Hinduism is native to India and Pakistan, but subsequently spread across the globe, attracting 900 million adherents worldwide. (see ref 3) Hindus practice a polytheistic faith and believe in worshiping a supreme God who has a multitude of divine manifestations that appear as gods and other deities. Hindus hold many objects and ideas sacred, and respecting these sacraments is an important aspect of the faith.
Hindus believe that depictions of deities in the form of icons or statues contain the essence of the deities themselves. Hindus worship their gods by taking care of these representations and anointing them with oils and perfumes, and in this way they believe they gain access to the divine. The material form of the representation is believed to contain the spiritual essence of the deity, and if a Hindu fails to take care of the representation, they believe the deity will depart. This process of worship is called puja, and all moral Hindus practice it.
Although Hinduism does not have a central authority or a single universally recognized religious book, Hindus do regard many texts as sacred. Hindus believe that God related the Vedic texts directly to Hindu scholars, who passed them on to subsequent generations through word of mouth until they were written down. These texts contain prayers and stories about the Hindu gods, important Hindu philosophy, and prescribed rituals and forms of worship for believers. Hindus study these texts to learn more about their religion and understand the divine nature of reality.
Hinduism preaches that people should respect all animals, but cows in particular are considered to be sacred creatures. The origins of holding cows sacred is uncertain, with some adherents citing Lord Krishna's appearance as a cowherd more than 5,000 years ago. Other scriptures identify the cow as the mother of all civilization. Cow's milk is used in religious rituals, and Hinduism prohibits killing or harming a cow in any circumstances.
Hindus observe a number of holidays that are sacred in their faith. For example, Diwali is the sacred festival of lights that lasts for five days and is celebrated with fireworks and floating lamps along the Ganges. Similarly, the birthday of the lord Ganesh is another important holiday during which adherents sing hymns and hand out candy because of the belief that Ganesh liked sweets. Observing these holidays is essential to Hindus, though different denominations emphasize the importance of different holidays.
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