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Is Hinduism A Pagan Religion?

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Updated: Wednesday, August 8, 2012, 13:42 [IST]

Is Hinduism A Pagan Religion?

The meaning of the word 'pagan' has been long been linguistically and culturally misunderstood. The essence of pagan religions has been corrupted by associating them with devil worship and witchcraft. But, are all the pagan Gods actually devils and people who worship them heathens? Not really.

What Does Pagan Actually Mean?

The word 'pagan' actually means 'rustic'. Thus it is used as an umbrella term to identify all religions that pre-dated Christ (apart from Judaism) and the modern religions. The references to devil-worship and witchcraft is a connotation added to paganism during the Dark ages (13th to 15th century AD) . The Medieval period is infamous for witch hunts and all manner of superstitious beliefs and these references to paganism is a product of that paranoia

A pagan religion is not a religion of the book like Islam or Christianity; it is a religion that is based on traditions and primitive rituals of Nature worship. After onset of Christianity, any religion that did not subscribe to a monotheistic God (single God) was considered outdated and savage. Thus, the Greek and Roman Gods too were considered Pagan gods. But Hinduism occupies a unique place in this regard. Let us see what it is.

Pagan Elements In Hinduism:

1. Polytheism: Most important element of paganism is having more than one god. This was typical of all the religions in ancient Europe (Greeks, Romans etc). The Hindus have 33 crore Gods and Goddesses. The main Hindu Gods are the Trinity of Brahma (creator), Vishnu (preserver) and Shiva (destroyer). Shakti or the female Goddess is a singular entity who takes different forms like Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kali etc.

2. Worshipping The Female Form: The three major religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are called Abrahamic religions because they all descended from Abraham/Ibrahim. If you notice carefully, all these three forms consider God to be He. Pagan religions on the other hand have She-gods. The Greeks had the Trinity of Hera, Venus and Athena. Hindus have the trinity of Parvati, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Worshing female deities is a pagan religious practice that is considered 'heathen' by many organised religions.

3. Worshipping The Earth: As a Pagan is a rustic religion, their festivals are closely related to the tilling of the earth and a good harvests. Likewise, you can see many harvests festivals in Hinduism, for example; Baisakhi, Onam, Vishu, Pongal etc. The cycles of farming play an very important part in pleasing the pagan Gods.

From these points we would be tempted to conclude that Hindu Gods are pagan indeed. But only if you take away the negative connotations like devil-worship and witchcraft from the word 'pagan', 750 million people who follow this religion all over the world do not see it as pagan. For them, it is the 'Sanatan Dharm'; a way of life that has always existed and will continue to do so.

Topics: religion, hinduism
Story first published:  Wednesday, August 8, 2012, 13:09 [IST]
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