Hinduism is one of the Indian religions, which is often described as a totality of religious traditions that have emerged in the India and have common features. Hinduism has its roots in Vedic, Harappa and Dravidian civilization, which is why it is called one of the oldest religions of the world or event the oldest. In Hinduism there are many scriptures and books that are divided into two categories: Sruti and Smriti. Important Hindu texts are the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, "Ramayana", "Mahabharata", "Bhagavad Gita" and Agamas. According to Hinduism, there is Brahman - the supreme spirit, the supreme god, the universal soul, the objective side of the existence of God. In Hinduism God have three main functions or features: creation, preservation and destruction. These properties express the supreme God: Brahma - the creator god of the universe, Vishnu - the preserver of all worlds, and Shiva - the destroyer. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva form the Trimurti - the three persons of the image of Brahman.
According to the teachings of Hinduism, the soul of man is a part of the divine soul, and as such is an integer that is after death of a living creature moves into the body of another living being, in accordance with the law of karma - retribution, retaliation. Karma determines the transmigration of the soul and the division of society into varna - class. Hinduism protects social system based on the Varnas - four estates, castes, and ashramas - stages of spiritual development. Varnas formed on the basis of the law of karma. For every action of the person his or her soul is liable. If human action is entirely consistent with the caste rules and regulations, his (her) soul after the death of the human body moves in a higher caste. If it isn't consistent, the soul moves into the human body a lower caste. The purpose of life is to break the chain of birth and the attainment of liberation - moksha or nirvana. Moksha is awareness of the individual soul that she is part of the divine soul, or the presence of the individual soul with the divine. One of the main precepts Hinduism is precept of nonviolence (ahimsa) - no harm to anything living. Hinduism teaches that a person must be peace-loving, patient, gentle, honesty in thought and deed. Human virtue is self-control over thoughts and actions. However, in the sacred Hindu texts there is also the principle himsa - violence. Hinduism hasn't a coherent system of church organization and hierarchy. For a long period there arose various movements, but as there wasn't a single, centralized organization, they remained in the bosom of Hinduism.
Sikhism is dharmic religion that arose in the XVI century in northwest India (Punjab) as a protest against the caste system of Hinduism and political domination of Muslim Mughal dynasty. Sikhism originated in the environment of Hinduism and Islam, and it contributed to the emergence of the mutual influence of these two religions. The founder of Sikhism is Guru Nanak that have traveled and made a pilgrimage to Mecca, and at the beginning of the XVI century settled in Punjab and began to preach the new doctrine. Before his death, Nanak chose his successor's successor Angad, who became the second Sikh guru. He was replaced by Amar Das, who has strengthened the organization of the Sikhs, established religious holidays, determined the center of pilgrimage and folded a number of hymns. Sikhs have gradually evolved into an independent ethnic and confessional group with its own ideology, laws and leaders. In the struggle against the Mughal Empire and closed caste system they preached equality of people. Sikhs moved away from Hinduism, but not converted to Islam, and set up a special religion. They believe in one God, the Almighty Creator who is all-pervading. God is considered in two aspects: as Nirgun (Absolute) and as Sargun (personal God within each person). God wasn't born or reborn - he is present everywhere as the life-giving idea, love, beauty, morality, truth and faith. According to Sikhs beliefs, God gives to all life energy, but it is incomprehensible and indescribable. People can worship the God only through meditation of his name and chanting of prayers. The human, according to the teachings of the Sikhs, has already existed before his birth. By expanding their consciousness, people can perceive others as part of himself. Sikhs do not believe in the traditional ideas about the afterlife, sin and karma. After the death, the soul of human is soluble in the Nature and returns to the Creator, but does not disappear. Sikhs preach brotherly attitude to all people in the world, regardless of their origin, however, prepared to defend with arms their freedom. Every Sikh obliged to keep with himself five items: kes - uncut hair hidden under a mandatory turban; kangha - comb supporting hair; kara - a steel bracelet; kacchera - short pants special cut; kirpan - a sword or dagger hidden under clothing. The main shrine of Sikhism - The Golden Temple in Amritsar - was turned into a fortress.
Jainism is Indian religion that arose about the VI century BC. Founder of Jainism was Mahavira. Jainism proceeds from the postulate that the universe always existed and will always exist. Endless variations occur due to the action of the world natural forces of nature and not associated with any divine intervention. According to Jainism, the universe passes alternating cycles of development, ascending and descending cycles that lasts defies time account. The reality is characterized them as "multiple" or "versatility", it is beyond the finite mind; all human judgments are relative, all knowledge of transient temporary and conventional. There is no certainty in any knowledge, and therefore a possible method - the best method. Jainism adopts a dualistic principle - Jiva (spiritual, eternal living beings) and ajiva (inanimate nature). Ajiva exists in various ways: any material object has at least one ajiva; plants and trees have two ajiva animals - three or more. Jainism allowed to eat only what has two ajiva - milk, water, fruits, nuts and vegetables. The foods that contain three ajiva strictly prohibited because it violates the basic law of ahimsa - non-harming. The purpose of human existence, in Jainism, is associated with Triratna: right view, the right knowledge, the correct behavior, or absolutely perfect life associated with the liberation from samsara (transmigration). The laity must observe periods of meditation, dedication and asceticism. Since the basic principle of behavior - ahimsa, or harmlessness to all living creatures, Jains create ashrams for orphans and widows, dharmshala - hotels for pilgrims and hospital for animals.
Dundas, Paul. The Jains. London: Routledge, 2002.
Kenoyer, Jonathan Mark. Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Klostermaier, Klaus K. Hinduism: A Short History. London: Oneworld Publications, 2000.
Shah, Natubhai. Jainism: The World of Conquerors. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2003.
Singh, Patwant. The Sikhs. New York: Doubleday, 2001.