Artwork by: Artur Zhuk, age 15
Written by: Ananya Verma

To me, Hinduism is like a river with hundreds of tributaries, each enriching and melting into the river, but none completely defining it.

My faith is a life with no inscribed fundamentals, no single sacred book, no compulsory beliefs, no sole creator. Being a Hindu is about traveling your world to find your true calling.

Every weekend, my brother and I would sit before the television, ready to dive into the glorious world of Indian mythology and eager to embark on a new adventure in the animated adaptation of the story of Ramayana, one of the greatest Sanskrit epics. Even before I learned to talk, I used to sing the melodious songs of this beautiful tale co-animated by artists from India and Japan.

Ramayana will always be my favorite childhood animated story. I used to love watching the victory of good over evil. It was only much later that I realized the silent morals and values it imbued in my life. The epic reflects the ethics of being a follower of my faith. Being a Hindu is complex, with a kaleidoscopic diversity of cultural beliefs and practices. There are no universally accepted values in Hinduism, but every time I learned something new about it, I was awestruck with its simple beauty. Being a Hindu offers an opportunity to grow, nurture, and explore your inner self alongside those around you. It is like a rich tapestry of belief woven with compassion, honesty, and respect for all, even animals.

Dharma

The story of Ramayana reflects many moral lessons of Hindu culture. One of the central values is Dharma, or righteousness. The protagonist, Lord Rama, is portrayed as the embodiment of righteousness since he always fulfills his duty as a son, a brother, a friend, a husband, and a king, despite the personal sacrifices he has to make. The story teaches the importance of steadfastness to one’s goals regardless of the obstacles and setbacks. Lord Rama’s resolve to rescue his wife, Goddess Sita, from the antagonist Ravana exhibits his courage and unwavering determination in the face of adversity. This epic also emphasizes the consequences of hubris and the arrogance of power. The downfall of Ravana serves as a cautionary tale of the outcome of ego and pride. Ramayana also taught me the importance of unity and cooperation with everyone, since Lord Rama embodies the virtues of peace and justice. Even in his quest to defeat Ravana, he espouses justice and respect for the enemy.

Satya

It is believed that there are more than 33 million gods and goddesses in Hinduism, and each deity is worshiped, meaning there are celebrations throughout the year. Every morning, after taking his bath, my father would go to the prayer room, light the incense sticks, chant a sacred mantra, and let the fragrance bring meditative positivity to our home. He never forced anyone else to join him. I always thought that this ritual he practiced everyday was not just a prayer, but his personal way of communicating with the gods and goddesses. Over time I’ve understood that being a Hindu is about finding your own path, about finding your own Satya, or truth, and letting others find theirs.

Rituals

You don’t need to be a devotee to be a Hindu. Whether you observe a fast or not, you can be a Hindu; whether you are a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian, you can be a Hindu; whether you are a believer or not, you can still be a Hindu. Making peace with apparent contradictions is one defining feature of my faith.

Swarga

One of the most fascinating principles of my faith is compassion. In another mythological epic called Mahabharata, there is a story about King Yudhishthira and a mountain dog. It is believed that when King Yudhishthira was ascending to Swarga, or Heaven, while walking through the mighty Himalayas, all his brothers left him one by one and only the dog accompanied him till the end of his life. It is also believed that when Yudhishthira reached the gateways to Heaven, the gods gladly welcomed him and invited him as the first mortal to enter Heaven in physical form, but on the condition that he left his dog behind. Yudhishthira was an epitome of truth and justice, so he refused to abandon the dog who remained his faithful companion till the end of the road. This is compassion, the strength which emboldens one to keep going. I believe compassion is what defines and distinguishes us as a civilized society. I admit that in certain situations, practicing compassion seems challenging, but this wholesome feeling is what binds the universe together and teaches us to create harmony and patience with ourselves.

Panchtatva

There is another beautiful interpretation in Hinduism. I was always told that it is believed that humans are made up of Panchtatva, or the five elements of life. It is believed that when we die, our souls blend into these elements that reside within us. Many of our gods are embodiments of these natural elements, namely the Sun God, Wind God, Fire God, and Rain God.

Omniscience

Growing up in a Hindu family, I have learned that morals, ethics and values are not just defined by reading holy scriptures or believing in rites of worship. The true meaning of life lies in treating everyone equally, spreading love and kindness, showing compassion, and believing in others. It is said that one’s faith plays a key role in influencing their worldview. Faith, after all, is what gives one the courage to take risks and approach the inevitable. Faith is what enables one to find peace with themselves. Faith is what ignites the determination to keep going. Mine is a faith that can never be confined in a holy book, found in places of worship, or captured by an artist’s loving hand. My faith, Hinduism, can only be felt and expressed.

Being a Hindu is about embracing everything around you, but most importantly, embracing yourself.

Being a Hindu is about exploring the freedom you are blessed with and also sharing it with others.

Being a Hindu is about respecting diversity and honoring the individual role we all have to play.

Being a Hindu is about finding yourself.

At the time of writing, Ananya Verma was a 15-year-old from India studying at Springdales School, Delhi. She loves to write and express herself through stories and poems. She also composes songs.


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