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Hinduism originated in India and modern day Pakistan and is one of the world’s oldest religions, with over 900 million adherents worldwide. About 80% of the Indian population regard themselves as Hindu. The 2001 census recorded 559,000 Hindus in Britain, around 1% of the population

The Vedas are the most ancient religious Hindu text and define the truth. Hindus believe that the texts were received by scholars directly from God and passed onto generations by word of mouth. The Vedas, and other ancient and modern Hindu scriptures convey universal values, such as “Loka samasta sukhina bhavantu” (Let the entire world be happy) and “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (The Whole World is One Big Family”). Meaning that if the Earth’s family is our family, then you protect and look after the people, animals and trees, you don’t pollute the water, etc – just as you would protect and help members of your family.

Hinduism is not a single doctrine, and there is no single founder or teacher. Contrary to popular understanding, Hindus recognise one God, Brahma, the eternal origin who created and is present in everything. Hindus recognise three principals of God: Brahma, who creates the universe, Vishnu, who preserves the universe and Shiva, who destroys the universe to allow for a new generation; but these and all other gods of the Hindu faith, such as Ram and Hanuman, represent different expressions of the one God Brahma. Different Hindus may have their own divinities whom they worship, but these are simply different ways of approaching the Ultimate.

Hinduism is also known as “Sanatan (Eternal) Dharma” and “Vishwa (Universal) Dharma”. The term “Dharma” if often equated to religion, but involves using your moral judgement, undertaking right actions and doing your duties in order to sustain the entire Universe. Hinduism is “eternal” because it has no beginning and no end, and “Universal” because Hindu values are universal values.

Hindus believe that existence is a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, governed by Karma, and that the soul passes through a cycle of successive lives and its next incarnation is always dependent on how the previous life was lived.

Hindus celebrate many holy days, but the Festival of Lights, Diwali is the most well known. Others are Ganesh Chaturthi. On this day Hindus all over the world will celebrate the birthday of Lord Ganesh. Holi is the spring festival associated with Krishna when people throw coloured powder and water at each other. Holi also celebrates creation and renewal. Krishna Jayanti (Janamashtami) is a festival which marks the birth of Krishna, one of the most popular Gods in the Hindu pantheon.Mahashivratri is a Hindu festival dedicated to Shiva, one of the deities of the Hindu Trinity. Makar Sakrant is celebrated in January and is one of the most auspicious festivals of the year. Navaratri (Navratri) (nine nights) is one of the greatest Hindu festivals. It symbolises the triumph of good over evil. Rama Navami celebrates the birth of Lord Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu and the hero of the Ramayana, the Sanskrit epic of 24,000 stanzas.

Vishnu and the hero of the Ramayana, the Sanskrit epic of 24,000 stanzas.

For more detailed information on Hinduism go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/

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