Hinduism Part 1
Origin of Hinduism
Originally the word Hindu did not have a religious connotation, but merely denoted the people in a geographical area – physiological thinkers made their own original speculation on metaphysical problems and founded their own systems known as the six systems of Hindu philosophy. Four of these Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya and Vaisheshika, were no influenced by the Vedas, while the Purva Mimamsa and the Uttara Mimamsa were based on the teachings of the Upanishads. But the highest achievement of the Hindu mind in this age is another philosophy expounded in the Bhagavad Gita, which is a part of the epic Mahabaratha. The Bhagavad Gita is a supplement to the Upanishads. It has tried to make a synthesis of three ways of attaining salvation – the way of knowledge through speculation and ascetic discipline, the way of faith and devotion, and the way of action.
The mainstay of popular Hinduism is the later Vedic literature. The Puranas, which some claim to have been written in the pre-Christian era, were in reality probably written between the third and the seventh centuries AD. The eighteen Puranas include, among others, the Matsya, Markendaya, Naradiya, Garuda, Kurma, Skanda, Vayu and Vishnu Puranas. The itihasa (epic) are two – Ramayana by Valmiki and Mahabaratha by Veda Vyasa. These drew their inspiration from the pre-Aryan folklore. The Bhagavad Gita is considered a later interpolation in the Mahabharata.
The important factor that activated new movements was ‘bhakti’, the single-souled devotion of the worshipper to a personal god, with the postulation of some moral link. This stimulus led to the evolution of different religious sects like Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism, all of which came to be regarded as components of orthodox Brahmanism.
In the Bhagavad Gita and the Shvetashvatara Upanishad and other early sources, the devotion represented by ‘Bhakti’ is a restrained and unemotional kind. The later form of ‘Bhakti’ associated with the singing in the languages of the common people, was much more emotional and marked by common people, was much more emotional and marked by a mystical fervor. In Tamil poems, the supreme being is addressed as a lover, a parent, or a master. The poets experienced overwhelming joy in the god’s presence and deep sorrow when the god did not reveal himself. Some of them felt a deep sense of guilt or inadequacy in the face of the divine. The later movements are generally considered to have begun with the appearance of hymns in Tamil associated with the Nayanars and the Alwars, devotees of Shiva and Vishnu, respectively. The poems have a strong ethical content and encourage the virtues of love, humility, and brotherhood. The ideas of these poets, spreading northward, probably were the origin of bhakti in northern India.
Yaksha and Nagas
The worship of Yakshas and Nagas and other folk deities constituted the most important part of primitive religious beliefs, in which ‘bhakti’ had a very conspicuous part to play. Early literature, as well as archaeology, supply us with ample evidence about the prevalence of this form of worship among the people. The folk cults centered on the Nagas and the Yakshas appeared to have survived in the orthodox Brahmanical fold in the grab of worship of the elephant-headed Deity Ganesha, whose hybrid figure was an amalgam of the pot bellied Yaksha and the elephantine Naga.
A sutra in Panini’s refers to the horse-worshippers of Vasudeva(Krishna) whom epic and puranic traditions describe as a head of the Sattva race. The Chandogya Upanishads speaks of Krishna, a pupil of sage Chora Angirasa, who was a sun-worshipping priest. The people who worshiped Krishna as their personal God was called Bhagwatas. The Vasudeva Bagwatas cult was a steadily growing religious movement absorbing within its fold other Vedic and Brahmanic divinities like Vishnu and Narayana.
The history of the Vaishnava movement from the end of the Gupta period to the beginning of the 13th century was mostly in South India. Vaishnava poet saints called the Alwars sang devotional hymns about lord Vishnu and their songs were collectively called the prabandhas. The wave of Vishnu Bhakthi was further spread by a class of Vaishanava teachers called the Sri Vaishnava Acharyas. The famous among the twelve Alwars were Nammalvar and Thirumazhisai Alwar. Andal was the only female poet among the Alwars. In the 9th and 10th century the saint philosopher Nadhamuni recovered the Alwars poems from oblivion and rearranged it into the Divya Pranbandhas
The Alwars represented the emotional aspect of Vaishnavism while the Acharyas the intellect aspect. the noted Acharyas were Yamunacharya and Ramanuja.
Shaivism is of more ancient origin than Vaishnavism. Panini in his sutra has mentioned about a group of Shiva worshippers. Patanjali has told about Paninis sutra where in the sutra has been mentioned about a group of Shiva worshippers called the Shiva Bhagavatas. He had also described about the forceful and outlandish rituals done by these Shiva worshippers. In contrast to the extreme form of Shaivism moderate types of creed started appearing in Central and norrhern India.
In the valley of Kashmir came the Pratyabhinja and Spanda Shastra schools which was founded by Vasugupta and his pupils Kallata and Somananda.
The Shaiva movement in the south due to the activities of the 63 Shaiva devotees called the Nayanmars. Their songs in praise of lord Shiva was called the Devaram or Dravida Veda and was sung in all Shiva temples. The Nayanars hailed from all caste. Famous among the Nayanars was the brahmin Thirugnanasambandar who was much more well known than his older counterpart Thirunaukarasu who came from a lower caste.
The emotional Shaiva movement was further propagated on the intellectual side by many Shaiva intellectuals like the Agamanta, Sudha and Vira Shaivism
Worship of Shakthi the female counterpart of lord Shiva or that of sun god Surya did not attian a great level in the above mentioned period. The mother aspect of divinity was venerated only in the pre Vedic period. Although gods played a major role in the Vedic age the goddess Shakthi was also prayed as divine power of energy and abundance.