Hinduism is a religion, or a way of life, found most notably in India and Nepal. Although Hinduism contains a broad range of philosophies, it is a family of linked religious cultures bound by shared concepts, recognisable rituals, cosmology, shared textual resources, pilgrimage to sacred sites and the questioning of authority. It includes Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism among others, each with an interwoven diversity of beliefs and practices.
Hinduism has been called the "oldest religion" in the world, and some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanatana Dharma, "the eternal law" or the "eternal way" beyond human origins. Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder. This "Hindu synthesis" started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE, after the Vedic times. Hinduism prescribes the eternal duties, such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings (ahimsa), patience, forbearance, self-restraint, compassion, among others.
Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include (but are not restricted to), the four Puruarthas, the proper goals or aims of human life, namely Dharma (ethics/duties), Artha (prosperity/work), Kama (emotions/sexuality) and Moksha (liberation/freedom); karma (action, intent and consequences), samsara (cycle of rebirth), and the various Yogas (paths or practices to attain moksha). Hindu practices include rituals such as puja (worship) and recitations, meditation, family-oriented rites of passage, annual festivals, and occasional pilgrimages. Some Hindus leave their social world and material possessions, then engage in lifelong Sannyasa (ascetic practices) to achieve moksha.
Hindu texts are classified into Shruti ("heard") and Smriti ("remembered"). These texts discuss theology, philosophy, mythology, Vedic yajna, Yoga and agamic rituals and temple building, among other topics. Major scriptures include the Vedas and Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Agamas. With approximately one billion followers, Hinduism is the world's third largest religion by population, and the majority religion in India, Nepal and Bali (Indonesia).
It has been said that Hindus have a holiday for every day of the year, but even that may be an understatement! Exactly how many Hindu festivals are celebrated is not known, but one scholar of Hinduism has listed more than a thousand different Hindu festivals. As in most ancient religions, many of the Hindu holidays are based on the cycle of nature. They mark the change of seasons, celebrate the harvest, and encourage fertility of the land. Others are dedicated to a particular deity, such as Shiva or Ganesh.
Still other popular holidays commemorate events in the lives of Rama or Krishna. In addition to the major Hindu festivals that are celebrated throughout India, many regional festivals are also held in honor of various deities. In general, Hindu festivals "are intended to purify, avert malicious influences, renew society, bridge over critical moments, and stimulate or resuscitate the vital powers of nature." They include a wide variety of rituals, including worship, prayer, processions, magical acts, music, dancing, lovemaking, eating, drinking, and feeding the poor.
Major festivals likely to be observed by most Hindus are:
Holi (also called Holaka or Phagwa) is an annual festival celebrated on the day after the full moon in the Hindu month of Phalguna (early March). It celebrates spring, commemorates various events in Hindu mythology and is time of disregarding social norms and indulging in general merrymaking. Holi is probably the least religious of Hindu holidays.
Diwali, from the Sanskrit word Dipavali, meaning "row of lights" is a Hindu festival of lights lasting five days. For many Hindus, Diwali is also New Year's Eve. Diwali is held on the final day of the Vikram calendar, a type of Hindu calendar followed by North Indians.
Mahashivaratri (Shiva Ratri)
Mahashivaratri (also called Shiva Ratri) is the Great Festival of Shiva. It is held on the 14th day of the dark half of the lunar month of Phalguna. Mahashivaratri is especially important to Saivites (devotees of Shiva), but it is celebrated by most Hindus.
Other sacred days:
- Rama Navami - birthday of Lord Rama (April)
- Krishna Jayanti - birthday of Lord Krishna (July-August)
- Raksabandhana - renewing bonds between brothers and sisters (July-August)
- Kumbh Mela - pilgrimage every 12 years to four cities in India (July-August)
- Ganesha-Chaturthi (Ganesha Utsava) - festival of Ganesh (August-September)
- Dassera - victory of Rama over demon king Ravana (September-October)
- Navaratri - festival of Shakti (in Bengal) or Rama's victory over Ravana (South India) (September-October)
Hindu holidays and festivals in 2017
Hindu holidays and festivals in 2018
Hindu holidays and festivals in 2019
Hindu holidays and festivals in 2020
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