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The largest civilization in the ancient
world developed in the Indus Valley
of India over 5,000 years ago. In the

thousands of years that followed,

India produced many great empires
under which science, art and philos-
ophy flourished. Out of this rich his-
tory developed the Hindu religion,
today the third largest in the world.

This young priest is conducting a

fire ceremony just as was done in
ancient times.

Note to Students, Parents and Teachers presenting the Hindu religion because we believe them to
This Educational Insight is Hinduism Today magazine’s be deeply flawed and contrary to the State’s own general
response to the controversy in California over the way rule that teaching material must: 1) be historically accurate,
Hinduism is taught in public-school history books. It is a 2) “instill in each child a sense of pride in his or her heritage”
16-page lesson on Hindu history, beliefs and practices for and 3) avoid “adverse reflection” on a religion. It is our in-
sixth graders written from the Hindu point of view. It is his- tent that this lesson will serve as a model for US textbooks,
torically sound and acceptable in content and tone to the providing an authentic depiction of the eminent history
various denominations of the Hindu community. and traditions of the faith while giving 10-year-old Hindu
The problem with every existing textbook for this grade students justifiable pride in their religion.
level is that Hinduism is presented negatively, incompletely In most states teachers are allowed to supplement the
and inaccurately. This lesson is patterned after a typical textbooks with additional material. This lesson may be of-
chapter on the Jewish faith in these same books. It delib- fered as a more accurate basis for the classroom study of
erately does not follow the specific California standards for the origins and development of Hinduism in ancient India.
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1 Origins of A figurine of a married woman shows a red
powder called sindur in the part of her hair.
mountains to the ocean. Therefore, the holy
texts had to be composed well before 2000

Hindu women today follow this same cus- bce—by which time the river had dried up.
tom as a sign of their married status. The The Vedas describe a powerful and spiri-
pipal tree and banyan tree are depicted of- tual people, their clans, kings and emperors.
ten. These remain sacred to Hindus to this Their society was complex. The economy
day. included agriculture, industry, trade, com-
What You Will Learn... If YOU lived then... merce and cattle raising. The Vedas contain The banyan tree is a
Main Ideas Your house is built on a wide, waterless riverbed. Your father tells you it The Vedas thousands of hymns in praise of God and symbol of Hindu-
ism because it gives
1. Many Hindu religious was once the giant Sarasvati River, five kilometers across. There is not The central holy books of Hinduism are the the Gods. They describe a form of fire wor- shelter to all who
practices are seen in the enough rain to provide for the family’s crops and cattle. Travelers tell four Vedas. Hindus regard them as spoken ship, yajna, around a specially-built brick approach
archeological remains of the by God. They are in Sanskrit. The Vedas fire altar. In several Indus-Sarasvati cities
Indus-Sarasvati civilization. of another great river, the Ganga, hundreds of miles away. Your father
2. The sacred texts of Hinduism were not written down but memorized. archeologists have unearthed what look like
and other villagers decide they must move.
are in the Sanskrit language Students might spend twelve years learning fire altars.
and were originally memo- How would you feel about the long journey? these scriptures. Some would memorize one
rized but unwritten. Veda, others all four. Even today there are The Aryan Invasion Theory
3. Ancient Indian art and sci-
ence were highly developed. priests who can chant an entire Veda—as Many school books present an “Aryan Inva-
Building Background India’s known history begins with the Indus- many as 10,500 verses—from memory. sion” of India. It is the theory that Aryan
the impact
Sarasvati civilization, 5,500 years ago. We know from archeology that The relationship between the people of invaders came from central Asia in 1500 The disputed
The Big Idea this culture shows many features of later Hindu practice. the Indus-Sarasvati civilization and those bce and conquered the indigenous Indus- Aryan Invasion
Hinduism developed over who composed the Vedas is not clearly Sarasvati civilization. It was these foreign- theory is still
thousands of years in India. taught as fact in
understood. We know that the Rig Veda ers, the theory states, who wrote the Rig
Understanding Ancient Indian History describes the Sarasvati as the “most mighty Veda in Sanskrit. The theory was proposed
most books on
Key Terms
The early cities of India developed along the Indus and Sarasvati of rivers” flowing from the Himalayan in the 19th century by scholars in Europe,
Indus and Sarasvati rivers, p. 2;
rivers starting around 3500 bce. They are called the Indus-Sarasvati
Vedas, p. 3; Sanskrit, p. 3
civilization or, sometimes, the Harappan culture. It was the largest
Hinduism Today’s and most advanced civilization in the ancient world. But the mighty From Indus-Sarasvati to Modern Times
Teaching Standards Sarasvati River dried up, and what was once a fertile area became a
Indus-Sarasvati sculptures,
desert. The people of the region moved to other parts of India and seals and artifacts
This column in each of the three
beyond. By 2000 bce the civilization had entered a period of decline. more than 5,000 years
sections presents our outline old display features of
for Hinduism in 6th grade modern Hinduism
history books. It is intended to The Religion of the Indus-Sarasvati People
replace existing lists of required A great many artifacts have been discovered from the Indus-Saras- Lord Siva in meditation is
topics, such as those found in
vati cities. These include pottery, seals, statues, beads, jewelry, tools, found on the Indus seals
the California Standards.
games, such as dice, and children’s toys, such as miniature carts.
1. Explain the similarities be-
tween Indus-Sarasvati civiliza- The flat, stone seals have pictures and writing on them. Scholars
tion and later Hindu culture. have not yet agreed on what the mysterious script on the seals means.
They show deities, ceremonies, symbols, people, plants and animals.

2. Discuss why the Aryan Inva-
sion theory has been disputed We learn from them that people at that time followed practices iden-
by many scholars. tical to those followed by Hindus today. One seal shows a meditating

3. Discuss the social and political figure that scholars link to Lord Siva, while others show the lotus
system and advancement of
posture used by today’s meditators. The swastika, a sacred symbol of
science and culture. At left is a clay figure showing the
good luck used throughout Hindu history, is common. This clay figure of a woman has red sindur
4. Explain the development of typical Hindu greeting of “namaste” in the hair part—a custom followed by
religion in India between 1000 There are statues, including a small clay figure with its hands
married Hindu women to this day
bce and 500 ce. pressed together in the traditional Hindu greeting of “namaste.”

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based on language studies. In part, it tried culture. Because of inadequate archeologi- Hindu
strong identity and pride in their occupation. From Medicine was so advanced that doctors were per-
to explain why Sanskrit is so closely related cal research, we do not know a lot about Symbols time to time people would move from one caste to forming complex surgery not equaled in Europe
to European languages, including English. this period. However, by 600 bce, India had another, or establish new ones. The evolving caste until the 18th century. In ancient times India was
Many scholars now dispute this theory be- developed a common culture from north system became unfair to the people at the very one of the most advanced and wealthy nations on
cause all the evidence for it is questionable. to south and east to west. By this time the bottom of the social order. Though caste is still an Earth. Since ancient times, a quarter of the world’s
Additionally, modern scientists have found social, religious and philosophical ideas important factor in arranging marriages, caste dis- people have lived in India.
no biological evidence, such as DNA, that and practices central to Hinduism are fully crimination is illegal in modern India.
people came from outside India in signifi- evident. These are in continuity with the The sacred fire altar Women have always been held in high regard in Section 1 Assessment
cant numbers since at least 6,000 bce. religion of the Indus-Sarasvati culture, the of the ancient Vedic India. Some of India’s foremost religious and politi-
rites. To this day Reviewing Ideas, Terms and People
Many common explanations about Indian teachings of the Vedas, Dravidian culture Hindu weddings cal leaders are women. Hinduism is the only major
1. a. Explain What happened to the Sarasvati River?
history and culture are based on the Aryan and elements of the tribal religions. and other rites are religion in which God is worshiped in female form.
conducted around b. Analyze What customs from modern Hinduism are
Invasion theory. Those who defend it claim Hindu public worship, described in the fire altars.
Life in ancient times was hard work for both depicted in artifacts of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization?
that Sanskrit, the caste system and Hindu Vedas, took place in temporary shelters built men and women. The women were responsible for 2. Elaborate What are the advantages of a hereditary
ways of worship came from outside India. If for that purpose. The earliest mention of running the household; the men for their craft or occupation? What are the disadvantages?
you are studying India in school, you may permanent temples for the worship of God farm, as well as security. In general, women had 3. a. Summarize How are women regarded in Hindu
read about this outdated theory. is in the Grihya Sutras, around 600 bce. fewer property rights than men, but received lighter society?
punishments for crimes and paid fewer taxes. They b. Recall What are some of the great scientific achieve-
ments in ancient India?
Hinduism Emerges Indian Society participated equally with their husband in religious
4. a. Explain How were the Vedas preserved?
As the Indus-Sarasvati culture declined, A distinctive feature of India at this time was Academic ceremonies and festival celebrations. Some women b. List What kind of information is in the Vedas?
many of its people migrated to other places. the varna or class system. Society was clas- Vocabulary were highly educated, and a few even composed c. Explain Why is it important that the Rig Veda men-
They settled mostly in north and central sified into groups with specific occupations. continuity several of the holy Vedic hymns. tions the Sarasvati River as a “mighty river?”
India, especially along the Ganga River These groups tended to become hereditary. unbroken con- The period from 1000 bce through the Gupta
nection or line of
system. They interacted with tribes who
had lived in those areas from ancient times.
There were four broad classes—priests, war- development
riors, merchants and workers (including
period up to the mid-6th century ce was a time
of great advancement. Hindus discovered the zero
Focus on Writing

hereditary 5. Analyze What does your school history book say
Around 1000 bce, the Tamil-speaking Dra- craftsmen). The system provided order and passed from par- and established the counting method, including about the Aryan Invasion? How does this lesson differ?
vidian people in the South had separately stability to society. Later on, the varnas di- ents to children the decimal system, we use today. Their astrono-
developed a sophisticated language and vided into hundreds of sub-sections called mers knew that the Earth orbits the Sun and cal-
jatis (castes). Individual jatis developed a culated the length of a year with great precision.
Timeline: Early Indian History
321 BCE
5000 BCE 2600-2000 BCE Foundation of the pan-
Angkor Wat 1200 ce
Beginning of Indus- Height of Indus-Sara­ Indian Maurya Empire. Time
Sarasvati cities svati civilization. The 200 CE
of great advancement in Hindu influence starts to spread into what
city of Lothal includes science, statecraft, economy,
large buildings and is now Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and
architecture, music and art. Gupta Art Indonesia. In 1200 ce, the Hindu temple
an enclosed harbor.
called Angkor Wat is built in Cambodia. It is
the world’s largest religious structure.
5000 BCE 2500 BCE 1000 BCE 500 BCE 200 BCE 300 CE
2000 BCE 600 BCE 500 BCE 200 BCE 320 CE
Sarasvati River India is a unified culture at this time. Magadha Empire in Tiruvalluvar com- Gupta Empire reigns over most of
dries up. People Large cities flourish in the Gangetic the North and Pandyan poses Tirukural, one India, with Tamil kingdoms in far
move to North Plains. Indian physician Sushruta Kingdom in the South of India’s greatest south. This is the Golden Age of
h a r r a pa n . c o m

and Central India. develops complex methods of sur- flourish. Buddhism scriptures on ethics India and Hinduism, with respect
gery. Tamil language flourishes in and Jainism, offshoots and tolerance for all religions.

s. rajam
Lothal the South. First mention of temple of Hinduism, become
worship appears in the Grihya Sutras. prominent religions.

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2 Hindu Beliefs the physical universe. As immanent, His di-
vine form pervades all nature and humanity.
angels and archangels in Western religions.
Some Hindus consider the Gods and God-

and Scriptures
In Hinduism, the soul is called atman. desses as alternative forms of the Supreme
God exists within each soul. The Chando- God, and not as individual divine beings.
gya Upanishad explains it like this: “What Each God and Goddess has particular
you see when you look into another person’s powers and areas of responsibility. For ex-
eyes, that is atman, immortal, beyond fear; ample, Ganesha is the Lord of Obstacles.
What You Will Learn... If YOU lived then... that is God.” Before beginning a new project, a Hindu A kalasha is a husked
Main Ideas The king has passed a new law increasing the taxes on farmers. The Hinduism has different branches with may pray to Ganesha to remove any obsta- coconut set in a brass
1. Hindus believe in a one farmers in your village have not had a good year. The harvest is smaller varying beliefs and practices. The four ma- cles blocking his way. pot with mango
Supreme God and also many leaves. It is used in
than usual. The new tax may mean people will go hungry. Some in the jor branches are Saiva, Shakta, Vaishnava In the Vaishnava tradition, Lord Vishnu worship to represent
Gods and Goddesses.
2. Dharma, karma and rein- village want to attack the tax collectors. Others want to lie about the and Smarta. Saivas and Shaktas call the appears on Earth as a divine personality, or the Supreme God or
Supreme God Siva, though Shaktas worship avatar, from time to time to restore morally any of the Gods or
carnation are central Hindu amount of harvest. Still others say a peaceful protest will cause the Goddesses.
beliefs. There is a special the female aspect of God. Vaishnavas call right living. Of Vishnu’s ten avatars, Lord
emphasis on nonviolence. king to change his mind on the tax increase. Academic
Him Vishnu. Smartas may choose one of Rama and Lord Krishna are the most im-
3. Vedas are the primary Hindu
How would you respond to the tax increase? Why? six Deities to worship as the Supreme. By portant. Rama and Krishna are not separate Vocabulary
scriptures. There are other subordinate
important scriptures as well. whichever name or form, He is the same, Gods. They are two forms of the one Su-
lower in rank,
one Supreme God. The Rig Veda says, “The preme God.
Building Background From its beginnings, Hinduism has been an less important
seers call in many ways that which is One.” In temples and shrines, the Supreme
open-minded religion. It is a basic Hindu belief that there are many pervade
The Big Idea
Hindus may also worship Gods and God- God and the Gods and Goddesses are to be present
ways to approach God. Hinduism does not dictate one way as the only desses, called devas, such as Ganesha and worshiped in a ritual called puja. Puja is
Hindus believe every soul will throughout
way. Hindus believe “Truth is one, paths are many” and that every per- Sarasvati. In Sanskrit, deva means “shining a ceremony in which the ringing of bells,
ultimately achieve encompass
God Realization.
son eventually finds spiritual salvation. one.” In some ways, these divine beings passing of flames, chanting and present- to surround and
who live in the heaven worlds are like the ing of flowers, incense and other offerings hold within
Key Terms
Religion Permeates the Hindu’s Daily Life
Sanatana Dharma, p. 6
Brahman, p. 6 Hindus base their way of life upon their religion. The Hindu culture One Supreme God and Many Gods and Goddesses
deva, p. 7 comes from Hindu beliefs. The key beliefs are in a one Supreme Hindus believe in a one supreme and loving God. At the same
puja, p. 8 God, subordinate Gods and Goddesses, heaven worlds, the divinity time, they believe in Gods and Goddesses, great spiritual beings
karma, p. 8 of the soul, dharma, karma, reincarnation, God Realization and lib- who help us.
reincarnation, p. 8 eration from rebirth. God Realization means the direct and personal
Sarasvati is the Goddess of
experience of the Divine within oneself. The original Sanskrit name learning and music. Below,
Hinduism Today’s for Hinduism is Sanatana Dharma, meaning “eternal religion.” She sits on a lotus flower play-
Teaching Standards ing the multi-stringed vina.
5. Explain the basic Hindu beliefs Belief in God and the Gods and Goddesses
regarding God, the Gods and Hindus believe in and worship a one Supreme God. In the scrip-

all art: indra sharma

Goddesses, dharma, karma tures, the Supreme God is called Brahman or Bhagavan, worshiped
and reincarnation. Describe
as both male and female. Brahman is all-powerful, all-knowing,
basic Hindu practices.
all-loving and present in all things. God created everything in the
6. Discuss the Hindu principles
of nonviolence and religious universe out of Himself. This creation is not separate from Him.
tolerance. He guides the evolution of everything over vast spans of time. Ul-
7. Describe the Vedas and timately, He absorbs the universe back into Himself. This cycle of
Ganesha is the God prayed to
their Upanishads, Ramayana, creation, preservation and absorption repeats without end.
before beginning any task or In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna shows
Mahabharata (including the The Supreme God is both transcendent and immanent. These are worship. His elephant head Arjuna His universal form as the Supreme
Bhagavad Gita) and other
important Hindu scriptures.
two key philosophical concepts. As transcendent, God exists beyond makes Him easy to recognize. God encompassing all the other Gods

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Linking to Today man, is reborn in a new body, experiencing jali explore yoga and meditation.
many lifetimes. The purpose of rebirth is The Ramayana and Mahabharata are Symbols
Nonviolence to progressively achieve spiritual maturity two sacred epic histories of India. The
The Hindu principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence, is important and God Realization. Eventually each soul Ramayana is the story of Lord Rama, who
today. Mahatma Gandhi, a devout Hindu, said, “Nonviolence is learns to live by religious principles and is the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu,
the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. avoid creating negative karma. The process and his divine wife Sita. This 24,000-verse
It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of
of reincarnation continues through many poem describes Prince Rama’s birth, His
destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”
By nonviolent means Gandhi largely won lives until the soul achieves liberation. banishment to a forest for 14 years, the The gopura is the
India’s independence, using peaceful protests, abduction of Sita by the demon Ravana huge entrance
boycotts, strikes and speeches. In the 1950s, Hinduism’s Sacred Scriptures and Rama’s victory over Ravana. The Ra- tower of South

b l a c k s ta r p h o t o s / f l i p s c h u l k e
Indian temples
Martin Luther King, Jr. studied Gandhi’s meth- The four Vedas are the holiest scriptures for mayana remains immensely popular to this

ods and went to India to meet his followers. all Hindus. The Upanishads, an important day in India and Southeast Asia.
He learned how India’s nonviolent movement part of the Vedas, explain the Hindu philoso- The Mahabharata, “Great India,” is a
worked and applied the same methods to
phy. The next most important scriptures, also 78,000-verse story of a massive war that
fight for and win civil rights for America’s black
minority. Aung San Suu Kyi, a devout Buddhist, in Sanskrit, are the Agamas. There are spe- took place in ancient times between the
has campaigned without violence for years to cific Agamas for each major tradition in Hin- Pandavas and their cousins, the Kauravas,
win democracy for the people of her native duism—Saiva, Shakta and Vaishnava. The for the throne of a great kingdom. It also

r e u t e r s / a p i c h a r t w e e r aw o n g
Myanmar (Burma). In 1991 she won the Nobel Agamas explain philosophy, personal conduct, describes the nature of self and the world,
Peace Prize for her peaceful struggle against the country’s mili- worship and temple construction. There are karma, important family lineages of India,
tary dictatorship. Another example is Cesar Chavez, who won Academic
hundreds of other scriptural texts dealing human loyalties, saints and sages, devotion Vocabulary
rights for California farm workers using nonviolent methods.
with religious and secular law, government, to God and the ideals of dharma. Lord secular
Skill analyzing information social order, economics, ecology, health, ar- Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord
activities or things
chitecture, science, music, astronomy and Vishnu, is a key figure in the epic. A central not related to
What are the advantages of nonviolence over
many other subjects. The Puranas are ency- episode called the Bhagavad Gita narrates religion
violence in bringing about social change?
clopedic accounts of the forms and avatars of Krishna’s dialogue with the Pandava archer,
Academic God, the many subordinate Gods and divine Arjuna, on the day of the battle. It is one
invoke the Divine beings, who then come Dharma, Karma and Reincarnation
Vocabulary beings, creation, spiritual teachings, histori- of the most popular and revered among
to bless and help the devotees. During the Dharma means righteousness, divine law, eth-
consecrated cal traditions, geography and culture. The Vaishnava and Smarta scriptures. Hindu
puja, through holy chants, gestures and sa- ics, religion, duty, justice and truth. Dharma
made sacred Tirukural is a Tamil masterpiece on ethics sacred music, dance, drama and the arts
through ceremony
cred ritual, highly trained priests guide the means the proper way one should live one’s
and moral living. The Yoga Sutras of Patan- draw heavily on the Ramayana, the Ma-
worship. The priests treat the Deity with life. To follow dharma, one should be religious,
invoke habharata and the many Puranas.
utmost care, attending to Him as the King truthful, kind, honest and generous. Dharma Section 2 Assessment
summon a Deity;
appeal to of kings. The purpose of the puja is to cre- includes the practice of nonviolence, called
ate a high religious vibration and communi- ahimsa in Sanskrit. It is the ideal of not injur- Reviewing Ideas, Terms and People c. Explain What is the purpose of reincarnation?
5. Summarize Make a list of Hindu scriptures, starting with
Hindu cate with God or a deva through the murti, ing others in thought, word or action. 1. a. Define What is Sanatana Dharma?
Symbols b. Explain What is a deva? the Vedas.
or consecrated statue, that is the focus of Karma, a central Hindu belief, is the law
worship. Deity is the proper English word of cause and effect. It means that anything c. Elaborate What are the two key terms used by Hindus Critical Thinking
to describe the Supreme God?
for murti. The word idol is often used, but you do will eventually return to you in this 6. Evaluate Why do Hindus believe that there are many
2. Categorize What are the four main branches of Hindu-
it is incorrect. or future lives. If we do something selfish ways to approach the Supreme God?
Hindus also practice internal worship of or hateful, we will in time experience the
God. Sitting quietly, they may repeat the same pain and suffering we caused to oth-
3. a. Recall Why do Hindus pray first to Lord Ganesha?
b. Identify What are the two most popular incarnations
Focus on Writing

The orange or red name of God while counting on beads. Oth- ers. If our acts are good and kind, we will of Lord Vishnu? 7. Understanding nonviolence
banner is the flag c. E xplain What is the purpose of the Hindu puja? Write a paragraph explaining your way to deal with the
of Hinduism, which ers may chant, sing or meditate upon God. receive goodness and kindness.
4. a. Explain What is karma? tax increase example given on page six. Do you think a
flies above temples, In Hinduism, there are many ways to wor- Reincarnation means literally to “re-enter nonviolent approach would succeed?
at festivals and in b. Illustrate What are some examples of following
ship the Divine. the flesh.” It is the belief that the soul, at- dharma?

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Sacred Texts
from the

The sacred sound
aum is chanted at
Translated by Swami Prabhavananda
the beginning and and Frederick Manchester

end of most prayers

The Upanishads are the part of the Vedas that teach philoso- spirit said to him: “Who The Vedas and Upanishads are written in Sanskrit,
a language that is thousands of years old
phy. The word upanishad means “sitting by devotedly,” as a are you?”
student sits near his guru to learn. This excerpt is taken from “I am the God of wind.
the Kena Upanishad. It explains the nature of the Supreme As a matter of fact, I am very widely known. I fly swiftly
Guided Reading
God, called Brahman in Sanskrit. through the heavens.”
Word Help “And what power do you wield?”
philosophy As You Read Try to sum up the meaning of each sentence
“I can blow away anything on Earth.”
a theory or attitude that in your own words. Guided Reading
“Blow this away,” said the spirit, placing a straw before him.
guides behavior
The God of wind fell upon it with all his might, but was unable Word Help
vain Once the Gods won a victory over the demons, and though
to move it. So he ran back to the other Gods and said, “I cannot adorned
excessively proud they had done so only through the power of Brahman, they
discover who this mysterious spirit is.” beautifully dressed
mysterious were exceedingly vain. They thought to themselves, “It was we
unknown Then said the other Gods to Indra, greatest of them all, “O beholding
who beat our enemies, and the glory is ours.” looking at something
consume respected one, find out for us, we pray you, who he is.”
Brahman saw their vanity and appeared before them as a remarkable
to destroy completely, “Yes,” said Indra and humbly approached the spirit. But the 2
as by fire
nature spirit. But they did not recognize Him. 1 attained
spirit vanished, and in his place stood Goddess Uma, well won; achieved
Then the other Gods said to the God of fire, “Fire, find out
adorned and of exceeding beauty. Beholding her, Indra asked:
for us who this mysterious nature spirit is.”
“Who was the spirit that appeared to us?”
1 This verse says that the Gods
“Yes,” said the God of fire, and approached the spirit. The
“That,” answered Uma, “was Brahman. Through Him it was,
were vain. spirit said to him: “Who are you?” 2 Indra took a different
not of yourselves, that you attained your victory and your glory.” approach to finding out
What test did the Supreme God “I am the God of fire. As a matter of fact, I am very widely
put them through? Thus did Indra, and the God of fire, and the God of wind, who the spirit was.
come to recognize Brahman, the Supreme God. Why did he succeed when
“And what power do you wield?” the others failed?
“I can burn anything on Earth.”
“Burn this,” said the spirit, placing a straw before him. The Understanding Sacred Texts
God of fire fell upon it with all his might, but could not con-
sume it. So he ran back to the other Gods and said, “I cannot 1. Analyzing Hindus believe that the Supreme God is 2. Comparing What is the difference between Brahman,
immanent. That means He exists everywhere in the the Supreme God, and the other Gods introduced
discover who this mysterious spirit is.”
universe, in everyone and everything. How does this here—Indra, the God of fire and the God of wind?
Then said the other Gods to the God of wind: “Wind, can belief appear in the story?
you find out for us who he is?”
“Yes,” said the God of wind, and approached the spirit. The

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3 Hinduism in
Hindu Migration Through the Centuries
section EUROPE



What You Will Learn... If YOU lived then... INDIAN

Main Ideas You are born in Fiji in 1910. Your parents were brought from India by SOUTH INDONESIA
Through the 12th century ce AMERICA
1. Hinduism has spread outside the British to work in the sugarcane fields as indentured laborers. Now 19th century
of India several times. MAURITIUS
they are free of debt and own farmland. The public school is OK, but 20th century and on SOUTH REUNION FIJI
2. Hinduism is the third largest
your parents want you to go to the best private school. The principal AFRICA AUSTRALIA
religion in the world.
3. Hindus practice religion at there says you must leave Hinduism and convert to his religion before Hinduism has spread outside of India in several waves. First it NEW
home and in temples and ZEALAND
through the many festivals. you can enroll. was adopted by cultures throughout Southeast Asia through
m o u n ta i n h i g h m a p s the 12th century ce. Second, in the 19th century many Hin-
What do you think your parents would do? dus moved to the various European colonies, such as South
men at the temple or on ceremonial occa- Africa, the Caribbean and Fiji. And most recently, Hindus
The Big Idea
Building Background Hinduism is the only major religion from the sions. This forehead mark symbolizes many
migrated to more than 150 countries in the 20th century.
Hinduism is the oldest world distant past that is still vibrant today. It survived because of its tradi-
religion flourishing today. things, especially spiritual vision.
tion of home-centered worship, because of its rich teachings and
thousands of temples, most quite ancient.
many religious leaders, and because it is not merely tolerant of other Worship in the Home Temples in India can be enormous, covering
religions but respects the validity of all spiritual paths. Every Hindu home has a place of worship. many acres, having vast pillared hallways
Key Terms It may be as simple as a shelf with pictures that can accommodate 500,000 devotees
samskara, p. 12 Traditions and Holy Days of God or an entire room dedicated to wor- during a festival. Often one or more families
the impact
bindi, p. 12 ship. Many families have a spiritual guide of priests oversee the temple and conduct
Hinduism is the oldest living religion in the world. There are today There are Hindu
puja, p. 13 or guru whose picture is displayed in the
nearly a billion Hindus worldwide, 95 percent of whom live on the the worship over many generations. When temples in nearly
swami, p. 14 shrine. There, the family may light a lamp, every country of
Kumbha Mela, p. 15 Indian subcontinent. Hinduism continues to thrive for many reasons. Hindus migrate outside India, they build
ring a bell and pray daily. The most devout the world
Its followers find answers to their deepest questions about the mys- a temple as soon as possible. At first, com-
hold a formal morning worship ritual. They munity leaders themselves conduct the daily
teries of life. With personal religious practices, pilgrimage to sacred
offer flowers, incense, lights and food to rituals. Later, professional priests are hired.
shrines, temple- and home-centered worship, Hindus strive for God Academic
God while chanting sacred verses. Indi- There are now hundreds of Hindu temples
Realization. And through celebration of the yearly cycle of vibrant Vocabulary
vidual members will often go to the shrine in America. The largest are in New York,
Hinduism Today’s and colorful festivals, they experience great blessings and joy. indentured
for blessings before leaving for school or Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas and California.
Teaching Standards under contract to
Basic Practices work. At other times one may sit alone in The temple worship ceremony, or puja, is work for a certain
8. Describe the spread of Hindu-
the shrine, pray and chant the names of usually performed by a priest from India. number of years
ism outside of India in ancient There are five basic practices, pancha nitya karmas, often observed
and modern times. God, read from scripture, meditate silently During the ceremony, he worships God by austerity
by Hindus. They are to: 1) worship daily, 2) follow dharma, 3) ob-
or sing devotional songs. chanting Sanskrit verses from the scriptures a difficult practice
9. Describe the daily observances serve the sam­skaras (rites of passage), 4) celebrate the holy days
of Hindus, home and temple of self-denial and
and 5) go on pilgrimage to sacred places. Other practices include and performing arati. Arati is the waving
worship, religious teachers Temple Worship discipline
meditation, chanting of mantras, study of scripture, hatha yoga and of an oil lamp in front of the Deity while
and the major festivals. Hindus prefer to live within a day’s journey meditate
other yoga techniques, and simple austerities, such as fasting. There bells are rung. The priest also offers flow-
10. E xplain how Hinduism has of a temple. The temple is a special build- think deeply about,
survived over the last 5,000 are many samskaras, including a child’s name-giving ceremony, the ers, sweets and fruit. These offerings are go within yourself
ing, revered as the home of God. The main then distributed to the devotees as a bless-
years. first feeding of solid food, the beginning of formal education and or seek God within
Deity is enshrined in the temple’s central ing from God. Hindus may visit the temple
marriage. It is a common practice for Hindu women to wear a bindi,
sanctum. In India, there are hundreds of throughout the day to worship and meditate.
a red dot on the forehead. A similar mark, called tilaka, is worn by

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Linking to Today ism. Instead, there are thousands of inde- other with colored water and powders. It
pendent spiritual traditions, monastic orders signifies the triumph of good over evil and Symbols

Festivals and religious institutions. marks the beginning of the winter crop
harvest. Vaikasi Visakham (May/June) is sa-
The biggest Hindu festival of the year is Diwali, or Dipavali, the The Yearly Festival Cycle cred to Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. Guru
Festival of Lights, celebrating the victory of good over evil, light There are many religious festivals celebrated Purnima is a special festival to honor one’s
over darkness. It takes place for five days around the new moon
by Hindus each year. They are observed at spiritual teacher, or guru. It takes place on
in October/November. It also honors the return of Lord Rama to
Ayodhya after 14 years in exile. Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth home, in temples and public places. Most the full moon day in July. There are also
is invoked for prosperity, and Her presence is felt in every home. Hindu festivals are observed according to many social festivals in India, such as Pon- The sacred oil lamp
Hindus thoroughly clean the house, take a special bath and put an ancient solar-lunar calendar. Several fes- gal. It is held in January and celebrates the is used in the home
and temple. Many
on new clothes. Thousands of small lamps, including traditional tivals honor the avatars of Lord Vishnu. For incoming harvest.

Hindu events begin
clay oil lamps (pictured at right), are placed everywhere and example, Ram Navami celebrates the birth One special festival, the Kum­bha Mela, with the lighting of
fireworks signal hope for mankind. It is a national holiday in India of Lord Rama in March/April. Krishna takes place in a twelve-year cycle. Hindu the lamp.
and in many countries with large Hindu populations. Some
Hindu festivals take place mostly at home, such as Raksha
Janmashtami, in July/August, celebrates the saints and millions of devotees travel to cer-
Bandhan, which is on the full moon in July/August. Sisters birth of Lord Krishna. tain sacred rivers at an auspicious time for
tie a rakhi, or colored thread, around the wrist of their Mahasivaratri takes place in February/ worship. The 2001 Kumbha Mela was held
brothers. In return, the brother gives his sister a present March, when devotees fast and worship at Prayag (modern Allahabad) in North
and promises to protect her. The rakhi can also be given to the transcendent Lord Siva all night in the India. It was attended by 70 million people, Academic
anyone chosen as an “adopted brother.” temple. Diwali, or Dipavali, is the biggest including 30 million on January 24 alone. Vocabulary
analysis festival of the year. It is dedicated to Lak- This was the largest religious gathering ever auspicious
Skill analyzing information shmi, the Goddess of Wealth, and takes held on the Earth. a favorable time—

How do festivals help remind people to be more kind place in October/November. Navaratri is for the Mela, as
and generous to one another? determined by the
the second largest festival. It lasts nine days
and takes place in September/October. It Summary Hindu calendar
Hinduism’s Saints, Teachers and Swamis Hinduism has millions of swamis and is dedicated to the worship of the Goddess, Hinduism is the oldest world religion.
Hinduism has a rich history of saints and other holy persons. Swamis are unmarried Shakti. in her three forms: Durga, the God- It accepts that there are many ways to
Academic sages, both men and women. Their lives are men (and some women) who have taken up dess of Protection; Lakshmi, the Goddess worship God. It has endured for so long
educational and inspiring. They come from spiritual life full time. Swami means “he of Wealth, and Sarasvati, the Goddess of because the religion and culture have in-
all castes. Some saints, such as Adi Shankara, who knows himself.” Some live in monaster- Knowledge. stilled in each Hindu a unique and strong
a holy person
who lives by have written detailed explanations of the Ve- ies; others wander as homeless mendicants. Holi, in March/April, is a highly spirited sense of identity and community. The Rig
begging das and other scriptures. Other saints, such Swamis are the religious ministers of Hindu- festival where everyone sprinkles each Veda concludes, “Let there be everlasting
as Mirabai, Tukaram and Sambandar, taught ism. Many swamis teach, others run large unity and peace among all human beings.”
through devotional songs. Recent saints in- institutions that perform social service for
clude Sri Ramakrishna and Anandamayi Ma. their communities, and still others live alone Section 3 Assessment
Their deeply religious lives have uplifted and meditate long hours each day in their
Reviewing Ideas, Terms and People
Symbols millions of Hindus and others worldwide. pursuit of divine enlightenment. Special
1. a. List What are the five basic practices of Hinduism? 4. List Make a list of three columns. In the first column
The bell is used There are hundreds of thousands of reli- among these are the holy gurus. Gu means
b. Define What does the bindi, red dot, signify? write the name of a major Hindu festival. In the second,
in Hindu worship gious scholars and teachers, both men and darkness and ru means remover. So guru c. Explain How do Hindus use their home shrine room? put the time of year it occurs. In the third list what it
because it can be
heard in the world women, known as pundits. Some give spell- literally means “the one who removes dark- 2. List What are the various kinds of priests and holy men celebrates.
of the Gods binding discourses on sacred scriptures, ness.” These men and women are great and women in Hinduism?
including Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Tens of thousands may attend such gather-
religious teachers, some with millions of
followers. Several gurus have popularized
3. a. Explain What is the year’s biggest Hindu festival?
b. Define What is the meaning of the rakhi bracelet?
Focus on Writing

ings, which include storytelling, preaching, the Hindu practice of yoga by establishing c. Recall What is special about the Kumbha Mela? 5. Understanding Hindu practices
d. Elaborate Why has Hinduism lasted so long? Why do you think Hindus want to live near a temple?
devotional singing and drama. These events training centers all over the world. No one
often go on for days or even a month. person or institution is in charge of Hindu-

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1 Standards Assessment
Directions: Read each question and circle the letter of
the best response 8. Hindus believe that the devas, such as Lord Ganesha or
1. Evidence for what form of worship in the Vedas was Goddess Lakshmi, are like:
found by archaeologists in the ruins of the Indus- A Archangels
Sarasvati civilization? B Nature spirits
A Temple worship C Mythical heroes
B Worship at fire altars D Imaginary people
C Devotional singing
D Sacred dancing 9. Which of the following is not used in nonviolent protests?
A Peaceful rallies
2. The Indus-Sarasvati civilization ended because: B Boycotts
A Aryans conquered it C Strikes
B The Sarasvati River dried up D Vandalism
C There was a great famine
D The people died of plague 10. The Hindu scriptures include:
A The Vedas, Upanishads and Bible
3. The Aryan Invasion theory was based upon: B The Vedas, Ramayana and Qur’an
A Biological evidence, such as DNA C The Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana and Mahabharata
B Archeological discoveries D The Mahabharata and the Iliad
C Language study
D Ancient histories 11. Hindus believe that every other religion:
A Is an acceptable way to approach God
4. Which discovery was not made in ancient India? B Is wrong
A The concept of zero C Is useful, but only Hindus go to heaven
B Surgery D Is not as good because Hinduism is older
C That the Earth orbits the Sun
D The moons of Jupiter 12. How many countries do Hindus live in today?
A 20
5. Evidence of Hindu temple worship can be as early as: B 50
A 1200 bce C 100
B 600 bce D More than 150
C 300 ce
D 900 ce 13. The saints of Hinduism are:
A Primarily high-caste men
6. Which of these descriptions does not apply to women in B Only people who lived a long time ago
ancient India? C Men and women of all castes
A Had fewer property rights than men D Mostly great scholars
B Were never educated
C Wrote parts of the Vedas 14. The biggest religious event in the world is:
D Paid fewer taxes A The Kumbha Mela
B Easter Sunday in Rome
7. Which of these words does not describe the Hindu con- C The annual pilgrimage to Mecca
cept of the Supreme God? D Christmas in New York City
A Creator of the universe
B Transcendent Internet Resources: Go to
C Immanent education/ for a PDF version of this lesson with clickable links
D Jealous of other Gods to resources. Also at the same url are additional teaching
resources and letters of endorsement from academics and
community leaders. To order additional copies of this educa-
tional insight, go to
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