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Beliefs, deities, and priestly clothing of Hindus

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Hinduism started about 7,000 years ago, during a time when no other religion existed in India. B.N. Roy, the spokesman for the Hindu Temple Society of Augusta, said it started with the creation of the Vedas, which were “not human-created. They are the revelations from God to the saints.”

The Vedas were followed by the Upanishads, another sacred text that discusses the philosophy and nature of God.

“There are different types of Hindus, but as long as you believe in the Vedas and the Upanishads, you are under the big umbrella of Hinduism,” Roy said.

The scriptures were followed by the Epics, or Mahabharata, which make up the Hindu mythology. Within it is one chapter called the Bhagavad Gita, or more popularly, the Gita.

“That is the substance in a nutshell of what the Upanishads talk about. As long as you’ve read the Gita, you’ve really got the substance of Hinduism,” Roy said.

Shaji Kamalasanan, also a member of the temple, explained that Hindus believe there is one supreme God, Brahman, which has no form, and that the supreme goal of all people is to join with him.

Beneath Brahman are three deities that make up the Hindu Trinity: Brahma, the Creator; Vishnu, the Preserver; and Shiva, the Destroyer.

“All of these three gods feel that each one is important. It is a balanced state,” he said.

When things become out of balance, Vishnu comes to Earth as one of many avatars to restore balance.

Kamalasanan said the deities are the messengers, or assistants, of Brahman. Most Hindus follow one deity. The one they choose is a matter of tradition and personal preference, but ultimately all deities lead a person to Brahman.

Spirituality falls into one of four paths, usually based a person’s natural inclination: the path of knowledge and study, the path of action and doing things for the Lord, the path of devotion and the path of controlling the mind (usually associated with yoga).

“The central theme of Hinduism is it’s inclusive. It’s not exclusive,” said T.R. Reddy, a member of the temple. “You see, one of the avatars is Buddha. Some of us, we believe Jesus is also one of God’s avatars, or incarnations. Same way (with) Mohammed. Different people want to believe different ways, but eventually you want to reach the same one. It’s very broad.”

The priest’s role in Hinduism is very ritualistic. He doesn’t teach or preach a sermon. He leads worship, which includes ritual bathing of the deities’ statues and offering sacrifices of grain or milk.

The priest’s clothing is typically a reflection of the area of India from which they hail. In southern India, priests typically wear a 6- or 9-yard cloth, called the lungi, which is either wrapped around the waist or wound between the legs to resemble free-flowing pants. It is either white or yellow with a red or green border.

In very traditional ceremonies, priests are bare-chested with a sacred thread draping from left shoulder to hip, or they might wear a shawl.

On their forehead, they wear either three white horizontal lines to represent followers of Shiva or a red vertical line to represent Vishnu.

In northern India, a kurta, almost like a tunic, is also worn, and red dot is placed on the forehead.

In special ceremonies, the priest might also wear a turban.

(This article originally appeared in The August Chronicle )

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  • raxxx

    nobody believes muhammed the child rapist is a avatar of brahma.

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Right of Nature: Are Rivers Living Beings?

Should rivers be considered Living Entities?

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Right of Nature
Many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

By Dr. Bharti Raizada, Chicago

Science says that water bodies are not living entities, as water does not need food, does not grow, and reproduce. Water is required for life, but in itself it is nonliving.

However, many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

The Maori tribe in New Zealand considers the Whanganui River as their ancestor and the Maori people fought to get it a legal status as a living being. In 2017, a court in New Zealand gave this river the status of living being and same rights as humans, to protect it from pollution. Thus, now if someone pollutes in it then it is considered equivalent to harming a human.

ALSO READ: Worshiping mother nature part of our tradition: Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Right of Nature
Rivers are sacred in many religions, including Hinduism. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

Rivers are sacred in Hinduism also. Hindus believe that the Ganga descended from heaven and call her Ganga Maa. A few days after New Zealand’s court decision, Uttarakhand high court in India gave the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries the status of living human entities. The Court-appointed three officials as legal custodians. However, the court did not clarify many aspects related to this decision.

After this verdict some of the questions, which naturally came to mind, were:

Can Hindus still do rituals of flowing ashes, leaves, flowers, diyas in river or no? Can a dam be built on the river after this judgment? If some damage, to a person, animal, plants, or property, occurs because of river e.g. overflow, hurricanes, flooding etc., how the river will pay the liabilities? What if all rivers, oceans, ponds etc. are given the status of living beings? Will drinking water from river become a crime? What about taking water and using it for routine needs,  agriculture or building structures? Will it be illegal? If a child throws a stone in water, will it be a criminal act? Will fishing be considered stealing? What about boating? If someone is using heat near water and water evaporates, is it equal to taking the body part of a human being? What about taking a bath in the river?

Right of Nature
If the river gets a living status, as human, then we cannot use it for anything without its permission, so everyone has to stop touching the water. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: Decoding supernatural: What is the nature of entities and gods who influence human behavior

Other queries, which arise, are:

Will animals and plants get the same status? What if you kill an ant or a chicken etc. or cut a tree? Will all animals and plants get a legal custodian?

Where is all the waste supposed to go? It has to go somewhere back in nature, right?

Uttrakhand state government challenged the judgement in Supreme Court and the latter reversed the judgment.

Right of Nature
So where do we stand? In my opinion, granting living status to nature is a different thing than giving protected status or preserving nature. Image by Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: How nature destroys the negative tendencies in a positive manner

Ecuador’s constitution recognized the Right of Nature to exist, specifically Vilcabamba river, in 2008.

Then Bolivia passed the law of the right of mother earth and granted Nature equal rights as humans.

Many communities in the U.S.A. passed the Right of Nature law.

These laws are creating a dilemma or quandary also, as people need to use these resources. We cannot live without using natural resources. However, there is a difference between using natural resources and afflicting or destroying these. So, please use natural resources very diligently. Try not to vitiate nature.

On World Water Day (March 22), please start taking care of rivers, so that there is no need for future celebrations. It should not be a one-day celebration anyway, we should scrupulously look out for nature all the time.

Dr. Raizada is a practicing anesthesiologist.