Why do Indians bathe in the morning?

Rules and rituals of Hinduism

Holy cows are proverbial even in the West. And for a devout Hindu it is simply unthinkable to kill a cow or even to eat its meat. Cows are inviolable in India. They trot unmolested through the densest city traffic and are cared for in old people's homes. And when an American hamburger chain wanted to sell beef burgers, there were violent protests. The origin of the sacred cow is in Vedic times. Even then, the gifts of cattle - milk and dung - were considered essential. The idea developed that the cow was the embodiment of mother earth and the mythical seat of the gods.

to eat and drink

So beef is taboo for a Hindu. Other requirements and prohibitions are not that clear. It is often assumed that Hindus are vegetarians and are not allowed to drink alcohol or use drugs. And indeed, many Hindus believe that a vegetarian and abstinent life is meritorious - but a general dogma cannot be derived from this. For example, some ascetic orders use alcohol or drugs in rituals.

In general, food and drinks should be as "pure" as possible. What is to be understood by this is interpreted very differently. There are countless provisions that differentiate, for example, between raw and cooked food or between cultivated and wild foods. It is also of great importance who has prepared a meal. If the cook was unclean - for example because he belongs to a lower caste - the food is also unclean. For Hindu families, their own kitchen is a sacred place that no stranger is allowed to enter. Only the right hand is used to eat - the left is considered unclean because it is used to clean the buttocks.

Gifts, sacrifices, rituals

The everyday life of every Hindu is permeated with religious acts. House altars or pictures are decorated with flowers, images of gods are worshiped and worshiped with incense candles. The honors are not only aimed at the classical gods. Plants, animals, rivers or mountains are also worshiped as divine, deceased relatives, gurus, sometimes Bollywood stars such as saints are worshiped. Traditional Hindus begin and end each day with a morning and evening ritual. These include ritual cleansing, certain breathing exercises, the recitation of sacred verses, the worship of the gods and the expulsion of spirits and demons.

The worship service in Hinduism is called puja. Worship can take place in your own home or in one of the myriad temples and shrines. The believer already benefits just by looking at the deity (darshana). But gifts and sacrifices are of central importance. Each deity has its own taste. The fat Ganesha, for example, loves sweets, the monkey god Hanuman can be spoiled with fruit, while the wild Kali demands flesh and blood (allegedly also human sacrifice in the past). Food that is sacrificed to a god is considered sacred and is usually given back as a gift of grace (prasada).

Priests, monks and ascetics

Priests also act as mediators between humans and gods in Hinduism. All priests belong to the Brahmin caste, the highest level in Hindu society. But not all brahmins are priests. There are also great differences within the priesthood. There are temple priests, pilgrim priests, teachers (guru), astrologers, healers, funeral priests and many more. They are all religious specialists who can usually make a very good living from ritual service. There is no central authority like the church in Hinduism.

However, different monastic orders have a great influence - not all of them only accept Brahmins. Famous are the militant Naga ascetics, who are always undressed and who have fought against Muslims and English in the past. Many ascetics (sadhus) live a secluded life that they have dedicated entirely to the worship of God. Some undergo extreme asceticism, do not budge for years or take in almost no food. Ascetics are often venerated like saints by the population.

The world law

For traditional Hindus asceticism is one of four stages of life that every human being has to go through in order to be released from the cycle of rebirths at the end. First, the student should be instructed in duties and morals. Then it is time to start a family. Finally, the last two stages - hermit and wandering monk - are entirely dedicated to contemplation. Admittedly, only a few Hindus can and will want to go through all four stages. It is therefore important to believers that they follow the path of Dharma in everything they do.

Dharma is a kind of law that holds the world together. It encompasses rules and norms, rights and customs, regulations and laws, in short: the natural order of the world. In contrast to the monotheistic religions, Dharma is not a general set of rules, but always related to the circumstances and the individual. There is one Dharma for men and one for women, for young and old, for members of different castes, different stages of life, etc. Rules in Hinduism are therefore always relative. This is probably why Hinduism is so confusing to outsiders