Origins of HinduismSocial Studies for 8th E.G.B. | Teacher: Mauricio Torres
Background As the Aryans moved into India, they developed a strict system of social classes. As the Aryan’s influence spread through India, so did their class system. Before long, this class system was a key part of Indian society.
The Varnas According to the Vedas, there were four main Varnas, or social divisions in Aryan society:
Caste System Indian society became more and more divided into many castes or groups. This caste system divided Indian society into groups, based on a person’s birth, wealth or occupation. The caste to which a person belonged determined his or her place in society. On rare occasions, people could change castes. At first, both men and women had the same rights, over time, women lost them with the passing of laws. Untouchables: A group that could only hold certain, often unpleasant jobs. They did not belong to any caste.
Caste Rules To keep their classes distinct the Aryans developed sutras or guides, which listed all the rules for the caste system. For example, no class intermarriage was allowed, and not even sharing the same table for supper was possible! The punishment for breaking one of these rules could be the expulsion from their homes and castes, deeming them “untouchables”.
Brahmanism Because the Aryan priests were called Brahmins, their religion was called Brahmanism. The Vedas (“knowledges”) It was based on the Vedas. There are four of them, and the oldest one, The Rigveda was probably written before 1000 BC. The Brahmins would keep writing their thoughts about the Vedas into collections called the Vedic texts. The texts include descriptions of Aryan religious rituals. The last of the texts, are the Upanishads.
Hinduism Develops The basis for Indian religion were based on the Vedas, Upanishads, etc. but influence from other cultures brought their ideas to India. This blending created Hinduism, the largest religion in India today.
Hindu Beliefs The Hindus believe in many gods. The three most important of them all: Brahma, the creator. Siva, the destroyer. Vishnu, the preserver. Hindus believe that everything in the universe is part of a single spirit called Brahman. Therefore, even the gods belong to it.
Life and Rebirth According to Hindu teachings, everyone has a soul or atman, inside them. It holds its personality and qualities that make them who they are. The goal is to reunite the atman with the Brahman. To Hindus, the world is an illusion. So, it is hard to see through an illusion, therefore it can take several lifetimes to finally fin reality with Brahman. Being born and reborn is part f their beliefs, and it is called reincarnation.
Hinduism and the Caste System Hinduism helped maintain the caste system. This was because: Through reincarnation, people are reborn in a different physical form. The type of form depends on their karma (the effects that good or bad actions have on a person’s soul). A good karma will take you to a better caste, while a bad karma will take you to a lower one. A good karma will lead you to moksha, or salvation. The dharma, or a person’s duties in life are done in accordance to each caste.
Ask Yourself Identify What is Karma? What is the Rigveda? What are the three major forms of Brahman? Evaluate Do you think a wealthy Brahmin will want his or her servants to believe in dharma? Why or why not? Recall What were the four varnas? When was the Rigveda probably written? Describe What were some of the rules described in the sutras? Analyze What led to the development of Hinduism?
Bibliography Burstein, S. M., & Shek, R. (2012). World History (Teacher´s Edition) (1st Edition ed.). (H. McDougal, Ed.) Orlando, Florida, US.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Images taken from Google.com
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