Hinduism is an Indian religion and dharma, or way of life, widely practised in the Indian subcontinent and parts of Southeast Asia. Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, and some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal tradition", or the "eternal way", beyond human history. Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder; this "Hindu synthesis" started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE, after the end of the Vedic period (1500 to 500 BCE), and flourished in the medieval period, with the decline of Buddhism in India.
Although Hinduism contains a broad range of philosophies, it is linked by shared concepts, recognisable rituals, cosmology, shared textual resources, and pilgrimage to sacred sites. Hindu texts are classified into Śruti ("heard") and Smṛti ("remembered"); these texts discuss theology, philosophy, mythology, Vedic yajna, Yoga, agamic rituals, and temple building, among other topics. Major scriptures include the Vedas and Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, and the Āgamas. Sources of authority and eternal truths in its texts play an important role, but there is also a strong Hindu tradition of questioning authority in order to deepen the understanding of these truths and to further develop the tradition.
: वेद) are the main scriptural
texts of Hinduism
. They constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature
and are the oldest surviving scriptures
amongst the various major world religions.
The Vedas are considered śruti ("that which is heard") by Hindus, and treated as apauruṣeya, which means "not of a man, superhuman, divine, authorless". Hindus consider the Vedas as eternal in nature.
There are four Vedas: the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvaveda; each Veda has been subclassified into four major text types – the Samhitas (mantras and benedictions), the Aranyakas (text on rituals, ceremonies, sacrifices and symbolic-sacrifices), the Brahmanas (commentaries on rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices), and the Upanishads (text discussing meditation, philosophy and spiritual knowledge). The Upanishads are the foundation of Hindu philosophical thought and its diverse traditions. Of the Vedic corpus, they alone are widely known, and the central ideas of the Upanishads are at the spiritual core of the Hindus.
The various Indian philosophies and schools of Hinduism have taken differing positions on the Vedas. Schools such as Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa and Vedanta which accepted the Vedas as their scriptural authority are classified as "orthodox" (āstika) traditions of Hinduism; the Sramana traditions, such as Carvaka, Ajivika, Buddhism and Jainism, which did not regard the Vedas as authorities are referred to as "heterodox" or "non-orthodox" (nāstika) schools. The six orthodox schools of Hinduism and its two unorthodox schools (Carvaka and Ajivika) have their own interpretations of the Vedas, metaphysics and epistemology.
Basic Hindu symbols: Shatkona, Padma, and Swastika.
The festival of lights, Diwali, is celebrated by Hindus all over the world.
Babur visits a Hindu temple.
Hinduism – Percentage by country
A goshala or cow shelter at Guntur
A statue of Shiva in yogic meditation
Swami Vivekananda was a key figure in introducing Vedanta and Yoga in Europe and the United States, raising interfaith awareness and making Hinduism a world religion.
A Ganesha-centric Panchayatana ("five deities", from the Smarta tradition): Ganesha (centre) with Shiva (top left), Parvati (top right), Vishnu (bottom left) and Surya (bottom right). All these deities also have separate sects dedicated to them.
A wedding is the most extensive personal ritual an adult Hindu undertakes in his or her life. A typical Hindu wedding is solemnized before Vedic fire ritual (shown).
The Hindu deity Ganesha is sometimes linked to the symbol Om.
AUM, a stylised letter of Devanagari script, used as a religious symbol in Hinduism
Vyāsa (Devanāgarī: व्यास) is a central and much revered figure in the majority of Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Krishna Dwaipayana, (the island-born) or Veda Vyasa '(वेद व्यास, veda vyāsa), meaning - 'the one who classified the Vedas'. He is accredited as the scribe of both the Vedas, and the supplementary texts such as the Puranas. A number of Vaishnava traditions regard him as an avatar of Vishnu. Vyasa is also considered to be one of the seven Chiranjeevin (immortals), who are still in existence according to general Hindu belief. Vyasa appears for the first time as the author of and an important character in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, it is traditionally held by Hindus that Vyasa categorised the primordial single Veda into four. Hence he was called Veda Vyasa, or "Splitter of the Vedas," the splitting being a feat that allowed the populace of the Kali yuga to understand the divine knowledge of the Veda.
The apparent multiplication of gods is bewildering at the first glance, but you soon discover that they are the same GOD
. There is always one uttermost God who defies personification; this makes Hinduism
the most tolerant religion in the world, because its one transcendent God includes all possible gods. In fact Hinduism is so elastic and so subtle that the most profound Methodist
, and crudest idolater, are equally at home with it.
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