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Hinduism is the world’s third most popular religion. It has existed for millennia, and is the oldest form of worship known to man. The secret of its popularity may be explained by the fact that Hinduism is not so much a religion, as it is a set of traditions and philosophies. It is a way of life for almost a billion people today. The specifics of Hinduism make it very tolerant of other religions. However, this positive fact cannot offset atrocious discriminations supported by this religion.

Hinduism brought us such important and popular concepts as Tantra, Karma, Yoga, Ayurveda, and many other philosophies and practices that help thousands of people discover harmony and reach enlightenment. When you consider this, it will be easier to overlook the ugly parts of this religion that are not well-advertised. The worst of them are the caste system and female discrimination. The Hindus’ tolerance of other religions is explained and supported by their philosophy, as they believe that all deities and beliefs are different facets of the same supreme deity. However, there are some examples of religious discrimination outbreaks that resulted in mass killings throughout India.

It must be said that the aforementioned events mostly occurred as a result of abolishing the caste system in the late twentieth century. This system had divided people in four major groups (castes):

  • Brahmins (priests and scholars)
  • Kshatrivas (rulers and members of the military)
  • Vaishyas (farmers and merchants)
  • Sudras (peasants, servants, and workers)

There was another caste, called “untouchables” (Dalit). These people had to work on “polluting” jobs, and coming in direct physical contact with them was prohibited. Their discrimination was so extreme, that even touching their shadows was believed to be “polluting” for members of other castes. This system was officially abolished, but over three thousand years of enforced behavior are not easy to forget. This is why even today, these abhorrent segregated practices are supported in some rural areas. The Dalit try to escape this unofficial slavery by converting to other religions. Several such mass conversions took place within the last three decades. These events caused an outbreak of anger crimes among the Hindus.

The problem of female discrimination in Hinduism is another great concern for the world community. It was taken to such an extreme that female infanticide and feticide resulted in real genocide, with over two hundred thousand little girls being murdered in the end of the twentieth century. Naturally, these practices are prohibited, but the laws are mostly ignored.

There are many good things about Hinduism, but some practices supported by this religion are truly abhorrent. There are some significant social and political changes taking place in India today. However, it will take more time and a great deal of enforcement to break the behavioral patterns that prevailed for millennia.

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