The Vedic background of India's religious traditions is a lively topic of debate. Although the origin of this tradition is uncertain, its influence is apparent.
Possibly the most ancient tradition, Hinduism is complex and not easily classified. It is an ideology of liberal attitude, tolerance, and patience, that is rooted in casteism and regionalism.
Originating in northern India from the teachings of Gautam Siddhartha, the Buddhism tradition has spread throughout the world in its 2500 years. The title "Buddha" translates to "Awakened One". This popular tradition has both monastic and non-monastic followers.
An ancient ascetical tradition, Jainism is a tradition that also has monastic and non-monastic followers. Unlike Buddhism, Jains did not usually travel outside of India. Today there are approximately 4 million Jains, all except 200,000 are in India.
Dating back to the 7th century, this tradition is a "religion of the book". The Qur'an of Islam is considered the full and final revelation of the One Creator to the last prophet Muhammed. It is arguably the most populous religious tradition in the world today.
This tradition evolved from the teachings of Guru Nanak and his nine successors, ending with Guru Gobind Singh. The teaching authority passed to the Guru Granth Sahib, a highly honored scripture. There are about 14 million Sikhs worldwide, most of whom still live in or near the Punjab state of northern India.
This tradition was a major religion of the Persian Empire. It has been preserved mainly by Parsi(Persian) immigrants to India and a small number of descendents living throughout the world.
Namaskar or Namaste, is the most popular form of greeting in India. Both palms are brought together and raised just below the face. It is a salutation of welcoming and bidding farewell. The joined palms symbolize one mind. The right hand represents higher nature, and the left hand represents worldly or lower nature.
An ancient Indian tradition, this body art has become a modern fashion trend in the West. Indian mehndi is intricate lines of reddish-brown lacey or floral patterns. Traditionally, Indian women adorn their hands and feet with beautiful mehndi designs for celebrations of weddings, festivals, and other special occasions. A bride is not expected to perform any housework until her wedding mehndi has faded.
This temporary tattoo is safe, painless, completely natural, and non-toxic. It is created by grounding henna plants and mixing with hot water. This paste is then traced in a design on the desired body part. A solution of lemon juice and sugar is applied to the drying mehndi to "set it".
Originating in ancient Egypt, mehndi has been made popular by many of today's celebrities. Now a craze for men as well as women, mehndi can be seen all over the body in an array of colors.
A ritual mark on the forhead, between the brows, symbolizes the quest for the opening of the spiritual eye (third eye). The spot between the brows is considered to be the seat of wisdom and mental concentration. All rites and ceremonies of Hindus begin with a tilak being topped with a few grains of rice.
Considered a symbol of the Goddess Parvati, this traditionally red dot between the eyebrows of women, signifies female energy and is believed to offer protection for the woman and her husband. Originally a symbol of marriage, it is now a decorative worn also by unmarried girls and women.