Hinduism is the dominating religion on the continent of India. It is not just one tradition that is as old as time, but a huge group of separate traditions all combined into one amazingly large religion. Being the third largest religion after Christianity and Islam, Hinduism has a billion followers; the vast majority of nine hundred and five million live in India, since Hinduism is mainly practiced there. Inside a huge body of scriptures is contained all the practices and beliefs of Hinduism which is often called the “eternal law.” Incredibly, it is one of the most dominating religions and the oldest living tradition that ever influenced literature with its practices and beliefs.

The caste system was a main influence on Hindi literature. But what is the caste system? This system includes several classes of people: the priests (Brahmans), warriors and kings (Kshatnyas), farmers and traders (Vaishyas), and finally the conquered slaves (Sudras). After having been practiced unofficially for years, the laws defining the caste system were later divinely ordained. Because the caste system was such a big part of their culture, the people wrote down the laws so they could be remembered, preserved, and portrayed in other literary works. For example, in a story, a worker could not rise to the role of a Brahman. He had to stick to his specific job and keep to his place in society even in the story. Change was not acceptable. Another way to show how the caste system influenced literature even more is in the way that only the Brahman, who thought he might have been a reincarnation, told and dealt with the rituals of these laws. The caste system was one of the main influences in their literature.

The other belief that strongly influenced Hindi literature is the belief of reincarnation (transmigration). Reincarnation is the belief that the soul never dies. When the body dies the soul is reborn and enters another state or form. But there is a twist. If the people lived obedient lives and followed the laws willingly, they would be reincarnated into a higher caste. However, if they were not angelic and did not follow what they were told by the ritual laws, they would enter a lower form of being in a lower caste. For example, if they were an “untouchable,” then a good obedient life means a higher place, like a Vaishyas. Being a Brahman and having an evil life might get a priest into a bit of misfortune and he might become a wonderful fuzzy earthworm. This interesting process continues until they achieve spiritual perfection, which will take a long time to achieve. After they achieve spiritual perfection, the soul enters another stage of existence and never returns because it has fulfilled its purpose. Reincarnation influenced Hindi literature so much that they wrote stories with long verses that described the way the world began, occasionally ended, and was reborn. Reincarnation impacted their literature.

Because of their many different beliefs, Hinduism gave literature a whole new emphasis. Included was the inserting of the caste system and the belief in reincarnation. The literature of the Hindi people was definitely centered around their busy, bustling, buzzing culture and helped them to preserve their writings for later use. Hinduism shaped India’s literature.