It is a curious people. It holds all life as sacred except human life.
Hinduism actually believes in one God, Brahman. The Infinite being too vast for our tiny minds to comprehend, however, they worship the various aspects of God through the faces of many different gods.
Essentially there are three heavyweights in the world of the gods: Brahma(not Brahman), Vishnu, and Shiva. Brahma created the world, Vishnu kind of keeps it going and Shiva keeps up by destroying as much as he can of it. I even heard of an American guy who was making $10,000 a lecture for explaining to the big corporations why they needed a Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva executive on their pay rolls.
Core to the life of a Hindu are the ideas of karma and reincarnation. The idea is that every good or bad action you commit gets added up on a cosmic abacus and your final score dictates where you get born in your next life. Steal from the poor now and you might get reborn as a Muslim dog next time around. Of course this belief gives the rich in this life cause to be pretty smug.
Mark Twain commented:
bq. It is a curious people. It holds all life as sacred except human life.
The elephant-god, Ganesh rides upon a rat; there are Shiva saints to be seen surrounded by dogs; even smallpox became to be attributed to the wrath of the goddess, Kali. Herein lies the real talent of Hinduism is that in making just about everything holy, every aspect of life acquires a little bit of magic.
With the gods forever hidden beneath the surface of the banal even the miserably poor can get through their day. Combine that with a belief in reincarnation and you have all the ingredients needed for an almost fanatical fatalism.
Hindus basically respect the values of vegetarianism and non-violence. Loyalty to one’s family should come before personal happiness and if the world should ever become too confusing – just relax. It’s all just a giant illusion, the dance of maya.
There are various holy books: the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and others but no one agrees on which are the most important. Hinduism remains pretty much a pick-and-mix affair.
Hinduism Index – The gods, the texts and all things Hindu.
Hindu Gods and Images – Basic bio to the gods with lots of nice images.