Although Hindus have several holy cities and temple cities, pilgrimage is not mandatory in Hinduism. Some important cities of Hindu devotions include Allahabad, Haridwar, Varanasi, Katra and Tirumala-Tirupati, as well as some sets of pilgrim centres which are linked together by theology.
Hinduism also has quite a number of festivals throughout the calendar. Usually, Hindu festivals have their grounding in mythology. Some widespread Hindu festivals include Dussehra, Holi and Diwali.
As well as festivals Hinduism also has certain rites. Occasions like marriage, birth and death involve sets of ceremonious customs. Cremation is considered obligatory after death and is performed by wrapping the dead body in a white cloth and placing it on a pyre until it becomes ashes.
Generally, the majority of Hindus seek salvation through utter devotion to the Gods, while most of the educated classes seek salvation through the path of knowledge. The intellectual Hinduism paradigm revolves around six houses of philosophy, these being Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, Vedanta, Vaiseshika and Nyana. All of these philosophies claim to have originated from the Vedas, and ultimately, revolve around common themes - the difference being their view of the ultimate reality. However, the Vedanta system is more monistic and emphasises that the Para-Brahma is the only essence in the universe; all else being merely illusion. The Yoga, Samkhya, Nyana and Vaiseshika systems are dualistic. They assert that our universe is composed of two objects - spirit and matter. The Mimamsa system is originally atheistic and preaches that salvation comes through the absolute observance of the Vedic rituals.
Major worship in Hinduism tends to centre on the Trimurti: Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar (Shiva) above the countless other major and minor gods. Brahma is the least popular while Shiva receives the most attention. He is the god of power, sex, calmness and fertility and is appealing to the masses who live in deprivation. The various goddess consorts of Shiva, such as Kali, are highly and almost equally revered. Vishnu has appeared on earth in nine forms according to the mythology. It is believed that he will come a tenth time to bring the world to an end and so bring an end to all evils. Among his various appearances, the most popular are Krishna, Rama, Gautama (the Buddha) and Varaha the boar.[/readmore]