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Religions of South Asia
• 800,000,000
• Oldest living religion
8,500 years old.
• Mainly in India
Roots of Hinduism
• Grew out of the ancient Aryan Vedas
• No specific founder
• Polytheistic/Monotheistic - debate
Hinduism Gods
• Each god represents
different aspects of
Brahman (an
unchanging, allpowerful spiritual force)
• Brahma – Creator
• Vishnu – Preserver
• Shiva – Destroyer
• Countless more gods
Foundation of Hinduism
• Reincarnation - endless cycle of life.
• When the cycle of rebirth thus comes
to an end, a person is said to have
attained moksha,
or salvation from
• Dharma – duties in life; the correct
understanding of reality in its
• Karma is the value of all life’s actions.
• Good karma – reborn higher
• Bad karma – reborn into suffering,
or a lower caste.
"I am the owner of my karma .
I inherit my karma.
I am born of my karma.
I am related to my karma.
I live supported by my karma.
Whatever karma I create, whether good or evil, that I shall inherit."
The Buddha, Anguttara Nikaya V.57 - Upajjhatthana Sutta
Caste System
• Comparable to class structures in
other countries
Caste System
• Determined by birth - same as your
• Dictated your
occupation, choice
of spouse
Caste System
The “four
orders of
Caste System
• The Untouchables/Dalits were people
who did not belong to any caste;
Caste System
• Outlawed in 1949
• But it remains an
ingrained social
structure, particularly
in rural India.
• A random sampling of headlines in
mainstream Indian newspapers:
• "Dalit boy beaten to death for plucking
flowers"; "Dalit tortured by cops for
three days"; "Dalit 'witch' paraded naked
in Bihar"; "Dalit killed in lock-up at
Kurnool"; "7 Dalits burnt alive in caste
clash"; "5 Dalits lynched in Haryana";
"Dalit woman gang-raped, paraded
naked"; "Police egged on mob to lynch
• "Dalits are not allowed to drink from the
same wells, attend the same temples,
wear shoes in the presence of an upper
caste, or drink from the same cups in
tea stalls," said Smita Narula, a senior
researcher with Human Rights Watch,
and author of Broken People: Caste
Violence Against India's
• India's Untouchables are relegated to
the lowest jobs, and live in constant
fear of being publicly humiliated,
paraded naked, beaten, and raped
with impunity by upper-caste Hindus
seeking to keep them in their place.
Merely walking through an upper-caste
neighborhood is a life-threatening
Sacred Place
• Ganges River is sacred; used for
spiritual cleansing, funeral rites, and
other Hindu rituals.
Sacred Cow
• The cow is also
sacred, and
many Hindus will
not eat beef.
• Origins are in South Asia.
• Founded 600 B.C.
by Siddhartha
Gautama (Buddha) a
high-caste Hindu
• 360 million world-wide
• Northern India
• Combines Hindu and Muslim beliefs
• Believe in one God
• God can be known through meditation
• Everyone has equal status in the eyes of
• No caste system
• Men do not cut hair