Ancient Origins of Diwali

WEB RESOURCE Every year around October and November, Hindus around the world celebrate Diwali, or Deepavali - a festival of lights that stretches back more than 2,500 years. And in India, the five-day celebration marks the biggest holiday of the year. Pankaj Jain, a professor of anthropology, philosophy, and religion at the University of North Texas, says that the ancient celebration is linked to multiple stories in religious texts, and it's impossible to say which came first, the writings or the festival. We don't know how long ago Diwali started.

Hindu Temple Dedication

WEB VIDEO & DISCUSSION QUESTIONS This video from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly shows Hindus in the state of Maryland worshiping two highly revered deities, Vishnu and Shiva, in the same temple. Generally, Shiva, the creator and destroyer, and Vishnu, the preserver, are worshiped and adored in separate temples. Maryland's Sri Shiva Vishnu Temple is constructed in the shape of a reclining human being to highlight the Hindu concept of unity in diversity. A background essay is also included.


WEB VIDEO This PBS video shows a reenactment of the event that most Hindus observe as the inspiration for Diwali: Lord Rama's return from exile. Diwali, the annual five-day Festival of Lights, welcomes what is hoped to be an auspicious new year. Hindus also make a "Grand Puja" or ritual prayer towards the end of the Diwali celebration using the elements of both fire and water to communicate with God.

Ganesha Chaturti

WEB VIDEO CLIP This video, originally created by Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly describes the rituals and spiritual significance of an 11-day Hindu celebration called Ganesha Chaturthi, honoring Lord Ganesha. Widely regarded as the Remover of Obstacles, Lord Ganesha is one of the most popular gods of India. On the final day of the festival, Lord Ganesha's image is paraded through the streets accompanied by drumbeats, devotional songs and dancing, and then immersed in a river or sea. Go to for discussion questions and background reading.

Hindu Pilgrimage

WEB VIDEO & DISCUSSION QUESTIONS Download this short streaming video, produced by Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly. It shows Hindu pilgrims from India and beyond gathering to celebrate Kumbh Mela, which involves the ritual of purification by bathing in four sacred rivers. The pilgrims in the video walk hundreds of miles to bathe in the River Ganges. Kumbh Mela is based upon ancient Hindu mythology and occurs four times during a twelve-year cycle. A background essay and transcript support use of the video clip in the classroom.

Devi: The Great Goddess

WEB RESOURCE This article by the Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian provides a detailed, hyperlinked overview of the aspects and interpretations of the Hindu goddess Devi.

What You Will See Inside a Hindu Temple by Mahendra and Vandana Jani and Neirah Bhargava

CHILDREN'S BOOK Young readers are introduced to the sites within a Hindu temple. The authors explain how the art, artifacts, and structures relate to Hindu beliefs, worship practices, scriptures, celebrations, blessing ceremonies, and family shrines in homes. There are many photographs, each focused on some aspect of the temple supported by several paragraphs describing it and its role in worship. Skylight Paths Pub., 2005. Elem. - MS

Indian Religions

WEB RESOURCE Although this website has resources related to a range of religious practices in India, the majority has to do with practices loosely organized as Hinduism.

BBC: Hinduism

WEB RESOURCE This BBC site provides an overview of Hinduism and has links to other resources. Hinduism is considered the oldest living religion in the world, or at least elements within it stretch back many thousands of years. Yet Hinduism resists easy definition partly because of the vast array of practices and beliefs found within it. It is also closely associated conceptually and historically with the other Indian religions Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

The Broken Tusk: Stories of the Hindu God Ganesha by Uma Krishnaswami

BOOK This collection of Hindu folktales for features stories about the god, Ganesha, who is easily recognized because of his elephant head. Krishnaswami introduces the stories and offers a mythological context for the tales. Included among the tales are Ganesha's Head, The Broken Tusk, and 'Why Ganesha Never Married. MS

Hinduism and Modern India

WEB RESOURCE This Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly site looks at the place of Hinduism in a modernizing contemporary India through the experience of the Gupta family that has seen much prosperity in recent years. As is common in Hindu households, this one has an altar but other aspects of religious life is changing.

India's Sacred Cows

WEB RESOURCES This short Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly video features a discussion of cows in India. Cows are considered sacred by Hindus in India. They were the favorite animal of Lord Krishna, and they serve as a symbol of wealth, strength, and abundance.

Story of India

WEB VIDEO This PBS video looks at the ancient and modern history of India with an emphasis on how the beliefs and culture of the people have evolved and influenced events. The narrator is Michael Wood and has a FAQ section answering questions from people who have viewed the program.

Hindus in America, Part 1

WEB VIDEO This short PBS video gives an overview of Hindu immigrants to the US and how they have set up their faith communities, temples, and worship practice in their new land. It shows and explains Hindu rituals and practices and the beliefs than underlie them.

Hinduism - Beliefs and More

RESOURCE Hinduism is the world's oldest religion, according to many scholars, with roots and customs dating back more than 4,000 years. Hinduism is unique in that it's not a single religion but a compilation of many traditions and philosophies. This site has information about Hindu beliefs, symbols, holy books, goods, places of worship, etc.

The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe

WEB RESOURCE One of the world's greatest works of literature, the 2,500-year-old Rama classic and its many versions - teems with excitement. The story of Prince Rama's quest to defeat a powerful demonic king, rescue his abducted wife and re-establish order in the world is also, for many, a sacred tradition. For centuries, this beloved tale has been told again and again through visual and performing arts, literature and religious teachings in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and beyond.

Why Do We Light A Diya and the Importance of Diwali Diyas

WEB RESOURCE The idea behind the light of a Diya comes from this concept. The light that a fire emits can remove the darkness, not just of a room, but symbolically also of the mind - this is why a Diya is lit before starting anything important. The notion is that when you light the lamp, you are allowing the light to not only brighten up the space but also help remove the darkness from your heart and mind.

Legends of Holi

WEB RESOURCE Holi is an ancient Hindu festival, originating from the Indian subcontinent. It is celebrated by many Hindus in India, but has also spread to other areas of Asia and the Western world through the diaspora from the Indian subcontinent. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil. Holi is popularly known as the Indian "festival of spring", the "festival of colors", or the "festival of love".

Karma and Reincarnation

WEB RESOURCE Karma is the law of action and reaction which governs life. The soul carries with it the mental impressions it received during its earthly life. These characteristics are collectively called the karma of the soul. Life does not end at the death of the physical body. The soul lives on in another body after death, the astral body. At the right time, according to its karma, it is reborn or reincarnated into a flesh body. This same cycle is repeated many times until the soul spiritually unfolds and reaches a certain state of perfection.