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Hindu Religion

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.

Though these Hindus worship different idols, there are many Hindus who believe in one God and perceive in these different Gods and Goddesses as different images of the same one God. According to their beliefs, idolatry is the wrong interpretation of Hinduism.

Unique and Encompassing Religion - Hinduism
A unique and all-encompassing characteristic of Hinduism is that one devotee may be worshipping Ganesha while a friend worships Siva or Vishnu or Kali, yet both honor the other's choice and feel no sense of conflict. The Hindu religion brings us the gift of tolerance that allows for different stages of worship, different and personal expressions of devotion and even different Gods to guide our life on this earth. You will thus find Hindu temples for different Gods and Goddesses in near proximity to each other. Indeed, you will find places of worship for many different faiths in close proximity to each other. About 80% of the population are Hindus, thus by far the most common religion in India.

Muslim Religion

The literal meaning of Islam is peace; surrender of one's will i.e. losing oneself for the sake of God and surrendering one's own pleasure for the pleasure of God. The message of Islam was revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) 1, 400 years ago. It was revealed through angel Gabriel (on whom be peace) and was thus preserved in the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran carries a Divine guarantee of safeguard from interpolation and it claims that it combines the best features of the earlier scriptures.

The prime message of Islam is the Unity of God, that the Creator of the world is One and He alone is worthy of worship and that Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) is His Messenger and Servant. The follower of this belief is thus a Muslim - a Muslim's other beliefs are: God's angels, previously revealed Books of God, all the prophets, from Adam to Jesus (peace be on them both), the Day of Judgement and indeed the Decree of God. A Muslim has five main duties to perform, namely; bearing witness to the Unity of God and Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) as His Messenger, observing the prescribed prayer, payment of Zakat, keeping the fasts of Ramadhan and performing the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Islam believes that each person is born pure. The Holy Quran tells us that God has given human beings a choice between good and evil and to seek God's pleasure through faith, prayer and charity. Islam believes that God created mankind in His image and by imbuing the attributes of God on a human level mankind can attain His nearness. Islam's main message is to worship God and to treat all God's creation with kindness and compassion. Rights of parents in old age, orphans and the needy are clearly stated. Women's rights were safeguarded 1,400 years ago when the rest of the world was in total darkness about emancipation. Islamic teachings encompass every imaginable situation and its rules and principles are truly universal and have stood the test of time.

In Islam virtue does not connote forsaking the bounties of nature that are lawful. On the contrary one is encouraged to lead a healthy, active life with the qualities of kindness, chastity, honesty, mercy, courage patience and politeness. In short, Islam has a perfect and complete code for the guidance of individuals and communities alike. As the entire message of Islam is derived from the Holy Quran and indeed the Sunnah and Hadith (the traditions and practices of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings on him) it is immutable in the face of change in time and place. It may appear rigid to the casual eye, in actual fact it is most certainly an adaptable way of life regardless of human changes.

Islam teaches that the path to spiritual development is open to all. Any individual who searches the One Creator can seek nearness to God through sincere and earnest worship; it is central to establishing a relationship with the Almighty. This positive message for humanity fills hearts with hope and courage.

Sikh Religion

Sikhism is one of the youngest world religion. It is a strictly monotheistic faith, preaching the existence of only one God, and teaching universally acceptable ideals of honesty, compassion, humility, piety, social commitment, and above all tolerance for other religions.

The word 'Sikh' is derived from the Sanskrit word 'shishya' which means a disciple, a learner, a seeker of truth. A Sikh believes in One God and the teachings of the Ten Gurus, embodied in the Eternal Shabad Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji. The Basic beliefs must be followed in Sikhism. Additionally, a Sikh must also partake Amrit, the Sikh Baptism. Every sikh is supposed to follow the Sikh Code of Discipline. Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the beginning of the sixteenth century. The succeeding nine Gurus nurtured, developed and preached his ideas and teachings. The pontificates of the nine successors of Guru nanak were only the extensions of Guru nanak's work. It is significant to note that five of the successors of Guru Nanak also composed under the name 'Nanak' implying thereby that there is no difference between the compositions of the successor and the founder.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Guru installed,in 1708, Guru Granth Sahib ji as his successor and the permanent Guru of the Sikhs and brought to an end to the line of human Gurus. Earlier, on Baisakhi day of 29th March,1699 The Birth of The Khalsa took place.

The Sikh Gurus provided guidance for about 240 years. They taught the basic values of freedom, brotherhood, charity, obedience, understanding, sympathy, patience, humility, simplicity, and piety, and outlined the path to spirituality in life. The Gurus themselves said that they were human beings and were not to be worshipped as God. They considered themselves to be mere servants of God.

History
The Sikh religion was founded by Guru Nanak, who was born in 1469 CE in the village of Talwandi, now called 'Nankana Sahib' near Lahore (Pakistan). Right from his childhood his keen mind would not accept all the groundless rituals, superstitions and dogmas which passed for religion in those days.

Guru Nanak and the nine Gurus, who succeeded him, set a wonderful example of living spiritually, while yet taking an active part in the world. The tenth Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708 CE) evolved the Sikh initiation ceremony in 1699 CE; and thus gave a distinctive identity to the Sikhs. The first Five Initiated Sikhs were named Panj Piaré (Five Beloved Ones), who in turn initiated the Guru on his request - an event hitherto unknown in the history of mankind.

Shortly before passing away the Guru ordained that Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Scripture, would be the ultimate spiritual authority for the Sikhs and the temporal authority would vest in the Khalsa Panth - the Sikh Commonwealth. Guru Granth Sahib was compiled and edited by the fifth Nanak, Guru Arjan in 1604 CE. This is the only scripture in the world, which has been compiled by the founders of a faith during their own lifetime.

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