Hinduism is the world's third largest religion, partly because of its wide-ranging and inclusive systems of belief. There is not one set of specific Hindu dogma or doctrines. According to the BBC, Hinduism's adherents number almost 900 million across the globe, with centres in India and Nepal where followers are a majority of the population.
Nature of Hinduism
The roots of Hinduism go back for thousands of years. It is difficult to define and trace its history, however, because, unlike most other major, present-day religions, Hinduism does not have a single founder, a single text, or a single set of teachings. There are many variations and schools of thought in Hinduism, so, rather than a single, easily defined religion, it is a way of life or family of overlapping religions.
Most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic, which means that its adherents believe in one supreme God as well as other, lesser gods. Adherents to most forms of Hinduism believe in samsara, which is the cycle of birth, death, and the soul's reincarnation into another earthly body. This process is guided by the philosophy of karma, which states that the events of a person's current life are governed by the actions of his previous life.
Sculpture is a very important part of Hindu art. In temples, lavish sculptures of deities are showcased in niches and shrines. Often, deities are portrayed with multiple arms, symbolising their power and ability to accomplish many tasks at the same time. Additionally, deities are often sculpted with many heads, to express their many attributes. One face may show a peaceful expression, while another face on the same sculpture might be twisted in anger.
As in many religions, symbols play an important role in Hindu art. The symbol for the word "aum" is perhaps most important; this term is considered the most appropriate name for God and is used in meditation. The lotus flower symbolises creation and purity. The swastika, although currently associated with Nazism, was originally the Hindu symbol for prosperity and luck. The cow is a symbol of motherhood, purity, and nonviolence; in Hinduism, cows are not to be killed.
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