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9 Myths about Hinduism that most people in the West still believe

Hinduism is the third largest religion across the globe, behind Christianity and Islam, and has over a billion followers. Hinduism is more than just a religion and is a way of life. And yet for many, it is still a mysterious religion.

Hinduism is a really old religion and no one can pinpoint when it was actually formed. Hindu was the word coined by invaders who referred to locals they encountered when they crossed Hindu Kush mountains to reach Indus River.

There have been myths about Hinduism in the west and we analyze those common myths here:

Myth No. 1: There are 330 million Hindu God

There are different views in this. Some call Hinduism as a monistic religion that the universe is one and everything in the universe is a part of the greater one. Some believe that Hinduism is henotheistic that people can follow one god without denying the existence of the others.

Here is What You Should Know About 330 Million Gods in Hinduism

Image credit – Wikimedia

What is certain is that Hinduism, though often thought of as polytheistic, is rather a monotheistic religion. The reality is that there is only one supreme god that can be known. People relate to god in the way that is best suited to them by believing in the different manifestation of god. But they know that ultimately, there is only one being.

Myth No. 2: Hindus worship only idols

Lord Krishna Idol

The idols are not the gods themselves and every Hindu knows it. The idols are the imagery of God which helps them focus on their aspect of prayers and meditation. These idols are the physical representation of God. That is why you see students worshipping Saraswati for education or Laxmi for wealth or Ganesh for initiation of something new.

Myth No. 3: Hindus pray to cows

The Cow festival: Day three of Tihar in Nepal. Image Source – thelongestwayhome.com

Though Hindu worship cow as a symbol of sacred life and creation, they do not pray to cows. They believe that every living being has a soul, but the cow has a special meaning in the religion as it is seeing as a gentle, maternal figure that provides milk and other substance. This is why eating beef and killing cows are banned in countries like India and Nepal.

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Myth No. 4: Hindus are supposed to be vegetarian

Vegetable stall, Pushkar, Rajasthan State, India

This myth derives from the manifestation that all living beings are part of God and violence is contrary to the belief. Hinduism asks the followers to avoid meat on specific occasions (like religious ceremonies or some months, days of a year).

Hinduism is a practical religion and doesn’t take things merely philosophical. Traditionally Hinduism has allowed any product that doesn’t result out of killing living things. Orthodox Hindus try to avoid root vegetables and any kind of meat.

For those who cannot avoid meat due to regional considerations, it just asks to keep it to a minimum. Thus, the Bengali Brahmins and the Uttara Konkani Brahmins eat fish but avoid meat.

Hindu scriptures divided foods into 3 types – Satva, Rajas, Tamas. Satva includes foodstuff that improves the thinking of the mind (milk, vegetables, fruits). Rajas foods are those that kindles emotions and sensual pleasures (spices, salt) and Tamas foods are those that slows down activities (any food that is hard to digest – a lot of grains, meat). Since the priests are required to concentrate for long times, they were required to take more of Satva food – means cutting out meat, while still consuming other animal products such as milk. (Quora.com)

Myth No. 5: There is a discriminatory caste system in Hinduism

In most of the countries where Hinduism is a dominant religion, the caste system was created on the basis of occupation and a hierarchy was created. But this system had no roots in religion, but the culture itself. To think that discriminatory caste system is sanctioned in Hinduism is all but wrong.

Myth No. 6: Women are dominated in Hinduism

Hindu Goddess Lakshmi
Image Source – DeviantArt

Again, to think that the dominance of men over women is because of Hinduism is wrong. It is all rooted in the culture. Rather, in Hinduism, Gods are considered to be feminine. Hindus respect God’s energy through female figure, and many goddesses, such as Parvati, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Kali, are worshiped in Hinduism.

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Myth No. 7: Hindu women wearing bindi (red dots) on foreheads are married

Women wearing Bindi
Photo by Armin Aschbacher on 500px.com

Yes, in the past, the red dot symbolized wedlock. But in the modern age, women –both married and single – wear a bindi as an ornament. So, you can’t say a woman is married if you see one wearing the red dot.

Myth No. 8: Bhagavad Gita is the Hindu Bible

It is not just the Bhagavad Gita that Hindus turn to. There are many other authoritative and religious books in Hinduism since it is rich with scriptures and other collection of religious writings. These include the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, and many others.

However, Bhagavad Gita does capture the core beliefs of Hinduism. But still, not every Hindu turns to Bhagavad Gita.

Myth no. 9: Karma is fatalistic

Yes, it is true that what you do today will have an effect in what will happen to you in the future, according to Hinduism. But Hindus believe that it is also the past that defines what you are now and that not every of life’s actions that you choose will form your destiny. The goal, however, is to attain as much ‘punya’ (good deeds) so that your soul is liberated from the cycle of rebirth and achieve ‘moksha’.

h/t – CNN