Children at the mandir
. Children are naturally playful, and there are traditional
Indian games. Many saints are still remembered for playfully performing
and other acts of worship in their childhood. Hindu children today
often have their own small altars where they imitate worship of the murti
There are many documented instances of boys taking sannyasa
at an very early
age much to the distress of even religious parents – showing again the tensions
between two Hindu ideals – family affection and detachment.
From early times the main purpose of marriage was to raise children. They were important not only in their own right, but also for continuation of the family lineage, and to perform the last rites for parents. In some circles, nurturing pious and emotionally stable progeny was considered a valuable socio-spiritual contribution. Some texts emphasise the crucial role that parents play in enabling their offspring to attain spiritual merit and liberation.
Overall, Hinduism emphasises that children should be loved and in no way
neglected.The first chapter of the Bhagavad-gita alludes to the moral and
social problems arising from "unwanted children." For this reason, Hindu texts
condemn contraception (especially abortion), suggesting that it is children
who should be wanted rather than sexual pleasure alone. Some members of the
higher varnas still perform rites of passage before attempting to conceive
children. Children are generally treated with much affectionate indulgence,
especially before schooling begins.
Many Hindu religious organisations have established their own day schools and Sunday schools, with particular emphasis on nurturing children in the values of their tradition.
Traditionally, only members of the three higher varnas received a formal education as brahmachari students. Shudra boys stayed at home and were trained by the father. Girls were also educated at home, largely in domestic skills, and were married at a relatively young age. In order to preserve their chastity, unmarried girls were not allowed to stay away from home.
In today's societies these practices have changed considerably. Despite this, the home still plays a central role in the transmission of
values. Children take part in the daily worship and learn social graces, such
as the procedure for properly receiving guests. Additionally, Hindu children,
outside India especially, receive formal training within their community.
Hindu UK temples and movements have their own Sunday schools to nurture children
in the branch of their faith. Naturally as children grow, not all retain the
same religious sentiment as their parents; on the positive side, globalisation
means that many are actively researching their roots and trying to understand
their religious heritage.