Hinduism - Baltimore City Public School System

Hinduism dates back to around
1500 BCE (Before the Common Era) in
India. However, it is different from
most other major religions because it
has no true founder. Instead, Hinduism
is a collection of social and cultural
beliefs that have developed into an
organized religion over time. Today, it is
practiced by nearly one billion people,
making it the third largest religion in the world, after Christianity
and Islam. Most of its practitioners are in India and Nepal, however
there are over one million Hindus in the United States as well.
truth, honesty, non-violence, cleanliness, and prayer, a Hindu
worshiper can reach Moksha (freedom from the cycle of rebirth).
One way for Hindus to measure how close they are to Moksha
is through the Indian caste system. This is a rigid system in which
all Hindus are born to a particular class of citizen. The classes are
arranged in a hierarchy through which Hindus progress as they
attain greater enlightenment. However, one cannot change their
caste during their own lifetime, and each caste sets strict
guidelines for a Hindus special duties, work, and interaction with
other castes. For example; It would be unacceptable for a Brahmin
(the highest caste) to marry as Sudra (4th caste) because the
Brahmins are much closer to enlightenment and may be made
spiritually unclean by the Sudras.
Brahmins (Priests)
While Hinduism has no founder, it is a polytheistic religion that
has many gods that each oversee a different aspect of the world
(“poly”=many). The three main gods in Hinduism are Brahma (the
god of creation), Vishnu (the supreme all-powerful god), and Shiva
(the god of destruction). However, Hindus worship a wide variety
of spiritual beings, including trees, animals, and even planets.
One of the most important, and unique beliefs of Hinduism is
the belief in reincarnation. This is a belief in which death is
temporary, and even after the body dies, the soul is reborn in
different forms along its path towards happiness and
enlightenment. Similar to Buddhist teachings, the only way for one
to reach this level of enlightenment is to free oneself from earthly
desires. The importance of rebirth is also reflected in the Hindu
festival of Holi, which is celebrated each spring as celebration of
rebirth after a long winter. To help guide Hindus through life, the
holy books of the Shastras, Vedas, Puranas, and Uphanishad
describe one’s dharma (proper ethics and duties) and karma (right
actions). Hinduism believes that with proper action that follows
Kshatriyas (Warriors
and Rulers)
Vaisyas (Skilled workers,
Sudras (Unskilled
Pariahs (Outcastes,
The Om symbol has great significance in
Hindu culture because it symbolizes the
interconnectedness of the gods, nature, and
humankind. Similarly, the swastika, mostly
known as a symbol of the Nazi Party that was
responsible for the Holocaust during World
War II was first an ancient symbol for good luck
that is still popular in Hindu culture.