Longstanding tradition of Hindu and its impact on modern culture elements of Indian society.

The longstanding tradition of Hindu and its impact on modern cultural elements of Indian society

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Basics of Hinduism

Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion and the third largest. It is a rich collection of hundreds of spiritual and philosophical traditions throughout Asia for more than 5000 years. The term Hinduism is absent in the scriptures as it comes from the term Hindu which was introduced by the foreigners in their reference to people living along the river Indus or Sindhu in the northern part of India where the Vedic religion was believed to have originated. Hindus follow the teachings of Vedas and it is the main religion in India. Hindus believe in one God who manifests in many different forms. Some of the forms that the Hindu God manifests include Krishna, Durga, Ganesh, Sakti (Devi), Vishnu, Surya, Siva and Skanda (Murugan). Hindus believe in one Supreme God who created the universe, in reincarnation, in karma which means that everyone creates their own destiny and in the scriptures, also known as the Vedas (“Hinduism Basics”).

Hinduism has four major denominations according to their focus of worship. Those who worship Vishnu and his incarnations, specifically Krishna and Rama, practice Vaishnavism. Those who worship Shakti, Sri Devi or the divine mother in her various forms are called Shaktas and they practice Shaktism. Shiva is the supreme God to Saivites, who practice Saivism. Smartism is practiced by Smartas are known as liberal or non-sectarian and view the various manifestations of God as equivalent therefore accepting all major Hindu gods. The Hindu place of worship is the temple and a majority of them make up to five daily food offerings to the gods. Hindus maintain, as a focus of worship, one or two shrines in their homes. Worship takes place at any time and daily. The Vedas, meaning knowledge and wisdom, is the sacred text in Hinduism. There are four Vedas namely, the Rig-Veda or Veda of hymns; the Sama-Veda or Veda of Chants; Yajur-Veda or Veda of Sacrifices and Atharava-Veda or Veda of Atharvan. The Vedas are further divided into three strata: Samhita, Brahmana and Upanishad. Samhita is a collection of hymns, chants and sacrificial formulas as appropriate, Brahmana comprises of expository texts and Upanishad comprises speculative treatises.

Compulsory daily observances include praying three times daily, also called worship at the junction time or Sandhyopasana, which can be accomplished in private. These are prayers that take place at the junction of night and morning, morning and afternoon and evening and night. They are also expected to recite the mantra 108 times daily. Weekly observances are congregating together to worship whereby one prays for intense devotion and the removal of the veil of ignorance. A particular deity becomes the focus of worship in these weekly meetings. Occasional observances include 22 celebrations recorded per year. In addition to these celebrations, many localities observe special days for local deities. The interpretation of the Hindu calendar and the effect of local customs on the observances, some observances may take place on different dates. Navarati, a nine day festival dedicated to the worship of Sakti and on the tenth day, the day of victory or Vijaya Disami, prayers of thankfulness are offered (“Hinduism Basics”).

The fourth day after the new moon in the Tamil month of Avani, between August and September, marks the festival of Ganesha Chathurthi. The festival is marked with Ganesha receiving special prayers the whole day and his worship incorporates a large festival parade. It is celebrated by all Hindus regardless of sect and particularly those in North India.Makar Sankranti are the first festival of the solar calendar falling on January 14 every year. This is when the sun enters the Zodiac sign of Capricorn and when the day and night are of equal duration. The way of celebration varies in celebration from one area to the next, for instance, Tamils in southern India refer to it as the Pongal or Harvest Festival where families gather and share their harvests. Rice and milk are made as offerings to Surya who symbolizes the sun. Shiva as a deity beyond time, form and space is celebrated during Mahasivaratri and involves an all night vigil which does not end till dawn where Saivites may break a day long fast and is mandatory to them. Dates vary depending on the lunar calendar and may fall between February and March of the Gregorian calendar.

There are two religious holidays that Hindus observe, whose exact dates are found in the Operations Memorandum on Religious Holy Days Observances. Dasher or Ramlila is observed in October and celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over the demon Ravan and Goddess Durga’s victory over a demon as described in the Ramayana. This is basically celebration of good over evil. October or early November signifies the celebration of Diwali or the Festival of Lights, the most popular Hindu festival. It is dedicated to the Goddess Kali in Bengal and to the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, to the rest of India. It is also associated with stories of Vishnu’s destruction of evil in his many manifestations, also known as avatara.

Basics of Indian Culture

The state of intellectual development or manners is referred to as culture. Culture refers to social and political forces influencing the growth of a person. Indian clothing includes the sari, a single length of material which has evolved from being a traditional garment to the country’s national dress. It is five to six yards in length and made from cotton, silk or a man-made material. It is worn to accentuate or conceal and when worn, the color and texture indicate the woman’s age, religion, status, occupation or region she comes from. A choli is the tightly fitted, short blouse worn under the sari and has evolved over time. The first ones covered the front only with the back bare and are still common in Rajasthan where a pleated skirt or ghagra or lehanga are worn with it. A length of fine cotton, called orhni or dupatta is used to cover the head in Rajasthan. Popular attire for women is the salwar kameez which has evolved from being a comfortable and respectable garment in Kashmir and Punjab to a popular garment in all regions in the country. Salwars, a pajama like trousers drawn tightly around the waist and ankles, are worn with the kameez, a loose and long tunic. The kameez can be worn with a churidar instead, which is tighter than the salwar at the hips, thighs and ankles. Men wear more conventional clothing as opposed to the women. This is usually the case in modern cities with their village counterparts comfortable in kurtas, a collarless tunic, lungis, dhotis and pajamas, also known as lenga.. Lungis are worn by both men and women and originated in the south. It is a short length of material worn like a sarong around the thighs. The dhoti is similar to the lungi only longer with the additional length of material pulled up between its legs. The Indian form of dressing is marked by variations depending on religion and region and is in a wide array of colors, textures and styles.


Cooking is considered an art that is passed from mother to daughter or from teacher to pupil through show and tell. Meals are occasions where families get together. Meals comprise several dishes ranging from rice and bread, which are staple foods, to vegetables and meat, and then rounded off with a dessert. The taste, color, texture and appearance of a delicacy may change from state to state. At traditional and festive meals, the plates or banana leaf is decorated with a design made with white and colored powders around the edges, also known as rangoli. Kashmiri cuisine is meat-based, essentially. The basis of many famous dishes is lamb, goat and chicken meats. They are usually flavored with saffron and Kashmiri chilies, which impart a rich red color to the food without being too spicy. Dry fruits like walnuts, dried dates and apricots are used lavishly in puddings, curries and snacks. Cottage cheese is also a popular accompaniment to many meats and vegetables. Fresh water fish such as trout are also a delicacy. Food is usually followed by a generous serving of fresh fruits (“Cuisine”).

Punjabi people prefer simple, sizeable and hearty food. Meals like, marinated chicken, chicken, fish, paneer, rotis and naans are cooked in earthen ovens half buried in the ground with coal fire lit beneath it. Punjab cuisine is inspired by external influences. The gravy component of their cuisine comes from the Mughals. Mughali cuisine comprises of rich sources, butter-based curries, sweets, and meat which is ginger flavored. The Bengali’s sweets made from burnt milk and curd are their greatest contribution to Indian cuisine. Yoghurt sweetened with jaggery is compulsory in each Bengali home. Guests are welcomed with crisp samosas and sweets made from burnt milk. A majority of Bengali dishes are made from fish which are sometimes marinated in spices or cooked in curd. Maharshtrian cuisine comprises of hot, aromatic meat and fish curries and subtle flavoring of vegetarian cuisine. Peanuts and cashew nuts are widely used in vegetables and the main cooking medium is peanut oil. Another feature is the use of a deep purple berry with a sweet and sour taste, otherwise called kokum, in sol kadhi, an appetizer-digestive, which is served chilled. Non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes are served with boiled rice or rotis made from rice flour. Dessert is commonly comprises rotis (a type of bread) stuffed with a sweet mixture of jaggery and gram flour.

Goan cuisine boasts of delicacies like tangy pork ‘vindaloo’, spicy ‘sorpotel’ and the popular fish curry with rice. Most of their meals are accompanied with local wine or local liqueur, ‘Feni’. Meals are simple but most are also chili hot, spicy and pungent. The basic components include rice, fish and coconut and delicacies made from these three are a must in nearly every meal. Coconut milk, made from grated coconut flesh and soaking it in a cup of warm water is an essential ingredient in Goan cooking and they also make their own vinegar and chutney. Goans, who are Christians, prefer pork, unlike Hindus who prefer lamb and chicken. Gujarat’s are vegetarians and buttermilk and yoghurt forms the basis of their daily diet. The main dish comprises a simple lentil and rice mixture, also called khichdi. It is eaten with a savory curry made with yoghurt using bay leaves, ginger, chilies and finely chopped vegetables as garnishing, onions and pickles.

Rajasthan staple foods include millet bread with hot garlic paste combined with spring onions which are believed to protect them against strong winds. Cooking is done with little water which is in turn substituted with milk, buttermilk and clarified butter. Balance to using milk products is provided by the appropriate use of black rock salt, ginger, asafetida and ajwain, which act as digestives. Favored spices include fenugreek seeds, dried fenugreek leaves and aniseed. Mango powder acts as a substitute for tomatoes; while asafetida enhances taste in the absence of garlic and onions. Generally, Indian cuisine was influenced by several cultures. The Aryan culture focused on the mind and body enhancing properties of food, while the Persian and Arab cultures led to the Mughali cooking style with rich, thick gravies and use of dry fruits in dishes. The British gave the Indian love for tea, resulting in an Anglo-Indian cuisine due to the while the Portuguese culture is represented in dishes like the vindaloo and Xacuti. With regards to practicing Hindus, the cow is considered sacred and therefore beef is not eaten. Some Hindus are vegetarian, not eating meat, fish, eggs or any products made from these foods. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian food is not cooked together.


India has the twelfth largest economy in the world and the second fastest growing economy in the world. It is placed fourth largest economy in 2007 in terms of its GDP at purchasing power parity. It is estimated to have its GDP at around 3.1 trillion dollars by the World Bank’s World Development Indicators (WDI) database. In 2007-2008, the GDP growth was at 9% putting the economy on an ever increasing growth curve (“India — An Overview of the Economy”). The positive indicators of stable annual growth rate have brought about a rise in foreign exchange reserves and a boom in the capital market. India’s investment climate continues to inspire confidence with its macroeconomic fundamentals staying strong. The country’s reform process was initiated with the objective of accelerating the pace of economic growth and poverty eradication. Since 1991, the reforms have signaled a paradigm shift to a more open economy, relying more on market forces, the private sector playing a bigger role including foreign investment and restructuring of the government’s role. India has emerged as a premier global manufacturing hub with a number of multinational corporations like Ford, Suzuki, Hyundai, and Coca Cola among others. Manufacturing is a big part of the economy and while global competitiveness in the specific sector fostering growth, productivity and employment and strengthening the agricultural sector that contributing to 18.5% of the country’s GDP, as well as the services sector that contributes to 55% of the country’s GDP (“India — An Overview of the Economy”). Large potential for investment exists in sectors like biotechnology, roads and highways, civil aviation, health care and in the emerging special economic zones. The investments are encouraged by India’s large skilled and competitive manpower and its own rapidly growing domestic market that arise from the growing middle class’ disposable incomes.

A person’s decision to take part in entrepreneurial activities is attributed to a number of characteristics from their personality to education, unemployment and education. Though not linked to economic activities, religion plays an important role in the way the economics is shaped (Audretsch and Meyer 36). Hinduism does not encourage one to change one’s material well-being as it is believed that one’s purpose in life is attainment of liberation and freedom from re-birth, which means understanding reality is more important than acquisition of material things. The caste system which means Brahmins are intelligent and spiritual leaders, the Kshatriyas were kings and noblemen, Vyshyas were traders and businessmen and Shudras took up all other occupations. The caste system also shapes ones values and beliefs and according to the order of the castes, ones occupation determines their castes and means that their affiliation is passed on to future generations. Although abolished, the caste system is evident at the cultural level and influences ones occupation. The castes system also deters community development as its influence prevails in modern Hindus consciousness and especially prevalent in rural areas where the education level is low and if there is, it is inclined to maintaining traditional cultural norms. The view of Vyshyas, the merchant class, as more suited to engage in business means there are fewer lower class Hindus who engage in entrepreneurial activities (Audretsch and Meyer, 36).

Family structure

The Indian family was traditionally large in size and joint and one would find from three to four families living in one house. The family was either agrarian land holding or business based (Deep). Women, though uneducated were well versed in Indian epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata which were rich in family values, social behavior and issued clear guidelines on how to act in certain situations, therefore acting as guiding the family and nation in general. The women acted as teachers of societal norms and behavior through reciting stories of societal Heros therefore giving them their basic education. This family structure made collective decisions on most of the issues, including marriage. In modern days, the structure of the Indian family has been transformed with people choosing non-agricultural activities and therefore moving out of the joint family home and into urban centers. The breakaways from the main families acted as satellites of the parent family (Deep). However, the breakaways became more independent units and continued on more or less the same pattern set from the previous units. Others learnt from the patriarch who made decisions based on his own experience, in order to enable them take up similar roles in the future.

Over time, family system has been altered substantially with the family size shrinking significantly. An average family living in the urban area comprises three to four people, with children and two without. The husband and wife both work so as to earn a living and recital of the epics has declined and even deemed backward. The chanting of Ramayana has been taken over by the television and children learn what the television teaches them. Family values and social norms are not passed on to the next decoration. Rifts have been created between parent families and the breakaway families due to the parents not being involved in the decisions made and may not be understood by them. Education has created awareness contributes to globalization, commercialization and influence of the commercial media resulting in erosion of the family values and social norms practiced in the past (Deep).

Caste System and Religion and Modern India

The caste system is the pattern of social classes in Hinduism with the basic caste called Varna or color and or birth, life, rank being its subdivision. According to the Bhagavad Gita, the works of the Brahmins, Ks.atriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras are all different according to three powers of their born nature. The Brahmins work is peace, self-harmony, purity and austerity, loving-forgiveness and righteousness, vision and wisdom and faith. The Ks.atriyas are heroic minded, have inner fire, constancy, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and noble leadership. The Vaishyas work was trade, agriculture and rearing of cattle. The Shudras’ work was service. There are thousands of sub-castes in India that are with particular geographical ranges, occupational specializations and an administrative or corporate structure. Each Varna is associated with a traditional color, skin color with higher castes having lighter skin. The first three castes are referred to as the twice born meaning that they come of age religiously making one a member of the Vedic religion and eligible to learn Sanskrit, study the Vedas and perform Vedic rituals. The second birth is equivalent to confirmation or a Bar Mitzvah. Brahmins, Ks.atriyas and Vaishyas come of age at the ages of 8, 11 and 12 respectively and a thread tied around their waists symbolizing their second birth. Girls come of age through marriage with the thread being bestowed at the wedding ceremony (“Caste System in Modern India”).

After independence, the Indian leaders decided to turn it into a democratic socialist and secular country and separating between state and religion. Discriminating someone based on their caste or their being untouchable is forbidden by law. Indians have become more flexible in the customs of their caste system, specifically those being in the urban areas and cities being less strict. Different caste people mingle with each other in cities while discrimination is still rampant in the rural areas. This discrimination leads to violence filled clashes as a result of tensions between the castes with high castes striking the lower castes who dare to try uplifting their status and the lower castes retaliating.

How Hinduism has evolved

The evolution of Hinduism from the old Vedic religion that it was to modern Hinduism is due to three factors (“The Evolution of Hinduism: Bhagavatas and Pa-upatas”). The first factor is unusual intensity and prevalence of the religious temperament. This factor brings about two side effects both conservatively and alterative: ancient customs end up receiving unreasonable respect and their absurdity or immorality does not get them abolished. Real interests bring about growth of new ideas and reinterpretations bringing about inconsistent combinations. Secondly, there is absence of hierarchy and discipline. Each Brahman follows their own creed as they lack a guiding principle which results in occasional conflicts due to their strong beliefs. This, however, does not mean that they are not united as in the past, Hindus showed a united front against the protestant and catholic churches. The third contributing factors are the rules, rites and creeds are things that the soul should leave behind and transcend as they appear lower and temporal in order.

Modern Technology Boom (Reconciling)

In modern times, technology has enabled devout Hindus reconnect with their religion through installation of sound systems in temples to enable the worshippers listen to prayers and chants anywhere in the temple (Temple Adds Modern Twist to Ancient Rites). There are also webcams that enable special ceremonies and events be viewed by the worshippers anywhere in the temple as well online. There are temples with websites that enable the followers keep up with events that the temple has planned. This is useful for devotees who are unable to attend prayers in the temple for one reason or another.

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Das, Subhamoy. Hinduism for Beginners – What is Hinduism? 4 Aug. 2002. 17 Apr. 2010.


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7 May. 2001. 17 Apr. 2010.

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