West Bengal Guide: Religion

The predominant religion is Hinduism (about 82%). But major mystical currents – within Hinduism or derived from Hinduism (Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism) – as well as Muslim invasions and Western colonization have generated one of the most diverse religious landscapes in the world. The great spiritual masters of modern India have always insisted on the tolerance necessary to discover the ultimate Truth…

But, unfortunately, the religious density of the country, the devotion (Bhakti) or the practice of mystical techniques (yoga, see chapter “North India in 50 keywords”) would facilitate liberation… And fortunately “great souls” (mahatma) are incarnated in this world to help the faithful. These gurus are sometimes considered as incarnations of the Divine (avatars).

Hinduism

For Hindus, the purpose of our passage on earth is to “realize the divinity of the soul”… Such a mystical aim suggests a great diversity of teachings and doctrines. This tolerance often surprises Western visitors accustomed to religions whose dogmas are definitive, such as Christianity or Islam. Many are therefore fascinated by the spirituality of India; others deplore the ritualistic aspect of religion…

The underlying principles of Hinduism are not easily describable: there is no single philosophy. Hinduism is perhaps the only religious denomination whose theoretical principles and practices are so varied. This religion cannot be attributed to a specific founder, nor does it have a Holy Book as a basic scriptural guide. Rig Veda, Upanishad and Bhagwad Gita can all be described as sacred texts of the Hindus.

For Hindus, the most important religious path is devotion (bhakti) to personal gods. One can choose from a wide variety of gods and, although sectarian adherence to several deities is widespread, the choice of a single god (ishta devata) likely to evoke devotion is widely accepted. Most of the faithful are therefore polytheists, worshipping all or part of the vast pantheon of deities, some descending from Vedic times. In practice, a worshipper therefore tends to concentrate his prayers on one or more gods with whom he has a close personal relationship.

West Bengal Guide: Indian Cuisine
West Bengal touristic guide