What is Hinduism?
Hinduism is an Indian religion or way of life, widely spread in the Indian subcontinent and parts of Southeast Asia. Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world and some scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma.
Hinduism has been described as a tradition having a “complex, organic, multi-leveled and sometimes internally inconsistent nature”. Hinduism does not have a “unified system of belief encoded in a declaration of faith or a creed”, but is rather an umbrella term comprising the plurality of religious phenomena of India. According to the Supreme Court of India,
Unlike other religions in the World, the Hindu religion does not claim any one Prophet, it does not worship any one God, it does not believe in any one philosophic concept, it does not follow any one act of religious rites or performances; in fact, it does not satisfy the traditional features of a religion or creed. It is a way of life and nothing more”.
“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.
Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include the four Puruṣārthas, the proper goals or aims of human life, namely Dharma (ethics/duties), Artha (prosperity/work), Kama (desires/passions) and Moksha (liberation/freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth/salvation); (action, intent and consequences), Saṃsāra (cycle of death and rebirth), and the various Yogas (paths or practices to attain moksha).
Hindu practices include rituals such as puja (worship) and recitations, japa, meditation, family-oriented rites of passage, annual festivals, and occasional pilgrimages. Some Hindus leave their social world and material possessions, then engage in lifelong Sannyasa (monastic practices) to achieve Moksha. Hinduism prescribes the eternal duties, such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings (ahinsa), patience, forbearance, self-restraint, and compassion, among others. The four largest denominations of Hinduism are the Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and Smartism.
Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion; its followers, known as Hindus, constitute about 15–16% of the global population. Hinduism is the most widely professed faith in India, Nepal and Mauritius. It is also the predominant religion in Bali, Indonesia. Significant numbers of Hindu communities are also found in the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, North America, Europe, Oceania, Africa.
Hinduism Holy Books
Hindus value many sacred writings as opposed to one holy book.
The primary sacred texts, known as the Vedas, were composed around 1500 B.C. This collection of verses and hymns was written in Sanskrit and contains revelations received by ancient saints and sages.
The Vedas are made up of:
- The Rig Veda
- The Samaveda
Hindus believe that the Vedas transcend all time and don’t have a beginning or an end.
The Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, 18 Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata are also considered important texts in Hinduism.