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The origins of Hinduism can be traced to the Indus Valley civilization sometime between 4000 and 2500 BCE.* Though believed by many to be a polytheistic religion, the basis of Hinduism is the belief in the unity of everything. This totality is called Brahman. The purpose of life is to realize that we are part of God and by doing so we can leave this plane of existence and rejoin with God. This enlightenment can only be achieved by going through cycles of birth, life and death known as samsara. One's progress towards enlightenment is measured by his karma. This is the accumulation of all one's good and bad deeds and this determines the person's next reincarnation. Selfless acts and thoughts as well as devotion to God help one to be reborn at a higher level. Bad acts and thoughts will cause one to be born at a lower level, as a person or even an animal. See Editor's note.
Hindus follow a strict caste system which determines the standing of each person. The caste one is born into is the result of the karma from their previous life. Only members of the highest caste, the brahmins, may perform the Hindu religious rituals and hold positions of authority within the temples.
"Om" is also spelled "Ohm" and "Aum". This symbol is the Sanskrit letter representing Om. According to the yogis this symbol represents all that was, all that is, and all that will be.
The long lower curve represents the dream state, the upper curve represents the waking state and the curve coming from the center to the right represents the deep dreamless sleep between. Interestingly, the figure is shaped like the number 3, representing the 3 states of being. The crescent shape above represents "maya" or the veil of illusion, and the dot above the crescent represents the transcendental state. When one's spirit passes through the veil and rests in the transcendental, liberation from the 3 states occurs. See The Four Yugas or Epochs.
The Om symbol represents the possibility of transcendance to Source.
dates are given in BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era). These
years correspond to the same dates in BC and AD but by defining the
current period as the "Common Era" the nomenclature attempts
to treat all religions and beliefs as equal.
The Red Dot Tradition of Hinduism
Wearing a red dot on the forehead is a Hindu, not an Indian, tradition. It is a common error to confuse the terms Hindu and Indian, though. The vast majority of Indian people are Hindu, but there are also Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs people of other faiths.
One of every six people in the world is Hindu, so it's not surprising the dot goes by different names in different dialects. You'll hear it referred to as a "tilaka," a "bottu," or a "bindi."
Traditionally, the dot carries no gender limitation: men as well as women wear it. The tradition of men's wearing the tilaka has faded in recent times, though, so nowadays you see a lot more women than men sporting one.
Red is the traditional color, but that's also changing -- people now use different colours depending upon their preferences. Traditionally, some unmarried women wore black dots, while married women sported red ones. Today, women often wear dots that match the color of their saris.
The traditional position of the tilaka is the centre of the forehead. It represents a third eye, the inner eye, the third-eye chakra, the sixth chakra. It is the seat of wisdom and is related to clear insight. Hindu tradition holds that all people have three eyes, the two outer ones used for seeing the outside world, the third one focusing inward toward God. As such, the red dot signifies piety as well as serving as a constant reminder to keep God in the front of a believer's thoughts. --
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See Indian Food.
POINTS TO PONDER