Considered the oldest religion in the world, Hinduism comprises several traditions, ancient texts, beliefs, practices, rituals, and philosophies. Here are a few lesser-known Hinduism facts that you need to know.
Hinduism is a way of life and the world’s 3rd largest religion after Christianity and Islam. With more than 1.25 billion global followers, it is an amalgamation of different philosophies and traditions without any specific origin or founder. According to CNN, the term Hinduism is derived from the Sanskrit term Hindu meaning “dwellers by the Indus river.”
The various sacred Sanskrit texts have helped in spreading the religion across the globe through ritual and arts. Hinduism has created a serious impact on Southeast Asian culture since the 4th century CE.
Interesting Hinduism facts you probably not know:
– There is no central religious body or formal religious institution in Hinduism. This is one of the most unique Hinduism facts.
– Various aspects of Hinduism like Vedic knowledge, Ayurveda, Yoga and even hypnotism is considered as a way of life and not superstition.
– Hinduism is believed to be the founder of the institution of marriage.
– Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages in existence. Vedic Sanskrit can be traced back to the 2nd millennium BCE and considered as the mother of all languages.
– The Nasadiya Sukta or the Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda mentions the Universe beginning from a point (Bindu) through heat. The notion closely resembles the scientific idea of the Big Bang theory.
– Unlike most other religious philosophies, Hinduism considers evolution as a means for the creation of life by God through the various forms of the Dashavatara.
– Angkor Wat, the largest religious structure worldwide, is a Hindu temple in Cambodia. With an area of 402 acres, it was constructed as a temple of Lord Vishnu for the Khmer Empire.
– Hindu astronomers and mathematicians are the first to define Zero and its functions. A Hindu temple in Gwalior, India contains an inscription believed to be the oldest recorded citation of zero, according to the University of Oxford.
- Around 15 to 16% of the world’s population are Hindus.
- Over 79.8% of the Indian population, which accounts for 966 million people, are Hindus.
- About 0.7% of the US population identify themselves as Hindus.
- Around 94% of the global Hindu population resides in India.
There is no clear origin
Hinduism does not have a founder or even a founding event. The religion evolved from various religious and cultural changes in India. “Hinduism has no definite starting point,” writes Professor Gavin Flood for the BBC. He adds “The traditions which flow into Hinduism may go back several thousand years and some practitioners claim that the Hindu revelation is eternal.”
It is the oldest religion
Hinduism is believed to be the oldest religion in the world with its traditions dating back over 4,000 years. According to the BBC, the Vedic Period, when the Vedas were primarily being written, was circa 1500 – 500 BCE, whereas the Indus Valley Civilisation existed before 2000 BCE.
There is only ONE Divine spirit
- Hinduism is mostly henotheistic. Although there are 33 Million Gods and Goddesses in the Hindu pantheon, the Hindus firmly believe that all divinities are avatars or forms of the single universal spirit known as Brahman. The Trimurti or the Hindu Trinity of Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer) are the most crucial representations of Brahman. This is one of the most enlightening Hinduism facts you must know about.
The Vedas are the oldest religious texts
There is no single religious text or doctrine that is considered the ultimate in Hinduism as there are different beliefs, theologies, and sects. The Vedas are the oldest Hindu Sanskrit scriptures. There are 4 Vedas, namely:
The Rig Veda is believed to be the first among all the 4 Vedas. The Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita are the two other important religious texts in Hinduism.
One of the Dharmic traditions
Hinduism, along with Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, comprises the “Dharmic” or “Indic” traditions. This is one of the least known Hinduism facts. In fact, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism have all originated from the primary religion of Hinduism. In fact, Gautama Buddha is the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. All 4 religions share similar perspectives, philosophies and spiritual and religious understandings like karma, dharma, moksha and samsara.
Worshiping male, female & animal forms of the Divine
According to Hinduism, Brahman can take different forms, hence they worship the universal Divinity in male and female and animal forms. The female form of the Divine is identified as Devi, an avatar of Shakti, the creative force. Some prominent forms and Gods resemble certain animals like Lord Ganesha and Lord Hanuman. Every single form contains a spiritual symbolic meaning.
The cycle of birth & rebirth
According to History.com, “Hindus believe in the doctrines of samsara (the continuous cycle of life, death, and reincarnation) and karma (the universal law of cause and effect).” Karma or good or bad deeds in past lives is believed to determine our present life conditions. As the soul or atman is eternal, it reincarnates after death. We can improve our conditions through our deeds and behavior. The cycle of rebirth stops when the soul achieves moksha and unites with the divine soul.
The margas or yogas are believed to be the path to salvation. The Vedanta explains there are 4 margas or yogas, namely-
- Karma Yoga – The path of selfless service
- Jnana Yoga – The path of wisdom, knowledge & intellectual understanding
- Bhakti Yoga – The path of devotion to God
- Raja or Dhyana Yoga – The path of self-discipline through meditation
Acknowledging various aspects of Brahman
Hinduism venerates various aspects of the Divine. Brahman has different manifestations for specific qualities. Hence, Hindus worship different Gods and Goddesses for each particular quality. Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, is worshipped for his great wisdom; Goddess Lakshmi represents prosperity; and Goddess Saraswati represents learning and arts.
Worshiping idols to understand the Divine
Idolatry or the worship of an idol is a crucial aspect of Hinduism. However as God is formless, Hindus worship an idol or a statue as it allows the mind to comprehend the infinite. As our mind needs an object to focus on, idolatry acts as a physical representation of God. It is not that Hinduism suggests worshipping idols as Gods themselves, but as a representation that allows Hindus to focus their prayers on. It is a way to visualize & meditate on Brahman.
10. The concept of time, Yuga & Kalpa
According to Hinduism, time is divided into 4 Yugas. Maha Yuga or Chatur Yuga is an epoch where eternal cyclic time repeats certain events. Every cycle consists of 4 dharmic ages or yugas, namely:
- Satya Yuga
- Treta Yuga
- Dvapara Yuga
- Kali Yuga
After the end of Kali Yuga, or the apocalyptic era, a new cycle of time will begin. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, these four yugas form the maha yuga and 2,000 mahayugas create the basic cosmic cycle, known as the Kalpa. One Kalpa is 4.32 billion years, which is equal to a “day of Brahma.” The concept of Yuga is one of the most fascinating Hinduism facts one must know.
However, that’s not all. There are many more facts about Hinduism that most of us don’t have much knowledge about. Here are some other quick Hinduism facts you should learn:
– Hinduism believes in the existence of the soul of atman. All living beings have a soul and are connected to the Supreme Being.
– Hindus worship and respect all creatures and the cow is considered as a sacred animal.
– Hinduism gives special attention to food. It is believed having a Sattvic Diet or pure vegetarian food cleanses the soul.
– Accomplishing Dharma is crucial to Hindus. It is a way of life which focuses on good conduct and morality.
– Hinduism consists of four different sects namely Shaivism (worshippers of Shiva), Vaishnava (worshippers of Vishnu), Shaktism (worshippers of Devi) and Smarta (worshippers of Brahman).
– Hinduism has several sacred festivals and holidays like Diwali, Navaratri, Holi, Krishna Janmashtami, Maha Shivaratri etc.
– Hinduism is considered to be Polytheist, Monotheist, Atheist and Henotheistic at the same time. Hinduism is the only religion to include atheism in its belief system.
– 108 is the holiest number in Hinduism. It is the ratio of Sun’s distance from earth/Sun’s diameter and Moon’s distance from earth/Moon’s diameter.
– Pursuing wealth is not considered to be sin, unlike in most other religions. In fact, there are specific Gods for celebrating wealth like Vishnu, Kubera, Ganesha and Lakshmi.
– There are 4 different levels of hierarchy in Hinduism – Dharma (righteousness), Artha (prosperity), Kama (pleasure), and Moksha (liberation).
– One of the most easily missed Hinduism facts is that there is no concept of conversion in this religion. Individuals are either born as Hindus or willingly practice the faith.
– The Mahabharata, one of the 2 main Sanskrit epics of ancient India, has 1.8 million words and over 74,000 verses. It is the longest epic which has the longest poem in the world.
– Apart from India, Hinduism is prevalent in many other countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and some other Southeast Asian nations.
– Yoga, the globally popular physical, mental, and spiritual practice, was founded in ancient India and is a part of Āstika schools of Hindu philosophical traditions.
– Hinduism is highly flexible and adaptive. The religion has changed and reformed overtime to eliminate practice like Sati, to make religious practices more acceptable and better.
– Attaining salvation is the ultimate goal of all Hindus.
– Saffron is the most sacred color in Hinduism as it symbolizes fire and purity. The saffron flag is widely used in Hindu temples. This is one of the least known Hinduism facts.
– In Hinduism, the lotus flower represents good fortune, eternity, and Goddess Lakshmi. Even in Buddhism, Gautama Buddha is mostly seen sitting atop a lotus. The flower symbolizes enlightenment, purity, prosperity, peace, and happiness.
– The river Ganges is considered to be spiritually pure and sacred in Hinduism. It is a manifestation of the Goddess Ganga. Hindus believe bathing in the river will wash away their sins. This is also one of the most fascinating Hinduism facts.
– In Hinduism, Kumbh Mela is the largest spiritual gathering across the world. It is a religious festival that has been awarded the status of cultural heritage by UNESCO.
– Hinduism respects and acknowledges other religions as it believes that there are many paths to the Divine truth.