Our visit to the Hindu Temple gave me a whole new perspective on the practices of Hinduism and provided me the chance to see a visual representation of its many gods and learn and about their characteristics. Before starting the tour, our tour guide, Mohan, greeted us with a traditional greeting in Hinduism, Namaste, which he explained means, “The light within me honors the light within you”. He then went on to explain that Hinduism has millions and millions of gods and that many Hindus might favor one over another. As for the location of the temple, Mohan clarified that Hindu temples are traditionally built near a water source for cleanliness and that and the statues are usually placed on high grounds. Even though the statues are visual representations of the gods, Mohan explained that the gods are not confined to a single location but are present everywhere. He also noted that for him he personally views Hinduism as more of a philosophy than a religion, but Hinduism is open to both beliefs.
The tour consisted of visiting several shrines, learning about their characters and powers. The first shrine was that of brahma who is the God of creation with four arms and four heads, husband to the God Sara Swati who is the god of art and knowledge and also has a shrine dedicated to her. She is commonly pictured holding a lute. The second shrine was Krishna’s and he is considered a supreme god who sustains and encourages meditation, he is also an avatar of Lord Vishnu. One thing to note is that there are several avatars of lord Vishnu and the temple includes a shrine of King Rama who is the seventh avatar of lord Vishnu. The next shrine was dedicated to Shiva who is one of the main deities in Hinduism and is considered the “destroyer” in Hinduism. Also, a shrine for the god Ganesha was present in the temple. He is considered the God of wisdom, knowledge and remover of obstacles. He has a unique appearance in that his human body has an elephant head instead of a human head. Next to Ganesha was Parvati, the Hindu goddess of love, fertility and devotion who is also the wife of Shiva. Her shrine was followed by the shrine of Murugan who is the God of war and victory.
Hinduism has always been an unusual religion for me due to its loose doctrine and dogma since there is no prescribed practices or rituals mandated by Hinduism. There is no concept of conversion in Hinduism as it is considered additive and not substitutive. I was surprised that Hinduism preaches acceptance of other faiths and not just tolerance given how most Hindus are devout and practice their rituals persistently. I was also surprised that there was no eternal hell or damnation, instead each individual is liberated from the cycle of life after he or she completes their educational learning through life experiences with the help of their gurus. This of course is very similar to the Buddhist’s beliefs on the law of karma that is also found in Hinduism, which says the present standing of man is a natural consequence of his or her actions in the present life and the many before. The caste system was something that made me think negatively about Hinduism. Even though it was initially created for a smooth and efficient function of society, it made society degrade members of the lower caste. But fortunately India has made distinction based on the caste system illegal since its independence in 1947.