Hinduism 101 with Hindu Temple Society of Canada
Hinduism is considered by many scholars to be the oldest religion in the world. It’s rich history and traditions can be traced back for thousands of years. Some experts may argue that in a stricter sense, this religion was only officially established during modern times, however, it is also factual that its practices and teachings are ancient.
The Hindu Temple Society of Canada believes that the rich story behind Hinduism’s story and teachings are more important than debating whether the religion is ancient or not. Even the most respected Brahmins cannot tell you when exactly everything started.
Hinduism and its roots
As was said before, Hinduism has no established starting point because of its cyclical view of time. For the rest of the world, time seems to move on, leaving everything behind in its wake. With the Hindu faith, time is seen as eternal and boundless.
Hinduism is more than a religion; it is a culture with its way of life. Unlike some religions across the world, Hinduism has no historical founder. Everything that devotees follow came from sacred texts that guided them for thousands of years.
Various beliefs and traditions from ancient civilisations cultivated the Hinduism practices that you know today. Scholars often say that the sacred teachings of this religion came from the fusion of beliefs by different customs and philosophies across different periods.
Religious timeline of Hinduism
Even though there is no specific date when Hinduism was founded, the Hindu Temple Society of Canada has compiled a general timeline of the religion’s history. Knowing the context of its rich history will help in understanding your faith better. Devotees need to know the roots of their cultural beliefs because it strengthens your spirituality and general disposition in life.
Indus Valley Civilisation (2000 BCE)
This civilisation was located on the basin of Indus River which can be seen today in modern-day Pakistan. The way the culture developed in this place is similar to that of Mesopotamia, the first recorded human civilisation. The cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa kept this old civilisation alive and thriving. Historians believe that the people who lived during that time had high standards of living because there is evidence of sophisticated water systems, drainage, wells, and other cultural advancements.
There are no solid pieces of evidence that can point to the specific religion that the people in this valley practice but scholars believe that they practice various temple rituals and spiritual bathing. People during this time often do ritual bathing in the great bath of Mohenjo-Daro.
Terracotta figurines have been uncovered by archaeologists and they believe that these may be images of gods and goddesses they worship. Some think that these religious figures are the early depictions of the Hindu god, Shiva.
Many of the cultural pieces of evidence uncovered in this prehistoric civilisation are linked to the beginnings of Hinduism.
Vedic Period (1500 to 500 BCE)
Scholars believe that the early development of South Asian traditions began from the Aryans when they migrated from the Indus Valley to the Indian subcontinent. This supports the idea that the religion of the early Indus Valley civilisation led to the development of early Hinduism.
During this period, the famous Sanskrit texts of the Vedas were composed. This is the oldest book known to the Hindu religion. The Vedic Period’s rituals centred on the sacrificial offering to their gods. Archaeologists believe that the people during this time preferred sacrificing horses than other animals in the land.
Many of the Vedic rituals are still practised by Hindu devotees until today. Majority of the influential gods and goddesses that the Hindus worship are traced back to this period. Here are the following Devas or gods divided into their hierarchical realms:
- Dyaus lord of the sky
- Varuna lord of the cosmic law
- Vishnu the pervader
- Indra the warrior
- Vayu the wind
- Maruts the storm gods
- Rudra the terrible
- Soma (plant god)
- Agni (fire god)
- Brhaspati (god of priestly power)
Epic, Puranic and Classical Age (500 BCE to 500 CE)
This era in ancient history led to the discovery of more sacred literature that solidified Hinduism as a religion and culture. These Hindu texts are still influential, not only among the devotees but also in the university curriculum.
Different sacred literature was written during this time and they are as follows:
- Dharma Sutras
- Bhagavad Gita
These texts, especially the Dharma Sutras and Shastras gave rise to the teachings of Dharma that focus on law, duty and truth. This is central to the teachings of Hinduism that we know and live by today.
There are three sources of Dharma:
- Revelation or the Veda
- Tradition or smrti
- Good custom
During this period, the rise of the Gupta Empire was influential to the following Hindu traditions:
- Vaishnavism – the worship of the god Vishnu
- Shaivism – focused on worshipping Shiva
- Shaktism – the worship of Devi
Sacrificial rituals are lessened during this time because the devotional worship called Puja was introduced to the masses. These rituals enabled the Hindus to pray in front of the images of their deities in sacred temples. Traditions and sacred teachings that were developed during this time are still practised today.
Medieval Period (500 – 1500 CE)
The collapse of the Gupta Empire during this period led to the development of regional kingdoms that followed different religions. Temples in these regions are powerful and influential to their people. These great temples are centres of religious and political power and they include the following:
- Jagganatha Puri in Orissa
- Shiva Temple in Tanjavur and Taminaldu
Not only did the sacred Sanskrit teachings thrive during this time but devotional sentiments made by poet-saints and gurus became widespread. These scholars formulated new theologies that garnered attention from devotees.
The prominent poet-saints and gurus of the time are:
- Andal the female poet-saint
- The sixty-three Shaiva Nayanars
Vaishnavism and Shaivism also gained influence during this time because of disciples and philosophers that propagated the religions’ teachings. The Tantra texts became influential and were revered by people because they supported Veda teachings.
Spiritual commentaries were shared by these philosophers:
British Period (1757 to 1947)
The end of the Mughul Empire during the Battle of Plassey in 1757 led to the British occupancy in the Indian subcontinent. During the first few years, the Hindus were given the freedom to practice religion until the Christian missionaries came.
These missionaries wanted the Hindus to convert to Christianity and westernize their culture during the time, which led to their unrest. Various resistant movements wanted to free India from the British colonial rule and Hindu became a word heavily charged with socio-political meaning.
As the 19th century approached, the Hindu Renaissance was born, motivating a lot of Indian devotees to push for reform. These Hindu reformers sacrificed a lot of things in the name of freedom and religion. Many of Hindus today revere the following reformers:
- Dayananda Sarasvati
- Ram Mohan Roy
- Paramahamsa Ramakrishna
- Mahatma Gandhi
There are also different cultural organisations during this time that fought for Hinduism:
- Rashtriya Svayam-Sevak Sangh
- Vishva Hindu Parishad
- Bharatiya Janata Party
After the British occupation
When India was given its freedom, the country was split into two. Not everyone agreed that the motherland should be a solely Hindu nation. This resulted in communal violence that continues today. The Hindus are still suffering because other religious sectors insist that they convert.
This led to the Hindu diaspora and their subsequent identity crisis. The post-war Hindu movements had no choice but to migrate to western countries to be at peace. Different gurus established Hindu communities in their areas and taught them Sanskrit teachings.
Hindu Migration and the Temple Society of Canada
Hindu communities established themselves in the west after the diaspora. Many of the immigrants wanted to practice Hinduism in their new homeland. That is why the Hindu Temple Society of Canada was established by the board of trustees because of the rising need for a place of worship among the community.
For decades, this became a safe space for local devotees in Canada to worship. We are also proud to be the largest Hindu temple in North America that welcomes Hindus with open arms. Be part of our growing community and learn more about the ways of Hinduism.
Contact The Hindu Temple Society of Canada Today!
Please coordinate with the administrative officer and our chief priest for your inquiries about scheduled rituals and prayers. We ask that you call during the day, preferably on business hours so that we can accommodate your inquiry.
One of our staff will be attending your inquiry once you contact us through our channels. Call us on the following numbers:
- Phone: 905- 883 9109
- Fax: 905- 883 9834