Hindus practice their religion through a intricate combination of daily worship rituals, ceremonies, festivals, holidays, and physical disciples. While the devotion to such practices is relative, varying from person-to-person and the region where they live, most Hindus participate in the primary rituals and practices listed below.
In Hinduism there are a variety of ceremonies and rituals that occur on a daily basis. Many devout Hindus participate in domestic worship through Puja, which is prioritized at the beginning of the day, after the morning bath and before the person has had anything to eat or drink. One chooses an object of Puja to direct the worship toward. Puja might consist of darsan, which is merely gazing upon the object (which can be the likeness of a holy tree, or image of Vishnu, etc), and can be accompanied by prayers, chants, or reflective silence. Some like to light a candle, or present the object of Puja with an offering like a flower, food, or incense. The purpose of this ritual is to begin the day by connecting the mind with the divine.
Daily practices can include worshiping their house gods by reciting chants, singing hymns, reciting and reading passages from the Vedas, giving offerings of food and burning incense. All pictures of gods and idols in a home are usually turned to face the North, which represents heaven, as opposed to the South which represents hell.
Hindus greet each other by pressing their hands together and saying the word "namaste" which is a respectful way to both salute someone, by acknowledging their form and soul. Traditionally, Hindus do not wear shoes in their homes, or in the temples, and they are primarily vegetarian (except on certain days when eating non-vegetarian food is permitted).
Hindu women adorn themselves with modest clothes called as saris, and specific jewelry indicating their status in life. Married women usually wear bangles on their wrists, a Mangasutra necklace, a toe ring, and a Kumkum dot between her eyes. They often have multiple piercings, including the nose and ears, etc.Births are celebrated with traditions and rituals of blessings over the child, and speaking mantras of long life into their ear, or presenting them with charms to protect the child from evil. All infants have their heads shaved as a sign of belonging to god, and female newborns get their ears pierced.
Hindu marriages are usually arranged by families and several advisors. The coupling is based on Hindu astrology, which helps determine compatibility, and are usually between members of the same caste. Elaborate ceremonies surround the day a couple's betrothal is announced, as well as the actual wedding day. A bride will often adorn herself with a henna design (a temporary stain) on her skin, where the groom must find his name woven in. There are multiple types of marriage in Hinduism, however the most common form of arranged marriage is called the Brahma marriage, which is a Vedic tradition where the father of the bride arranges the marriage with the groom and his family. The weddings consist of a ceremonial giving of the bride to her husband, a recitation of vows, offerings, lighting a fire to signify a new family, etc. As of 1955, the Hindu Marriage Act made it possible for Hindus of any caste, belief system or sect to have freedom to intermarry.
When an adult Hindu passes away, a person is customarily cremated in a solemn ceremony of an open fire, before a crowd of mourners. This is followed by the ashes being cast into a sacred river, and the funeral attendees cleansing themselves. Hindu children who have passed away are buried rather than cremated.
Hinduism has used symbols to depict virtues or promises of good luck and fortune. Images like the lotus, veena, chakra, and the swastika have been highlighted to emphasize the sacred in the artwork, architecture, and literature of Hinduism. Some physical symbols and objects are believed to ward off evil spirits, or bring good fortune to the inhabitants of a home, or passengers in a vehicle. For example, a swastika on a building is meant to bring good luck, and if a certain kind of doll is hung at the door of a house, it is believed to keep evil spirits from entering.
Many Hindus take pilgrimages to holy cities, temples and areas of historical significance for the Hindu faith. These might include journeys to cities described in the Puranic Texts, or to the Char Dham (four holy sites called Badrinath, Dwarka, Rameswaram, and Puri). While pilgrimages are not mandatory, they are greatly encouraged, and every 12 years there is an official pilgrimage called Kumbh Mela which includes visiting four major Indian cities and the temples therein.Hindus can choose to forsake civilian life, and devote themselves to monasticism, called sanyasa. Monastic Hindus are committed to celibacy, separation from worldly pleasure and pursuits, and are set apart for service , and contemplation of God. While a Hindu sanyahi, sadhu, or swami (Hindu monks) may live in community with other sanyasa, they also can choose to wander and live as reclusive hermits. They must vow to abstain from owning any physical property beyond the barest of essentials, taking pleasure in eating, owning valuable items or even touching money, cultivating individual personal relationships, and having any contact with women either in actuality or in their thoughts.
Yoga is a discipline of the mind, body and spirit, meant to guide a person in connecting their being with that of the divine. Believed to have begun in the 500 BC, yoga has been a central discipline and expression of worship for Hindus for many centuries. The purpose of yoga is to practice controlling the body, achieving greater flow, flexibility and openness as a soul connects to nature and the universe. Hindus believe it an integral part of a journey of the consciousness into omniscience, and enlightenment.
- Raja Yoga - This is a form of yoga focused on deep meditation, calming both the awareness and recesses of the mind, in order to achieve peace and kaivalya. Raja yoga is regarded as a key aspect of the Hindu lifestyle and philosophy.
- Tantra Yoga - This is a style of yoga that was mentioned in the text of Rigveda, and seeks to help a person gain independence from the world, and connection with others.
Hatha Yoga -Hatha yoga is a physical and mental practice to increase strength and discipline, and is mentioned in three Hindu texts. Hatha, meaning stubbornness, trains the body to hold challenging physical poses for a long periods of time with intermittent meditative breaks of rest called shavasana.
- Shaivism - This practice of yoga is intended to aid the person in the process of uniting the atman (soul) with the Brahman (universal spirit).
Ayurveda means science of living things in sanskrit, and is an alternative form of medicine and remedies that have been a traditional part of the Hindu religion. It is based on a holistic approach, considering not just the physical element, but the mental and emotional components which contribute to the wellness of an individual. They emphasize five elements of the natural world: earth, water, fire, air, and space. Hindus believe that certain things can happen which disrupt a person's balance with the universe, and can result in physical discord. By focusing the human's interaction with the five elements, the Hindus believe that humans can achieve harmony and healing . Most of the medical literature (the Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, and the Bheda Samhita) dates back the first few centuries of the current era.