Hi Deepa and everyone else interested in Hinduism.

To begin with, I am an atheist, but I treat all world religions with respect and curiosity. I recently came to know some stories from the sacred hindu texts and was amazed by how they differ from the Bible subjects. It seems they are NARRATIVE compared to the MORALISTIC christian stories, telling what the life IS instead of what it SHOULD BE. It looks wonderful.

Say, about the creation of god Ganesh (the one with an elephant head). The militant god Shiva once went out hunting. His wife (sorry I had forgotten her name!) had nothing to do and she created a human-like living being out of clay, perhaps, and called her newborn son Ganesh. She got tired and went to take a bath and told Ganesh to guard the door.

At that time Shiva arrives from hunting. He sees that his wife is in the bath and there is some handsome masculine stranger in front of her door. Shiva tried to pass but Ganesh didn't let him go, and Shiva went mad and speared off Ganesh's head. Here comes Shiva's wife crying 'What have you done? You just killed your own son!'

Shiva was upset but he couldn't admit he was wrong. So he made the following decision: let his servants go and take the first animal they meet to him. The servants brought in an elephant. Shiva took elephant's head and put it instead of Ganesh's human head and made him alive.

No analysis, just the story. I think this story's great. Can you please provide other?
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wow! so this is it! i must say Bubr! you do have a great knowledge about everything! but here i want to correct some mistakes that you mentioned in the story. the goddess's name is "paarvathi", she makes ganesha with the sandlewood paste that she had applied on her body and tells him to guard. ok...heres the story of : Hanumana, the monkey God, is very popular deity and is worshipped all over India. He is normally shown with a monkey-face on a very well built and strong human body. Hanumana is a very important character in the great epic Ramayana in which he is depicted as the epitome of devoted service and loyalty to his master (Rama).Hanumana is considered to be incarnation of Lord Shiva and son of Vaayu (Wind God) and Anjana, who was an apsara (by name Punjikasthalie) and by curse of sage Durvaasaa had become a monkey

Anjana became daughter of Monkey-king Kunjara and was married to Monkey-king Kesari of Mountain Sumeru . Therefore, Hanumana is also referred to as Keasri-nandana.

The story of birth of Hanumana is as follows:
King Dasharatha performed a yajna ceremony for award of sons. After the ceremony, he distributed the offering among his three queens. The youngest, Rani Kaikeyi, was offered the fruit last, which she resented. Meanwhile a kite came and flew away with the share of Kaikeyi to the mountain where Anjana was taking a stroll and longing for a son. Vaayu (Wind God) came forward and handed over the fallen fruit into Anjana's hand. Shiva appeared on the site and guided Anjana to consume the fruit and by doing so she conceived Hanumana. Because he was conceived from a part of the ceremonial cake from which Rama was also born, Rama considered Hanumana as his brother.
That was a day of eclipse (Grahana), when as per Hindu belief, tries to engulf the Sun. At the same time Baby Hanumana felt hungry and seeing the glowing Sun, he flew towards the Sun to catch and engulf it. Raahu saw this and went to Indra and complaint that that was already another person who was performing his duty. Indra assured him that no one was deputed by the devas for this job and he should go and once again try to perform his duty. To assure him his support, Indra accompanied Raahu and to their amaze they saw Hanumana chasing and trying to engulf the Sun. At this scene, Indra became angry and hit Hanumana with his thunderbolt on his chin (Hanu, a sanskrit word means chin). Thus injured, Hanumana fell down on earth. Seeing this, his father Vaayu became angry and stopped flowing. Air sustains life - one can live without food and water for days but cannot live without air even for a short while. In all the three worlds, there was no air to breathe and living beings started suffocating. To solve the crisis, all the gods came to Vaayu and asked pardon for Indra's action and requested him to start blowing once again.

In order to pacify him further, most of gods conferred boons upon little Hanumana. Indra said that because his chin (Hanu) was broken by his vajra, therefore he will be known by the name of Hanumana and want be killed by his vajra. Brahma conferred him the boon that he will be immortal and will be able to change his appearance at his will. Surya-deva said he will give a part of his energy & luster and also will teach him vedas as and when he desired. Varuna said that even after a long life, he will be unaffected by the fastening effect of water. Yama said that he will not have to fear his noose. Kuvera gave him his mace (gada) and blessed him victory in all his fights.

Vishwakarma blessed him that he will never be hurt by the weapons made by him. Blessed thus by the gods, Hanumana grew up as a mischievous child. He was a constant source of nuisance and irritation to the sages who lived in the nearby forest. Troubled by his mischief's, the sages pronounced a curse on him that he will forget all the strength and qualities he possessed and only when he will be reminded by others, he will realize his strength and qualities.

When Shri Rama accompanied by his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana were in the forest, in order to enable his father King Dasharatha to fulfill a boon given to his youngest queen Kaikeyi, when she had earlier saved his life, Sita was abducted by Ravana, the demon-king of Lanka. In this time of need, Hanumana met Shri Rama & Lakshmana and took them to Sugreeva, the exiled king of Kishkindha.With the help of Shri Rama, Sugreeva killed his elder brother Baali and regained the throne of Kishkindha. In lieu of this, Sugreeva promised Shri Rama of every help in finding Sita.

To help Shri Rama in finding Sita, Sugreeva raised an army of bears and monkeys. When it was learnt from Jataayu, that Ravana had abducted Sita, whose kingdom was across the ocean, the question was raised as to who can cross the ocean and come back with the news and whereabouts of Sita. Then Jambavan, the king of the bears reminded Hanumana of his various powers, which he had forgotten because of curse of the sages. Then Hanumana flew across the ocean, met Sita in Lanka, gave Rama's ring to her and assured that Rama will come with his troops and after defeating Ravana will take her back. Then Hanumana flew back to rejoin Rama and informed him the state of Sita in Lanka.

As desired by Rama, a bridge was built across the ocean and a fierce battle was fought between Rama and Ravana. During the battle, Lakshmana, younger brother of Rama, became unconscious. Once again Hanumana flew to the Dronaachal Mountain to bring a specific herb (Sanjeewani Jadibuti) necessary for curing Lakshmana. On reaching the mountain, when Hanumana was unable to find the specific herb, he lifted the whole of the mountain and flew back to Rama. On the way, he was shot down by Bharata, another brother of Rama. But when Bharata realized his mistake, he sent him back to Rama, where Hanumana delivered the herb to Vaidhya Sushain, who treated Lakshmana successfully.

After the war was over and Rama went back to Ayodhya and was enthroned. Everybody who had helped him during his stay in the forest were suitably rewarded but Hanumana was purposely forgotten by Rama. Sita then took out her necklace studded with precious stones and gave it to Hanumana, who accepted the gift with great gratitude. But after sometime the courtiers saw that Hanumana was breaking open the priceless stones one by one and looking within them for something, and when unable to find, throwing away the broken pieces. The courtiers were horrified at his behavior and asked him the cause of this ridiculous act. Hanumana told them that a thing which does not contain Rama was useless for him (though it may be priceless in this materialistic world.). Irritated by his answer, the courtiers asked him whether Rama resided in his heart? When they received the answer in affirmative, they asked Hanumana to prove it. Hanumana immediately split open his chest wall with the nails of his hands and there the courtiers saw Rama accompanied by Sita and other brothers sitting in his heart. The courtiers were amazed at this site.

Rama stood from the throne & walked towards Hanumana to embrace him for his impartial love for him. On the healing touch of Rama, the chest of Hanumana returned in original state and all the courtiers applauded Hanumana's bhakti for Rama. After this incident, Rama wanted to give Hanumana a boon for his priceless services. Hanumana asked that he should live as long as the deeds of Lord Rama were on the lips of the people. These deeds were, are and will be ever described by men and so Hanumana lives for all time.
Oh my! That's something. Thank you, Deepa you've done a great work on telling this. I am... I don't know what. Astounded.

Ok, closer to the comprehensible words. The reason why you thought I had some knowledge about Indian culture is that I was to India a year ago (somewhere in your area, I believe, Karnataka mostly). What I know now is that it is absolutlely impossible to know enough about your counrty, religion and people. Everything is fascinating, but tangled, hued with unimaginable colors and, hence, somehow insulated from intrusion of foreigners. I was told that only a man born in a Hindu family can become a Hindu person, nobody can be accepted into the religion. And I understand why - it's absolutely impossible to understand it clearly. For example, a hindu person, I was told, prays to Chesus Christ on coming to a church and prays to Allah on coming to a mosque. No way to comprehend.

So my curiosity about Hinduism is purely idle. I am fascinated but don't claim any deepness in understanding. If you could somehow detangle some parts of it to show an iceberg top, I would eagerly listen. Say, can you explain what these stories are - sacred texts or epos? Or is there no difference? How do children get to know it all? Do low-educated people know about it, or their religious motivations are somehow different? Isn't there a touch of atheism in the religion of Hindu? How do Shiva, Vishnu and (sorry, who's the third?) relate to Brahman? Million of unordered questions. Just tell something you consider possible to be comprehended by people from the outer world!

Maybe I shouldn't bother you with this idle curiosity, but if you are interested - I am ready to listen. I guess I have written it already. That's it. Thank you again, Deepa! You are far too kindEmotion: smile
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Bubr !!! did you understood the story of hanuman? tell me honestly , because its all inter tangled, and far too difficult to interpret the hindu religion. my family is not orthodox, even though we are BRAHMANS! we have been roaming to different parts of this country, so i got adapted to all kinds of cultures. there are thousands of gods in hindu religion, of whom i know marely some hundred! i keep asking my grandmother, who is well versed in hindu mythology, about different gods and their stories! i find those interesting and i dont know whether these happened really or not, but i just believe them! if you have enough patience then yes ofcourse i am here to solve this mystery for you!
Some words were unknown to me in this story, there were charachters that remained mysterious but the story is not too mixed up.

Please explain what is a Brahman (in the sence you used this word in the last message).
i will give you brief description of the caste system in india first, then about the brahmin.

the cast system
This system was originally introduced to India by the Aryans who arrived with three loose social divisions: priests, warriors and commoners. This system was a division of labour and not a social hierarchy. Caste was dictated by occupation and intercaste mobility was the norm. According to the Puranas, the Brahmins were born of the mouth of Brahma. They therefore mediated with the gods on behalf of mankind and addressed prayers to the gods.

The Kshatriyas were born of Brahma's arms, and were duty-bound to protect society and wield weapons. The Vaishyas were born of his thighs and attended to trade, commercial activities, and agriculture. The Shudras were born of Brahma's feet and their only purpose was to serve the other three castes.
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who is a brahmin?

The caste of priests, of those who know and repeat the Vedas. This is the first of the four Hindu castes and belongs to the dvija or twice-born category.

According to the Puranas, Brahmins were created from the mouth of Brahma (god: the sustainer of the life according to hindu mythology) so that they might instruct mankind. This was why they were considered the highest of the four castes, as they had the most to do with intellect. Since it was recognised that knowledge is the only thing that remains with a person throughout life, Brahmins, as teachers, were duly respected.

The Brahmins conducted the daily rites, the purification ceremonies , sacrifices and taught the Vedas.
Which they had to go through in the prescribed order. Since they were the teachers, preachers and priests they had to be proficient in sacred knowledge through the Vedas. They had to maintain a strict code of conduct and exemplify ideal behavior. They were to be kind and gentle. For this, they earned certain privileges. They were regarded as the highest class and respected by all, to the extent that they were treated almost like gods by commoners and kings alike. They were given special gifts, dana, dakshina and were free from oppression and immune from capital punishment. It was considered to be the gravest of sins to kill a Brahmin. Only a priest could partake of the sacrificial Soma and eat the remains of the sacrifices, for no one else was regarded holy enough to eat the divine leftovers.

Initially, a person became a Brahmin on the basis of his knowledge of the Vedas. In time, the Brahmins began interpreting laws to their own advantage to maintain their privileges. And because of this unassailable social and moral authority, they were unchecked.

Thus, according to the Brahmins themselves, they were the chiefs of all created beings, entitled to all honour. The Shatapatha Brahmana declares that there are two kinds of divinities: gods and Brahmins who have learnt the Vedas. Only the Brahmins were allowed to read and teach the Vedas and hence monopolised the privilege of priesthood in the later Vedic period. They also established that one was born into a caste, which could not be changed except to be outcaste. This became the common practice, which survives till the present.

Today most Brahmins are engaged in other secular activities. However, only a qualified Brahmin can conduct religious ceremonies. These professional priests are now called Pandit, Bhatt or Shastri. There are several subdivisions within the Brahmin caste. Earlier, the different Vedas were preached by Brahmins belonging to specific gotras(some astronomical sign assigned to every brahmin). The subdivisions are therefore based on their gotra or on geographic location. Presently there are 1,800 subdivisions. A Brahmin should be able to trace his origin to one of the seven great sages - Kashyapa, Atri, Bharadvaja, Gautama, Vishvamitra (we relate to this sage!), Jamadagni and Vasishtha. Of these seven, Vishvamitra is said to have been born a Kshatriya and later became a Brahmin after performing severe penance.

Geographically, Brahmins are divided into two main groups - of the north and of the south, each of which has five divisions. The categories of the north are Kanyakubja, Sarasvata, Gauda, Mithila and Utkala. Those of the south are Maharashtra, Telinga, Dravida, Karnataka and Malabar. Each group claims to be the highest category.
Thanks! At last a comprehensible explanation!

Does the cast system in India nowadays affect the life of people and prescribe a person's life line (career, marriage etc.)?
no! When the Constitution of India was adopted on January 26, 1950, it abolished the caste system and guaranteed equality to all citizens. The Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution ensure equality before law and equal protection by the laws to all persons in the country; they guarantee that the state shall not discriminate against any citizen only on the basis of race or caste and that no citizen shall be restricted in access to places dedicated to the general use of the public; they further ensure that the state shall not discriminate against any citizen with regard to employment or appointment to any state office and that no citizen shall be ineligible for any state office on the grounds only of race or caste. The Constitution also abolished untouchability. Its practice in any form is forbidden and Varnaconsidered a legal offence. The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, further ensures this. And with the spread of education, the centuries-old caste system is inevitably crumbling.
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