Use this primer with the lesson The World's Religions to teach about the diversity of faiths in the United States and around the globe.
Hinduism is considered the world's oldest religion (traced back to as early as 10,000 B.C.), and with a billion followers, is the world's third largest religion. Hinduism includes religious, philosophical and cultural ideas and practices that began in India.
Hindus believe that there is only one supreme being called "Brahman," and that thousands of Hindu gods and goddesses represent the many aspects of Brahman. Hindus also believe in reincarnation (rebirth), the law of cause and effect, and the importance of staying on the path of righteousness. The most popular sacred Hindu texts include the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads and the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Some religious observances:
Time of Year: October or November, depending on the cycle of the moon. This five-day festival celebrates the start of the Hindu New Year. Known as the "Festival of Lights," the festivities feature fireworks, small clay lamps and candles. These lights represent the victory of good over evil, and brightness over darkness.
Diwali is actually celebrated in honor of Lord Rama and his wife Sita, who returned to their kingdom of Ayodhya following Rama's and the monkey god Hanuman's defeat of the demon King Ravana and rescue of Sita from his evil clutches. Special blessings are given to Laxshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and Ganesha, the remover of obstacles.
Time of Year: Late August or early September, depending on the cycle of the moon. The Ganesh Chaturthi festival lasts 11 days and honors the birth of the Hindu elephant-headed god, Lord Ganesha. Huge statues of Ganesha are installed in homes and on podiums. At the end of the festival, the statutes are paraded through the streets and then submerged in the ocean.