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Origins, Beliefs, and the Caste System
Essential Questions
 1. How did Hinduism originate?
 2. What are the beliefs of Hinduism?
 3. What is the Caste System?
 4. How does the Caste System influence and
affect society in India?
Where is it practiced?
1. Origins
 Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in and the
 It is the third largest today
 There are over 1 billion Hindu followers in the
 2 million followers in the US
 Started around 1500 B.C.E. and found in the
 What are the Vedas?
 Which early civilization is the Vedas from?
2. Brahmanism
 Brahmins (priests) recited the Vedas and were written
down in Sanskrit much later
 Aryan religion changed and borrowed ideas from other
people the Aryans encountered
 The mix of beliefs eventually became Hinduism
 Hinduism grew out of the religious customs of many people
over thousands of years
 Even though Hinduism has many deities Hindus believe
they are part of one universal sprit which is Brahman.
3. Upanishads
 Ancient sacred texts that say that every living being has
a soul that wants to be reunited with Brahman
 This happens when a person dies
 Upanishads describe how a person united with Brahman
 “A soul that becomes one with Brahman is like a lump of
salt thrown into water. The lump of salt is gone, but the
water tastes salty. The salt has become part of the
4. Beliefs
 Reincarnation: the idea of passing through many
lives to reach Brahman
 Soul is not joined to the Brahman right after death
but a person passes through many lives first
 Soul may be reborn into a higher caste unless a
person lived a bad life then maybe into a lower caste
 Influences how Hindus live their daily lives and even
how they treat animals (because all life is sacred)
4. Beliefs
 Dharma: the divine law
 To earn the reward of a better life in the next
life, Hindus believe they must perform their
 Requires people to perform the duties of their
 A farmer has different duties than a priest
 Men have different duties than a woman
4. Beliefs
 Karma: the consequences of how a person
 If Hindus do their duty and live a good life,
they will have good karma
 Having good karma will move them closer to
Brahman in their next life
 Having bad karma will have negative effects
5. The Caste System
 Originates in the early religious ideas of the
Aryan people that were written about in the
 The Vedas laid out the early forms of Hinduism
and the Caste System
 The Caste System divides people according to
their occupations and roles in society
 Hereditary (passed down) differences between
individuals and groups
6. Varnas
 Varnas: the classification of the Hindu
society into four castes that were created
by the Brahmins and their sacred texts
 Four main varnas (divisions)
Brahmins: priests
Kshatriyas: rulers and warriors
Vaisysas: farmers, craftspeople, traders
Sudras: laborers
7. Caste Rules
 To keep their classes distinct, the Aryans developed
guides which listed all the rules for the caste system
 Rules included:
 You cannot marry someone from a different class
 You cannot eat with people from another class
 If you broke the rules you could become an untouchable
8. Hinduism and the Caste System
 According to reincarnation, a person who has died is
reborn in a new physical form but this depends on
karma (do good things and good things will happen to
 People with good karma are born into a higher caste in
their next life
Discussion Question
 The Caste System really enslaves the
poverty stricken in India.
 How is life in India influenced by Hinduism
and its beliefs and rules?
 Why don’t the people living in poverty try
to make their lives better?
Discussion Question Answer
 Untouchables make up a large part of India (the poorest
of poor)
 They are unable to reborn into a higher caste
 These people follow dharma (be happy with the
situation you are in). If they don’t follow the rules that
would be bad karma and bad karma means you won’t be
reincarnated. If you aren’t reincarnated you won’t
move into a higher caste which means you will never get
out of poverty.