Hindu

Hindu

Overview
The Hindu
The Hindu
The Hindu is an Indian English-language daily newspaper founded and continuously published in Chennai since 1878. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, it has a circulation of 1.46 million copies as of December 2009. The enterprise employed over 1,600 workers and gross income reached $40...

 is also the name of an Indian daily newspaper.

Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical
Indian philosophy
India has a rich and diverse philosophical tradition dating back to ancient times. According to Radhakrishnan, the earlier Upanisads constitute "...the earliest philosophical compositions of the world."...

, religious and cultural
Culture of India
India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality....

 systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

. As used in the Constitution of India
Constitution of India
The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions, and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens...

, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion (i.e. Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

, Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 or Sikhism
Sikhism
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

). In common use today, it refers to an adherent of Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

.

With more than a billion adherents, Hinduism is the world's third largest religion
Major religious groups
The world's principal religions and spiritual traditions may be classified into a small number of major groups, although this is by no means a uniform practice...

.
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Encyclopedia
The Hindu
The Hindu
The Hindu is an Indian English-language daily newspaper founded and continuously published in Chennai since 1878. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, it has a circulation of 1.46 million copies as of December 2009. The enterprise employed over 1,600 workers and gross income reached $40...

 is also the name of an Indian daily newspaper.

Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical
Indian philosophy
India has a rich and diverse philosophical tradition dating back to ancient times. According to Radhakrishnan, the earlier Upanisads constitute "...the earliest philosophical compositions of the world."...

, religious and cultural
Culture of India
India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality....

 systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

. As used in the Constitution of India
Constitution of India
The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions, and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens...

, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion (i.e. Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

, Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 or Sikhism
Sikhism
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

). In common use today, it refers to an adherent of Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

.

With more than a billion adherents, Hinduism is the world's third largest religion
Major religious groups
The world's principal religions and spiritual traditions may be classified into a small number of major groups, although this is by no means a uniform practice...

. The vast majority of Hindus
Hinduism in India
Hinduism is a religious tradition of India, with 80.5% of the population identifying themselves as Hindus. The vast majority of Hindus in India belong to Vaishnavite and Shaivite denominations.The Vedic culture originated in India between 2000 and 1500 BC...

, approximately 940 million, live in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. Other countries with large Hindu populations
Hinduism by country
The percentage of Hindu population of each country was taken from the US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report 2006. Other sources used were the CIA World Factbook and adherents.com...

 include Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

, Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

, Mauritius
Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

, Suriname
Suriname
Suriname , officially the Republic of Suriname , is a country in northern South America. It borders French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, Brazil to the south, and on the north by the Atlantic Ocean. Suriname was a former colony of the British and of the Dutch, and was previously known as...

, Guyana
Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

, Trinidad & Tobago, Fiji
Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

 and the island of Bali
Bali
Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east...

.

Etymology



The word Hindu is derived from the Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 word Sindhu, first mentioned in the Rig Veda, was the historic local appellation for the Indus River
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

.

The Brihaspati Agama says:
The usage of the word Hindu was further popularized for Arabs and further west by the Arabic term al-Hind
Hind
The word Hind may refer to:* A female red deer* al-Hind , also Hind - The people of India or Indian subcontinent...

referring to the land of the people who live across river Indus and the Persian term Hindū referring to all Indians. By the 13th century, Hindustān
Hindustan
Hindustan or Indostan, literal translation "Land of River Sindhu ", is one of the popular names of South Asia. It can also mean "the land of the Hindus"...

emerged as a popular alternative name of India
Names of India
The name India may refer to either the region of Greater India , or to the contemporary Republic of India contained therein....

, meaning the "land of Hindus".

Originally, Hindu was a secular term which was used to describe all inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

  (or Hindustan) irrespective of their religious affiliation. It occurs sporadically in some 16th-18th century Bengali
Bengali language
Bengali or Bangla is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. It is written with the Bengali script...

 Gaudiya Vaishnava
Gaudiya Vaishnavism
Gaudiya Vaishnavism is a Vaishnava religious movement founded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in India in the 16th century. "Gaudiya" refers to the Gauḍa region with Vaishnavism meaning "the worship of Vishnu"...

 texts, including Chaitanya Charitamrita
Chaitanya Charitamrita
The Chaitanya Charitamrita is one of the primary biographies detailing the life and teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu , a Vaisnava saint and founder of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya. It was written by Krishna Das Kaviraja , primarily in the Bengali language, but also including a great number of...

and Chaitanya Bhagavata
Chaitanya Bhagavata
The Chaitanya Bhagavata is a hagiography of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu , the famous Vaishnava saint, written by Vrindavana Dasa Thakura . It was the first full-length work regarding Chaitanya Mahaprabhu written in Bengali language and documents his early life and role as the founder of the Gaudiya...

, usually to contrast Hindus with Yavanas or Mlecchas. It appears in South Indian and Kashmiri texts from at least 1323 CE, and increasingly so during British rule
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

. It was only towards the end of the 18th century that the European merchants and colonists referred collectively to the followers of Indian religions as Hindus. Eventually, it came to define a precisely religious identity that includes any person of Indian origin
Demographics of India
The demographics of India are inclusive of the second most populous country in the world, with over 1.21 billion people , more than a sixth of the world's population. Already containing 17.5% of the world's population, India is projected to be the world's most populous country by 2025, surpassing...

 who neither practiced Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...

 nor non-Vedic Indian religions, such as Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

, Sikhism
Sikhism
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

 or Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, thereby encompassing a wide range of religious beliefs and practices related to Sanātana Dharma.

The term Hinduism was formed around 1830 to denote the culture and religion of the high-caste Brahmans in contrast to other religions. It was soon appropriated by the Hindus in India
Hinduism in India
Hinduism is a religious tradition of India, with 80.5% of the population identifying themselves as Hindus. The vast majority of Hindus in India belong to Vaishnavite and Shaivite denominations.The Vedic culture originated in India between 2000 and 1500 BC...

 themselves as they tried to establish a national, social and cultural identity opposed to European colonialism in India
Colonial India
Colonial India refers to areas of the Indian Subcontinent under the control of European colonial powers, through trade and conquest. The first European power to arrive in India was the army of Alexander the Great in 327–326 BC. The satraps he established in the north west of the subcontinent...

.

History


The notion of grouping the indigenous religions of India under a single umbrella term Hindu emerges as a result of various invasions in India
History of India
The history of India begins with evidence of human activity of Homo sapiens as long as 75,000 years ago, or with earlier hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago. The Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent from...

 bringing forth non-indigenous religions such as Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 to the Indian Subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 Numerous Muslim invaders, such as Aurangzeb
Aurangzeb
Abul Muzaffar Muhy-ud-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir , more commonly known as Aurangzeb or by his chosen imperial title Alamgir , was the sixth Mughal Emperor of India, whose reign lasted from 1658 until his death in 1707.Badshah Aurangzeb, having ruled most of the Indian subcontinent for nearly...

, destroyed Hindu temples and persecuted non-Muslims
Persecution of Hindus
Persecution of Hindus refers to the religious persecution inflicted upon Hindus. Hindus have been historically persecuted during Islamic rule of the Indian subcontinent and during the Goa Inquisition...

; some, such as Akbar, were more tolerant. Hinduism underwent profound changes, in large part due to the influence of the prominent teachers Ramanuja
Ramanuja
Ramanuja ; traditionally 1017–1137, also known as Ramanujacharya, Ethirajar , Emperumannar, Lakshmana Muni, was a theologian, philosopher, and scriptural exegete...

, Madhva
Madhvacharya
Madhvācārya was the chief proponent of Tattvavāda "Philosophy of Reality", popularly known as the Dvaita school of Hindu philosophy. It is one of the three most influential Vedānta philosophies. Madhvācārya was one of the important philosophers during the Bhakti movement. He was a pioneer in...

 and Chaitanya. Followers of the Bhakti movement
Bhakti movement
The Bhakti movement is a Hindu religious movement in which the main spiritual practice is loving devotion among the Shaivite and Vaishnava saints. The Bhakti movement originated in ancient Tamil Nadu and began to spread to the north during the late medieval ages when north India was under Islamic...

 moved away from the abstract concept of Brahman
Brahman
In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being...

, which the philosopher Adi Shankara
Adi Shankara
Adi Shankara Adi Shankara Adi Shankara (IAST: pronounced , (Sanskrit: , ) (788 CE - 820 CE), also known as ' and ' was an Indian philosopher from Kalady of present day Kerala who consolidated the doctrine of advaita vedānta...

 consolidated a few centuries before, with emotional, passionate devotion towards what they believed as the more accessible Avatar
Avatar
In Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation," but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation"....

s, especially Krishna and Rama.
Indology
Indology
Indology is the academic study of the history and cultures, languages, and literature of the Indian subcontinent , and as such is a subset of Asian studies....

 as an academic discipline of studying Indian culture from a European perspective was established in the 19th century, led by scholars such as Max Müller
Max Müller
Friedrich Max Müller , more regularly known as Max Müller, was a German philologist and Orientalist, one of the founders of the western academic field of Indian studies and the discipline of comparative religion...

 and John Woodroffe
John Woodroffe
Sir John George Woodroffe , also known by his pseudonym Arthur Avalon, was a British Orientalist whose work helped to unleash in the West a deep and wide interest in Hindu philosophy and Yogic practices.- Life :...

. They brought Vedic
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

, Puranic and Tantric
Tantra
Tantra , anglicised tantricism or tantrism or tantram, is the name scholars give to an inter-religious spiritual movement that arose in medieval India, expressed in scriptures ....

 literature and philosophy to Europe and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. At the same time, societies such as the Brahmo Samaj
Brahmo Samaj
Brahmo Samaj is the societal component of the Brahmo religion which is mainly practiced today as the Adi Dharm after its eclipse in Bengal consequent to the exit of the Tattwabodini Sabha from its ranks in 1859. It was one of the most influential religious movements responsible for the making of...

 and the Theosophical Society
Theosophical Society
The Theosophical Society is an organization formed in 1875 to advance the spiritual principles and search for Truth known as Theosophy. The original organization, after splits and realignments has several successors...

 attempted to reconcile and fuse Abrahamic and Dharmic philosophies, endeavouring to institute societal reform. This period saw the emergence of movements which, while highly innovative, were rooted in indigenous tradition. They were based on the personalities and teachings of individuals, as with Ramakrishna
Ramakrishna
Ramakrishna , born Gadadhar Chattopadhyay , was a famous mystic of 19th-century India. His religious school of thought led to the formation of the Ramakrishna Mission by his chief disciple Swami Vivekananda – both were influential figures in the Bengali Renaissance as well as the Hindu...

 and Ramana Maharshi
Ramana Maharshi
Sri Ramana Maharshi , born Venkataraman Iyer, was a Hindu spiritual master . He was born to a Tamil-speaking Brahmin family in Tiruchuzhi, Tamil Nadu. After experiencing at age 16 what he later described as liberation , he left home for Arunachala, a mountain considered sacred by Hindus...

. Prominent Hindu philosophers, including Aurobindo and Prabhupada
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was a Gaudiya Vaishnava teacher and the founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, commonly known as the "Hare Krishna Movement"...

 (founder of ISKCON), translated, reformulated and presented Hinduism's foundational texts for contemporary audiences in new iterations, attracting followers and attention in India and abroad.

Others, such as Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda , born Mukunda Lal Ghosh , was an Indian yogi and guru who introduced many westerners to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his book, Autobiography of a...

, B.K.S. Iyengar
B.K.S. Iyengar
Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar , is the founder of Iyengar Yoga, although he himself would not call it Iyengar Yoga. He is considered one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world and has been practising and teaching yoga for more than 75 years...

 and Swami Rama
Swami Rama
Swāmī Rāma was born Brij Kiśore Dhasmana or Brij Kiśore Kumar, to a northern Indian Brahmin family in a small village called Toli in the Garhwal Himalayas. He became the lineage holder of the Sankya Yoga tradition of the Himalayan Masters...

, have also been instrumental in raising the profiles of Yoga and Vedanta
Vedanta
Vedānta was originally a word used in Hindu philosophy as a synonym for that part of the Veda texts known also as the Upanishads. The name is a morphophonological form of Veda-anta = "Veda-end" = "the appendix to the Vedic hymns." It is also speculated that "Vedānta" means "the purpose or goal...

 in the West. Today modern movements, such as ISKCON and the Swaminarayan Faith
Swaminarayan Faith
Swaminarayan Hinduism, also known as the Swaminarayan faith or the Swaminarayan sect, is a modern tradition in the Vaishnava denomination of Hinduism, in which followers offer devotion to and worship Swaminarayan as the final manifestation of God....

, attract a large amount of followers across the world.

Definition


The Hindu
The Hindu
The Hindu is an Indian English-language daily newspaper founded and continuously published in Chennai since 1878. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, it has a circulation of 1.46 million copies as of December 2009. The enterprise employed over 1,600 workers and gross income reached $40...

 is also the name of an Indian daily newspaper.

Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical
Indian philosophy
India has a rich and diverse philosophical tradition dating back to ancient times. According to Radhakrishnan, the earlier Upanisads constitute "...the earliest philosophical compositions of the world."...

, religious and cultural
Culture of India
India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality....

 systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

. As used in the Constitution of India
Constitution of India
The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions, and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens...

, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion (i.e. Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

, Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 or Sikhism
Sikhism
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

). In common use today, it refers to an adherent of Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

.

With more than a billion adherents, Hinduism is the world's third largest religion
Major religious groups
The world's principal religions and spiritual traditions may be classified into a small number of major groups, although this is by no means a uniform practice...

. The vast majority of Hindus
Hinduism in India
Hinduism is a religious tradition of India, with 80.5% of the population identifying themselves as Hindus. The vast majority of Hindus in India belong to Vaishnavite and Shaivite denominations.The Vedic culture originated in India between 2000 and 1500 BC...

, approximately 940 million, live in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. Other countries with large Hindu populations
Hinduism by country
The percentage of Hindu population of each country was taken from the US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report 2006. Other sources used were the CIA World Factbook and adherents.com...

 include Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

, Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

, Mauritius
Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

, Suriname
Suriname
Suriname , officially the Republic of Suriname , is a country in northern South America. It borders French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, Brazil to the south, and on the north by the Atlantic Ocean. Suriname was a former colony of the British and of the Dutch, and was previously known as...

, Guyana
Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

, Trinidad & Tobago, Fiji
Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

 and the island of Bali
Bali
Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east...

.

Etymology



The word Hindu is derived from the Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 word Sindhu, first mentioned in the Rig Veda, was the historic local appellation for the Indus River
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

.

The Brihaspati Agama says:
The usage of the word Hindu was further popularized for Arabs and further west by the Arabic term al-Hind
Hind
The word Hind may refer to:* A female red deer* al-Hind , also Hind - The people of India or Indian subcontinent...

referring to the land of the people who live across river Indus and the Persian term Hindū referring to all Indians. By the 13th century, Hindustān
Hindustan
Hindustan or Indostan, literal translation "Land of River Sindhu ", is one of the popular names of South Asia. It can also mean "the land of the Hindus"...

emerged as a popular alternative name of India
Names of India
The name India may refer to either the region of Greater India , or to the contemporary Republic of India contained therein....

, meaning the "land of Hindus".

Originally, Hindu was a secular term which was used to describe all inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

  (or Hindustan) irrespective of their religious affiliation. It occurs sporadically in some 16th-18th century Bengali
Bengali language
Bengali or Bangla is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. It is written with the Bengali script...

 Gaudiya Vaishnava
Gaudiya Vaishnavism
Gaudiya Vaishnavism is a Vaishnava religious movement founded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in India in the 16th century. "Gaudiya" refers to the Gauḍa region with Vaishnavism meaning "the worship of Vishnu"...

 texts, including Chaitanya Charitamrita
Chaitanya Charitamrita
The Chaitanya Charitamrita is one of the primary biographies detailing the life and teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu , a Vaisnava saint and founder of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya. It was written by Krishna Das Kaviraja , primarily in the Bengali language, but also including a great number of...

and Chaitanya Bhagavata
Chaitanya Bhagavata
The Chaitanya Bhagavata is a hagiography of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu , the famous Vaishnava saint, written by Vrindavana Dasa Thakura . It was the first full-length work regarding Chaitanya Mahaprabhu written in Bengali language and documents his early life and role as the founder of the Gaudiya...

, usually to contrast Hindus with Yavanas or Mlecchas. It appears in South Indian and Kashmiri texts from at least 1323 CE, and increasingly so during British rule
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

. It was only towards the end of the 18th century that the European merchants and colonists referred collectively to the followers of Indian religions as Hindus. Eventually, it came to define a precisely religious identity that includes any person of Indian origin
Demographics of India
The demographics of India are inclusive of the second most populous country in the world, with over 1.21 billion people , more than a sixth of the world's population. Already containing 17.5% of the world's population, India is projected to be the world's most populous country by 2025, surpassing...

 who neither practiced Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...

 nor non-Vedic Indian religions, such as Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

, Sikhism
Sikhism
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

 or Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, thereby encompassing a wide range of religious beliefs and practices related to Sanātana Dharma.

The term Hinduism was formed around 1830 to denote the culture and religion of the high-caste Brahmans in contrast to other religions. It was soon appropriated by the Hindus in India
Hinduism in India
Hinduism is a religious tradition of India, with 80.5% of the population identifying themselves as Hindus. The vast majority of Hindus in India belong to Vaishnavite and Shaivite denominations.The Vedic culture originated in India between 2000 and 1500 BC...

 themselves as they tried to establish a national, social and cultural identity opposed to European colonialism in India
Colonial India
Colonial India refers to areas of the Indian Subcontinent under the control of European colonial powers, through trade and conquest. The first European power to arrive in India was the army of Alexander the Great in 327–326 BC. The satraps he established in the north west of the subcontinent...

.

History


The notion of grouping the indigenous religions of India under a single umbrella term Hindu emerges as a result of various invasions in India
History of India
The history of India begins with evidence of human activity of Homo sapiens as long as 75,000 years ago, or with earlier hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago. The Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent from...

 bringing forth non-indigenous religions such as Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 to the Indian Subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 Numerous Muslim invaders, such as Aurangzeb
Aurangzeb
Abul Muzaffar Muhy-ud-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir , more commonly known as Aurangzeb or by his chosen imperial title Alamgir , was the sixth Mughal Emperor of India, whose reign lasted from 1658 until his death in 1707.Badshah Aurangzeb, having ruled most of the Indian subcontinent for nearly...

, destroyed Hindu temples and persecuted non-Muslims
Persecution of Hindus
Persecution of Hindus refers to the religious persecution inflicted upon Hindus. Hindus have been historically persecuted during Islamic rule of the Indian subcontinent and during the Goa Inquisition...

; some, such as Akbar, were more tolerant. Hinduism underwent profound changes, in large part due to the influence of the prominent teachers Ramanuja
Ramanuja
Ramanuja ; traditionally 1017–1137, also known as Ramanujacharya, Ethirajar , Emperumannar, Lakshmana Muni, was a theologian, philosopher, and scriptural exegete...

, Madhva
Madhvacharya
Madhvācārya was the chief proponent of Tattvavāda "Philosophy of Reality", popularly known as the Dvaita school of Hindu philosophy. It is one of the three most influential Vedānta philosophies. Madhvācārya was one of the important philosophers during the Bhakti movement. He was a pioneer in...

 and Chaitanya. Followers of the Bhakti movement
Bhakti movement
The Bhakti movement is a Hindu religious movement in which the main spiritual practice is loving devotion among the Shaivite and Vaishnava saints. The Bhakti movement originated in ancient Tamil Nadu and began to spread to the north during the late medieval ages when north India was under Islamic...

 moved away from the abstract concept of Brahman
Brahman
In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being...

, which the philosopher Adi Shankara
Adi Shankara
Adi Shankara Adi Shankara Adi Shankara (IAST: pronounced , (Sanskrit: , ) (788 CE - 820 CE), also known as ' and ' was an Indian philosopher from Kalady of present day Kerala who consolidated the doctrine of advaita vedānta...

 consolidated a few centuries before, with emotional, passionate devotion towards what they believed as the more accessible Avatar
Avatar
In Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation," but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation"....

s, especially Krishna and Rama.
Indology
Indology
Indology is the academic study of the history and cultures, languages, and literature of the Indian subcontinent , and as such is a subset of Asian studies....

 as an academic discipline of studying Indian culture from a European perspective was established in the 19th century, led by scholars such as Max Müller
Max Müller
Friedrich Max Müller , more regularly known as Max Müller, was a German philologist and Orientalist, one of the founders of the western academic field of Indian studies and the discipline of comparative religion...

 and John Woodroffe
John Woodroffe
Sir John George Woodroffe , also known by his pseudonym Arthur Avalon, was a British Orientalist whose work helped to unleash in the West a deep and wide interest in Hindu philosophy and Yogic practices.- Life :...

. They brought Vedic
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

, Puranic and Tantric
Tantra
Tantra , anglicised tantricism or tantrism or tantram, is the name scholars give to an inter-religious spiritual movement that arose in medieval India, expressed in scriptures ....

 literature and philosophy to Europe and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. At the same time, societies such as the Brahmo Samaj
Brahmo Samaj
Brahmo Samaj is the societal component of the Brahmo religion which is mainly practiced today as the Adi Dharm after its eclipse in Bengal consequent to the exit of the Tattwabodini Sabha from its ranks in 1859. It was one of the most influential religious movements responsible for the making of...

 and the Theosophical Society
Theosophical Society
The Theosophical Society is an organization formed in 1875 to advance the spiritual principles and search for Truth known as Theosophy. The original organization, after splits and realignments has several successors...

 attempted to reconcile and fuse Abrahamic and Dharmic philosophies, endeavouring to institute societal reform. This period saw the emergence of movements which, while highly innovative, were rooted in indigenous tradition. They were based on the personalities and teachings of individuals, as with Ramakrishna
Ramakrishna
Ramakrishna , born Gadadhar Chattopadhyay , was a famous mystic of 19th-century India. His religious school of thought led to the formation of the Ramakrishna Mission by his chief disciple Swami Vivekananda – both were influential figures in the Bengali Renaissance as well as the Hindu...

 and Ramana Maharshi
Ramana Maharshi
Sri Ramana Maharshi , born Venkataraman Iyer, was a Hindu spiritual master . He was born to a Tamil-speaking Brahmin family in Tiruchuzhi, Tamil Nadu. After experiencing at age 16 what he later described as liberation , he left home for Arunachala, a mountain considered sacred by Hindus...

. Prominent Hindu philosophers, including Aurobindo and Prabhupada
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was a Gaudiya Vaishnava teacher and the founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, commonly known as the "Hare Krishna Movement"...

 (founder of ISKCON), translated, reformulated and presented Hinduism's foundational texts for contemporary audiences in new iterations, attracting followers and attention in India and abroad.

Others, such as Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda , born Mukunda Lal Ghosh , was an Indian yogi and guru who introduced many westerners to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his book, Autobiography of a...

, B.K.S. Iyengar
B.K.S. Iyengar
Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar , is the founder of Iyengar Yoga, although he himself would not call it Iyengar Yoga. He is considered one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world and has been practising and teaching yoga for more than 75 years...

 and Swami Rama
Swami Rama
Swāmī Rāma was born Brij Kiśore Dhasmana or Brij Kiśore Kumar, to a northern Indian Brahmin family in a small village called Toli in the Garhwal Himalayas. He became the lineage holder of the Sankya Yoga tradition of the Himalayan Masters...

, have also been instrumental in raising the profiles of Yoga and Vedanta
Vedanta
Vedānta was originally a word used in Hindu philosophy as a synonym for that part of the Veda texts known also as the Upanishads. The name is a morphophonological form of Veda-anta = "Veda-end" = "the appendix to the Vedic hymns." It is also speculated that "Vedānta" means "the purpose or goal...

 in the West. Today modern movements, such as ISKCON and the Swaminarayan Faith
Swaminarayan Faith
Swaminarayan Hinduism, also known as the Swaminarayan faith or the Swaminarayan sect, is a modern tradition in the Vaishnava denomination of Hinduism, in which followers offer devotion to and worship Swaminarayan as the final manifestation of God....

, attract a large amount of followers across the world.

Definition


The Hindu
The Hindu
The Hindu is an Indian English-language daily newspaper founded and continuously published in Chennai since 1878. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, it has a circulation of 1.46 million copies as of December 2009. The enterprise employed over 1,600 workers and gross income reached $40...

 is also the name of an Indian daily newspaper.

Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical
Indian philosophy
India has a rich and diverse philosophical tradition dating back to ancient times. According to Radhakrishnan, the earlier Upanisads constitute "...the earliest philosophical compositions of the world."...

, religious and cultural
Culture of India
India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality....

 systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

. As used in the Constitution of India
Constitution of India
The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions, and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens...

, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion (i.e. Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

, Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 or Sikhism
Sikhism
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

). In common use today, it refers to an adherent of Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

.

With more than a billion adherents, Hinduism is the world's third largest religion
Major religious groups
The world's principal religions and spiritual traditions may be classified into a small number of major groups, although this is by no means a uniform practice...

. The vast majority of Hindus
Hinduism in India
Hinduism is a religious tradition of India, with 80.5% of the population identifying themselves as Hindus. The vast majority of Hindus in India belong to Vaishnavite and Shaivite denominations.The Vedic culture originated in India between 2000 and 1500 BC...

, approximately 940 million, live in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. Other countries with large Hindu populations
Hinduism by country
The percentage of Hindu population of each country was taken from the US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report 2006. Other sources used were the CIA World Factbook and adherents.com...

 include Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

, Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

, Mauritius
Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

, Suriname
Suriname
Suriname , officially the Republic of Suriname , is a country in northern South America. It borders French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, Brazil to the south, and on the north by the Atlantic Ocean. Suriname was a former colony of the British and of the Dutch, and was previously known as...

, Guyana
Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

, Trinidad & Tobago, Fiji
Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

 and the island of Bali
Bali
Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east...

.

Etymology



The word Hindu is derived from the Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 word Sindhu, first mentioned in the Rig Veda, was the historic local appellation for the Indus River
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

.

The Brihaspati Agama says:
The usage of the word Hindu was further popularized for Arabs and further west by the Arabic term al-Hind
Hind
The word Hind may refer to:* A female red deer* al-Hind , also Hind - The people of India or Indian subcontinent...

referring to the land of the people who live across river Indus and the Persian term Hindū referring to all Indians. By the 13th century, Hindustān
Hindustan
Hindustan or Indostan, literal translation "Land of River Sindhu ", is one of the popular names of South Asia. It can also mean "the land of the Hindus"...

emerged as a popular alternative name of India
Names of India
The name India may refer to either the region of Greater India , or to the contemporary Republic of India contained therein....

, meaning the "land of Hindus".

Originally, Hindu was a secular term which was used to describe all inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

  (or Hindustan) irrespective of their religious affiliation. It occurs sporadically in some 16th-18th century Bengali
Bengali language
Bengali or Bangla is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. It is written with the Bengali script...

 Gaudiya Vaishnava
Gaudiya Vaishnavism
Gaudiya Vaishnavism is a Vaishnava religious movement founded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in India in the 16th century. "Gaudiya" refers to the Gauḍa region with Vaishnavism meaning "the worship of Vishnu"...

 texts, including Chaitanya Charitamrita
Chaitanya Charitamrita
The Chaitanya Charitamrita is one of the primary biographies detailing the life and teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu , a Vaisnava saint and founder of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya. It was written by Krishna Das Kaviraja , primarily in the Bengali language, but also including a great number of...

and Chaitanya Bhagavata
Chaitanya Bhagavata
The Chaitanya Bhagavata is a hagiography of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu , the famous Vaishnava saint, written by Vrindavana Dasa Thakura . It was the first full-length work regarding Chaitanya Mahaprabhu written in Bengali language and documents his early life and role as the founder of the Gaudiya...

, usually to contrast Hindus with Yavanas or Mlecchas. It appears in South Indian and Kashmiri texts from at least 1323 CE, and increasingly so during British rule
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

. It was only towards the end of the 18th century that the European merchants and colonists referred collectively to the followers of Indian religions as Hindus. Eventually, it came to define a precisely religious identity that includes any person of Indian origin
Demographics of India
The demographics of India are inclusive of the second most populous country in the world, with over 1.21 billion people , more than a sixth of the world's population. Already containing 17.5% of the world's population, India is projected to be the world's most populous country by 2025, surpassing...

 who neither practiced Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...

 nor non-Vedic Indian religions, such as Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

, Sikhism
Sikhism
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

 or Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, thereby encompassing a wide range of religious beliefs and practices related to Sanātana Dharma.

The term Hinduism was formed around 1830 to denote the culture and religion of the high-caste Brahmans in contrast to other religions. It was soon appropriated by the Hindus in India
Hinduism in India
Hinduism is a religious tradition of India, with 80.5% of the population identifying themselves as Hindus. The vast majority of Hindus in India belong to Vaishnavite and Shaivite denominations.The Vedic culture originated in India between 2000 and 1500 BC...

 themselves as they tried to establish a national, social and cultural identity opposed to European colonialism in India
Colonial India
Colonial India refers to areas of the Indian Subcontinent under the control of European colonial powers, through trade and conquest. The first European power to arrive in India was the army of Alexander the Great in 327–326 BC. The satraps he established in the north west of the subcontinent...

.

History


The notion of grouping the indigenous religions of India under a single umbrella term Hindu emerges as a result of various invasions in India
History of India
The history of India begins with evidence of human activity of Homo sapiens as long as 75,000 years ago, or with earlier hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago. The Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent from...

 bringing forth non-indigenous religions such as Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 to the Indian Subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 Numerous Muslim invaders, such as Aurangzeb
Aurangzeb
Abul Muzaffar Muhy-ud-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir , more commonly known as Aurangzeb or by his chosen imperial title Alamgir , was the sixth Mughal Emperor of India, whose reign lasted from 1658 until his death in 1707.Badshah Aurangzeb, having ruled most of the Indian subcontinent for nearly...

, destroyed Hindu temples and persecuted non-Muslims
Persecution of Hindus
Persecution of Hindus refers to the religious persecution inflicted upon Hindus. Hindus have been historically persecuted during Islamic rule of the Indian subcontinent and during the Goa Inquisition...

; some, such as Akbar, were more tolerant. Hinduism underwent profound changes, in large part due to the influence of the prominent teachers Ramanuja
Ramanuja
Ramanuja ; traditionally 1017–1137, also known as Ramanujacharya, Ethirajar , Emperumannar, Lakshmana Muni, was a theologian, philosopher, and scriptural exegete...

, Madhva
Madhvacharya
Madhvācārya was the chief proponent of Tattvavāda "Philosophy of Reality", popularly known as the Dvaita school of Hindu philosophy. It is one of the three most influential Vedānta philosophies. Madhvācārya was one of the important philosophers during the Bhakti movement. He was a pioneer in...

 and Chaitanya. Followers of the Bhakti movement
Bhakti movement
The Bhakti movement is a Hindu religious movement in which the main spiritual practice is loving devotion among the Shaivite and Vaishnava saints. The Bhakti movement originated in ancient Tamil Nadu and began to spread to the north during the late medieval ages when north India was under Islamic...

 moved away from the abstract concept of Brahman
Brahman
In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being...

, which the philosopher Adi Shankara
Adi Shankara
Adi Shankara Adi Shankara Adi Shankara (IAST: pronounced , (Sanskrit: , ) (788 CE - 820 CE), also known as ' and ' was an Indian philosopher from Kalady of present day Kerala who consolidated the doctrine of advaita vedānta...

 consolidated a few centuries before, with emotional, passionate devotion towards what they believed as the more accessible Avatar
Avatar
In Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation," but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation"....

s, especially Krishna and Rama.
Indology
Indology
Indology is the academic study of the history and cultures, languages, and literature of the Indian subcontinent , and as such is a subset of Asian studies....

 as an academic discipline of studying Indian culture from a European perspective was established in the 19th century, led by scholars such as Max Müller
Max Müller
Friedrich Max Müller , more regularly known as Max Müller, was a German philologist and Orientalist, one of the founders of the western academic field of Indian studies and the discipline of comparative religion...

 and John Woodroffe
John Woodroffe
Sir John George Woodroffe , also known by his pseudonym Arthur Avalon, was a British Orientalist whose work helped to unleash in the West a deep and wide interest in Hindu philosophy and Yogic practices.- Life :...

. They brought Vedic
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

, Puranic and Tantric
Tantra
Tantra , anglicised tantricism or tantrism or tantram, is the name scholars give to an inter-religious spiritual movement that arose in medieval India, expressed in scriptures ....

 literature and philosophy to Europe and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. At the same time, societies such as the Brahmo Samaj
Brahmo Samaj
Brahmo Samaj is the societal component of the Brahmo religion which is mainly practiced today as the Adi Dharm after its eclipse in Bengal consequent to the exit of the Tattwabodini Sabha from its ranks in 1859. It was one of the most influential religious movements responsible for the making of...

 and the Theosophical Society
Theosophical Society
The Theosophical Society is an organization formed in 1875 to advance the spiritual principles and search for Truth known as Theosophy. The original organization, after splits and realignments has several successors...

 attempted to reconcile and fuse Abrahamic and Dharmic philosophies, endeavouring to institute societal reform. This period saw the emergence of movements which, while highly innovative, were rooted in indigenous tradition. They were based on the personalities and teachings of individuals, as with Ramakrishna
Ramakrishna
Ramakrishna , born Gadadhar Chattopadhyay , was a famous mystic of 19th-century India. His religious school of thought led to the formation of the Ramakrishna Mission by his chief disciple Swami Vivekananda – both were influential figures in the Bengali Renaissance as well as the Hindu...

 and Ramana Maharshi
Ramana Maharshi
Sri Ramana Maharshi , born Venkataraman Iyer, was a Hindu spiritual master . He was born to a Tamil-speaking Brahmin family in Tiruchuzhi, Tamil Nadu. After experiencing at age 16 what he later described as liberation , he left home for Arunachala, a mountain considered sacred by Hindus...

. Prominent Hindu philosophers, including Aurobindo and Prabhupada
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was a Gaudiya Vaishnava teacher and the founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, commonly known as the "Hare Krishna Movement"...

 (founder of ISKCON), translated, reformulated and presented Hinduism's foundational texts for contemporary audiences in new iterations, attracting followers and attention in India and abroad.

Others, such as Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda , born Mukunda Lal Ghosh , was an Indian yogi and guru who introduced many westerners to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his book, Autobiography of a...

, B.K.S. Iyengar
B.K.S. Iyengar
Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar , is the founder of Iyengar Yoga, although he himself would not call it Iyengar Yoga. He is considered one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world and has been practising and teaching yoga for more than 75 years...

 and Swami Rama
Swami Rama
Swāmī Rāma was born Brij Kiśore Dhasmana or Brij Kiśore Kumar, to a northern Indian Brahmin family in a small village called Toli in the Garhwal Himalayas. He became the lineage holder of the Sankya Yoga tradition of the Himalayan Masters...

, have also been instrumental in raising the profiles of Yoga and Vedanta
Vedanta
Vedānta was originally a word used in Hindu philosophy as a synonym for that part of the Veda texts known also as the Upanishads. The name is a morphophonological form of Veda-anta = "Veda-end" = "the appendix to the Vedic hymns." It is also speculated that "Vedānta" means "the purpose or goal...

 in the West. Today modern movements, such as ISKCON and the Swaminarayan Faith
Swaminarayan Faith
Swaminarayan Hinduism, also known as the Swaminarayan faith or the Swaminarayan sect, is a modern tradition in the Vaishnava denomination of Hinduism, in which followers offer devotion to and worship Swaminarayan as the final manifestation of God....

, attract a large amount of followers across the world.

Definition





The diverse set of religious beliefs, traditions and philosophies of the Hindus are the product of an amalgamation process that began with the decline of Buddhism in India
Decline of Buddhism in India
The decline of Buddhism in India, the land of its birth, occurred for a variety of reasons, and happened even as it continued to flourish beyond the frontiers of India. Buddhism was established in the area of ancient Magadha and Kosala by Gautama Buddha in the 6th century BCE, in what is now modern...

 (5th-8th Century), where traditions of Vedic Brahmanism and the mystical schools of Vedanta
Vedanta
Vedānta was originally a word used in Hindu philosophy as a synonym for that part of the Veda texts known also as the Upanishads. The name is a morphophonological form of Veda-anta = "Veda-end" = "the appendix to the Vedic hymns." It is also speculated that "Vedānta" means "the purpose or goal...

 were combined with Shramana
Shramana
A shramana is a wandering monk in certain ascetic traditions of ancient India including Jainism, Buddhism, and Ājīvikism. Famous śramaṇas include Mahavira and Gautama Buddha....

 traditions and regional cults to give rise to the socio-religious and cultural sphere later described as "Hinduism".

Adi Shankara
Adi Shankara
Adi Shankara Adi Shankara Adi Shankara (IAST: pronounced , (Sanskrit: , ) (788 CE - 820 CE), also known as ' and ' was an Indian philosopher from Kalady of present day Kerala who consolidated the doctrine of advaita vedānta...

's commentaries on the Upanishads led to the rise of Advaita Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta is considered to be the most influential and most dominant sub-school of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy. Other major sub-schools of Vedānta are Dvaita and ; while the minor ones include Suddhadvaita, Dvaitadvaita and Achintya Bhedabheda...

, the most influential sub-school of Vedanta.
Hinduism continues to be divided in numerous several sects and denominations
Hindu denominations
Hinduism comprises numerous sects or denominations. The denominations are roughly comparable to different religions. The main divisions in current Hinduism are Shaivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism, and Smartism...

, of which Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism is a tradition of Hinduism, distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu, or his associated Avatars such as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God....

and Shaivism
Shaivism
Shaivism is one of the four major sects of Hinduism, the others being Vaishnavism, Shaktism and Smartism. Followers of Shaivism, called "Shaivas," and also "Saivas" or "Saivites," revere Shiva as the Supreme Being. Shaivas believe that Shiva is All and in all, the creator, preserver, destroyer,...

are by far the most popular. Other aspects include folk and conservative Vedic Hinduism
Srauta
' traditions are conservative ritualistic traditions of the historical Vedic religion in Hinduism, based on the body of Śruti literature...

.
Since the 18th century, Hinduism has accommodated a host of new religious and reform movements
Hindu reform movements
Several contemporary groups, collectively termed Hindu reform movements, strive to introduce regeneration and reform to Hinduism. Although these movements are very individual in their exact philosophies they generally stress the spiritual, secular and logical and scientific aspects of the Vedic...

, with Arya Samaj
Arya Samaj
Arya Samaj is a Hindu reform movement founded by Swami Dayananda on 10 April 1875. He was a sannyasi who believed in the infallible authority of the Vedas. Dayananda emphasized the ideals of brahmacharya...

 being one of the most notable Hindu revivalist organizations.

Due to the wide diversity in the beliefs, practices and traditions encompassed by Hinduism, there is no universally accepted definition on who a Hindu is, or even agreement on whether the term Hinduism represents a religious, cultural or socio-political entity. In 1995, Chief Justice P. B. Gajendragadkar was quoted in an Indian Supreme Court
Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial forum and final court of appeal as established by Part V, Chapter IV of the Constitution of India...

 ruling:
When we think of the Hindu religion, 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 subscribe to any one dogma; it does not believe in any one philosophic concept; it does not follow any one set of religious rites or performances; in fact, it does not appear to satisfy the narrow traditional features of any religion or creed
Creed
A creed is a statement of belief—usually a statement of faith that describes the beliefs shared by a religious community—and is often recited as part of a religious service. When the statement of faith is longer and polemical, as well as didactic, it is not called a creed but a Confession of faith...

. It may broadly be described as a way of life and nothing more.


Thus some scholars argue that the Hinduism is not a religion per se but rather a reification
Reification
Reification generally refers to bringing into being or turning concrete.Specifically, reification may refer to:*Reification , making a data model for a previously abstract concept...

 of a diverse set of traditions and practices by scholars who constituted a unified system and arbitrarily labeled it Hinduism. The usage may also have been necessitated by the desire to distinguish between "Hindus" and followers of other religions during the periodic census
Census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

 undertaken by the colonial British government in India. Other scholars, while seeing Hinduism as a 19th century construct, view Hinduism as a response to British colonialism by Indian nationalists who forged a unified tradition centered on oral and written Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 texts adopted as scriptures.

While Hinduism contains both "uniting and dispersing tendencies", it also has a common central thread of philosophical concepts (including dharma
Dharma
Dharma means Law or Natural Law and is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion. In the context of Hinduism, it refers to one's personal obligations, calling and duties, and a Hindu's dharma is affected by the person's age, caste, class, occupation, and gender...

, moksha
Moksha
Within Indian religions, moksha or mukti , literally "release" , is the liberation from samsara and the concomitant suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and reincarnation or rebirth.-Origins:It is highly probable that the concept of moksha was first developed in...

 and samsara
Samsara
thumb|right|200px|Traditional Tibetan painting or [[Thanka]] showing the [[wheel of life]] and realms of saṃsāraSaṅsāra or Saṃsāra , , literally meaning "continuous flow", is the cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth or reincarnation within Hinduism, Buddhism, Bön, Jainism, Sikhism, and other...

), practices (puja, bhakti
Bhakti
In Hinduism Bhakti is religious devotion in the form of active involvement of a devotee in worship of the divine.Within monotheistic Hinduism, it is the love felt by the worshipper towards the personal God, a concept expressed in Hindu theology as Svayam Bhagavan.Bhakti can be used of either...

 etc.) and cultural traditions. These common elements originating (or being codified within) the Vedic
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

, Upanishad
Upanishad
The Upanishads are philosophical texts considered to be an early source of Hindu religion. More than 200 are known, of which the first dozen or so, the oldest and most important, are variously referred to as the principal, main or old Upanishads...

 and Puranic scriptures and epics. Thus a Hindu could :
  • follow any of the Hindu schools of philosophy
    Hindu philosophy
    Hindu philosophy is divided into six schools of thought, or , which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. Three other schools do not accept the Vedas as authoritative...

    , such as Advaita
    Advaita Vedanta
    Advaita Vedanta is considered to be the most influential and most dominant sub-school of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy. Other major sub-schools of Vedānta are Dvaita and ; while the minor ones include Suddhadvaita, Dvaitadvaita and Achintya Bhedabheda...

     (non-dualism
    Dualism
    Dualism denotes a state of two parts. The term 'dualism' was originally coined to denote co-eternal binary opposition, a meaning that is preserved in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse but has been diluted in general or common usages. Dualism can refer to moral dualism, Dualism (from...

    ), Vishishtadvaita
    Vishishtadvaita
    Vishishtadvaita Vedanta is a sub-school of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy, the other major sub-schools of Vedānta being Advaita, Dvaita, and Achintya-Bheda-Abheda. VishishtAdvaita is a non-dualistic school of Vedanta philosophy...

      (non-dualism of the qualified whole), Dvaita
    Dvaita
    Dvaita is a school of Vedanta founded by Shri Madhvacharya....

     (dualism
    Dualism
    Dualism denotes a state of two parts. The term 'dualism' was originally coined to denote co-eternal binary opposition, a meaning that is preserved in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse but has been diluted in general or common usages. Dualism can refer to moral dualism, Dualism (from...

    ), Dvaitadvaita
    Dvaitadvaita
    Dvaitadvaita was proposed by Nimbarka, a Vaishnava Philosopher who hailed from Andhra Region. Nimbarka’s philosophical position is known as Dvaitadvaita . The categories of existence, according to him, are three, i.e., Chit, acit, and Isvara...

     (dualism with non-dualism), etc.
  • follow a tradition centered on any particular form of the Divine, such as Shaivism
    Shaivism
    Shaivism is one of the four major sects of Hinduism, the others being Vaishnavism, Shaktism and Smartism. Followers of Shaivism, called "Shaivas," and also "Saivas" or "Saivites," revere Shiva as the Supreme Being. Shaivas believe that Shiva is All and in all, the creator, preserver, destroyer,...

    , Vaishnavism
    Vaishnavism
    Vaishnavism is a tradition of Hinduism, distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu, or his associated Avatars such as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God....

    , Shaktism
    Shaktism
    Shaktism is a denomination of Hinduism that focuses worship upon Shakti or Devi – the Hindu Divine Mother – as the absolute, ultimate Godhead...

    , etc.
  • practice any one of the various forms of yoga
    Yoga
    Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India. The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility while meditating on Supersoul...

     systems; including bhakti
    Bhakti
    In Hinduism Bhakti is religious devotion in the form of active involvement of a devotee in worship of the divine.Within monotheistic Hinduism, it is the love felt by the worshipper towards the personal God, a concept expressed in Hindu theology as Svayam Bhagavan.Bhakti can be used of either...

     (Hindu devotional movements
    Hindu devotional movements
    Devotional movements refers to various forms of Hinduism in India that co-exist with differing doctrines and practices. The history of worship in India is one of hybridisation. In ancient times various regions each had their own local myths and folklore, worshipping their own collection of local...

    ) in order to achieve moksha
    Moksha
    Within Indian religions, moksha or mukti , literally "release" , is the liberation from samsara and the concomitant suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and reincarnation or rebirth.-Origins:It is highly probable that the concept of moksha was first developed in...

    .

The Republic of India is in the peculiar situation that the Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial forum and final court of appeal as established by Part V, Chapter IV of the Constitution of India...

 has repeatedly been called upon to define "Hinduism" because the Constitution of India
Constitution of India
The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions, and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens...

, while it prohibits "discrimination of any citizen" on grounds of religion in article 15, article 30 foresees special rights for "All minorities, whether based on religion or language". As a consequence, religious groups have an interest in being recognized as distinct from the Hindu majority in order to qualify as a "religious minority". Thus, the Supreme Court was forced to consider the question whether Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

 is part of Hinduism in 2005 and 2006. In the 2006 verdict, the Supreme Court found that the "Jain Religion is indisputably not a part of the Hindu Religion".
In 1995, while considering the question "who are Hindus and what are the broad features of Hindu religion", the Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial forum and final court of appeal as established by Part V, Chapter IV of the Constitution of India...

 highlighted Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Lokmanya Tilak –, was an Indian nationalist, teacher, social reformer and independence fighter who was the first popular leader of the Indian Independence Movement. The British colonial authorities derogatorily called the great leader "Father of the Indian unrest"...

's formulation of Hinduism's defining features:
Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence; recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are diverse; and the realization of the truth that the number of gods to be worshipped is large, that indeed is the distinguishing feature of Hindu religion.


Some thinkers have attempted to distinguish between the concept of Hinduism as a religion, and a Hindu as a member of a nationalist or socio-political class.
In Hindu nationalism
Hindu nationalism
Hindu nationalism has been collectively referred to as the expressions of social and political thought, based on the native spiritual and cultural traditions of historical India...

, the term "Hindu" combines notions of geographical unity, common culture and common race. Thus, Veer Savarkar
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
Vināyak Dāmodar Sāvarkar was an Indian freedom fighter, revolutionary and politician. He was the proponent of liberty as the ultimate ideal. Savarkar was a poet, writer and playwright...

 in his influential pamphlet "Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?
Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu?
Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? is a 1923 ideological pamphlet by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.The text exhibits one of the early uses of the term "Hindutva"...

" defined a Hindu as a person who sees India "as his Fatherland as well as his Holy land, that is, the cradle land of his religion". This conceptualization of Hinduism, has led to establishment of Hindutva
Hindutva
Hindutva is the term used to describe movements advocating Hindu nationalism. Members of the movement are called Hindutvavādis.In India, an umbrella organization called the Sangh Parivar champions the concept of Hindutva...

 as the dominant force in Hindu nationalism
Hindu nationalism
Hindu nationalism has been collectively referred to as the expressions of social and political thought, based on the native spiritual and cultural traditions of historical India...

 over the last century.

Ethnic and cultural fabric




Hinduism, its religious doctrines, traditions and observances are very typical and inextricably linked to the culture and demographics of India. Hinduism has one of the most ethnically diverse bodies of adherents in the world. It is hard to classify Hinduism as a religion because the framework, symbols, leaders and books of reference that make up a typical religion are not uniquely identified in the case of Hinduism. Hinduism is almost 4,000 years old. Most commonly it can be seen as a "way of life" which gives rise to many other forms of religions.

Large tribes and communities indigenous to India are closely linked to the synthesis and formation of Hindu civilization. People of East Asian roots living in the states of north eastern India and Nepal were also a part of the earliest Hindu civilization. Immigration and settlement of people from Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

 and people of Indo-Greek heritage have brought their own influence on Hindu society.
The roots of Hinduism in southern India, and among tribal and indigenous communities is just as ancient and fundamentally contributive to the foundations of the religious and philosophical system.

Ancient Hindu kingdoms arose and spread the religion and traditions across Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

, particularly Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

, Laos
Laos
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

, Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, and what is now central Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

. A form of Hinduism particularly different from Indian roots and traditions is practiced in Bali
Bali
Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east...

, Indonesia, where Hindus form 90% of the population. Indian migrants have taken Hinduism and Hindu culture to South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

, Fiji, Mauritius and other countries in and around the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

, and in the nations of the West Indies and the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

.