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A sadhu, a Hindu wandering holy manA sadhu, a Hindu wandering holy man Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world. It has its roots in India about 6000 years ago. Hindus believe in a set of ideas called the dharma, meaning the truth, virtue, morality and duty. Every living thing—in both animal and human form—has a soul, called the atman, that is reborn many times in an endless cycle of life, death and rebirth called samsara. The actions (karma) of people in this life will decide their fate in the next. Good actions lead to a better life next time, but bad actions lead to a life of suffering. Very bad actions can result in a person being reborn not as a human being at all, but as an animal or insect. A person who eventually achieves perfect mental peace and unselfishness will be released from the cycle of rebirth and attain moksha ("freedom"). What prevents most people from doing this, however, is their failure to replace their ignorance with wisdom. Hinduism today is the main religion of India, Nepal, Mauritius and the Indonesian island of Bali.

The TrimurtiThe Trimurti

Hindu gods and goddesses

Hindus believe that there is one supreme being, Brahman, who appears in the shape of many different gods and goddesses. Brahman stands for unchanging reality, which, Hindus believe exists beyond a world of ever-changing appearances, or maya, meaning “illusion”.

The three main gods, who form the trinity or Trimurti, are Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. The cycle of creation, preservation and destruction goes on forever: it has no beginning and no end. Brahma—who is not to be confused with Brahman—has four heads and therefore can see in all directions.
Brahma, Vishnu and ShivaBrahma, Vishnu and Shiva
Lakshmi, the goddess of wealthLakshmi, the goddess of wealthVishnu appears in many forms, or avatars, including Matsya, a fish, Kurma, a tortoise, and two human forms, Rama and Krishna. Tales of Rama and his wife Sita are told in a book called the Ramayana. They are respected for their love for one another and their purity of character. Krishna is worshipped as a holy child, full of charm and innocence; as a mischievous youth playing many pranks; and as a wise and brave warrior.

One of the oldest Hindu temples in India, and one of the oldest functioning temples in the world, is the Mundeshwari Devi Temple, in Bihar, India. It was constructed in about  AD 105.

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