Date: Nov 13, 2019
Category: Philosophy Essay
A Religious Social Role

Hinduism is the national Indian religion and one of the major world religions. Hinduism appeared on the Indian subcontinent, and more than 90 % of people, who practice this religion, live in the Republic of India. Apart from that, the communes of Hindu exist in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Republic of South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana. The current paper will research the main features of Hinduism, the role of women in Hindu families and goddesses in religion, and the influence of Hinduism on society.

Hinduism embraces a wide range of beliefs and rites. Its tolerance to the various religious forms is almost unique among the world religions. There is no church hierarchy, no supreme authority; Hinduism is a completely decentralized religion. In contrast to Christianity or Islam, Hinduism had no founder, whose study was disseminated by the followers. The greatest part of the fundamental regulations of Hinduism was formulated at the time of Christ, but its background is more ancient. Some of the gods, who are worshipped by the Hindus today, where the worship of their ancestors almost 5000 years ago. Hinduism was constantly developing, absorbing and interpreting religions and beliefs of different nations, with which it had contact.

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The Main Features of Hinduism

“Hinduism is not a tradition but rather a blanket term invented to account for various traditions, e.g. Vedānta, Śaiva, Vaişņava, Śākta, etc”. It is a rank of different rites. However, there are some certain fundamental regulations on the basis of all these traditions.

The fate of the soul in every new life depends on its behavior in the former incarnations. By the law of karma, every sin will be punished, every virtue will be awarded. If a person did not get a deserved penalty or award in this life, he/she would get it in another one. The behavior of the individual determines whether the soul will achieve the higher or the lower status in the following incarnation; it depends on the person, whether he/she will be born as a human, a god, or a worthless insect in the future.

The fate of the soul in every new life depends on its behavior in the former incarnations. By the law of karma, every sin will be punished, every virtue will be awarded. If a person did not get a deserved penalty or award in this life, he/she would get it in another one. The behavior of the individual determines whether the soul will achieve the higher or the lower status in the following incarnation; it depends on the person, whether he/she will be born as a human, a god, or a worthless insect in the future.

For the majority of Hindus, the assembly of gods is an important component of religious beliefs. Hinduism numbers hundreds of deities from minor gods of local value to great gods, whose deeds are known in every Indian family. The most famous of them are Krishna or Rama, Brahma, the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer.

The Hindu scriptures play a significant role in all the varieties of Hinduism. ‘Philosophic Hinduism’ makes an account of such classic sacred texts as Vedas and Upanishads. Folk Hinduism, venerating both, Vedas and Upanishads, uses as Sanskrit texts the epic poems of Ramayana and the Mahabharata, often in translation from the Sanskrit to local languages. The part of the Mahabharata, Bhagavadgita, is known almost by every Hindu. Bhagavadgita is the closest one that can be referred to as the general Hindu scripture.

Women in Hinduism

A family in a tote and a woman particularly are highly important in Hinduism. Women have the same rights as men; they are identified with the religion and the Divine Mother. Though the woman's traditional behavior and duties (strīdharma), and especially through her chastity and loyalty to her husband, her role as a mother, her telling of exemplary epic stories, her fasts for the welfare of all, and her deep piety – she has given the family it's social and cosmic mooring.

However, this perception of a woman exists only in theory. In practice, men dominate women. When the husband dies, his wife is supposed to live with their son and other relatives. Even nowadays, a widow has to suffer and bear hardships up to the end of her life.

In the Hindu families, people prefer to pray to Vishnu and Shiva, or one of the Shakti (Sakta), the consort of Shiva or the womanhood of the god. For those people, who worship Shakti, these goddesses embody the active force of their spouse. Shakti in Hinduism symbolizes force, power, and energy; she is also called the Mother Goddess. That is why women are respected and appreciated in the families as aspects of the Divine Mother.

The Divine Mother has a lot of shapes: Parvati, Uma or Annapurna she is a beautiful woman but she can look furious and offensive as Durga, Kali, Chamunda, or Chandi. Durga is the fighter with a fierce face; riding a tiger, her eighteen arms carrying mortal weapons in her hands. She “represents the power of the supreme being that preserves moral order and righteousness in creation”.

Kali is the coal-black giantess, the “goodness of time, doomsday, and death”. She is associated with diseases, death, and destruction, but at the same time, she protects those people who believe in her. The Divine Service includes the animal offering; Kali is often honored as Matri – the Mother of the world.

The names of Kali, Durga, Chamunda, and others are associated with the practice of human sacrifice and cannibalism, which were the part of Tantric rites of the Sakta worshippers of Devi, the Mother-goddess. The tantric sects in their initiation ceremonies break the orthodox prohibitions, such as meat-eating and alcohol drinking or taboo upon lechery. Tantrism prefer magical rituals and repetition of mystical incantations (mantras) because they believe it to be the best way to salvation.

Besides the worship of the female deities, a woman is honored only if she is a wife, a mother or a daughter. A woman is under the protection of her husband, son or father. However, even today Hindu women in India have fewer rights and permissions than men. A woman is perceived as a part of a man.

The Social Role of Hinduism

Hinduism is highly important for most Indian families. It helps to understand the purpose of life and the main goals in it. According to Hindu scriptures, there are four aims of life: dharma, artha, kama, and moksha. The first aim calls to do religious duties and to live a moral life. It motivates the followers of Hinduism because it helps them to get a good rebirth in the future.

The second aim is to succeed in work and donate to the wealth of society. The third aim is to have a healthy and fulfilled life and to receive pleasure. The fourth aim is to achieve moksha. It means that the soul reunites with Brahman, and the second life begins. All these aims together inspire the adherents to live merited religious and social life.

Hinduism brings both benefits and disadvantages to society. In contemporary India, it is mostly used as political interference in people’s lives. The government chose Hinduism for major state intervention because the overwhelming majority of the population are Hindus, so the Indian Parliament became a Hindu Parliament. It means that the Parliament uses Hinduism for its own political purposes. The non-Hindus have minor rights due to this legislation.

The same situation is with women. There were “three women – Mhapasekara, Kishwar, and Bharati, who dedicated their lives to the transformation of India society” and “to improving the lives of women”. However, their attempts ended with failure.

Hinduism is an essential part of the Indian nation. It is not only the religion but also the politics, economy, and society as a whole. Women in Hinduism are honored as the keepers of family hearth and advisors of their husbands. There are many goddesses in India, who are worshipped as well as gods. Regardless of this, women still are inferior to men; they have fewer rights, cannot work, and are less educated than men.

Hinduism is not a common religion. The religious exercises are made at home, privately or with closest relatives and friends. Almost in every Hindu house, there are sacred images or statues of favorite gods, in front of which people pray, hymn and give offerings. Such rite is called puja. In poor homes, puja is confirmed in a modest way. At dawn, the mother of a family prays and rings the bell in front of colored pictures of gods in the corner of the room.

The mother (or the woman) is identified with religion; she reveres the rituals and prays for her family. However, women have to wait for a long time before they will be able to feel free and equal to males in their liberties and rights. This issue should be researched in future studies to prove or to deny that the majority of Hindu women need to be protected by the law and society.