proved an unbearable nuisance to the gods, Vishnu, as Preserver, had to lay aside his invisibility, come to earth in some form, generally human, and, when his work was done, he returned again to the skies. There is no certainty as to the number of times he has become incarnate. Ten is the commonly received number, and these are the most important ones. Of these ten, nine have already been accomplished; one, the Kalki, is still future. Some of these Avatars are of an entirely cosmical character; others, however, are probably based on historical events, the leading personage of which was gradually endowed with divine attributes, until he was regarded as the incarnation of the deity himself. These are Fish (Matsya), Tortoise (Kurma), Boar (Varaha), Man-Lion (Narasimha), Dwarf (Vamana), Rama-with-the-Ax (Parasurama), King Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and the future incarnation, Kalki.

Preference for any one of these manifestations is largely a matter of tradition. Thus, Rama and Krishna are the preferred ones. The classical narrative of Rama is recounted in the Ramayana by the saga Valmiki, who is the traditional author of the epic. Rama is deprived of the kingdom to which he is heir and is exiled to the forest with his wife Sita and his brother Laksmana. While there, Sita is abducted by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka.

In their search for Sita, the brothers ally themselves with a monkey king whose general, Hanuman (who later became a monkey deity), finds Sita in Lanka. In a cosmic battle, Ravana is defeated and Sita rescued. When Rama is restored to his kingdom, Sita’s chastity while captive is doubted. To reassure them, Rama banishes Sita to a hermitage, where she bears him two sons and eventually dies by reentering the earth from which she had been born. Rama’s reign becomes the prototype of the harmonious and just kingdom, to which all kingdoms should aspire.

Rama and Sita set the ideal of conjugal love; Rama’s relationship to his father is the ideal of filial love; and Rama and Laksmana represent perfect fraternal love. In all but its oldest form, the Ramayana identifies Rama with Vishnu as another incarnation and remains the principle source for Ramaism (worship or Rama). In the Mahabharata, Krishna is primarily a hero, a chieftain of a tribe, and an ally of the Pandavas, the heroes of the Mahabharata. He accomplishes heroic feats with the Pandava prince Arjuna. Typically he helps the Pandava brothers to settle in their kingdom, and when the kingdom is taken from them, to regain it. In the process he emerges as a great teacher who reveals the Bhagavadgita, the most important religious text of Hinduism.

In the further development of the Krishna myth, it is found that as a child, Krishna was full of boyish pranks and well known for his predilection for milk and butter. He would raid the dairies of the gopies (milkmaids) to steal fruit, milk, and butter, and would accuse others for his misdeeds. Krishna is the most celebrated deity of the Hindu pantheon. He is worshipped as an independent god in his own right, but is also regarded as the eighth incarnation of Vishnu. In the course of life he was supposed to have had 16,108 wives and 180,008 sons. In the epic he is a hero, a leader of his people, and an active helper of his friends.

Shiva is the third person of the Hindu Trinity. As Brahma was Creator, Vishnu Preserver, in order to complete the system, as all things are subject to decay, a Destroyer was necessary and destruction is regarded as the peculiar work of Siva. It must be remembered that, according to the teachings of Hinduism, death is not death in the sense of passing into non-existence, but simply a change into a new form of life. He who destroys, therefore, causes beings to assume new phases of existence – the Destroyer is really the re-Creator; hence the name Siva, the Bright or Happy One, is given to him, which would not have been the case had he been regarded as the destroyer, in the ordinary meaning of that term. According to the ancient Indians, Shiva primarily must have been the divine representative of the fallow, dangerous, dubious, and much-to-be-feared aspects of nature. He is considered as the ultimate foundation of all existence and the source and ruler of all life, but it is not clear whether, Shiva is invoked as a great god of frightful aspect, capable of conquering impious power, or as the boon-giving Lord and protector. He is both terrible and mild, creator and agent of reabsorption, eternal rest and ceaseless activity. These contradictions make him an ironic figure, who transcends humanity and assumes a mysterious grandeur of his own.

His myths describe him as the absolute mighty unique One, who is not responsible to anybody or for anything. As a dancer, his pose expresses the eternal rhythm of the universe; he also catches the waters of the heavenly Ganges River, which destroys all sin; and he wears in his headdress the crescent moon, which drips the nectar of everlasting life. Sometimes in the act of trampling on or destroying demons, he wears around his black neck a serpent, and a necklace of skulls, furnished with a whole apparatus of external emblems, such as a white bull on which he rides, a trident , tiger’s skin, elephant’s skin, rattle, noose, etc. He has three eyes, one being on his forehead, in reference either to the three Vedas, or time past, present and future and in the end of time, he will dance the universe to destruction. It is said that without his consort Mother Goddess, no Hindu god is much use or value to anyone.

He may strut about, but his powers are limited. To be complete he requires a Devi, Goddess, who takes many different names and forms, but always embodies Shakti. In some myths Devi is the prime mover, who commands the male gods to do work of creation and destruction. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, all three have their own consorts. Sarasvati, the goddess of wisdom and science and, the mother of Vedas, is Brahma’s wife. She is represented as a fair young woman, with four arms; with one of her right hands, she is presenting a flower to her husband, by whose side she continually stands; and in the other she holds a book of palm-leaves, indicating that she is fond of learning.

In one of her left hands, she has a string of pearls, called Sivamala (Shiva’s garland) and in the other a small drum. Lakshmi, or very commonly known as Sri, is the wife of Vishnu. Sri, the bride of Vishnu, the mother of the world, is eternal, imperishable; as he is all-pervading, so she is omnipotent. Vishnu is meaning, she is speech; Hari is polite, she is prudence; Vishnu is understanding, she is intellect; he is righteousness, she is devotion; Sri is the earth, Hari is the support. In a word, of gods, animals, and men, Hari is all that is called male; Lakshmi is all that is termed female; there is nothing else than they.

Lakshmi is regarded as the goddess of Love, Beauty, and Prosperity and is also known as Haripriya, The beloved of Hari, and Lokamata, The mother of the world. Uma or Kali, is the consort of the Hindu god Shiva in her manifestation of the power of time. As Shiva’s female consort and a destructive mother goddess, she inherits some of Shiva’s most fearful aspects. She is frequently portrayed as a black, laughing, naked hag with blood stained teeth, a protruding tongue, and a garland of human skulls. She usually has four arms: One hand holds a sword, the second holds a severed human head, the third is believed by her devotes to be removing fear, and the third is often interpreted as granting bliss.

Kali is beyond fear and finite existence and is therefore believed to be able to protect her devotees against fear and to give them limitless peace. The canon of Hinduism is basically defined by what people do rather than what they think. Consequently, far more uniformity of behaviour than of belief is found among Hindus, although very few practices or beliefs are shared by all. A few usuages are observed by almost all Hindus: reverence for Brahmans and cows; abstention from meat (especially beef); and marriage within caste (jati), in the hope of producing male heirs. Most Hindus worship Shiva, Vishnu, or the Goddess (Devi), but they also worship hundreds of additional minor deities peculiar to a particular village or even to a particular family.

Although Hindus believe and do many apparently contradictory things, each individual perceives an orderly pattern that gives form and meaning to his or her own life. No doctrinal or clerical hierarchy exists in Hinduism, but the intricate hierarchy of the social system (which is inseparable from the religion) gives each person a sense of place within the whole. Religion.

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