Religion is a social-cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.
Different religions may or may not contain various elements ranging from the divine, sacred things, faith, a supernatural being or supernatural beings or "some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life". Religious practices may include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration (of deities and/or saints), sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trances, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture. Religions have sacred histories and narratives, which may be preserved in sacred scriptures, and symbols and holy places, that aim mostly to give a meaning to life. Religions may contain symbolic stories, which are sometimes said by followers to be true, that have the side purpose of explaining the origin of life, the universe, and other things. Traditionally, faith, in addition to reason, has been considered a source of religious beliefs.
There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide. About 84% of the world's population is affiliated with either Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or some form of folk religion. The religiously unaffiliated demographic includes those who do not identify with any particular religion, atheists, and agnostics. While the religiously unaffiliated have grown globally, many of the religiously unaffiliated still have various religious beliefs.
The study of religion encompasses a wide variety of academic disciplines, including theology, comparative religion and social scientific studies. Theories of religion offer various explanations for the origins and workings of religion, including the ontological foundations of religious being and belief.
An avatar (Sanskrit: अवतार, IAST: avatāra), a concept in Hinduism that means "descent", is the material appearance or incarnation of a deity on earth. The relative verb to "alight, to make one's appearance" is sometimes used to refer to any guru or revered human being.
The word avatar does not appear in the Vedic literature, however it appears in developed forms in post-Vedic literature, and as a noun particularly in the Puranic literature after the 6th century CE. Despite that, the concept of an avatar is compatible with the content of the Vedic literature like the Upanishads as it is symbolic imagery of the Saguna Brahman concept in the philosophy of Hinduism. The Rigveda describes Indra as endowed with a mysterious power of assuming any form at will. The Bhagavad Gita expounds the doctrine of Avatara but with terms other than avatar.
Theologically, the term is most often associated with the Hindu god Vishnu
, though the idea has been applied to other deities. Varying lists of avatars of Vishnu appear in Hindu scriptures, including the ten Dashavatara
of the Garuda Purana
and the twenty-two avatars in the Bhagavata Purana
, though the latter adds that the incarnations of Vishnu are innumerable. The avatars of Vishnu are important in Vaishnavism
theology. In the goddess-based Shaktism
tradition of Hinduism, avatars of the Devi
in different appearances such as Tripura Sundari
are commonly found. While avatars of other deities such as Ganesha
are also mentioned in medieval Hindu texts, this is minor and occasional. The incarnation doctrine is one of the important differences between Vaishnavism and Shaivism traditions of Hinduism. Read more...