India and the Himalayas Lessons
Every spring the Ganges River swells with water as snow melts in the Himalayas. The water brings life as trees and flowers bloom and crops grow. This cycle of rebirth is a metaphor for Hinduism, the religious faith of most people in India. Hinduism is a polytheistic faith, with many gods and goddesses. Hindus believe that every living thing has a soul, which comes from the creator, Brahma. They believe that people’s souls live on after death, and that all living things can be reborn. This is called reincarnation. Traditionally, a person who followed the rules of their caste would be reborn to a higher form in the next life. A Hindu who neglected their duties would be reborn in a lower form, perhaps as an animal or insect. The goal of Hinduism is to escape the cycle of rebirth by reaching Nirvana. Nirvana is a Sanskrit word that means ending. Hindus and Buddhists believe Nirvana is a state of happiness without change or pain.
Hindus believe that all living things have souls, so almost all Hindus are vegetarians. A vegetarian does not eat meat. Some Hindus are vegan, which means they will not eat any animal products, including eggs and cheese. Other Hindus will eat poultry and fish, but will not eat beef. Cows are particularly sacred to Hindus. It is not unusual to see a cow wandering through the streets of an Indian city.
Many Hindus consider the Ganges River holy. Lately, the Ganges has become very polluted, but Hindus believe the water from the Himalayas will purify the souls of those who drink or bathe in its waters. Many Hindus make a pilgrimage to the Ganges. Others travel to it near the end of their lives so they may die near the banks of the Ganges River.
Download this lesson as Microsoft Word file or as an Adobe Acrobat file.