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Hinduism introduction

An overview of articles and British Library resources relating to Hinduism.

Introduction

Hindu literature ranges from abstract philosophical texts such as the Brahmanas and the Upaniṣads, through epic poems including the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa, to the popular stories known as Purāṇas glorifying individual gods. A selection of these texts are displayed.

Hinduism developed out of the beliefs brought to India by Aryan invaders from Central Asia in the 2nd millennium BCE. The earliest written formulation of these beliefs and religious practices is found in the Vedas, collections of hymns and rules for the performance of rituals. Hinduism later absorbed many different philosophies and practices. The three main deities, Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu, represent the universal concepts of creation, destruction and preservation.
Hindus believe in dharma, a universal law that defines the right conduct in life, and karma, the power of actions to determine the form of one’s future rebirth. The ultimate goal in life is to break the endless cycle of incarnations (saṃsāra) and achieve mokṣa, union with the Divine.

Contents

Articles

Sacred texts in Hinduism

Professor Julius Lipner discusses the distinctive nature of Hinduism and its sacred texts, drawing on the Vedas and epic compositions. 

Hindu deities

The multiple gods and goddesses of Hinduism are a distinctive feature of the religion. However, Professor Julius Lipner explains that Hinduism cannot be considered polytheistic and discusses the way in which Hindu culture and sacred texts conceptualise the deities, as well as their role in devotional faith. 

The Hindu sacred image and its iconography

Professor Julius Lipner explores the rich tradition of Hindu icons, considering the theology that underpins the use of images in worship, their symbolism and the many forms that they take, as well as explaining what makes an image ‘sacred’. 

Spreading Hindu texts: Tellings and translations

Dr Jacqueline Suthren Hirst explores the Hindu sacred texts, discussing how some, the Vedic texts, remain unchanged, whilst others are open to different versions, tellings and translations, using the great Hindu epics as examples. 

Bhakti

Dr Rishi Handa looks at bhakti in Hinduism, exploring its common modes, the Hindu concept of enlightenment and how to achieve it, the importance of the Divine Name and the veneration of forms of the deities. 

Hinduism film

Discover the diversity and richness of Hinduism, from the ancient oral tradition of the Vedic texts, the colourful stories of the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata, and the ways in which gods and goddesses are worshipped today.


Resources on Hinduism at the British Library