Hinduism is one of the largest forms of religion in the world. While most of its followers are in South Asia, specifically India and Nepal, there are Hindus around the world. Indeed, Hinduism is cross-cultural and recognizable through some of its famous holy figures who are not only significant to Hinduism but the world as a whole. In addition to a large number of gods and demigods, Hindus revere and even worship many saints and historical figures who impacted Hinduism and the world.
The Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama, is the central figure of the Buddhist religion, but he is also a famous Hindu holy figure and fits into the Hindu religion. An all-around holy man, the Buddha achieved enlightenment and helped others seek it for themselves. Many Hindus view the Buddha as an avatar or incarnation of their god Lord Vishnu. Though interpreted differently by different sects, the Buddha is often credited with condemning animal sacrifice as the will of Vishnu.
The Bhakti Saints
The term bhakti simply means worship of the Gods, and is used in Buddhism as well as Hinduism. Some of the most revered Hindu holy figures of all time are the Bhakti Saints, who mostly hail from the fifteenth century. These saints are historical figures who spoke out against the hereditary caste system. The Bhakti saints preached their views on practice and prayer to large audiences and have devoted followings to this day. They were often poets, painters, singers or musicians. Some of the most famous Bhakti Saints are Kabir, Surdas and Tulsidas. They are known for their poetry and their works are read today.
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a poor Hindu priest born in 1836. From an early age, his father had visions that he would be a reincarnation of holy men. Ramakrishna often became so fervent in his prayers that he would lose consciousness. Easily the most famous holy figure of the nineteenth century, Ramakrishna preached the universality of God and encouraged people to seek higher power, even if they were not Hindus. Before attracting many followers, Ramakrishna was about to give up the priesthood when the goddess Kali appeared to him and guided him.
Easily the most recognizable Hindu and Indian of the twentieth century, Mohandas Gandhi was a social revolutionary who led for both religious and political reasons. Trained to be a lawyer in England, he renounced the English connection and sought Indian independence through satyagraha, his term for nonviolent resistance. He said that to procure change, you could not resort to violence. Gandhi gathered many followers and promoted peace and understanding until his assassination in 1948. He is a revered Hindu holy man and bastion of nonviolent resistance throughout the world.
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