Travel Route: Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram – Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur – Srirangam Temple in Trichy
Why Hinduism is distinct in Tamil Nadu?
Tamil Nadu state is known for its amazing number of Hindu temples, more than any other state of India. And Tamil people’s devotion to their religious beliefs is fervent. Thus, it is a common belief that Hinduism was originated in Tamil Nadu.
Hinduism is more than a religion – it is a culture, a way of life, and a code of behavior. This is reflected in a term Indians use to describe the Hindu religion: Sanatana Dharma, which means eternal faith, or the eternal way things are. The caste system is the strongest manifestation of this philosophy.
Hindu practices of worship and ritual reveal a profound importance to religious imagery. While in most other religious traditions images are believed to represent holy personages, or are altogether forbidden, in Hindu practice painted and sculpted images are believed to genuinely embody the divine.
In Hinduism there are many Gods. Believers develop a preference for one deity while not excluding or disbelieving in others. All Gods are seen as a manifestation of a single unity – the Brahman. The main three Gods are Brahma – the creator, Vishnu – the protector and Shiva – the destroyer (of evil). And then there are plenty more. If I were a Hindu, and had a choice I would follow Vishnu, something about the power of the protector is appealing.
What is the Caste system?
I would have revolted if I were born into a certain caste, other than into the Brahmin, which is the caste at the top of the hierarchy. In a society that emphasizes Dharma, the law of the universe, the mobility options to improve one’s life are constrained and limited to the caste or the many sub-guilds one is born into. These norms were established to maintain a certain order and system. And they were reinforced in the religious scripts such as the Bhagavad-Gita, when Krishna says to the tormented Arjuna, who ponders the devastating consequences of the battle he is about the embark upon: “Now if you do not execute this battle, then having given up your personal dharma and reputation, you shall incur sin.” Meaning, you as a warrior, as a military leader, have a duty and it stands above all other considerations. It is no surprise then, that many throughout the centuries converted to other religions: Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, and Christianity.
What is Moksha?
Hindus believe in Karma, the universal law of cause and effect. They also believe in Moksha, the possibility of liberation and release, by which the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (samsara) can be resolved. Moksha is the ultimate spiritual goal of Hinduism.
What is the difference between Moksha and Nirvana?
Both Hinduism and Buddhism focus on liberation from the endless cycle of samsara – the endless cycle of birth and death, and the suffering that comes with that cycle. Yet they are slightly different. Ill try to explain: Moksha literally means “release” in the sense of “letting go.” Moksha is the letting go of the repeated birth and death of the physical body – reincarnation. Because Hindu teaching includes the notion of a soul, or “atman,” when someone attains moksha, their soul merges with Brahman – the source of all existence. In Buddhism, liberation from samsara is known as Nirvana. This term literally means “extinction” or “blowing out,” in the sense of extinguishing a burning flame. In Buddhist teaching, humans are bound to samsara through the flames of anger, ignorance and desire. So, in Buddhism, when one attains nirvana, one extinguishes anger, ignorance and desire.
This is a subtle and tricky point – in Buddhism, humans escape life and death by extinguishing anger, ignorance and desire, even though the physical body may still be alive (death is not a prerequisite for nirvana). This is why Buddhists talk of rebirth rather than reincarnation.
A Buddhist who has attained nirvana is untethered from anger (which focuses on the past), ignorance (which focuses on the present) and desire (which focuses on the future). Nirvana is the extinction of time, and since life and death are bound by time, nirvana is the freedom from life and death.
What is the city vibe in India?
Driving through any city, you’ll see bustling disorder and chaos everywhere. You’ll see people on motorcycles, tuk-tuks and cars. You’ll see city streets where the infrastructure is clearly not up to par—they’re inadequate in size, they’re too narrow. The saris, the buildings, the shops all in lots of different contrasting colors. High energy and buzz.