Regents Prep: Global History: World Belief Systems
Hinduism is a polytheistic religion that was formed from a variety of different religious practices.

-Elements of the Hindu religion can be traced back to the Shiva, the Destroyer.ancient Indus River Valley civilization (approximately 3000 BCE) in modern-day Pakistan.
-It has been theorized that Hinduism is a result of cultural diffusion that occurred between Aryan invaders and the native peoples of India sometime around 1500 BCE.
Geographic Origin-Developed on the Indian subcontinent.
Currently Practiced-Most common in India.
Significant Writings-Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita.
Places of Worship-While Hindu temples do exist, Hinduism is usually practiced in the home where there is usually a shrine dedicated to a favored deity.
Significant Religious People-Hindu priests carry out traditional religious practices in temples.

Teachings and Beliefs
In Hinduism, salvation is achieved through a spiritual oneness of the soul, atman, with the ultimate reality of the universe, Brahman. To achieve this goal, the soul must obtain moksha, or liberation from the samsara, the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. As a result of these basic teachings, Hindus believe in reincarnation, which is influenced by karma (material actions resulting from the consequences of previous actions), and dharma (fulfilling one's duty in life). Because all forms of animal life possess souls, Hindus believe in ahimsa, or that all life is sacred. and should not be harmed. In fact, one animal which Hindus consider to be extremely sacred is the cow. The peaceful and contented existence of cows is considered virtuous by Hindus and would represent a rewarding reincarnation for a soul. For this reason, most Hindus are vegetarians so that they do not harm other living beings. The belief in reincarnation, karma, and dharma also provides the religious justification for the existence of the rigid social structure known as the Caste System.

Rivers represent reincarnation to Hindus. Samsara, or reincarnation, is a central teaching of Hinduism. Rivers are sometimes thought to symbolize reincarnation because they constantly flow, yet follow the same course. Perhaps the most sacred river is the Ganges, which is used for spiritual cleansing, funeral rites, and other Hindu rituals.

The concept of reincarnation can best be represented by the infinity symbol. When one is born, they are given life by Brahma, as the pass through life, they are preserved by Vishnu, until finally Shiva claims you in death. Then the cycle is repeated over and over again until one finally achieves moksha.


Caste System
The Caste System is a rigid class structure based on Hinduism which is found in India. It is believed that if one leads a good life, following good karma and dharma, then they will be rewarded by being reincarnated as a person belonging to the next highest level in the Caste System. However, if one is wicked during their life, they will be demoted, and possibly even removed from the Caste System altogether. Outcasts, or Untouchables, are members of Hindu society thought to have been removed from the Caste System, with no hope of returning to it, due to their misdeeds in previous lives. Work that is deemed unclean for all other Hindus is reserved for these Outcasts.

Caste System

After winning its independence from Great Britain in 1947, India adopted a national constitution which stated that "Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden." Since that time many Caste reforms have been enacted to diminish discriminatory practices in India. Today, the Caste System still exists in practice, despite the many laws designed to legally abolish it.

Web Resources
The Geography of Hinduism (Morehead University)
Hinduism (Ontario Consultants)


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