Ethnicity Online

Cultural Awareness in Healthcare

Hindus: Introduction To Hinduism

Hinduism is an umbrella term for a religion that was formed by the amalgamation of many local faiths. It does not have one leader, one unified code of conduct or creed; nor is it possible to give a date on which the faith was founded. It is often referred to as an organic religion. The name Hindu was applied originally to people from the area of India near to the River Indrus on the borders with Tibet, Kashmir and Pakistan. This area is now considered to be where the original 'Hindus' came from.

Hinduism has not been a particularly expansive religion in the past, and was therefore largely confined to India and the surrounding countries of Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh until the 20th century. Although India is the cradle of Hinduism, Nepal is the only country in the world that has Hinduism as the state religion.

Because of this diversity, it is difficult to generalise about what a specific individual might believe and what they might need from a sympathetic healthcare service. In addition to this, Hinduism is practised across the Indian subcontinent in a startling variety of ways, and so place of origin and local culture add another dimension of variability to religious practice.


Hinduism has developed over thousands of years, and encompasses a diverse range of customs and beliefs. A fundamental belief is that the creative force Brahman brought the cosmos into being when he said the word 'Ohm'. The act of saying Ohm – which is made up of three separate words of power – in the correct way is believed to awaken a person's inner 'real self'. The Ohm symbol is extremely significant to Hindus, and is found on temples, the amulets that many Hindus wear and is even painted onto the tongues of newborn babies to welcome them to their new life.

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