In what ways do the sacred texts of Hinduism continue to inform Hindu ritual and practice? How does Hinduism shape daily lives in the large population centers where it is practiced today? Think in...

In what ways do the sacred texts of Hinduism continue to inform Hindu ritual and practice? How does Hinduism shape daily lives in the large population centers where it is practiced today? Think in terms of policy, education, commercial institutions, and security.

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The sacred texts of Hinduism, called the Vedas, continue to inform Hindu ritual and practice. The four principle Vedas are the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva Veda. In all, the Vedas contain over 1,000 hymns to the gods, mythical stories, and explanations of rituals involving sacrifices. The Rig Veda contains hymns for the main priest, while the Yajur Veda contains formulas for the priest to recite. The Sama Veda has formulas for the priests to chant, and the Atharva Veda consists of spells, charms, and stories. Within each veda, there are four parts, including the Samhita (or text), and the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads, which are commentaries on the text. There are also more than one hundred Upanishads, which are regarded as a completion of the Vedas. The Upanishads reject the idea of multiple deities in favor of a universal force called Brahman. There are also what is referred to as smrti, or texts, that include the epic tales The Mahabharata and The Ramayana, along with a group of texts known as Puranas. These texts contain mythology and philosophy that still guide Hindu practice and culture. In particular, the Ramayana is a guide to how a dharmic (or righteous) leader should live.

Hinduism still guides daily lives in much of India. For example, India is still affected by the Hindu tradition of caste divisions, and the dalits, or "untouchables," require additional protection under the law from persecution. Hindus traditionally practice communal living and have some communal laws regarding ownership and business, but modern urban life is changing these types of practices to reflect a more western, individualistic society. Hindu children still learn about the vedas, though often at religious schools rather than at public schools. Hinduism's ongoing rift with Islam, dating back hundreds of years but worsened after the partition of India in 1947, affects the security of the country and causes ongoing violence. 

 

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