Gender and Religion

Hinduism has no single historical founder, no single revealed text, and no centralized system of authority. One is born into a family with a set of beliefs and practices that are loosely known as "Hindu." The more canonical form of Hinduism, however, recognizes Brahmins as the priestly caste, with a ranked set of subcastes whose male members attend to the deities housed in temples and perform numerous sacred rites. There are no comparable public roles for female Brahmins, although women of different jatis perform many rituals within the home. It is also possible for women to acquire sacred powers by becoming possessed by a deity.

Many Hindus believe in one transcendent God, beyond the universe, who resides within all living things, can take a variety of forms, and can be worshipped in diverse ways. In this abstract sense God has no gender. However, in Hinduism's more canonical form there is a set of predominant male deities: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. There is also Devi, the Feminine Aspect or Divine Energy (Shakti) that all male gods have, but who can act independently, take different forms, and is worshipped directly. In Orissa and West Bengal there are major temple complexes devoted to different incarnations of Devi, as well as to male gods, and annual rites that celebrate female as well as male deities.

Daily worship (puja) takes place in the home in a sacred space where icons of male and female deities reside. Whereas male priests attend to temple deities, women attend to these.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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