Hindu Religious Traditions

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The religious lives of most Hindu people revolve around their dedication to a God. The meaning of God and the form that it takes differs among each person. Over the years many rituals have been developed to help Hindu people differentiate between what is divine and what is just everyday life. Hindus that practice traditional faith will often ignore the idea of gods and seek their divinity through different forms of meditation. And yet other people will go about their everyday lives while seeking the divine. There are three possible paths that Hindus can take in order to achieve deliverance. Each of the paths is recognized as valid and approved. These paths include: 1) Karmamarga- which is the path of work and action, 2) Jnanamarga — which is the path of knowledge and 3) Bhaktimarga- which is the path of devotion (Hindu Traditions, 2005).

Traditional Hindu beliefs all revolve around religious rituals and practices. Some of the major rituals and practices are as follows:

Puja or worship – is considered as the connection of a person to the area and actions of the divine. It is a heavily practiced ritual and can take on many different forms. The simplest of these forms is called darshan, which consists of a person gazing upon an image. This image is supposed to symbolize a person’s chosen form of God. The worshiper often makes an offering to their God of things like food, water and flowers. Sometimes they light candles or incense and ring bells during this time. Other practices that are carried out can include the chanting the God’s name and the recitation of scripture. Food that is offered to the God is considered to be blessed, this process is called Prasad. Taking Prasada is considered to be spiritually advantageous. In the Hindu religion it is not compulsory for them to visit temples, so some people do their worshipping in sanctity of their own homes. According to Karma Yoga worship can also be accomplished by considering everything one does as an offering to God. Doing things for the sake of others and not for personal benefit is considered to be a very high form of worship.

The to Hindu religious traditions, a spiritual student will study under a personal spiritual teacher called a Guru. The student stays with the Guru and follows their instructions and teachings in order to learn as much as they can about spiritual life. Even though the Guru does not expect to be paid for their services, the student may offer the Guru a gift as a token of their gratitude.

Pilgrimage – Although pilgrimages are not required in the Hindu religion there are many holy places or Tirtha Sthanas, which exist in India. Some of the more famous holy places that are often visited on pilgrimages include: Varanasi (Banares), Kedarnath and Rameshwaram (Hindu Traditions, 2005).

Hindu religious traditions can be seen heavily in their beliefs surround death and funerals. Death is considered to be the close of a human life on earth. The rituals and beliefs that are linked to death and the funeral are believed to be very important so that family and friends can communicate their grief and recognize the passing. A funeral is often seen as an opportunity to celebrate somebody’s life and mark their transition into the after life. Hindus believe that death marks the transition of the soul from one personification to the next. They believe that this is the point at which the spirit begins its journey to Heaven (Hindu Traditions, 2005).

Hindus believe in the idea of reincarnation, so the funeral is seen as much a celebration of the deceased’s life as it is a remembrance of it. Hindus cremate their dead with the burning of the dead body being seen as the release of the spirit. They believe that the flames during the cremation are representative of the presence of the god Brahma, who is the creator. As with all religions rituals play an important role in their beliefs. Hindus believe that the ideal way to die is while lying on the floor, so that they are in contact with the earth. After the death family members will perform prayers. The idea of touching the body is considered to be corrupt but many mourners will do this as they say good bye (Hindu Traditions, 2005).

Mourners will traditionally wear white Indian garments to the funeral festivities. Prayers are usually said at the entrance to the crematorium and are generally said all the way through. Flowers and treats are often passed around while much noise is made with horns and bells, as part of the funeral rituals. The chief mourner, which is usually the eldest son or oldest male in the family, is the family representative in the funeral proceedings. The chief mourner along with all the male members of the family often shaves their heads as a gesture of respect to the deceased. Scriptures are usually read and the body is sent away while the chief mourner prepares to light the cremator. After the cremation, the family will gather for a meal and prayers. This officially starts a period of mourning that usually lasts for 13 days and is the time that friends and family will visit and offer their condolences (Hindu Traditions, 2005).

The Hindus take their religion and its rituals very seriously. They have many choices that they can follow and which path they chose to take is completely up to each individual. All paths are seen as valid and each has its own course to follow in order for a person to reach liberation and connect with the divine. The culmination of their religious beliefs can be seen in their funeral practices. The ceremonies are used not only to say goodbye to the deceased but also to celebrate the life that they lived. The cremation ceremony is quite a celebration, complete with bells and horns. The Hindus believe that the dead are reincarnated and the cremation is the beginning of the process in which the spirits are released into the next stage of their being. After the cremation the family goes through an extensive mourning process that lasts for several days in which friends and family members alike participate in.


Hindu Traditions. (2005). Retrieved April 10, 2009, from YGo Hinduisim Web site:


Religious Traditions and Beliefs. (2009). Retrieved April 10, 2009, from if I Should Die Web