Information on these pages has been used with permission from Scottish Inter Faith Council.
Glasgow Hindu Mandir
1 La Belle Place
Edinburgh Hindu Mandir/Cultural Centre
St Andrew Place
Tayside Hindu Cultural Centre
10 Taylors Lane
Introduction to Hinduism
The Hindu tradition has no founder and is best understood as a group of closely connected religious traditions rather than a single religion. It represents a complete way of life. Hindus believe in one God and worship that one God under many manifestations or images. They believe that all prayers addressed to any form or manifestation will ultimately reach the one God. Hinduism does not prescribe any particular dogmas; rather it asks individuals to worship God according to their own belief. It therefore allows a great deal of freedom in matters of faith and worship.
Hindus consider that religion is a sanctified and disciplined path one should follow to reach a higher level of consciousness or goal, i.e. to become a better person. This can only be done by following the path of Dharma. Dharma is at the heart of Hinduism which is often called the Sanatana Dharma. Dharma means the ancient law which underlies the order of the universe and is reflected in a moral and ethical life. Hindus believe in the law of karma - a simple law of cause and effect. 'As you sow, so shall you reap'. They also believe in the divine nature of the soul, which is indestructible and immortal. It transmigrates from body to body depending on the merits and sins of one's actions (karma) accumulated in a lifetime. In the end, one's karma (action) determines one's future rebirth.
Hindus further believe in the descent (avatar) of Divinity to protect the righteous and destroy the unrighteous. There have been several examples of this in Hinduism including Rama, Krishna and Buddha. They serve as an example and inspiration for pious Hindus. In one sense Hindus accept the prophets of all religions as manifestations or avatars of God and recognise the presence of God in all living beings.
Customs and practices
Prayer and the reading of the Holy Scriptures, which give Hindus an example of how they should live, are important practices. Worship or veneration of the divine image takes place around a shrine morning or evening in devout Hindu homes. There are two kinds of scripture in Hinduism: the holiest texts, called the Vedas, and the great epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The Bhagavad Gita, which is part of the Mahabharata, is a very popular text in the West.
Hindus follow the lunar calendar and particular days are set aside during the week and month to honour particular manifestations of God.
Places of worship
Hindus frequently view systematic organisation with some mistrust, believing it to be often showy and wasteful. Likewise, worship and general religious activity are commonly centred around the home. However Hindu temples or Mandirs, which have a priest, educated in the scriptures, do have public worship twice daily and Sunday has become a day for communal worship and activity. Only trained priests are able to perform religious ceremonies on special occasions though anyone may perform puja.
There are many religious festivals which are celebrated in different ways by different communities. The most commonly celebrated festivals are Diwali (or Deepavali), the Festival of Lights, and Navrathri, nine nights during which goddesses such as Durga, the Great Mother, are worshipped. This takes place over nine days and nights twice a year.
Food and diet
The influence of charity is apparent in the importance attached to hospitality: every pious Hindu is expected to keep some food aside for an unexpected guest and no-one should ever be turned away hungry. The reverence for life surfaces again in the concept of ahimsa (non-injury), one of the highest principles which encourages many Hindus to be vegetarian.
Concerns of the community
Hindus should show love and respect for all beings as a way of recognising the divinity within all creatures. Charity is extremely important. It is generally practiced in a discreet, individual manner, and is seen as a means of extending the natural love for the family into the wider community. Hindus also have a concern for the future of their young people and offer support to all members of their community, particularly vulnerable groups such as the elderly.
You can get more information about religious movements from Inform, a charity based in London.