The uniqueness of Hinduism and Hindu practices has its root in the ethno-cultural diversity of the people of India and a myriad of customs practiced by them for centuries. Prolonged interaction among the diverse groups led to the advent of “Vedism” which introduced the worship of gods of rain, fire and the sun. In course of time, a wide variety of religious beliefs and customs, ranging from the simple animistic worship of nature spirits in the rock, tree and river to highly codified rituals, carved their niches in the liberal platform of Hinduism.
Hindu pilgrimages are sacred destinations where one can enjoy the beauty of both the aspects of Hindu philosophy. Presence of nature’s best gifts like astounding caves, lush green forests, flowing rivers etc at the site of Hindu pilgrimages reflects its association with the philosophy of animism. Importance of rituals, the second important approach of Hinduism practitioners can be observed by travelling to Hindu pilgrimages.
The modern Hindu philosophy focuses on a trinity of Gods namely, Shiva, Vishnu and Shakti. Hindu sacred places are often linked with the blessings of this trinity worshipped by the majority of devotees. Lord Vishnu and his various incarnations are worshipped in the holy temples of Tirupati and Rameshwarm in southern India, Jagannath Puri temples in eastern coast and their presence is welcomed in the temples of Badrinath , Haridwar and Vridanban in North. Similarly, Lord Shiva is believed to dwell and bless the devotees visiting the sacred shrines of Kedarnath and Amarnath. The Cave of Vaishno Devi derived sacredness from Maa Vaishno Devi who was the embodiment of “Shakti”.
Gangotri and Yamunotri are also among the most sought after Hindu religious destinations frequented by pilgrims where they can enjoy bathing in the holy waters of river Ganga and Yamuna. The other major places of Hindu Pilgrimage include Varanasi, Nava Graha Sthala temples of nine planets, Maths started by Sri Shankracharya , the shakti peeth temples, Panch Bhutha linga temple and yes visit to 7 religious rivers of India namely Ganga , Yamuna , Godavari, Saraswati, Sarayu, Kaveri and Narmada.
Hindu devotees around the world worship Hanuman, who is one of the most respected gods in the Hindu religion. Hanuman has 108 different names, with Maruti, Bajrang Bali and Anjaneya being three of them.
Important temples like Jahkhu temple in Shimla, Sri Anjaneyar Temple in Ambur in Tamil Nadu and Sankat Mochan Temple in Varanasi are built to worship Hanuman. Another temple dedicated to him has been built in Trinidad with an 85-feet tall statue of the lord.
Maruti was born as a monkey-like human belonging to the ‘vanara’ race. He became Lord Rama’s follower when Rama was out of his kingdom and helped him to release Goddess Sita from evil King Ravana. He single handedly helped Lakshman get back his life, bringing ‘Sanjeevani’ by transporting the ‘Gandhamadan’ mountain.
That is why he is revered by devotees for his courage and might. His sincerity to Lord Rama is also well-known. A lot of Hindu shrines have his idol next to Lord Rama’s suggesting lifelong loyalty and friendship.
Devotees celebrate Hanuman Jayanti in the month of ‘chaitra’ that falls between March and April as per the Gregorian calendar. Fasts are observed and devotees throng to temples to offer their prayers to Hanuman. ‘Chalisa’, a special prayer which consists of 40 verses in it, is chanted by devotees of Anjaneya.
Devotees put on red or saffron colored clothes and bands on wrists. Legend says, Hanuman asked Sita the purpose of wearing sindhur on the forehead; she replied that it signifies Lord Rama’s long life. He is believed to have coated sindhur throughout his body for the long life of Lord Rama.
Hindu devotees believe that Anjaneya is the ‘immortal one’ and still lives today in caves, reciting the name of Lord Ram.
Read about Lakshmi on Prabhubhakti.
All devout Hindus give a lot of significance to religious Hindu hymns and poems in their everyday lives. Most of these chants are chanted on particular events or as a daily routine while there are others that can be recited or heard according to the wishes of the followers. The first poem that strikes your mind when talking about the religious Hindu music is Tulsidas’ ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ that is a religious poem devoted to the god Hanuman.
Hanuman chalisa text is a well known sacred poem that is frequently sung by the Hindus across the globe. Every Tuesday and sometimes on other days of the week, many Hindus sing it in praise of Hanuman.
Mirabai’s bhajans also have a great reverence in holy Hindu poetry. Dedication and devotion are evident in these bhajans which are similar to poems. These bhajans in the bhakti tradition are sung in praise of Lord Krishna.
Mirabai’s poetry puts love for Krishna above everything else in life. In her bhajans, she talks about Krishna as her husband and a romantic partner. They are depiction of Mirabai’s intense longing for union with her Lord. Thus, Mirabai’s music has a religious as well as a loving quality and tone.
The popular songs of Surdas, ‘Sur Sagar’ or Ocean of Melody can not be forgone mention here. Surdas is renowned for this great piece of work, which is a compendium of 100,000 poetic song compositions. However only around eight thousand of them can be found these days.
These poems mainly deal with the life and adventures of Lord Krishna, and reflect the poet’s adherence to the Bhakti movement. They often depict the sacred union of the lovers Radha and Krishna and the heavenly dances they indulged in called Lilas. Any discussion of Hindu spiritual poetry would be incomplete without including Kabir’s composition Bijak or Seedling that contains many songs that deal with a secular approach towards god and philosophy.
The poems are full of ideas of atman, brahman and karma, and have a strong bhakti undertone. They suggest that each of us must look beyond their religious texts and scriptures so as to achieve the unity or ekatwa with the God. Om Jai Jagdish Aarti is also popular Hindu hymn.