Some Interesting Questions about Hinduism…(Part 1)
Recently, few blogger friends asked some interesting question about Hinduism and while answering them to the best of my understanding, I myself got thinking about them and decided to cover them in a series of blog post, to start a discussion and learn from other enlightened souls around these questions.
- How old is the tradition of praying to the statues/ idols of deities in Hinduism?
- What does Vedas say about worshiping the statues/ idols of Deities?
- Which is the oldest known statues/idol of Hindu Deity?
- What is the Oldest Hindu Temple in India?
These are very basic queries but as I tried to reply to him, it was not possible to give a short and simple response, maybe because I never thought these questions myself, never discussed them with anyone else. I learned about Hinduism from my parents and elders in the family during the growing up years, through stories, through rituals, through festivals and most importantly from Jagdish Panditji (Brahmin Purohit who carried out all the religious ceremonies at our home, till he passed away earlier this year). At time we hear different stories from different sources, sometime struggle to differentiate how much of it is based on cold and hard facts. I guess there is so much to know but we hardly ask straight forward question or seek short and crisp answers, we are generally okay with indicative explanations/ answers, mostly because we have not read the written scriptures ourselves, and do not feel the need to dig deeper. I know religion is about faith, we trust our ancestors and agree with their way of life, and decide to follow the same path. Question about Hinduism can have multiple answers, and at times all of them could be true. Understanding Hinduism is like understanding India – Everything is true – even when they may sound contradictory at first glance. If I say something as the truth as per my belief, you can come up with exactly the opposite as your own belief and I do not have any right to ask you to change your belief.
It is a highly hazardous proposition to guess about the past of a religion which is considered as old as the human life itself on this planet earth. I will try to share my thoughts on these any many other similar questions and would be grateful for your comments, suggestions, which may help in gathering more information on these questions.
It has neither any beginning nor an end, a continuous cycle of events. There is no consensus among the historians of the world as to the question of how old is this Sanatana Dharma.
1300 years of aggression from foreign invaders did a lot of damage, but fortunately we are a tough cookie and even these continuous attacks were not able to destroyed neither us nor our belief system completely. Majority of us continue to pray to the same deities that our forefathers did and theirs and theirs and theirs… Some moved on and started following the religion prescribed by the foreign invaders, some started following their own religious philosophy and differentiate it from Hinduism. It is the inherent strength of the Hinduism that kept it going without feeling threatened by others or threatening others to change their mindset.
Even within Hinduism changes keep happening, some deities became more popular than others over a period of time like Ganesha, Hanuman, Vaishno Devi. I was in Andhra Pradesh recently and was amazed to see the popularity of Hanuman across the rural areas. Almost in every village and temple, his presence was always there.
Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh have remained popular throughout the history of Hinduism, and are worshipped in temples. There is an image of sage Parasurama with Indra and Surya in the background in the cave at Bhaje dated around 400 B.C. it is one example of traditional a cave temple. Several such caves were created upto 300 B.C. Later on, with the emergence of Buddhism as a separate branch out of Hindusim, the caves became the abode of the dead worshipped by the Buddhists.
All of us have been nurtured by our elders and told that most of the temples had been existing for thousands of year, and they are not wrong, because there are many temples in India which do date back to thousands of years. By using scientific method we can now more accurately estimate the actual date of construction of these temples and scientific evidence now show that most of these temples in India were construction only in last 2000 years. The older temples are basically the cave temples, naturally made structure, not constructed by humans. The structures built of bricks and wood were perishable. Therefore, a cave temple carrying portraits of various deities was started.
The Shakyas in the North India, adopted cremation of the dead, collected relics and places them in a stupa for worship. It was further placed in a cave called Chaitya. The first such caves were created at Rajagir around 500 B.C.The caves at Mahur are guarded by huge figures of Yakshas and carry several Megalithic circles on their top suggesting a large Shakya population in its surrounding. The chaitya worship stopped after 300 B.C. when Manu Smriti, an important scripture for orthodox Hindus, prescribed the process of shraddha (death anniversary) and immersion of relics in water – rivers and seas.
I will try to cover different aspect of Hindu religion, as per my understanding, in subsequent blogs covering the following topics. Again, I would like to reiterate that my understanding my be limited to what I have learned so far, and I would be extremely grateful to all those who may give additional insights, highlight the area where my understanding my be limited and point me to the direction/ source where I can learn more.
- Being Hindu
- Hindu Timelines
- Hindu Gods/Goddesses, their family, friends and foes
- Hindu Scriptures
- Hindu Symbols, Rituals, Festivals
- Hindu Temples
- Some Interesting Questions about Hinduism… (Part 6a) Hindu Scriptures (bhuwanchand.wordpress.com)
- Gods and Goddesses; their families, friends and foes… Some Interesting Questions about Hinduism (Part 5) (bhuwanchand.wordpress.com)
- Hindu Timelines (a) : Some Interesting Questions about Hinduism… (Part 3) (bhuwanchand.wordpress.com)
- Hindu Timelines..(b) : Some Interesting Questions about Hinduism… (Part 4) (bhuwanchand.wordpress.com)
- Hindu Scriptures (a) : Some Interesting Questions about Hinduism… (Part 6) (bhuwanchand.wordpress.com)
- Hindu Scriptures (Part 5b) Puranas : Some Interesting Questions about Hinduism… (bhuwanchand.wordpress.com)
- User Friendly Hinduism Facts (ramanan50.wordpress.com)