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Transcript of Hinduism
The Caste System
Hinduism is the most influential set of religious beliefs in modern India.
The ancient traditions that led to Hinduism have shaped Indian life in countless ways.
This cultural heritage has affected how people worship, what jobs they do, and even what they eat.
It has helped determine the status of people in Indian society.
One of the basic beliefs of Hinduism and some other Indian religions is dharma.
DHARMA- Refers to law, duty, and obligation.
To follow one´s dharma means to dedicate oneself to performing one´s duties and to living by SPECIFIC set of rules.
The RAMAYANA, tells about life in ancient India and offers role models in dharma.
The Origins of Hinduism
No single person founded Hinduism.
It developed slowly, over a long period of time, growing out of centuries of older traditions.
In the second millennium B.C.E. nomadic people speaking Indo-European languages migrated into northern India.
These nomads, sometimes called Aryans, brought to India their gods and rituals.
Some of these became part of Hinduism.
The oldest roots of Hinduism are found in Vedic religion, which is named for the earliest Indian texts.
The VEDAS are a collection of sacred texts, including verses, hymns, prayers, and teachings composed in SANSKRIT.
VEDA is Sanskrit for KNOWLEDGE.
The earliest of the Vedas grew out of traditions brought into India, as the teachings of the Vedas were handed down orally from generation to generation, before India had a written form of Sanskrit.
VEDIC rituals and sacrifices honored a number of deities associated with nature and social order.
Over time, these rituals became more complex, laying out the basic beliefs of Hinduism.
A class of priests and religious grew increasingly important, the Brahmin.
They were responsible for correctly reading the Vedas and making sure the correct rituals were performed.
BRAHMANISM was the first, rudimentary form of Hinduism.
Caste: A class, or group in Hindu society
The Caste System
BRAHMANISM was more than a religion in ancient India. It was a way of life.
It affected how Indians lived, what they believed, and even the way they organized their society.
Many of those ideas live on in modern Hinduism.
BRAHMANISM taught that a well-organized society was divided into different social classes.
Today, we call it the CASTE SYSTEM.
The VEDAS describe four main social classes, or varnas:
BRAHMINS - priests and religious scholars
KSHATRIYAS - rulers and warriors
VAISHYAS - herders and merchants
SHUDRAS - servants, farmers, and laborers
According to the VEDAS, each class or VARNA had its own duties.
The Aryans created a caste system that separated Indians into groups.
A CASTE is a social group that someone is born into and cannot change.
A caste dictates what job you will have, whom you can marry, and with whom you can socialize.
In India, the word for caste is JATI.
Thousands of JATI exist in India.
Why was a caste system created?
No one is that sure, but ideas about skin color were probably part of it.
The Aryans were a light-skinned people.
They thought they were better than the dark-skinned people they had encountered in India.
This idea was, of course, wrong, but the Aryans believed it.
Another reason the Aryans might have created the caste system was because the people they encountered outnumbered them.
The caste system set the rules for everyone's behavior which helped the Aryans stay in control.
Society in Ancient India
Social Classes of Indian Society
The thousands of different JATI in Indian society were grouped together into four classes called VARNAS.
The top two varnas were BRAHMANS and Kshatriyas.
Brahmans were the priests, the only people who could perform religious ceremonies.
The Kshatriyas were warriors who ran the government and army.
On the next level down were the Vaisyas, or commoners.
Vaisyas were usually farmers and merchants.
Below the Vaishyas came the Shudras who were manual laborers and servants with few rights.
Most Indians belonged to the Shudra caste.
There was one group that did not belong to any VARNA.
Its members were called Pariahs, or the Untouchables.
They performed work other Indians thought was too dirty, such as collecting trash, skinning animals, or handling dead bodies.
Life for untouchables was very hard, they had to live apart from others.
When Untouchables traveled, they had to tap two sticks together so that everyone would hear them coming and have time to move away.
Social Classes of Indian Society
The caste system affected all aspects of people´s lives.
Indian´s were born into a certain caste, and they could not change it.
They could only marry within their own caste.
Today, caste discrimination is outlawed in India.
Despite this, caste status continues to affect many parts of indian life.
This way of organizing society is just one example of how ancient religion affected daily life in India.
Hindu Beliefs about Brahman
Brahman is the name of a supreme power, or a divine force, that some Hindus believe is greater than all other deities.
To these Hindus, only Brahman exist forever.
Everything else in the world changes, from the seasons to all living things that eventually die.
In Hinduism time moves forward in a circle, like a great wheel.
Events can repeat, the sun rise, spring to summer to winter etc.
Hindus see this cycle as the work of BRAHMAN, who is constantly creating, destroying and re-creating the universe.
Everything in the world is part of BRAHMAN, including the human soul.
Ancient Hindus called the soul ATMAN.
In certain traditions Hindus view the soul as part of the Brahman.
Other deities are simply different beliefs about Hindu gods, such as VISHNU.
Each god represented a power or quality of Brahman.
There are 3 important deities.
Brahma creates, Vishnu preserves and Shiva destroys.
Devi embodies the female powers of the universe.
Ancient Hindu sacred texts often describe heroic deities battling evil.
The ramayana tells of Rama´s fierce battle with Ravana, a demon. It is viewed as sacred and has inspired many hindu holidays like Divali ("Row of Lamps").
Stands for law, obligation, and duty
To follow your dharma means to perform one´s duties and to live in an honorable way.
Each social class has its own duties which usually involved a certain type of work.
E.g. Studying religious texts, herding animals, trading goods, or serving as a warrior.
Each class was seen to have its own dharma.
Early Hindus believed that when everyone followed their dharma, society would be in harmony.
E.g. Brahmins were ancient Hindu society's priests and religious scholars.
They performed rituals and taught the Vedas
This was impressive as this knowledge was passed on orally and to recite the Vedas, Brahmins had to memorize tens of thousands of verses.
Not only were Hindus expected to follow their caste's dharma, but also a common dharma, or set of values.
This emphasises the importance of marriage, sharing food with others, and caring for one's soul.
Another central belief is nonviolence.
Many Hindus have a respect for life that comes from their belief that all life forms have a soul.
In Hindu traditions, reverence for life is symbolized by the cow.
The law of karma governs what happens to people's souls after death.
From ancient times, many Indians believed that souls had many lives.
When a person died, his or her soul was reborn in a new body.
The type of body depended on the soul's karma.
Karma was made up of all the good and evil that a person had done in past lives.
If people lived a good life they might be born into a higher social class in their next life and vice versa.
The law of karma meant that the universe was just and fair, souls were rewarded and punished depending on their actions.
Someones caste was meant to be a fair representation of what that person had done in their past lives.
Over the centuries the caste system became understood as unfair and today Indian law makes discrimination illegal.
Hindus believe in a continuous cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
This is called Samsara.
As long as people are part of samsara, they will know pain and death.
Samsara ends when the soul escapes this cycle and is united with Brahman, the supreme force in the universe.
People escape this cycle by following their dharma.
They behave correctly, perform their social duties.
They worship faithfully.
They balance their karma with good actions.
They would also go on pilgrimages to holy sites to cleanse their sins.
The difficulty of the journey would serve as penance for their bad deeds.