Hinduism is one of the most ancient religions that exist today. The words “Hindu” and “Hinduism” have Sanskrit roots and were given by the invaders of the Indian subcontinent to the people they encountered when they reached the Indus Valley plains. The religion is gradually expanding in the west, and hence its texts are being translated into English and various other languages. But as we all know, meanings cannot easily be adapted from one language to another. To quote some facts, Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world- only behind Christianity and Islam – with more than one billion followers. It is not based on a particular holy book or some set rules and teachings. The books that have been available in bookshops in the West are written by scholars who aren’t Hindus. They are scholarly and have tried to dissect the texts to understand them but sometimes without an insight. This has been a major problem in the West to understand Hinduism as they approach the texts in a very different way than a Hindu would. It is obvious that a Christian, Islamic or a Jewish approach would be different toward Hinduism than the approach of a Hindu toward his or her religion.
With time, a lot of false ideas have plagued the religion and people seem to bear a lot of misconceptions in their mind as far Hinduism is concerned. There are a thousand myths about Hinduism that people believe in and today, I am making an effort to clear a few of them.
Myth Number 1: Hindus worship idols.
No! That isn’t true. When you ask a Hindu about idol worshipping, he/she would absolutely condemn the usage of the term ‘idol worship’. The fact is that Hindus believe in a physical manifestation of the Almighty because it helps them focus on a particular kind of prayer or mediation. For example, a person who has an investment firm would worship Goddess Laxmi, the deity who is believed to bring wealth and prosperity.
Myth Number 2: Hindus are cow-worshippers.
Cow is looked at as a gentle, maternal being that provides one with milk and other dairy products. Though Hindus believe that every living being contains a soul, cow holds a special place. Hence, Hindus refrain from eating beef. Basically, cows are honoured and not worshipped.
Myth Number 3: All Hindus are vegetarians.
Hell NO! How can that be possibly true? More than 1 billion followers and none eat meat! That is such a false notion. In fact, 70% Hindus are meat eaters. The religion stems from the fundamental principle of AHIMSA that is the principle of non-violence. And since all the life forms are a part of the united One, they believe that eating animals could disturb the natural balance of the universe.
Myth Number 4: There are more than 630 million Hindu gods!
(And not the just 630 million, some great people take it to a thousand million gods). But none of this holds true. There is one supreme God. But the Hindus try to give it forms that they can relate to so that they can feel closer to the greater being. They are encouraged to give any form to a deity which in any way that suits them best. So basically, there is just ONE SUPREME GOD and rest all the forms that are worshipped are just manifestations of that one form.
Myth Number 5: Women fall at a lower rank in the social hierarchy than men according to Hinduism.
In reality, it is the only religion that that gives feminine forms to the Almighty. The Goddess of strength and valour, Shakti is revered which is form of God’s energy and vitality in a feminine form. Women in India may not take occupy the same stature as the men in the society but this is not because of the religion. It’s because people use religion to look down upon women and keep them at a subservient position.
Myth Number 6: The ‘red dot’ on the forehead of Indian women symbolizes marriage.
A ‘bindi’ or the ‘red dot’ as it is popularly known as in the West, was once a symbol of marriage. But today, it is usually worn for decorative purposes. It has become almost a fashion statement to carry a bindi with Indian ethnic wear.
Myth Number 7: Karma advocates Fatalism.
No it is not. It’s untrue when people say that karma would always make you see terrible consequences. The truth is that Hinduism believes in the ideology that ‘you reap what you sow’. Each one has control over his or her present actions which is why you have the all the control over the repercussions that you will face tomorrow. Good deeds will always result in good outcomes and so good karma will bring fruitful results too.
It is important to note that more than a religion; it is a way of life or ‘dharma’. Dharma means the law that controls all actions. It is about letting people find a purpose for their existence rather than defining that existence.