Chapter 2:
Background Information for Teachers


What are the basic beliefs of Hinduism?

Most Hindus believe in an immense unifying force that governs all existence and cannot be completely known by humanity. Individual gods and goddesses are personifications of this cosmic force. In practice, each Hindu worships those few deities that he or she believes directly influence his or her life. By selecting one or more of these deities to worship, and by conducting the rituals designed to facilitate contact with them, a Hindu devotee is striving to experience his or her unity with that cosmic force.

While scholars, philosophers, and priests debate the finer points of Hindu theology, lay worshipers call upon familiar gods to help with their everyday hopes and problems.

There are three primary Hindu deities:


Shiva (the Creator and Destroyer), who destroys the old while creating the new. His consorts include the loving Parvati and the ferocious Durga, who represent the feminine aspects of his complex nature.


Vishnu (the Preserver) and his two most popular incarnations, Krishna and Rama.


Devi (the Protecting Mother), sometimes known simply as the Goddess, who appears in some form in every region of India. She is often identified as the creative energy of the universe, and is considered by her followers the equal of Vishnu and Shiva.

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