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Hinduism: Hindu mythology is rich, multifarious, and inclusive. It portrays the terrible alongside the benevolent, the trivial alongside the cosmic, and the grotesque alongside the sublime. The earliest source of Hindu mythology is the Vedic literature, the oldest texts of which are the four Vedas, or "Books of Knowledge": Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda. These books are the oldest Indian documents and represent the religion of the Aryan invaders of the subcontinent over the period from 1400 to 500 BC.

Because it integrates a variety of heterogeneous elements, Hinduism constitutes a complex but largely continuous whole; and, because it covers the whole of life, it has religious, social, economic, literary, and artistic aspects. Hinduism thus resists a precise definition, but a common core of

characteristics most Hindus share can be identified.


Religion with Various Gods and Goddess
According to Hinduism, three Gods rule the world. Brahma: the creator; Vishnu: the preserver and Shiva: the destroyer. These three Lords have consorts and they are goddesses too. Consort of Brahma is Sarasvati; goddess of learning. Vishnu's consort is Lakshmi; goddess of wealth and prosperity. Shiva's consort is Parvati who is worshipped as Kali or Durga.
Besides these there are a number of other Gods and Goddesses. To name a few, there is Ganesh, who has an elephant's head and he is also a son of Shiva and Parvati; Hanuman, who is an ape; Surya Lord of sun; Ganga Ma, Goddess of river Ganges; Samundra, Lord of the sea; Indra, king of the Gods; Prithvi, Goddess of earth; Shakti, Goddess of strength.

Hindu Mythology and the Living Gods
Heroes of epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are immortalized and are still alive in the day-to-day existence of the common people. The gods of Hinduism are at once super-human and human and there is distinct feeling of warmth and familiarity towards them.

Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, represents qualities such as honour, courage and valour and is held up as a model of manliness. His wife Sita is the prototypal Indian wife who is carried off by Ravana, the king of Lanka, while Rama and Sita are on exile. Sita's eventual rescue by Rama, his brother Lakshmana, and Rama's faithful monkey-general Hanuman are all woven into this engrossing tale. Stories from this epic have been passed down orally from one generation to the next. Religious fairs, festivals and rituals have kept these legends alive, and there is never an occasion that does not offer an opportunity to retell the old stories.

The stirring verses of the Mahabharata tell the story of the dynastic struggle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, who were close cousins. Lord Krishna plays a very important role in this Great Epic. He is a friend, philosopher and guide to Arjuna, one of the Pandavas, and he helps Arjuna overcome his hesitation to kill his close relatives in the battlefield. The wise philosophy of Krishna and his teachings have been embodied in the Bhagwad Gita. Although the popular image of Krishna is that of a god who steals butter as a child, and who, as a youth, plays the flute and entices cows and cowherd girls alike; in his mature years he is depicted as the wise philosopher with a more serious side to his nature.

 

One God, Many Names
Some gods have more than one name. Shiva is also known as Shankar, Mahadev, Natraj, Mahesh amongst others. His worshippers also worship images of bull called Nandi, who was Shiva's carrier and a unique stone design connected to Shiva called the Shiva-Lingham. Ganesh is also called Ganpati. Lord Vishnu went about preserving the world by incarnating 10 times in human forms in times of crisis, and in his every appearance he had a different form which are also worshipped as Gods. Among his appearances, he appeared as Rama, Krishna, Narsimha, Parsuram and Buddha. Krishna also has different names, Gopal; Kishan; Shyam and other names. There are also Gods who can change their forms, such as Parvati who can change into Kali or Durga.

Not all of these Gods are worshipped by all Hindus, with some Hindus worshipping specific Gods or Goddesses, and some of these have predominance in some regions. Hindus also worship Gods according to their personal needs; those engaged in wrestling, body building and other physical sports worship Hanuman, who in Hindu legends was an ape with lot of physical strength; and those in business worship Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth.

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