Origins & beliefs


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 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 (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, transmigrating from body to body depending on the merits and sins of one’s actions (karma) accumulated in a lifetime. 
  • Hindus further believe in the descent (avatar) of Divinity to protect the righteous and destroy the unrighteous.

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 & worship

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

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:

Worship and general religious activity are commonly centred around the home.

Hindu temples or Mandirs, which have a priest, educated in the scriptures, 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.


Main festivals:

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.