Probably one of the common questions an Indian will receive, at least outside of India is why do Hindu’s worship animals. Another question that usually follow is also why are some of the deities animals.
“Animals hold a high regard in the culture and by embracing the core values of Hinduism, you also embrace a love for animals.”
I was having this conversation with a good friend of mine of who is well versed on the the”why” behind many Hindu practices, as well as Indian and Hindu culture. During our conversation we both jointly expressed how this is a repeated question among many people learning about Indian and Hindu culture, so this post is intended to give you a simple explanation behind the “why”, as per our youthful interpretation.
A high level idea in Hinduism, is that we are all reflections of the Creator. (Contrary to popular belief, Hinduism is actually not Polytheistic, there is ONE Creator) A simple analogy would be to say, that the essence of an artist is in their art form(painting, dance, music, sculpture etc.) In human/animal context, something that is created by the greatest creator and artist of all, is considered sacred. Hindu’s may not necessarily worship animals according to the literal definition or “worship”, but Hindu’s consider everything to be sacred. The belief is that everything was created by the Creator; all in one and one in all. When we look at animals individually, they have so many characteristics we can learn from; we all at some point have talked about our spirit animals and why they represent us. It’s a similar concept for the animal based deities in Hindusim.
Each idol/deity has been personified to represent traits of a: human, animal, and higher power all in one. Common animal pairings one might see( and this may defer with different sects and practices): Monkey with Hanuman, Elephant with Ganesha, Tiger or Lion with Durga, Serpant with Shiva etc. Each deity has different aspects that represent the different traits of humans and/or traits that we can learn from; courage and feminine power from Durga who is a female deity that sits on a lion.
You may see often in Indian homes, that a little bit of food will be given to the crows, dogs, and cats even before people eat their own lunch and dinner. Animals hold a high regard in the culture and by embracing the core values of Hinduism, you also embrace a love for animals.
“The Indian Girl” and today “The Indian Guy”
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