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 )