Hinduism

Hinduism

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"Many Hindu intellectuals are just not able to comprehend the fact that there is no human aspiration or experience which lies outside the range of Hinduism; it provides for even demon-Gods. In contrast, all religions are in the nature of sects, though they cannot be so defined because of their insistence on their separateness and, indeed, hostility to Hinduism " Page 5, The Hindu Phenomenon, ISBN 81-86112-32-4.

" As to Jains being Hindu dissenters, and, therefore governable by Hindu law, we are not told this date of secession [...] Jainism certainly has a longer history than is consistent with its being a creed of dissenters from Hinduism." . L. Jaini, (1916) Jaina Law, Bhadrabahu Samhita, (Text with translation ) Arrah, Central jaina publishing House p.12-13

"Jainas themselves have no memory of a time when they fell within the Vedic fold. Any theory that attempts to link the two traditions, moreover fails to appreciate rather distinctive and very non-vedic character of Jaina cosmology, soul theory, karmic doctrine and atheism" .S. Jaini, (1979), The Jaina Path to Purification, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, p. 169

Encyclopedia

Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 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...

. Hinduism is known to its followers as (a 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...

 phrase meaning "the eternal law
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...

", "the eternal law that sustains/upholds/surely preserves"), amongst many other expressions. Generic "types" of Hinduism that attempt to accommodate a variety of complex views span folk and Vedic Hinduism to 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...

 tradition, as in 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....

. Among other practices and philosophies, Hinduism includes a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions of "daily morality" based on the notion of karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

, 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...

, and societal norms. Hinduism is a conglomeration of distinct intellectual or philosophical points of view, rather than a rigid common set of beliefs.

Hinduism is formed of diverse traditions and has no single founder.
Among its direct roots is the historical Vedic religion
Historical Vedic religion
The religion of the Vedic period is a historical predecessor of Hinduism. Its liturgy is reflected in the mantra portion of the four Vedas, which are compiled in Sanskrit. The religious practices centered on a clergy administering rites...

 of Iron Age India
Iron Age India
Iron Age India, the Iron Age in the Indian subcontinent, succeeds the Late Harappan culture, also known as the last phase of the Indus Valley Tradition...

 and, as such, Hinduism is often called the "oldest living religion" or the "oldest living major religion" in the world.

A large body of texts is classified as Hindu, divided into Śruti
Sruti
' , often spelled shruti or shruthi, is a term that describes the sacred texts comprising the central canon of Hinduism and is one of the three main sources of dharma and therefore is also influential within Hindu Law...

 ("revealed") and Smriti
Smriti
Smriti literally "that which is remembered," refers to a specific body of Hindu religious scripture, and is a codified component of Hindu customary law. Smṛti also denotes non-Śruti texts and is generally seen as secondary in authority to Śruti. The literature which comprises the Smrti was...

 ("remembered") texts. These texts discuss theology, 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...

 and mythology
Hindu mythology
Hindu religious literature is the large body of traditional narratives related to Hinduism, notably as contained in Sanskrit literature, such as the Sanskrit epics and the Puranas. As such, it is a subset of Nepali and Indian culture...

, and provide information on the practice of 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...

 (religious living).
Among these texts, the Vedas
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....

are the foremost in authority, importance and antiquity.
Other major scriptures include the Upanishads,
{{Sprotected2}}
{{Hinduism small}}

Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous
religious tradition
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 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...

. Hinduism is known to its followers as {{IAST|Sanātana Dharma}} (a 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...

 phrase meaning "the eternal law
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...

", "the eternal law that sustains/upholds/surely preserves"), amongst many other expressions. Generic "types" of Hinduism that attempt to accommodate a variety of complex views span folk and Vedic Hinduism to 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...

 tradition, as in 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....

. Among other practices and philosophies, Hinduism includes a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions of "daily morality" based on the notion of karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

, 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...

, and societal norms. Hinduism is a conglomeration of distinct intellectual or philosophical points of view, rather than a rigid common set of beliefs.

Hinduism is formed of diverse traditions and has no single founder.
Among its direct roots is the historical Vedic religion
Historical Vedic religion
The religion of the Vedic period is a historical predecessor of Hinduism. Its liturgy is reflected in the mantra portion of the four Vedas, which are compiled in Sanskrit. The religious practices centered on a clergy administering rites...

 of Iron Age India
Iron Age India
Iron Age India, the Iron Age in the Indian subcontinent, succeeds the Late Harappan culture, also known as the last phase of the Indus Valley Tradition...

 and, as such, Hinduism is often called the "oldest living religion" or the "oldest living major religion" in the world.

A large body of texts is classified as Hindu, divided into Śruti
Sruti
' , often spelled shruti or shruthi, is a term that describes the sacred texts comprising the central canon of Hinduism and is one of the three main sources of dharma and therefore is also influential within Hindu Law...

 ("revealed") and Smriti
Smriti
Smriti literally "that which is remembered," refers to a specific body of Hindu religious scripture, and is a codified component of Hindu customary law. Smṛti also denotes non-Śruti texts and is generally seen as secondary in authority to Śruti. The literature which comprises the Smrti was...

 ("remembered") texts. These texts discuss theology, 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...

 and mythology
Hindu mythology
Hindu religious literature is the large body of traditional narratives related to Hinduism, notably as contained in Sanskrit literature, such as the Sanskrit epics and the Puranas. As such, it is a subset of Nepali and Indian culture...

, and provide information on the practice of 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...

 (religious living).
Among these texts, the Vedas
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....

are the foremost in authority, importance and antiquity.
Other major scriptures include the Upanishads,
{{Sprotected2}}
{{Hinduism small}}

Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous
religious tradition
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 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...

. Hinduism is known to its followers as {{IAST|Sanātana Dharma}} (a 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...

 phrase meaning "the eternal law
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...

", "the eternal law that sustains/upholds/surely preserves"), amongst many other expressions. Generic "types" of Hinduism that attempt to accommodate a variety of complex views span folk and Vedic Hinduism to 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...

 tradition, as in 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....

. Among other practices and philosophies, Hinduism includes a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions of "daily morality" based on the notion of karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

, 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...

, and societal norms. Hinduism is a conglomeration of distinct intellectual or philosophical points of view, rather than a rigid common set of beliefs.

Hinduism is formed of diverse traditions and has no single founder.
Among its direct roots is the historical Vedic religion
Historical Vedic religion
The religion of the Vedic period is a historical predecessor of Hinduism. Its liturgy is reflected in the mantra portion of the four Vedas, which are compiled in Sanskrit. The religious practices centered on a clergy administering rites...

 of Iron Age India
Iron Age India
Iron Age India, the Iron Age in the Indian subcontinent, succeeds the Late Harappan culture, also known as the last phase of the Indus Valley Tradition...

 and, as such, Hinduism is often called the "oldest living religion" or the "oldest living major religion" in the world.

A large body of texts is classified as Hindu, divided into Śruti
Sruti
' , often spelled shruti or shruthi, is a term that describes the sacred texts comprising the central canon of Hinduism and is one of the three main sources of dharma and therefore is also influential within Hindu Law...

 ("revealed") and Smriti
Smriti
Smriti literally "that which is remembered," refers to a specific body of Hindu religious scripture, and is a codified component of Hindu customary law. Smṛti also denotes non-Śruti texts and is generally seen as secondary in authority to Śruti. The literature which comprises the Smrti was...

 ("remembered") texts. These texts discuss theology, 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...

 and mythology
Hindu mythology
Hindu religious literature is the large body of traditional narratives related to Hinduism, notably as contained in Sanskrit literature, such as the Sanskrit epics and the Puranas. As such, it is a subset of Nepali and Indian culture...

, and provide information on the practice of 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...

 (religious living).
Among these texts, the Vedas
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....

are the foremost in authority, importance and antiquity.
Other major scriptures include the Upanishads, {{IAST
Puranas
The Puranas are a genre of important Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religious texts, notably consisting of narratives of the history of the universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography.Puranas...

and the epics
Indian epic poetry
Indian epic poetry is the epic poetry written in the Indian subcontinent, traditionally called Kavya . The Ramayana and Mahabharata, originally composed in Sanskrit and translated thereafter into many other Indian languages, are some of the oldest surviving epic poems on earth and form part of...

 {{IAST
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

and {{IAST
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

. The {{IAST
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

, a syncretistic treatise from the {{IAST|Mahābhārata}}, is of special importance. It combines 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...

, 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...

, and some Samkhya
Samkhya
Samkhya, also Sankhya, Sāṃkhya, or Sāṅkhya is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy and classical Indian philosophy. Sage Kapila is traditionally considered as the founder of the Samkhya school, although no historical verification is possible...

 philosophy into its discussion of good conduct and life.

{{TOC limit|limit=3}}

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, 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...

. and is first mentioned in the Rig Veda

The word Hindu was first used by Arab invaders and then went further west by the Arabic term al-Hind 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".

The term Hinduism also occurs sporadically in Sanskrit texts such as the later Rajataranginis of Kashmir (Hinduka, c. 1450), 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 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. The term Hinduism was introduced into the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 in the 19th century to denote the religious, philosophical, and cultural traditions native to India.

About Dharma


The concept of a "power" that is held to lie behind nature and that keeps everything in balance became a natural forerunner to the idea of Dharma. The idea of rta
Rta
In the Vedic religion, Ṛta is the principle of natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it. In the hymns of the Vedas, Ṛta is described as that which is ultimately responsible for the proper functioning of the natural, moral and sacrificial...

laid the cornerstone of dharma's implicit attribution to the "ultimate reality" of the surrounding universe, in classical Vedic Hinduism
Historical Vedic religion
The religion of the Vedic period is a historical predecessor of Hinduism. Its liturgy is reflected in the mantra portion of the four Vedas, which are compiled in Sanskrit. The religious practices centered on a clergy administering rites...

 the following verse from the Rig-Veda is an example where rta is mentioned:
{{quote|O Indra, lead us on the path of Rta, on the right path over all evils. -(RV 10.133.6)}}

The transition of the rta to the modern idea of dharma occurs in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
The Upanishad is one of the older, "primary" Upanishads. It is contained within the Shatapatha Brahmana, and its status as an independent Upanishad may be considered a secondary extraction of a portion of the Brahmana text. This makes it one of the oldest texts of the Upanishad corpus...

. The Upanishads saw dharma as the universal principle of law, order, harmony, all in all truth, that sprang first from 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...

. It acts as the regulatory moral principle of the Universe. It is sat (truth), a major tenet of Hinduism. This hearkens back to the conception of the Rig Veda that "Ekam Sat," (Truth Is One), of the idea that Brahman is "Sacchidananda
Satchitananda
Saccidānanda, Satchidananda, or Sat-cit-ānanda is a compound of three Sanskrit words, Sat , Cit , and Ānanda , meaning Existence , Consciousness, and Bliss respectively...

" (Truth-Consciousness-Bliss). Dharma is not just law, or harmony, it is pure Reality. In the Brihadaranyaka's own words:
{{quote|Verily, that which is Dharma is truth, Therefore they say of a man who speaks truth, "He speaks the Dharma,"

or of a man who speaks the Dharma, "He speaks the Truth.", Verily, both these things are the same.|(Brh. Upanishad, 1.4.14) (2)}}

In the Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

, Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

 defines dharma as,
{{quote|"Dhāranād dharma ityāhur dharmena vidhrtāh prajāh, Yat syād dhārana sanyuktam sa dharma iti nishchayah" }}
i.e., Dharma upholds both this-worldly and other-worldly affairs. (Mbh 12.110.11).

The word Sanātana means 'eternal', 'perennial', or 'forever'; thus, 'Sanātana Dharma' signifies that it is the dharma that has neither beginning nor end.

History


{{Main|History of Hinduism}}

The earliest evidence for prehistoric religion
Prehistoric religion
Prehistoric religion is a general term for the religious beliefs and practices of prehistoric peoples. More specifically it encompasses Paleolithic religion, Mesolithic religion, Neolithic religion and Bronze Age religion.-Burial:...

 in India date back to the late Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 in the early Harappan period (5500–2600 BCE). name=History>"Hindu History" The BBC names a bath and phallic symbols of the Harappan civilization as features of the "Prehistoric religion (3000-1000 BCE)". The beliefs and practices of the pre-classical era (1500–500 BCE) are called the "historical Vedic religion
Historical Vedic religion
The religion of the Vedic period is a historical predecessor of Hinduism. Its liturgy is reflected in the mantra portion of the four Vedas, which are compiled in Sanskrit. The religious practices centered on a clergy administering rites...

". The Vedic religion shows influence by Proto-Indo-European religion
Proto-Indo-European religion
Proto-Indo-European religion is the hypothesized religion of the Proto-Indo-European peoples based on the existence of similarities among the deities, religious practices and mythologies of the Indo-European peoples. Reconstruction of the hypotheses below is based on linguistic evidence using the...

. Modern Hinduism grew out of the Vedas, the oldest of which is the Rigveda
Rigveda
The Rigveda is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns...

, dated to 1700–1100 BCE. The Vedas center on worship of deities such as Indra
Indra
' or is the King of the demi-gods or Devas and Lord of Heaven or Svargaloka in Hindu mythology. He is also the God of War, Storms, and Rainfall.Indra is one of the chief deities in the Rigveda...

, Varuna
Varuna
In Vedic religion, Varuna is a god of the sky, of water and of the celestial ocean, as well as a god of law and of the underworld...

and Agni
Agni
Agni is a Hindu deity, one of the most important of the Vedic gods. He is the god of fire and the acceptor of sacrifices. The sacrifices made to Agni go to the deities because Agni is a messenger from and to the other gods...

, and on the Soma
Soma
Soma , or Haoma , from Proto-Indo-Iranian *sauma-, was a ritual drink of importance among the early Indo-Iranians, and the subsequent Vedic and greater Persian cultures. It is frequently mentioned in the Rigveda, whose Soma Mandala contains 114 hymns, many praising its energizing qualities...

ritual. Fire-sacrifices, called {{IAST were performed, and Vedic mantras chanted but no temple
Temple
A temple is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities, such as prayer and sacrifice, or analogous rites. A templum constituted a sacred precinct as defined by a priest, or augur. It has the same root as the word "template," a plan in preparation of the building that was marked out...

s or idols
Murti
In Hinduism, a murti , or murthi, or vigraha or pratima typically refers to an image which expresses a Divine Spirit . Meaning literally "embodiment", a murti is a representation of a divinity, made usually of stone, wood, or metal, which serves as a means through which a divinity may be worshiped...

 are known.

The major Sanskrit epics, Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

and Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

, were compiled over a protracted period during the late centuries BCE and the early centuries CE. They contain mythological stories about the rulers and wars of ancient India, and are interspersed with religious and philosophical treatises. The later Puranas recount tales about devas and devis
Deva (Hinduism)
' is the Sanskrit word for god or deity, its related feminine term is devi. In modern Hinduism, it can be loosely interpreted as any benevolent supernatural beings. The devs in Hinduism, also called Suras, are often juxtaposed to the Asuras, their half brothers. Devs are also the maintainers of...

, their interactions with humans and their battles against rakshasa
Rakshasa
A Rakshasa or alternatively rakshas, is a race of mythological humanoid beings or unrighteous spirit in Hindu and Buddhist religion...

.

Three major movements underpinned the naissance of a new epoch of Hindu thought: the advent and spread of Upanishadic, Jaina
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...

, and Buddhist
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...

 philosophico-religious thought throughout the broader Indian landmass. Mahavira
Mahavira
Mahāvīra is the name most commonly used to refer to the Indian sage Vardhamāna who established what are today considered to be the central tenets of Jainism. According to Jain tradition, he was the 24th and the last Tirthankara. In Tamil, he is referred to as Arukaṉ or Arukadevan...

 (24th Tirthankara of 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...

) and Gautama Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

 (founder of 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...

) taught that to achieve moksha or nirvana, one did not have to accept the authority of the Vedas or the caste system. Buddha went a step further and claimed that the existence of a Self/soul or God was unnecessary. Buddhism peaked during the reign of Asoka the Great of the Mauryan Empire, who unified the Indian subcontinent in the 3rd century BCE. After 200 CE several schools of thought were formally codified in Indian philosophy
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."...

, including Samkhya
Samkhya
Samkhya, also Sankhya, Sāṃkhya, or Sāṅkhya is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy and classical Indian philosophy. Sage Kapila is traditionally considered as the founder of the Samkhya school, although no historical verification is possible...

, 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...

, Nyaya
Nyaya
' is the name given to one of the six orthodox or astika schools of Hindu philosophy—specifically the school of logic...

, Vaisheshika
Vaisheshika
Vaisheshika or ' is one of the six Hindu schools of philosophy of India. Historically, it has been closely associated with the Hindu school of logic, Nyaya....

, Purva-Mimamsa 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...

. Charvaka, the founder of an atheistic materialist school, came to the fore in North India
North India
North India, known natively as Uttar Bhārat or Shumālī Hindustān , is a loosely defined region in the northern part of India. The exact meaning of the term varies by usage...

 in the sixth century BCE.

Sanskritic culture went into decline after the end of the Gupta period. The early medieval Puranas helped establish a religious mainstream among the pre-literate tribal societies undergoing acculturation
Acculturation
Acculturation explains the process of cultural and psychological change that results following meeting between cultures. The effects of acculturation can be seen at multiple levels in both interacting cultures. At the group level, acculturation often results in changes to culture, customs, and...

. The tenets of Brahmanic Hinduism and of the Dharmashastras underwent a radical transformation at the hands of the Purana composers, resulting in the rise of a mainstream "Hinduism" that overshadowed all earlier traditions.

Though Islam came to India in the early 7th century with the advent of Arab traders and the conquest of Sindh, it started to become a major religion during the later Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent
Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent
Muslim conquest in South Asia mainly took place from the 13th to the 16th centuries, though earlier Muslim conquests made limited inroads into the region, beginning during the period of the ascendancy of the Rajput Kingdoms in North India, from the 7th century onwards.However, the Himalayan...

. During this period Buddhism declined rapidly and many Hindus were forcibly converted to Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

. Numerous Muslim rulers or their army generals 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...

 and Malik Kafur
Malik Kafur
Malik Kafur, General , or Chand Ram as his name was originally, was a slave who became a head general in the army of Alauddin Khilji, ruler of the Delhi sultanate from 1296 to 1316 AD. He was originally seized by Alauddin's army after the army conquered the city of Khambhat...

 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...

; however 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 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.

The oldest Vedic traditions exhibit strong similarities to the pre-Zoroastrian Proto-Indo-Iranian religion and other Indo-European
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 religions. For example, the {{IAST
Rigveda
The Rigveda is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns...

deity Dyaus, regarded as the father of the other deities, is linguistically cognate
Cognate
In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin. This learned term derives from the Latin cognatus . Cognates within the same language are called doublets. Strictly speaking, loanwords from another language are usually not meant by the term, e.g...

 with Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

—the king of the gods in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, Iovis
Jupiter (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Jupiter or Jove is the king of the gods, and the god of the sky and thunder. He is the equivalent of Zeus in the Greek pantheon....

 (gen. of Jupiter) —the king of the gods in Roman mythology
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

, and Tiu/Ziu in Germanic mythology
Germanic paganism
Germanic paganism refers to the theology and religious practices of the Germanic peoples of north-western Europe from the Iron Age until their Christianization during the Medieval period...

. Other Vedic deities also have cognates with those found in other Indo-European
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 speaking peoples' mythologies; see Proto-Indo-European religion
Proto-Indo-European religion
Proto-Indo-European religion is the hypothesized religion of the Proto-Indo-European peoples based on the existence of similarities among the deities, religious practices and mythologies of the Indo-European peoples. Reconstruction of the hypotheses below is based on linguistic evidence using the...

 and Comparison of Greek and Hindu Gods.

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.

Typology


{{Main|Hindu denominations}}

Hinduism as it is commonly known can be subdivided into a number of major currents. Of the historical division into six darshanas, only two schools, 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...

 and Yoga
Raja Yoga
Rāja Yoga is concerned principally with the cultivation of the mind using meditation to further one's acquaintance with reality and finally achieve liberation.Raja yoga was first described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and is part of the Samkhya tradition.In the context of Hindu...

, survive. The main divisions of Hinduism today are 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....

, 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,...

, Smartism
Smartism
Smarta Sampradaya is a liberal or nonsectarian denomination of the Vedic Hindu religion which accept all the major Hindu deities as forms of the one Brahman, in contrast to Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism, the other three major Hindu sects, which revere Vishnu, Shiva, and Shakti,...

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

. Hinduism also recognizes numerous divine beings subordinate to the Supreme Being or regards them as lower manifestations of it. Other notable characteristics include a belief in reincarnation
Reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

 and karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

, as well as in personal duty, or 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...

.

McDaniel (2007) distinguishes six generic "types" of Hinduism, in an attempt to accommodate a variety of views on a rather complex subject:
  • Folk Hinduism, as based on local traditions and cults of local deities at a communal level and spanning back to prehistoric times or at least prior to written Vedas
    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....

    .
  • Śrauta
    Srauta
    ' traditions are conservative ritualistic traditions of the historical Vedic religion in Hinduism, based on the body of Śruti literature...

     or "Vedic" Hinduism as practiced by traditionalist brahmin
    Brahmin
    Brahmin Brahman, Brahma and Brahmin.Brahman, Brahmin and Brahma have different meanings. Brahman refers to the Supreme Self...

    s (Śrautin
    Srauta
    ' traditions are conservative ritualistic traditions of the historical Vedic religion in Hinduism, based on the body of Śruti literature...

    s).
  • Vedantic Hinduism, for example 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...

     (Smartism
    Smartism
    Smarta Sampradaya is a liberal or nonsectarian denomination of the Vedic Hindu religion which accept all the major Hindu deities as forms of the one Brahman, in contrast to Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism, the other three major Hindu sects, which revere Vishnu, Shiva, and Shakti,...

    ), as based on the philosophical approach of the Upanishads.
  • Yogic
    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...

     Hinduism, especially that based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
    Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
    The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali are 194 Indian sūtras that constitute the foundational text of Rāja Yoga. Yoga is one of the six orthodox āstika schools of Hindu philosophy, and Rāja Yoga is the highest practice....

    .
  • "Dharmic" Hinduism or "daily morality", based on the notion of Karma
    Karma
    Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

    , and upon societal norms such as Vivāha (Hindu marriage customs).
  • 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...

     or devotionalist practices

Definitions



Hinduism does not have a "unified system of belief encoded in declaration of faith or a 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...

", but is rather an umbrella term comprising the plurality of religious phenomena originating and based on the Vedic traditions
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....

.

The characteristic of comprehensive tolerance to differences in belief, and Hinduism's openness, makes it difficult to define as a religion according to traditional Western conceptions. To its adherents, Hinduism is the traditional way of life, and because of the wide range of traditions and ideas incorporated within or covered by it, arriving at a comprehensive definition of the term is problematic. While sometimes referred to as a religion, Hinduism is more often defined as a religious tradition. It is therefore described as both the oldest of the world's religions, and the most diverse.
Most Hindu traditions
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...

 revere a body of religious or sacred literature, the Vedas, although there are exceptions. Some Hindu religious traditions regard particular rituals as essential for salvation, but a variety of views on this co-exist. Some Hindu philosophies postulate a theistic
Theism
Theism, in the broadest sense, is the belief that at least one deity exists.In a more specific sense, theism refers to a doctrine concerning the nature of a monotheistic God and God's relationship to the universe....

 ontology
Ontology
Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality as such, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations...

 of creation, of sustenance, and of destruction of the universe, yet some Hindus are atheists
Atheism in Hinduism
Atheism or disbelief in God or gods has been a historically propounded viewpoint in many of the orthodox and heterodox streams of Hindu philosophies...

. Hinduism is sometimes characterized by the belief in reincarnation (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...

), determined by the law of karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

, and the idea that salvation is freedom from this cycle of repeated birth and death. However, other religions of the region, such as 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...

, 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...

 and 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...

, also believe in karma, outside the scope of Hinduism. Hinduism is therefore viewed as the most complex of all of the living, historical world religions. Despite its complexity, Hinduism is not only one of the numerically largest faiths, but is also the oldest living major tradition on earth, with roots reaching back into prehistory.

A definition of Hinduism, given by the first Vice President of India, who was also a prominent theologian, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan , OM, FBA was an Indian philosopher and statesman. He was the first Vice President of India and subsequently the second President of India ....

, states that Hinduism is not "just a faith", but in itself is related to the union of reason and intuition. Radhakrishnan explicitly states that Hinduism cannot be defined, but is only to be experienced. Similarly some academics suggest that Hinduism can be seen as a category with "fuzzy edges", rather than as a well-defined and rigid entity. Some forms of religious expression are central to Hinduism, while others are not as central but still remain within the category. Based on this, Ferro-Luzzi has developed a 'Prototype Theory approach' to the definition of Hinduism.

Problems with the single definition of what is actually meant by the term 'Hinduism' are often attributed to the fact that Hinduism does not have a single or common historical founder. Hinduism, or as some say 'Hinduisms,' does not have a single system of salvation and has different goals according to each sect or denomination. The forms of Vedic religion
Historical Vedic religion
The religion of the Vedic period is a historical predecessor of Hinduism. Its liturgy is reflected in the mantra portion of the four Vedas, which are compiled in Sanskrit. The religious practices centered on a clergy administering rites...

 are seen not as an alternative to Hinduism, but as its earliest form, and there is little justification for the divisions found in much western scholarly writing between Vedism, Brahmanism, and Hinduism.

A definition of Hinduism is further complicated by the frequent use of the term "faith
Faith
Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof. In religion, faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition,...

" as a synonym for "religion". Some academics and many practitioners refer to Hinduism using a native definition, as {{IAST|Sanātana Dharma}}, a 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...

 phrase meaning "the eternal law
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...

", or the "eternal way".

Beliefs



Hinduism refers to a religious mainstream which evolved organically and spread over a large territory marked by significant ethnic and cultural diversity. This mainstream evolved both by innovation from within, and by assimilation of external traditions or cults into the Hindu fold. The result is an enormous variety of religious traditions, ranging from innumerable small, unsophisticated cults to major religious movements with millions of adherents spread over the entire subcontinent. The identification of Hinduism as an independent religion separate from Buddhism or Jainism consequently hinges on the affirmation of its adherents that it is such.

Hinduism grants absolute and complete freedom of belief and worship
Freedom of religion
Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any...

. Hinduism conceives the whole world as a single family that deifies the one truth, and therefore it accepts all forms of beliefs and dismisses labels of distinct religions which would imply a division of identity. Hence, Hinduism is devoid of the concepts of apostasy
Apostasy
Apostasy , 'a defection or revolt', from ἀπό, apo, 'away, apart', στάσις, stasis, 'stand, 'standing') is the formal disaffiliation from or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. One who commits apostasy is known as an apostate. These terms have a pejorative implication in everyday...

, heresy
Heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

 and blasphemy
Blasphemy
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy...

.

Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include (but are not restricted to), 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...

(ethics/duties), {{IAST
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...

(The continuing cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth), Karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

(action and subsequent reaction), 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...

(liberation from samsara), and the various 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...

s (paths or practices).

Concept of God


{{Main|God in Hinduism}}
Hinduism is a diverse system of thought with beliefs spanning monotheism
Monotheism
Monotheism is the belief in the existence of one and only one god. Monotheism is characteristic of the Baha'i Faith, Christianity, Druzism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Samaritanism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.While they profess the existence of only one deity, monotheistic religions may still...

, polytheism
Polytheism
Polytheism is the belief of multiple deities also usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own mythologies and rituals....

, panentheism
Panentheism
Panentheism is a belief system which posits that God exists, interpenetrates every part of nature and timelessly extends beyond it...

, pantheism
Pantheism
Pantheism is the view that the Universe and God are identical. Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal, anthropomorphic or creator god. The word derives from the Greek meaning "all" and the Greek meaning "God". As such, Pantheism denotes the idea that "God" is best seen as a process of...

, monism
Monism
Monism is any philosophical view which holds that there is unity in a given field of inquiry. Accordingly, some philosophers may hold that the universe is one rather than dualistic or pluralistic...

, atheism
Atheism in Hinduism
Atheism or disbelief in God or gods has been a historically propounded viewpoint in many of the orthodox and heterodox streams of Hindu philosophies...

, agnosticism
Agnosticism
Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—is unknown or unknowable....

, gnosticism
Gnosticism
Gnosticism is a scholarly term for a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices common to early Christianity, Hellenistic Judaism, Greco-Roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism , and Neoplatonism.A common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis...

 among others; and its concept of God is complex and depends upon each individual and the tradition and philosophy followed. It is sometimes referred to as henotheistic (i.e., involving devotion to a single god while accepting the existence of others), but any such term is an overgeneralization.

The Rig Veda, the oldest scripture and the mainstay of Hindu 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...

 does not take a restrictive view on the fundamental question of God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 and the creation of universe. It rather lets the individual seek and discover answers in the quest of life. Nasadiya Sukta
Nasadiya Sukta
The Nasadiya Sukta is the 129th hymn of the 10th Mandala of the Rigveda. It is concerned with cosmology and the origin of the universe. It is known for its skepticism...

 (Creation Hymn) of the Rig Veda thus says:
{{quote|Who really knows?
Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation?
The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?}}

Most Hindus believe that the spirit or soul — the true "self" of every person, called the ātman
Atman (Hinduism)
Ātman is a Sanskrit word that means 'self'. In Hindu philosophy, especially in the Vedanta school of Hinduism it refers to one's true self beyond identification with phenomena...

— is eternal. According to the monistic/pantheistic theologies of Hinduism (such as 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...

 school), this Atman is ultimately indistinct from 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...

, the supreme spirit. Hence, these schools are called non-dualist
Nondualism
Nondualism is a term used to denote affinity, or unity, rather than duality or separateness or multiplicity. In reference to the universe it may be used to denote the idea that things appear distinct while not being separate. The term "nondual" can refer to a belief, condition, theory, practice,...

. The goal of life, according to the Advaita school, is to realize that one's ātman is identical to Brahman, the supreme soul. The Upanishads state that whoever becomes fully aware of the ātman as the innermost core of one's own self realizes an identity with Brahman and thereby reaches moksha (liberation or freedom).

The 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...

 and Nyaya
Nyaya
' is the name given to one of the six orthodox or astika schools of Hindu philosophy—specifically the school of logic...

 states that karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

 itself proves the existence of God . Nyaya being the school of logic
Indian logic
The development of Indian logic dates back to the anviksiki of Medhatithi Gautama the Sanskrit grammar rules of Pāṇini ; the Vaisheshika school's analysis of atomism ; the analysis of inference by Gotama , founder of the Nyaya school of Hindu philosophy; and the tetralemma of Nagarjuna...

, makes the "logical" inference that the universe is an effect and it ought to have a creator.

Dualistic schools (see Dvaita
Dvaita
Dvaita is a school of Vedanta founded by Shri Madhvacharya....

 and 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...

) understand Brahman as a Supreme Being who possesses personality, and they worship him or her thus, as Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

, Brahma
Brahma
Brahma is the Hindu god of creation and one of the Trimurti, the others being Vishnu and Shiva. According to the Brahma Purana, he is the father of Mānu, and from Mānu all human beings are descended. In the Ramayana and the...

, Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

, or Shakti
Shakti
Shakti from Sanskrit shak - "to be able," meaning sacred force or empowerment, is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe in Hinduism. Shakti is the concept, or personification, of divine feminine creative power, sometimes...

, depending upon the sect. The ātman is dependent on God, while moksha depends on love towards God and on God's grace. When God is viewed as the supreme personal being (rather than as the infinite principle), God is called Ishvara
Ishvara
Ishvara is a philosophical concept in Hinduism, meaning controller or the Supreme controller in a theistic school of thought or the Supreme Being, or as an Ishta-deva of monistic thought.-Etymology:...

("The Lord"), Bhagavan
Bhagavan
Bhagavan, also written Bhagwan or Bhagawan, from the Sanskrit nt-stem literally means "possessing fortune, blessed, prosperous" , and hence "illustrious, divine, venerable, holy", etc.In some traditions of Hinduism it is used to...

("The Auspicious One") or Parameshwara
Parameshwara (God)
Parameshwara or Parameshwar, also transliterated from Sanskrit in other ways, is a Hindu concept literally meaning the Supreme God. The word "param" meaning the highest is added to Ishwara to intensify the title of God.-Conceptualization:...

("The Supreme Lord"). However interpretations of Ishvara vary, ranging from non-belief in Ishvara by followers of Mimamsa
Mimamsa
' , a Sanskrit word meaning "investigation" , is the name of an astika school of Hindu philosophy whose primary enquiry is into the nature of dharma based on close hermeneutics of the Vedas...

kas, to identifying Brahman and Ishvara as one, as in Advaita. In the majority of traditions of 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....

 he is Vishnu, God, and the text of Vaishnava scriptures identify this Being as Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

, sometimes referred to as svayam bhagavan
Svayam Bhagavan
Svayam Bhagavan , "The Lord" or Lord Himself, is a Sanskrit theological term. The term refers to the concept of absolute representation of the monotheistic God as Bhagavan within Hinduism....

.

In Bhaagawada Gita, for example, God is the sole repository of Guna
Guna
' means 'string' or 'a single thread or strand of a cord or twine'. In more abstract uses, it may mean 'a subdivision, species, kind, quality', or an operational principle or tendency....

s (attributes) also, as
{{quote|His hands and feet are everywhere, He looks everywhere and all around,
His eyes, ears and face point to all directions, and all the three worlds are surrounded by these.}}

Atheistic
Atheism in Hinduism
Atheism or disbelief in God or gods has been a historically propounded viewpoint in many of the orthodox and heterodox streams of Hindu philosophies...

 doctrines dominate Hindu schools like Samkhya
Samkhya
Samkhya, also Sankhya, Sāṃkhya, or Sāṅkhya is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy and classical Indian philosophy. Sage Kapila is traditionally considered as the founder of the Samkhya school, although no historical verification is possible...

 and Mimamsa
Mimamsa
' , a Sanskrit word meaning "investigation" , is the name of an astika school of Hindu philosophy whose primary enquiry is into the nature of dharma based on close hermeneutics of the Vedas...

. The {{IAST of Samkhya
Samkhya
Samkhya, also Sankhya, Sāṃkhya, or Sāṅkhya is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy and classical Indian philosophy. Sage Kapila is traditionally considered as the founder of the Samkhya school, although no historical verification is possible...

 argues that the existence of God (Ishvara
Ishvara
Ishvara is a philosophical concept in Hinduism, meaning controller or the Supreme controller in a theistic school of thought or the Supreme Being, or as an Ishta-deva of monistic thought.-Etymology:...

) cannot be proved and hence cannot be admitted to exist. Samkhya argue that an unchanging God cannot be the source of an ever changing world. It says God was a necessary metaphysical assumption demanded by circumstances. Proponents of the school of Mimamsa
Mimamsa
' , a Sanskrit word meaning "investigation" , is the name of an astika school of Hindu philosophy whose primary enquiry is into the nature of dharma based on close hermeneutics of the Vedas...

, which is based on rituals and orthopraxy states that the evidence allegedly proving the existence of God was insufficient. They argue that there is no need to postulate a maker for the world, just as there is no need for an author to compose the Vedas or a God to validate the rituals. Mimamsa considers the Gods named in the Vedas have no existence apart from the mantra
Mantra
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

s
that speak their names. To that regard, the power of the mantras is what is seen as the power of Gods.

Devas and avatars


The Hindu scriptures refer to celestial entities called Devas
Deva (Hinduism)
' is the Sanskrit word for god or deity, its related feminine term is devi. In modern Hinduism, it can be loosely interpreted as any benevolent supernatural beings. The devs in Hinduism, also called Suras, are often juxtaposed to the Asuras, their half brothers. Devs are also the maintainers of...

(or {{IAST
Devi
Devī is the Sanskrit word for Goddess, used mostly in Hinduism, its related masculine term is deva. Devi is synonymous with Shakti, the female aspect of the divine, as conceptualized by the Shakta tradition of Hinduism. She is the female counterpart without whom the male aspect, which represents...

in feminine form; {{IAST|devatā}} used synonymously for Deva in Hindi), "the shining ones", which may be translated into English as "gods" or "heavenly beings". The devas are an integral part of Hindu culture and are depicted in art
Art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

, architecture
Architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

 and through icon
Icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

s, and mythological stories about them are related in the scriptures, particularly in Indian epic poetry
Indian epic poetry
Indian epic poetry is the epic poetry written in the Indian subcontinent, traditionally called Kavya . The Ramayana and Mahabharata, originally composed in Sanskrit and translated thereafter into many other Indian languages, are some of the oldest surviving epic poems on earth and form part of...

 and the Puranas. They are, however, often distinguished from Ishvara
Ishvara
Ishvara is a philosophical concept in Hinduism, meaning controller or the Supreme controller in a theistic school of thought or the Supreme Being, or as an Ishta-deva of monistic thought.-Etymology:...

, a supreme personal god, with many Hindus worshiping Ishvara in one of its particular manifestations (ostensibly separate deities) as their {{IAST|iṣṭa devatā}}, or chosen ideal. The choice is a matter of individual preference, and of regional and family traditions.

Hindu epics and the Puranas relate several episodes of the descent of God to Earth in corporeal form to restore dharma to society and to guide humans to moksha. Such an incarnation is called an 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"....

.
The most prominent avatars are of Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

 and include Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

 (the protagonist in Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

) and Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

 (a central figure in the epic Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

).

Karma and samsara


{{Main|Karma in Hinduism}}
Karma translates literally as action, work, or deed, and can be described as the "moral law of cause and effect". According to the Upanishads an individual, known as the jiva-atma, develops sanskara
Sanskara
In Hinduism sanskaras are the imprints left on the subconscious mind by experience in this or previous lives, which then color all of life, one's nature, responses, states of mind, etc.-Overview:Sanskaras are impressions derived from past experiences that form desires that influence future...

s
(impressions) from actions, whether physical or mental. The linga sharira, a body more subtle than the physical one but less subtle than the soul, retains impressions, carrying them over into the next life, establishing a unique trajectory for the individual. Thus, the concept of a universal, neutral, and never-failing karma intrinsically relates to reincarnation
Reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

 as well as to one's personality, characteristics, and family. Karma binds together the notions of free will
Free will
"To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy MorrisonA pragmatic definition of free willFree will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long...

 and destiny
Destiny
Destiny or fate refers to a predetermined course of events. It may be conceived as a predetermined future, whether in general or of an individual...

.

This cycle of action, reaction, birth, death and rebirth is a continuum called 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...

. The notion of reincarnation and karma is a strong premise in Hindu thought. The Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

 states:

{{Cquote|As a person puts on new clothes and discards old and torn clothes,
similarly an embodied soul enters new material bodies, leaving the old bodies.(B.G. 2:22)}}

Samsara provides ephemeral pleasures, which lead people to desire rebirth so as to enjoy the pleasures of a perishable body. However, escaping the world of samsara through moksha is believed to ensure lasting happiness and peace. It is thought that after several reincarnations, an atman eventually seeks unity with the cosmic spirit (Brahman/Paramatman).

The ultimate goal of life, referred to as moksha, nirvana
Nirvana
Nirvāṇa ; ) is a central concept in Indian religions. In sramanic thought, it is the state of being free from suffering. In Hindu philosophy, it is the union with the Supreme being through moksha...

or samadhi
Samadhi
Samadhi in Hinduism, Buddhism,Jainism, Sikhism and yogic schools is a higher level of concentrated meditation, or dhyāna. In the yoga tradition, it is the eighth and final limb identified in the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali....

, is understood in several different ways: as the realization of one's union with God; as the realization of one's eternal relationship with God; realization of the unity of all existence; perfect unselfishness and knowledge of the Self; as the attainment of perfect mental peace; and as detachment from worldly desires. Such realization liberates one from samsara and ends the cycle of rebirth. Due to belief in the indestructibility of the soul, death is deemed insignificant with respect to the cosmic self. Thence, a person who has no desire or ambition left and no responsibilities remaining in life or one affected by a terminal disease may embrace death by Prayopavesa
Prayopavesa
Prayopavesa is a practice in Hinduism that denotes the voluntary fasting to death of a person, who has no desire or ambition left, and no responsibilities remaining in life. It is also allowed in cases of terminal disease or great disability. A similar practice exists in Jainism, termed Santhara.-...

.

The exact conceptualization of moksha differs among the various Hindu schools of thought. For example, Advaita Vedanta holds that after attaining moksha an atman no longer identifies itself with an individual but as identical with Brahman in all respects. The followers of Dvaita
Dvaita
Dvaita is a school of Vedanta founded by Shri Madhvacharya....

 (dualistic) schools identify themselves as part of Brahman, and after attaining moksha expect to spend eternity in a loka
Loka
Loka is a Sanskrit word for "world". In Hindu mythology it takes a specific meaning related to cosmology.-Hindu tradition:In the Puranas, and already in the Atharvaveda, there are fourteen worlds, seven higher ones and seven lower ones , viz...

(heaven), in the company of their chosen form of Ishvara. Thus, it is said that the followers of dvaita wish to "taste sugar", while the followers of Advaita wish to "become sugar".

Objectives of human life



{{Main|Purusharthas}}
{{see also|Initiation_in_Hinduism|l1=Initiation}}
Classical Hindu thought accepts the following objectives of human life, that which is sought as human purpose, aim, or end, is known as the {{Unicode|puruṣārtha}}s:
  • 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...

      ("righteousness, ethikos")
  • Artha
    Artha
    Artha is a Sanskrit term meaning "purpose, cause, motive, meaning, notion".It refers to the idea of material prosperity. In Hinduism, artha is one of the four goals of life, known as purusharthas. It is considered to be a noble goal as long as it follows the dictates of Vedic morality...

      ("livelihood, wealth")
  • Kāma
    Kama
    Kāma is often translated from Sanskrit as sexual desire, sexual pleasure, sensual gratification, sexual fulfillment, or eros54654564+more broadly mean desire, wish, passion, longing, pleasure of the senses, the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, without sexual connotations.-Kama in...

      ("sensual pleasure")
  • Mokṣa  ("liberation, freedom (from 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...

    )")

Yoga


{{Main|Yoga}}

In whatever way a Hindu defines the goal of life, there are several methods (yogas) that sages have taught for reaching that goal. Texts dedicated to Yoga include the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Hatha Yoga Pradipika
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is a classic Sanskrit manual on hatha yoga, written by Svami Svatmarama, a disciple of Swami Gorakhnath. Said to be the oldest surviving text on the hatha yoga, it is one of the three classic texts of hatha yoga, the other two being the Gheranda Samhita and the Shiva...

, and, as their philosophical and historical basis, the Upanishads. Paths that one can follow to achieve the spiritual goal of life (moksha, samadhi or nirvana
Nirvana
Nirvāṇa ; ) is a central concept in Indian religions. In sramanic thought, it is the state of being free from suffering. In Hindu philosophy, it is the union with the Supreme being through moksha...

) include:
  • Bhakti Yoga
    Bhakti yoga
    Bhakti yoga is one of the types of yoga mentioned in Hindu philosophies which denotes the spiritual practice of fostering loving devotion to a personal form of God....

     (the path of love and devotion)
  • Karma Yoga
    Karma Yoga
    Karma yoga , or the "discipline of action" is a form of yoga based on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Sanskrit scripture of Hinduism. Of the four paths to realization, karma yoga is the science of achieving perfection in action...

     (the path of right action)
  • Rāja Yoga
    Raja Yoga
    Rāja Yoga is concerned principally with the cultivation of the mind using meditation to further one's acquaintance with reality and finally achieve liberation.Raja yoga was first described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and is part of the Samkhya tradition.In the context of Hindu...

     (the path of meditation)
  • Jñāna Yoga
    Jnana yoga
    Jyâna yoga or "path of knowledge" is one of the types of yoga mentioned in Hindu philosophies...

     (the path of wisdom)


An individual may prefer one or some yogas over others, according to his or her inclination and understanding. Some devotional schools teach that bhakti is the only practical path to achieve spiritual perfection for most people, based on their belief that the world is currently in the Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga is the last of the four stages that the world goes through as part of the cycle of yugas described in the Indian scriptures. The other ages are Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga...

(one of four epochs which are part of the Yuga
Yuga
Yuga in Hindu philosophy is the name of an 'epoch' or 'era' within a cycle of four ages. These are the Satya Yuga, the Treta Yuga, the Dvapara Yuga, and finally the Kali Yuga. According to Hindu cosmology, life in the universe is created, destroyed once every 4.1 to 8.2 billion years, which is...

 cycle). Practice of one yoga does not exclude others. Many schools believe that the different yogas naturally blend into and aid other yogas. For example, the practice of jnana yoga, is thought to inevitably lead to pure love (the goal of bhakti yoga), and vice versa. Someone practicing deep meditation (such as in raja yoga) must embody the core principles of karma yoga, jnana yoga and bhakti yoga, whether directly or indirectly.

Practices


{{Main|Puja (Hinduism)|Yajna|Murti|Mandir|Hindu iconography|Japa|Mantra}}
{{see also|Initiation_in_Hinduism|l1=Initiation}}

Hindu practices generally involve seeking awareness of God and sometimes also seeking blessings from Devas. Therefore, Hinduism has developed numerous practices meant to help one think of divinity in the midst of everyday life. Hindus can engage in {{IAST|pūjā}} (worship or veneration), either at home or at a temple. At home, Hindus often create a shrine with icons dedicated to their chosen form(s) of God. Temples are usually dedicated to a primary deity along with associated subordinate deities though some commemorate multiple deities. Visiting temples is not obligatory, and many visit temples only during religious festivals. Hindus perform their worship through icons (murti
Murti
In Hinduism, a murti , or murthi, or vigraha or pratima typically refers to an image which expresses a Divine Spirit . Meaning literally "embodiment", a murti is a representation of a divinity, made usually of stone, wood, or metal, which serves as a means through which a divinity may be worshiped...

s). The icon serves as a tangible link between the worshiper and God. The image is often considered a manifestation of God, since God is immanent. The Padma Purana
Padma Purana
Padma Purana , one of the major eighteen Puranas, a Hindu religious text, is divided into five parts.In the first part of the text, sage Pulastya explains to Bhishma about religion and the essence of the religion. The second part describes in detail Prithvi...

 states that the {{IAST|mūrti}} is not to be thought of as mere stone or wood but as a manifest form of the Divinity. A few Hindu sects, such as the {{IAST
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...

, do not believe in worshiping God through icons.


Hinduism has a developed system of symbolism and iconography to represent the sacred in art, architecture, literature and worship. These symbols gain their meaning from the scriptures, mythology, or cultural traditions. The syllable Om
Om
Om is a sacred syllable of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.OM and similar may also refer to:-Music:* Om , a stoner metal band* Om , a 1965 album* OM , a 2006 album* Om...

(which represents the Parabrahman) and the Swastika sign (which symbolizes auspiciousness) have grown to represent Hinduism itself, while other markings such as tilaka
Tilaka
200px|thumb|right|Indian woman with tilaka and [[Bindi |bindi]]In Hinduism, the tilaka or tika or tilak is a mark worn on the forehead and other parts of the body...

identify a follower of the faith. Hinduism associates many symbols, which include the lotus, chakra
Chakra
Chakra is a concept originating in Hindu texts, featured in tantric and yogic traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Its name derives from the Sanskrit word for "wheel" or "turning" .Chakra is a concept referring to wheel-like vortices...

and veena
Veena
Veena may refer to one of several Indian plucked instruments:With frets*Rudra veena, plucked string instrument used in Hindustani music*Saraswati veena, plucked string instrument used in Carnatic musicFretless...

, with particular deities.

Mantra
Mantra
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

s are invocations, praise and prayers that through their meaning, sound, and chanting style help a devotee focus the mind on holy thoughts or express devotion to God/the deities. Many devotees perform morning ablutions at the bank of a sacred river while chanting the Gayatri Mantra
Gayatri Mantra
The Gāyatrī Mantra is a highly revered mantra, based on a Vedic Sanskrit verse from a hymn of the Rigveda , attributed to the rishi . The mantra is named for its vedic gāyatrī metre. As the verse can be interpreted to invoke the deva Savitr, it is often called Sāvitrī...

or Mahamrityunjaya
Mahamrityunjaya
The Mahamrityunjaya Mantra , also called the Tryambakam Mantra, is a verse of the Rigveda .It is addressed to Tryambaka "the three-eyed one", an epithet of Rudra, later identified with Shiva...

mantras. The epic Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

 extols Japa
Japa
Japa is a spiritual discipline involving the meditative repetition of a mantra or name of a divine power. The mantra or name may be spoken softly, enough for the practitioner to hear it, or it may be spoken purely within the recitor's mind...

(ritualistic chanting) as the greatest duty in the Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga is the last of the four stages that the world goes through as part of the cycle of yugas described in the Indian scriptures. The other ages are Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga...

 (what Hindus believe to be the current age). Many adopt Japa as their primary spiritual practice.

Rituals



The vast majority of Hindus engage in religious rituals on a daily basis. Most Hindus observe religious rituals at home. but observation of rituals greatly vary among regions, villages, and individuals. Devout Hindus perform daily chores such as worshiping at dawn after bathing (usually at a family shrine, and typically includes lighting a lamp and offering foodstuffs before the images of deities), recitation from religious scripts, singing devotional hymns
Bhajan
A Bhajan is any type of Indian devotional song. It has no fixed form: it may be as simple as a mantra or kirtan or as sophisticated as the dhrupad or kriti with music based on classical ragas and talas. It is normally lyrical, expressing love for the Divine...

, meditation
Meditation
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....

, chanting mantras, reciting scriptures etc. A notable feature in religious ritual is the division between purity and pollution. Religious acts presuppose some degree of impurity or defilement for the practitioner, which must be overcome or neutralised before or during ritual procedures. Purification, usually with water, is thus a typical feature of most religious action. Other characteristics include a belief in the efficacy of sacrifice and concept of merit, gained through the performance of charity or good works, that will accumulate over time and reduce sufferings in the next world. Vedic rites of fire-oblation (yajna
Yajna
In Hinduism, yajna is a ritual of sacrifice derived from the practice of Vedic times. It is performed to please the gods or to attain certain wishes...

) are now only occasional practices, although they are highly revered in theory. In Hindu wedding and burial ceremonies, however, the yajña and chanting of Vedic mantra
Mantra
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

s are still the norm. The rituals, upacharas, change with time. For instance, in the past few hundred years some rituals, such as sacred dance
Dance
Dance is an art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting....

 and music offerings in the standard Sodasa Upacharas set prescribed by the Agama Shastra, were replaced by the offerings of rice and sweets.

Occasions like birth, marriage, and death involve what are often elaborate sets of religious customs. In Hinduism, life-cycle rituals include Annaprashan
Annaprashan
The Annaprashana, also known as annaprashana vidhi, annaprasan, or Anna-prasanam is a Hindu rite-of-passage ritual that marks an infant's first intake of food other than milk. The term annaprashan literally means "food feeding" or "eating of food"...

(a baby's first intake of solid food), Upanayanam
Upanayanam
Upanayana is the initiation ritual by which initiates are invested with a sacred thread, to symbolize the transference of spiritual knowledge .- Significance of the sacred thread :...

("sacred thread ceremony" undergone by upper-caste children at their initiation into formal education) and Śrāddha
Śrāddha
Śrāddha or Shraaddha is a Sanskrit word which literally means anything or any act that is performed with all sincerity and faith . In the Hindu religion, it is the ritual that one performs to pay homage to one’s 'ancestors' , especially to one’s dead parents...

(ritual of treating people to a meal in return for prayers to 'God' to give peace to the soul of the deceased). For most people in India, the betrothal of the young couple and the exact date and time of the wedding are matters decided by the parents in consultation with astrologers. On death, cremation
Cremation
Cremation is the process of reducing bodies to basic chemical compounds such as gasses and bone fragments. This is accomplished through high-temperature burning, vaporization and oxidation....

 is considered obligatory for all except sanyasis, hijra
Hijra (South Asia)
In the culture of South Asia, hijras or chakka in Kannada, khusra in Punjabi and kojja in Telugu are physiological males who have feminine gender identity, women's clothing and other feminine gender roles. Hijras have a long recorded history in the Indian subcontinent, from the antiquity, as...

, and children under five. Cremation is typically performed by wrapping the corpse in cloth and burning it on a pyre
Pyre
A pyre , also known as a funeral pyre, is a structure, usually made of wood, for burning a body as part of a funeral rite...

.

Pilgrimage


{{See also|Hindu_pilgrimage_sites_in_India|l1=Hindu Pilgrimage sites|Pilgrimage#Hinduism|l2=Pilgrimage in Hinduism}}
Following pilgrimage sites are most famous amongst Hindu devotees:

Char Dham (Famous Four Pilgrimage sites): The four holy sites Puri
Puri
Puri is district headquarter, a city situated about south of state capital Bhubaneswar, on the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal in the Indian state of Orissa. It is also known as Jagannath Puri after the Jagannath Temple . It is a holy city of the Hindus as a part of the Char Dham pilgrimages...

, Rameswaram, Dwarka
Dwarka
Dwarka also spelled Dvarka, Dwaraka, and Dvaraka, is a city and a municipality of Jamnagar district in the Gujarat state in India. Dwarka , also known as Dwarawati in Sanskrit literature is rated as one of the seven most ancient cities in the country...

, and Badrinath (or alternatively the Himalayan towns of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri
Yamunotri
Yamunotri is the source of the Yamuna River and the seat of the Goddess Yamuna in Hinduism. It is situated at an altitude of in the Garhwal Himalayas and located approximately North of Uttarkashi, the headquarters of the Uttarkashi district in the Garhwal Division of Uttarakhand, India...

) compose the Char Dham
Char Dham
The Chota Char Dham , is an important Hindu pilgrimage circuit in the Indian Himalayas...

(four abodes) pilgrimage circuit.

Kumbh Mela: The Kumbh Mela
Kumbh Mela
Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage in which Hindus gather at the Ganges river.The normal Kumbh Mela is celebrated every 3 years, the Ardh Kumbh Mela is celebrated every six years at Haridwar and Prayag, the Purna Kumbh takes place every twelve years, at four places Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain,...

(the "pitcher festival") is one of the holiest of Hindu pilgrimages that is held every four years; the location is rotated among Allahabad
Allahabad
Allahabad , or Settled by God in Persian, is a major city of India and is one of the main holy cities of Hinduism. It was renamed by the Mughals from the ancient name of Prayaga , and is by some accounts the second-oldest city in India. It is located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh,...

, Haridwar
Haridwar
Haridwar is an important pilgrimage city and municipality in the Haridwar district of Uttarakhand, India...

, Nashik, and Ujjain
Ujjain
Ujjain , is an ancient city of Malwa region in central India, on the eastern bank of the Kshipra River , today part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is the administrative centre of Ujjain District and Ujjain Division.In ancient times the city was called Ujjayini...

.

Old Holy cities as per Puranic Texts: Varanasi
Varanasi
-Etymology:The name Varanasi has its origin possibly from the names of the two rivers Varuna and Assi, for the old city lies in the north shores of the Ganga bounded by its two tributaries, the Varuna and the Asi, with the Ganges being to its south...

 formerly known as Kashi, Allahabad
Allahabad
Allahabad , or Settled by God in Persian, is a major city of India and is one of the main holy cities of Hinduism. It was renamed by the Mughals from the ancient name of Prayaga , and is by some accounts the second-oldest city in India. It is located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh,...

 formerly known as Prayag, Haridwar
Haridwar
Haridwar is an important pilgrimage city and municipality in the Haridwar district of Uttarakhand, India...

-Rishikesh, Mathura-Vrindavan
Vrindavan
Vrindavan also known as Vraj is a town in the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh, India...

, and Ayodhya.

Major Temple cities: Puri
Puri
Puri is district headquarter, a city situated about south of state capital Bhubaneswar, on the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal in the Indian state of Orissa. It is also known as Jagannath Puri after the Jagannath Temple . It is a holy city of the Hindus as a part of the Char Dham pilgrimages...

, which hosts a major Vaishnava
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....

 Jagannath
Jagannath
Jagannath is a transcendental non-anthropotheistic Hindu god worshiped primarily by the people of Indian state of Orissa, and, to a great extent, West Bengal...

 temple and Rath Yatra
Rath Yatra
Ratha Yatra is a huge Hindu festival associated with Lord Jagannath held at Puri in the state of Orissa, India during the months of June or July. Most of the city's society is based around the worship of Jagannath with the ancient temple being the fulcrum of the area...

 celebration; Katra, home to the Vaishno Devi
Vaishno Devi
Vaishno Devi Mandir is one of the holy Hindu temples dedicated to Shakti, located in the hills of Vaishno Devi, Jammu and Kashmir, India. In Hinduism, Vaishno Devi, also known as Mata Rani and Vaishnavi, is a manifestation of the Mother Goddess.The temple is near the town of Katra, in the Reasi...

 temple; Three comparatively recent temples of fame and huge pilgrimage are Shirdi, home to Sai Baba of Shirdi
Sai Baba of Shirdi
Sai Baba of Shirdi , also known as Shirdi Sai Baba , was an Indian guru, yogi, and fakir who is regarded by his Hindu and Muslim devotees as a saint....

, Tirumala - Tirupati
Tirumala - Tirupati
Tirupati is a major pilgrimage city located in the Chittoor district and seventh biggest city of Andhra Pradesh, India. It is located at the foothills of the Eastern Ghats at a distance of south of Hyderabad, the capital of the state, east of Bangalore, and north of Chennai.Tirupati is famous...

, home to the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple
Tirumala Venkateswara Temple
Tirumala Venkateswara Temple ), is a Hindu temple in the hill town of Tirumala, near Tirupati in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, South India. It is around from Chennai, from Hyderabad, and from Bangalore....

; and Sabarimala
Sabarimala
Sabarimala is a Hindu pilgrimage center located in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District in Kerala. It is the largest annual pilgrimage in India with an estimated 45–50 million devotees visiting every year. Sabarimala is believed to be the place where the Hindu God Ayyappan...

,where Swami Ayyappan is worshipped.

Shakti Peethas: Another important set of pilgrimages are the Shakti Peethas
Shakti Peethas
The Shakti Pithas are places of worship consecrated to the goddess Shakti or Parvati or Sati or Durga, the female principal of Hinduism and the main deity of the Shakta sect...

, where the Mother Goddess
Shakti
Shakti from Sanskrit shak - "to be able," meaning sacred force or empowerment, is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe in Hinduism. Shakti is the concept, or personification, of divine feminine creative power, sometimes...

 is worshipped, the two principal ones being Kalighat
Kalighat
Kalighat is a locality of Kolkata, India. One of the oldest neighborhoods in South Kolkata, Kalighat is also densely populated and vibrant -- with a rich history of cultural intermingling with the various foreign incursions into the area over time....

and Kamakhya
Kamakhya
Kamakhya is an important Tantric mother goddess closely identified with Kali and Maha Tripura Sundari, according to the Tantric texts that are the basis for her worship at the Kamakhya temple, a 16th century temple in the Kamrup district of Assam...

.

While there are different yet similar pilgrimage routes in different parts of India, all are respected equally well, according to the universality of Hinduism.

Pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

 is not mandatory in Hinduism, though many adherents undertake them

Festivals


{{Main|Hindu festivals}}
Hindu festivals (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...

: Utsava; literally: "to lift higher") are considered as symbolic rituals that beautifully weave individual and social life to 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...

. Hinduism has many festivals throughout the year. The Hindu calendar
Hindu calendar
The hindu calendar used in ancient times has undergone many changes in the process of regionalization, and today there are several regional Indian calendars, as well as an Indian national calendar. Nepali calendar, Bengali calendar, Malayalam calendar, Tamil calendar, Telugu calendar, Kannada...

 usually prescribe their dates.

The festivals typically celebrate events from Hindu mythology, often coinciding with seasonal changes. There are festivals which are primarily celebrated by specific sects or in certain regions 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...

.

Some widely observed Hindu festivals are
{{MultiCol|80%}}
  • Maha Shivaratri
    Maha Shivaratri
    Maha Shivratri or Maha Sivaratri or Shivaratri or Sivarathri is a Hindu festival celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day in the Krishna Paksha of the month of Maagha or Phalguna...

  • Pongal
    Pongal
    Thai Ponggal is a harvest festival celebrated by Tamils in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Indian Union Territory of Pondicherry and in Sri Lanka. Pongal coincides with the festival Makara Sankranthi celebrated throughout India. Pongal in Tamil means "boiling over" or "spill over". The boiling...

  • Holi
    Holi
    Holi , is a religious spring festival celebrated by Hindus. Holi is also known as festival of Colours. It is primarily observed in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and countries with large Indic diaspora populations following Hinduism, such as Suriname, Malaysia, Guyana, South Africa, Trinidad, United...

  • Vasant Panchami
    Vasant Panchami
    Vasant Panchami , sometimes referred to as Vasant Panchami or Shree Panchami , is a Hindu festival celebrating Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, music and art. It is celebrated every year on the fifth day of the Indian month Magh , the first day of spring...

  • Thaipusam
    Thaipusam
    Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai . It is celebrated not only in countries where the Tamil community constitutes a majority, but also in countries where Tamil communities are smaller, such as Singapore and Malaysia...

  • Ram Navami
  • Krishna Janmastami
  • Ganesh Chaturthi
    Ganesh Chaturthi
    Ganesh Chaturthi , also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi is the Hindu festival of Ganesha also called Vinayagar in Tamil Nadu, the son of Shiva and Parvati, who is believed to bestow his presence on earth for all his devotees in the duration of this festival...

  • Shigmo
    Shigmo
    Shigmo , or Shishirotsava, is a spring festival celebrated in the Indian state of Goa, where it is one of the major festivals of the Hindu community...

  • Dussera
  • Durga Puja
    Durga Puja
    Durga puja ; দুর্গা পূজা,ଦୁର୍ଗା ପୂଜା,‘Worship of Durga’), also referred to as Durgotsava ; , is an annual Hindu festival in South Asia that celebrates worship of the Hindu goddess Durga. It refers to all the six days observed as Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami and...

  • Diwali
    Diwali
    Diwali or DeepavaliThe name of the festival in various regional languages include:, , , , , , , , , , , , , popularly known as the "festival of lights," is a festival celebrated between mid-October and mid-December for different reasons...


{{ColBreak}}
  • Gudi Padwa
    Gudi Padwa
    Gudi Padwa or Gudhi Padwa , is the Marathi name for the Hindu holiday of Chaitra Shukla Pratipada. It is celebrated on the first day of the Chaitra month to mark the beginning of the New year according to the lunisolar Hindu calendar...

  • Ugadi
    Ugadi
    Yugadi or Ugadi or "Samvatsradi" , Konkani/Marathi: युगादी yugādi, , formed by sandhi of yuga "age" and ādi "beginning": the beginning of an age) is the New Year's Day for the people of the Deccan region of India. It falls on the different day every year because the Hindu calendar is a lunisolar...

  • Bihu
    Bihu
    Bihu denotes a set of three different cultural festivals of Assam and celebrated by the Assamese diaspora around the world. Though they owe their origins to ancient rites and practices they have taken definite urban features and have become popular festivals in urban and commercialized milieus in...

  • Bonalu
    Bonalu
    Bonalu is a Hindu festival of the Goddess of power, Mahakali, celebrated in Hyderabad, Secunderabad and parts of Telangana and Rayalaseema in India. It is celebrated in the month of Ashada masam, in July/August. Special poojas are performed for Yellamma on the first and last day of the festival...

  • Rath Yatra
    Rath Yatra
    Ratha Yatra is a huge Hindu festival associated with Lord Jagannath held at Puri in the state of Orissa, India during the months of June or July. Most of the city's society is based around the worship of Jagannath with the ancient temple being the fulcrum of the area...

  • Guru Purnima
    Guru Purnima
    Guru Purnima is a festival traditionally celebrated by Hindus and Buddhists.On this day, disciples offer puja or pay respect to their Guru . It falls on the day of full moon, Purnima, in the month of Ashadh of the Shaka Samvat, Indian national calendar and Hindu calendar...

  • Raksha Bandhan
  • Onam
    Onam
    Onam is a Hindu festival celebrated by the people of Kerala, India. The festival commemorates the Vamana avatar of Vishnu and the subsequent homecoming of the legendary Emperor Mahabali. It falls during the month of Chingam and lasts for ten days...

  • Gowri Habba
    Gowri Habba
    Gowri Habba is a Hindu festival celebrated a day before Ganesh Chaturthi.It is a significant festival in parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. It is known as Hartalika in Maharashtra and Tay orTayi i.e...

  • Chhath
    Chhath
    Chhath is an ancient Hindu festival dedicated to the Hindu Sun God, Surya, also known as Surya Shashti. The Chhath Puja is performed in order to thank Surya for sustaining life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes. The Sun, considered the god of energy and of the life-force, is...

  • Vishu
    Vishu
    Vishu is a Hindu festival celebrated in the Indian state of Kerala, usually on April 14 of the Gregorian calendar. This occasion signifies the Sun's transit into the Mesha Raasi , according to Indian astrological calculations, and represents the vernal equinox...


{{EndMultiCol}}


Scriptures


{{Main|Śruti|Smriti|List of Hindu scriptures}}
Hinduism is based on "the accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by different persons in different times". The scriptures were transmitted orally in verse form to aid memorization, for many centuries before they were written down. Over many centuries, sages refined the teachings and expanded the canon. In post-Vedic and current Hindu belief, most Hindu scriptures are not typically interpreted literally. More importance is attached to the ethics and metaphorical meanings derived from them. Most sacred texts are in 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...

. The texts are classified into two classes: Shruti and Smriti.

Shruti


{{multiple image
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Manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

 is in Devanagari
Devanagari
Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...


}}

{{multiple image
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Vyasa
Vyasa is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa , or Krishna Dvaipayana...

 narrating the Mahabharata to Ganesha, his scribe, Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is a temple complex at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu,...


}}

Shruti (lit: that which is heard) primarily refers to the Vedas, which form the earliest record of the Hindu scriptures. While many Hindus revere the Vedas
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....

 as eternal truths revealed to ancient sages ({{IAST
Rishi
Rishi denotes the composers of Vedic hymns. However, according to post-Vedic tradition, the rishi is a "seer" to whom the Vedas were "originally revealed" through states of higher consciousness. The rishis were prominent when Vedic Hinduism took shape, as far back as some three thousand years...

s
), some devotees do not associate the creation of the Vedas with a god or person. They are thought of as the laws of the spiritual world, which would still exist even if they were not revealed to the sages. Hindus believe that because the spiritual truths of the Vedas are eternal, they continue to be expressed in new ways.

There are four Vedas (called {{IAST|Ṛg}}-, Sāma-, Yajus- and Atharva-). The Rigveda
Rigveda
The Rigveda is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns...

is the first and most important Veda. Each Veda is divided into four parts: the primary one, the Veda proper, being the {{IAST, which contains sacred mantras. The other three parts form a three-tier ensemble of commentaries, usually in prose and are believed to be slightly later in age than the {{IAST|Saṃhitā}}. These are: the {{IAST
Brahmana
The Brāhmaṇas are part of the Hindu śruti literature. They are commentaries on the four Vedas, detailing the proper performance of rituals....

, {{IAST
Aranyaka
The Aranyakas are part of the Hindu śruti, the four Vedas; they were composed in late Vedic Sanskrit typical of the Brahmanas and early Upanishads; indeed, they frequently form part of either the Brahmanas or the Upanishads....

, and the 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...

s
. The first two parts were subsequently called the {{IAST|Karmakāṇḍa}} (ritualistic portion), while the last two form the {{IAST|Jñānakāṇḍa}} (knowledge portion). While the Vedas focus on rituals, the Upanishads focus on spiritual insight and philosophical teachings, and discuss 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...

 and reincarnation
Reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

.

A well known shloka from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
The Upanishad is one of the older, "primary" Upanishads. It is contained within the Shatapatha Brahmana, and its status as an independent Upanishad may be considered a secondary extraction of a portion of the Brahmana text. This makes it one of the oldest texts of the Upanishad corpus...

 is:

::ॐ असतो मा सद्गमय । तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय ।।
मृत्योर्मामृतं गमय । ॐ शान्ति शान्ति शान्ति ।।

– बृहदारण्यक उपनिषद् 1.3.28.

IAST
IAST
The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration is a transliteration scheme that allows a lossless romanization of Indic scripts as employed by the Sanskrit language.-Popularity:...

:

:om asato mā sadgamaya | tamaso mā jyotirgamaya ||
mṛtyor mā amṛtaṁ gamaya | om śānti śānti śānti ||

– bṛhadāraṇyaka upaniṣada 1.3.28

Translation:
:Lead Us From the Unreal To the Real |
Lead Us From Darkness To Light ||
Lead Us From Death To Immortality |
OM
Om
Om is a sacred syllable of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.OM and similar may also refer to:-Music:* Om , a stoner metal band* Om , a 1965 album* OM , a 2006 album* Om...

 Let There Be Peace Peace Peace.||

– Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28.

Smritis


Hindu texts other than the Shrutis are collectively called the Smritis (memory). The most notable of the smritis are the epics
Indian epic poetry
Indian epic poetry is the epic poetry written in the Indian subcontinent, traditionally called Kavya . The Ramayana and Mahabharata, originally composed in Sanskrit and translated thereafter into many other Indian languages, are some of the oldest surviving epic poems on earth and form part of...

, which consist of the {{IAST
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

and the {{IAST
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

. The {{Unicode
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

 is an integral part of the Mahabharata and one of the most popular sacred texts of Hinduism. It contains philosophical teachings from Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu, told to the prince Arjuna
Arjuna
Arjuna in Indian mythology is the greatest warrior on earth and is one of the Pandavas, the heroes of the Hindu epic Mahābhārata. Arjuna, whose name means 'bright', 'shining', 'white' or 'silver' Arjuna (Devanagari: अर्जुन, Thai: อรชุน, Orachun, Tamil: Arjunan, Indonesian and Javanese: Harjuna,...

 on the eve of a great war. The {{Unicode|Bhagavad Gītā}}, spoken by Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

, is described as the essence of the Vedas. However Gita, sometimes called Gitopanishad, is more often placed in the Shruti, category, being Upanishadic in content. {{Unicodes, which illustrate Hindu ideas through vivid narratives come under smritis. Other texts include {{IAST
Devi Mahatmya
The Devi Mahatmyam or Devi Mahatmya , or "Glory of the Goddess") is a Hindu text describing the victory of the goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. As part of the Markandeya Purana, it is one of the Puranas or secondary Hindu scriptures, and was composed in Sanskrit around c...

, the Tantras
Tantras
Tantras refers to numerous and varied scriptures pertaining to any of several esoteric traditions rooted in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. Although Buddhist and Hindu Tantra have many similarities from the outside, they do have some clear distinctions. The rest of this article deals with Hindu...

, the Yoga Sutras, Tirumantiram, Shiva Sutras and the Hindu {{Unicode
Āgama (Hinduism)
Agama means, in the Hindu context, "a traditional doctrine, or system which commands faith".In Hinduism, the Agamas are a collection of Sanskrit scriptures which are revered and followed by millions of Hindus.-Significance:...

. A more controversial text, the Manusmriti, is a prescriptive lawbook which lays the societal codes of social stratification which later evolved into the Indian caste system
Caste system in India
The Indian caste system is a system of social stratification and social restriction in India in which communities are defined by thousands of endogamous hereditary groups called Jātis....

.

A well known verse
Verse (poetry)
A verse is formally a single line in a metrical composition, e.g. poetry. However, the word has come to represent any division or grouping of words in such a composition, which traditionally had been referred to as a stanza....

 from Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

 describing a concept in Karma Yoga
Karma Yoga
Karma yoga , or the "discipline of action" is a form of yoga based on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Sanskrit scripture of Hinduism. Of the four paths to realization, karma yoga is the science of achieving perfection in action...

 is explained as follows

{{quote|To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits;
let not the fruits of action be thy motive;
neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction.
(2.47)}}

Demographics



{{Hinduism by country}}
Hinduism is a major religion in India and according to 2001 census, Hinduism was followed by around 80% of population in India. Other significant 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...

 are found in 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...

 (23 million), 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...

 (14 million) and the 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...

n 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...

 (3.3 million).

Countries with the greatest proportion of Hindus from Hinduism by country
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...

 ({{As of|2008|lc=on}}):
  1.  Nepal 86.5%
  2.  India 82%
  3.  Mauritius 54%
  4.  Guyana 28%
  5.  Fiji 27.9%
  6.  Bhutan 25%
  7.  Trinidad and Tobago 22.5%
  8.  Suriname 20%
  9.  Sri Lanka 15%
  10.  Bangladesh 9%
  11.  Qatar 7.2%
  12.  Réunion 6.7%
  13.  Malaysia 6.3%
  14.  Bahrain 6.25%
  15.  Kuwait 6%
  16.  United Arab Emirates 5%
  17.  Singapore 4%
  18.  Oman 3%
  19.  Belize 2.3%
  20.  Seychelles 2.1%


Demographically, Hinduism is the world's third largest religion, after Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 and Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

.

Denominations


{{Main|Hindu denominations}}
Hinduism has no central doctrinal authority and many practising Hindus do not claim to belong to any particular denomination. However, academics categorize contemporary Hinduism into four major denominations: 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....

, 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,...

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

 and Smartism
Smartism
Smarta Sampradaya is a liberal or nonsectarian denomination of the Vedic Hindu religion which accept all the major Hindu deities as forms of the one Brahman, in contrast to Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism, the other three major Hindu sects, which revere Vishnu, Shiva, and Shakti,...

. The denominations differ primarily in the god worshipped as the Supreme One and in the traditions that accompany worship of that god.

Vaishnavas worship Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

as the supreme God; Shaivites worship Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

as the supreme; Shaktas worship Shakti
Shakti
Shakti from Sanskrit shak - "to be able," meaning sacred force or empowerment, is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe in Hinduism. Shakti is the concept, or personification, of divine feminine creative power, sometimes...

(power) personified through a female divinity or Mother Goddess
Mother goddess
Mother goddess is a term used to refer to a goddess who represents motherhood, fertility, creation or embodies the bounty of the Earth. When equated with the Earth or the natural world such goddesses are sometimes referred to as Mother Earth or as the Earth Mother.Many different goddesses have...

, Devi
Devi
Devī is the Sanskrit word for Goddess, used mostly in Hinduism, its related masculine term is deva. Devi is synonymous with Shakti, the female aspect of the divine, as conceptualized by the Shakta tradition of Hinduism. She is the female counterpart without whom the male aspect, which represents...

; while Smartas believe in the essential oneness of five (panchadeva) or six (Shanmata
Shanmata
Shanmata is the system of worship, believed by the Smarta tradition to have been founded by Adi Shankara, the 8th century CE Hindu philosopher . It centers around the worship of the six main deities of Hinduism, viz, Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti, Ganesha, Surya and Skanda. In this system, six major...

, as Tamil
Tamil people
Tamil people , also called Tamils or Tamilians, are an ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, India and the north-eastern region of Sri Lanka. Historic and post 15th century emigrant communities are also found across the world, notably Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, South Africa, Australia, Canada,...

 Hindus add Skanda
Murugan
Murugan also called Kartikeya, Skanda and Subrahmanya, is a popular Hindu deity especially among Tamil Hindus, worshipped primarily in areas with Tamil influences, especially South India, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius and Reunion Island. His six most important shrines in India are the...

) deities as personifications of the Supreme.

The Western conception of what Hinduism is has been defined by the Smarta view; many Hindus, who may not understand or follow Advaita philosophy, in contemporary Hinduism, invariably follow the Shanmata belief worshiping many forms of God. One commentator, noting the influence of the Smarta tradition, remarked that although many Hindus may not strictly identify themselves as Smartas but, by adhering to 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...

 as a foundation for non-sectarianism, are indirect followers.

Other denominations like Ganapatya
Ganapatya
Ganapatya is a denomination of Hinduism that worships Ganesha as the Saguna Brahman.The worship of Ganesha is considered complementary with the worship of other deities. Hindus of all sects begin prayers, important undertakings, and religious ceremonies with an invocation of Ganesha...

 (the cult of Ganesha
Ganesha
Ganesha , also spelled Ganesa or Ganesh, also known as Ganapati , Vinayaka , and Pillaiyar , is one of the deities best-known and most widely worshipped in the Hindu pantheon. His image is found throughout India and Nepal. Hindu sects worship him regardless of affiliations...

) and Saura
Saura (Hinduism)
Saura is a denomination of Hindu. Followers of Saura worship Surya as the Saguna Brahman. At present the Sauras are a very small movement, much smaller than other larger denominations such as Vaishnavism or Shaivism. There was a rapid decline of the Sauras in the 12th and 13th century CE.- Surya...

 (Sun
Surya
Surya Suraya or Phra Athit is the chief solar deity in Hinduism, one of the Adityas, son of Kasyapa and one of his wives, Aditi; of Indra; or of Dyaus Pitar . The term Surya also refers to the Sun, in general. Surya has hair and arms of gold...

 worship) are not so widespread.

There are movements that are not easily placed in any of the above categories, such as Swami Dayananda Saraswati's 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...

, which rejects image worship and veneration of multiple deities. It focuses on the Vedas and the Vedic fire sacrifices ({{IAST
Yajna
In Hinduism, yajna is a ritual of sacrifice derived from the practice of Vedic times. It is performed to please the gods or to attain certain wishes...

).

The Tantric traditions
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 ....

 have various sects, as Banerji observes:
{{cquote|Tantras are ... also divided as āstika or Vedic and nāstika
Nastika
Āstika exists") and Nāstika are technical terms in Hinduism used to classify philosophical schools and persons, according to whether they accept the authority of the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures, or not, respectively...

or non-Vedic. In accordance with the predominance of the deity the āstika works are again divided as Śākta (Shakta), Śaiva (Shaiva), Saura, Gāṇapatya and Vaiṣṇava (Vaishnava). }}

Ashramas


{{Main|Ashrama}}

Traditionally the life of a Hindu is divided into four {{Unicode|Āshrama}}s (phases or stages; unrelated meanings include monastery). The first part of one's life, Brahmacharya
Brahmacharya
Brahmacharya is one of the four stages of life in an age-based social system as laid out in the Manu Smrti and later Classical Sanskrit texts in Hinduism. It refers to an educational period of 14–20 years which starts before the age of puberty. During this time the traditional vedic sciences are...

,
the stage as a student, is spent in celibate, controlled, sober and pure contemplation under the guidance of a Guru
Guru
A guru is one who is regarded as having great knowledge, wisdom, and authority in a certain area, and who uses it to guide others . Other forms of manifestation of this principle can include parents, school teachers, non-human objects and even one's own intellectual discipline, if the...

, building up the mind for spiritual knowledge. Grihastha
Grihastha
Grihasthya refers to the second phase of an individual's life in the Vedic ashram system. It is often called 'the householders life' revolving as it does around the duties of maintaining a household and leading a family-centred life.-Usage:...

is the householder's stage, in which one marries and satisfies {{Unicode and artha in one's married and professional life respectively (see the goals of life). The moral obligations of a Hindu householder include supporting one's parents, children, guests and holy figures. {{Unicode
Vanaprastha
A Vanaprastha is a person who is living in the forest as a hermit after partially giving up material desires. Vanaprastha ashram is the stage of life in the Vedic ashram system, when a person one gradually withdraws from the world...

,
the retirement stage, is gradual detachment from the material world. This may involve giving over duties to one's children, spending more time in religious practices and embarking on holy pilgrimages. Finally, in {{Unicode
Sannyasa
Sannyasa is the order of life of the renouncer within the Hindu scheme of āśramas, or life stages. It is considered the topmost and final stage of the ashram systems and is traditionally taken by men or women at or beyond the age of fifty years old or by young monks who wish to renounce worldly...

, the stage of asceticism
Asceticism
Asceticism describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals...

, one renounces all worldly attachments to secludedly find the Divine through detachment from worldly life and peacefully shed the body for 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...

.

Monasticism


{{Main|Sannyasa}}

Some Hindus choose to live a monastic life (Sannyāsa) in pursuit of liberation
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...

 or another form of spiritual perfection. Monastics commit themselves to a life of simplicity, celibacy
Celibacy
Celibacy is a personal commitment to avoiding sexual relations, in particular a vow from marriage. Typically celibacy involves avoiding all romantic relationships of any kind. An individual may choose celibacy for religious reasons, such as is the case for priests in some religions, for reasons of...

, detachment from worldly pursuits, and the contemplation of God. A Hindu monk is called a sanyāsī, sādhu
Sadhu
In Hinduism, sādhu denotes an ascetic, wandering monk. Although the vast majority of sādhus are yogīs, not all yogīs are sādhus. The sādhu is solely dedicated to achieving mokṣa , the fourth and final aśrama , through meditation and contemplation of brahman...

, or swāmi
Swami
A swami sometimes abbreviated "Sw." is an ascetic or yogi who has been initiated into the religious monastic order founded by Adi Sankara, or to a religious teacher.The Oxford English Dictionary gives the etymology as...

. A female renunciate is called a sanyāsini. Renunciates receive high respect in Hindu society because their outward renunciation of selfishness and worldliness serves as an inspiration to householders who strive for mental renunciation. Some monastics live in monasteries, while others wander from place to place, trusting in God alone to provide for their needs. It is considered a highly meritorious act for a householder to provide sādhus with food or other necessaries. Sādhus strive to treat all with respect and compassion, whether a person may be poor or rich, good or wicked, and to be indifferent to praise, blame, pleasure, and pain.

Varnas


{{Main|Varna in Hinduism}}

Hindu society has traditionally been categorized into four classes, called Varnas (Sanskrit: "colour, form, appearance"):
  • the Brahmin
    Brahmin
    Brahmin Brahman, Brahma and Brahmin.Brahman, Brahmin and Brahma have different meanings. Brahman refers to the Supreme Self...

    s
    : teachers and priests;
  • the Kshatriya
    Kshatriya
    *For the Bollywood film of the same name see Kshatriya Kshatriya or Kashtriya, meaning warrior, is one of the four varnas in Hinduism...

    s
    : warriors, nobles, and kings;
  • the Vaishya
    Vaishya
    Vaishya is one of the four varnas of the Hindu social order. According to Vedic tradition, this caste primarily comprises merchants, farmers, cattle-herders and artisans.-Duties of Vaishyas:...

    s
    : farmers, merchants, and businessmen; and
  • the Shudra
    Shudra
    Shudra is the fourth Varna, as prescribed in the Purusha Sukta of the Rig veda, which constitutes society into four varnas or Chaturvarna. The other three varnas are Brahmans - priests, Kshatriya - those with governing functions, Vaishya - agriculturalists, cattle rearers and traders...

    s
    : servants and labourers.


Hindus and scholars debate whether the so-called caste system is an integral part of Hinduism sanctioned by the scriptures or an outdated social custom. Among the scriptures, the Varna system is mentioned sparingly and descriptively (i.e., not prescriptive); apart from a single mention in the late Rigvedic Purusha sukta
Purusha sukta
Purusha sukta is hymn 10.90 of the Rigveda, dedicated to the Purusha, the "Cosmic Being". One version of the Suktam has 16 verses, 15 in the meter, and the final one in the meter...

, the rigid division into varnas appears to be post-Vedic, appearing in classical texts from the Maurya period.
The Bhagavad Gītā
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

(4.13) states that the four {{IAST|varṇa}} divisions are created by God, and the {{Unicode categorizes the different castes. However, at the same time, the Gītā says that one's {{Unicode|varṇa}} is to be understood from one's personal qualities and one's work, not one's birth. Some mobility and flexibility within the varnas challenge allegations of social discrimination in the caste system, as has been pointed out by several sociologists, although some other scholars disagree.

Many social reformers, including Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi , pronounced . 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement...

 and B. R. Ambedkar
B. R. Ambedkar
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar , popularly also known as Babasaheb, was an Indian jurist, political leader, philosopher, thinker, anthropologist, historian, orator, prolific writer, economist, scholar, editor, a revolutionary and one of the founding fathers of independent India. He was also the Chairman...

, criticized caste discrimination. The religious teacher Sri Ramakrishna (1836–1886) taught that
{{cquote|"Lovers of God do not belong to any caste . . . . A brahmin without this love is no longer a brahmin. And a pariah with the love of God is no longer a pariah. Through 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...

 (devotion to God) an untouchable becomes pure and elevated."
}}

Ahimsa, vegetarianism and other food customs


{{Main|Ahimsa|Vegetarianism and religion|Cattle in Religion}}

Hindus advocate the practice of {{IAST|ahiṃsā}} (non-violence) and respect for all life because divinity is believed to permeate all beings, including plants and non-human animals. The term {{IAST|ahiṃsā}} appears in the 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...

s, the epic Mahabharata and {{IAST|Ahiṃsā}} is the first of the five Yamas (vows of self-restraint) in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali are 194 Indian sūtras that constitute the foundational text of Rāja Yoga. Yoga is one of the six orthodox āstika schools of Hindu philosophy, and Rāja Yoga is the highest practice....

. and the first principle for all member of Varnashrama Dharma
Varnashrama dharma
Varna refers to the categorization of the Hindu society by four castes, hypothesized by the Brahmins and their sacred texts.This quadruple division is not to be confused with Jāti or even the much finer division of the contemporary caste system in India....

 (brahmin, kshatriya, vaishya and shudra) in Law of Manu (book 10, sutra 63 : Ahimsa, satya, asteya, shaucam and indrayanigraha, almost similar to main principles of jainism).

In accordance with {{IAST|ahiṃsā}}, many Hindus embrace vegetarianism
Vegetarianism
Vegetarianism encompasses the practice of following plant-based diets , with or without the inclusion of dairy products or eggs, and with the exclusion of meat...

 to respect higher forms of life. Estimates of the number of lacto vegetarians in India (includes adherents of all religions) vary between 20% and 42%. The food habits vary with the community and region, for example some castes having fewer vegetarians and coastal populations relying on seafood. Some avoid meat only on specific holy days. Observant Hindus who do eat meat almost always abstain from beef
Beef
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East , Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in...

. The cow in Hindu society is traditionally identified as a caretaker and a maternal figure, and Hindu society honours the cow as a symbol of unselfish giving. Cow-slaughter is legally banned in almost all states of India.

There are many Hindu groups that have continued to abide by a strict vegetarian diet in modern times. One example is the movement known as ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), whose followers “not only abstain from meat, fish, and fowl, but also avoid certain vegetables that are thought to have negative properties, such as onion and garlic.” A second example is the Swaminarayan Movement. The followers of this Hindu group also staunchly adhere to a diet that is devoid of meat, eggs, and seafood.

Vegetarianism is propagated by the Yajur Veda and it is recommended for a satvic
Sattva
In Hindu philosophy, sattva is the most rarefied of the three gunas in Samkhya, sāttvika "pure", rājasika "dim", and tāmasika "dark". Importantly, no value judgement is entailed as all guna are indivisible and mutually qualifying...

(purifying) lifestyle. Thus, another reason that dietary purity is so eminent within Hinduism is because “the idea that food reflects the general qualities of nature: purity, energy, inertia” It follows, then, that a healthy diet should be one that promotes purity within an individual.

Based on this reasoning, Hindus should avoid or minimize the intake of foods that do not promote purity. These foods include onion and garlic, which are regarded as rajasic (a state which is characterized by “tension and overbearing demeanor”) foods, and meat, which is regarded as tamasic (a state which is characterized by “anger, greed, and jealousy”).

Some Hindus from certain sects - generally Shakta, certain Shudra and Kshatriya castes and certain Eastern Indian and East Asian regions; practise animal sacrifice
Animal sacrifice in Hinduism
Practices of Hindu animal sacrifice are mostly associated with Shaktism, and in currents of folk Hinduism strongly rooted in local tribal traditions. It is not practiced in contemporary Vedantic or Brahminical Hinduism.-Terminology:...

 (bali). Although most Hindus, including the majority of Vaishnava and Shaivite Hindus abhor it.

Conversion


{{See also|List of converts to Hinduism|Religious_conversion#Hinduism|l1=Conversion to Hinduism}}

Concepts of conversion
Religious conversion
Religious conversion is the adoption of a new religion that differs from the convert's previous religion. Changing from one denomination to another within the same religion is usually described as reaffiliation rather than conversion.People convert to a different religion for various reasons,...

, evangelization
Evangelization
Evangelization is that process in the Christian religion which seeks to spread the Gospel and the knowledge of the Gospel throughout the world. It can be defined as so:-The birth of Christian evangelization:...

, and proselytization are absent from Hindu texts and have never played a significant role in practice, though acceptance of willing converts is becoming more common. Early in its history, in the absence of other competing religions, Hindus considered everyone they came across as Hindus and expected everyone they met to be Hindus.

Hindus today continue to be influenced by historical ideas of acceptability of conversion. Hence, many Hindus continue to believe that Hinduism is an identity that can only be had from birth, while many others continue to believe that anyone who follows Hindu beliefs and practices is a Hindu, and many believe in some form of both theories. However, as a reaction to perceived and actual threat of evangelization, proselytization, and conversion activities of other major religions most modern Hindus are opposed to the idea of conversion from (any) one religion to (any) other per se.

Hindus in Western countries generally accept and welcome willing converts, whereas in India acceptance of willing converts is becoming more common. With the rise of Hindu revivalist movements, reconversions to Hinduism have also risen. Reconversions are well accepted since conversion out of Hinduism is not recognized. Conversion into Hinduism through marriage
Marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 is well accepted and often expected to enable the non-Hindu partner to fully participate in their spiritual, religious, and cultural roles within the larger Hindu family and society. {{Citation needed|date=February 2008}}

There is no formal process for converting to Hinduism, although in many traditions a ritual called dīkshā
Diksha
Diksa also spelled deeksha or deeksa in common usage, translated as a "preparation or consecration for a religious ceremony", is giving of a mantra or an initiation by the guru in Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism...

("initiation") marks the beginning of spiritual life. A ritual called shuddhi
Shuddhi
Shuddhi is Sanskrit for purification. In Hinduism it is a part of worship. It also sometimes refers to reverting to Hinduism after converting from Hinduism to another religion.-Shuddhi movement:...

("purification") sometimes marks the return to spiritual life after reconversion. Most Hindu sects do not seek converts, as they believe that the goals of spiritual life can be attained through any religion, as long as it is practiced sincerely. However, some Hindu sects and affiliates such as 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...

, Saiva Siddhanta Church
Saiva Siddhanta Church
Śaiva Siddhanta Church is a spiritual institution and identifies itself with the Śaivite Hindu religion. It is based on the precepts of the Nandinatha Sampradaya, and traces its origins to a two thousand year-old lineage of the Kailāsa Paramparā Gurus.The Church was founded in 1949 by...

, BAPS
BAPS
Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha , often abbreviated as BAPS , is a major organization within the Swaminarayan sect of Hinduism...

, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
International Society for Krishna Consciousness
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness , known colloquially as the Hare Krishna movement, is a Gaudiya Vaishnava religious organization. It was founded in 1966 in New York City by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada...

, Bishnoi accept those who have a desire to follow Hinduism.

In general, Hindu view of religious freedom is not based on the freedom to proselytize, but the right to retain one's religion and not be subject to proselytization. Hindu leaders are advocating for changing the existing formulation of the freedom of religion clause in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

 since it favours religions which proselytize.

See also


Hinduism
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  • Atheism in Hinduism
    Atheism in Hinduism
    Atheism or disbelief in God or gods has been a historically propounded viewpoint in many of the orthodox and heterodox streams of Hindu philosophies...

  • Criticism of Hinduism
    Criticism of Hinduism
    Some aspects of practices committed by Hindus have been criticised, from both within the Hindu community and externally. Christian critics argue that Hindu philosophy and mythology is very complex and does not conform to normal Christian logic. Overt depiction of sexuality in Hindu idols, imagery...

  • Hindu
    Hindu
    Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

  • Hindu calendar
    Hindu calendar
    The hindu calendar used in ancient times has undergone many changes in the process of regionalization, and today there are several regional Indian calendars, as well as an Indian national calendar. Nepali calendar, Bengali calendar, Malayalam calendar, Tamil calendar, Telugu calendar, Kannada...

  • Hindu deities
    Hindu deities
    Within Hinduism a large number of personal gods are worshipped as murtis. These beings are either aspects of the supreme Brahman, Avatars of the supreme being, or significantly powerful entities known as devas. The exact nature of belief in regards to each deity varies between differing Hindu...


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  • Hindu 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...

  • Hindu mythology
    Hindu mythology
    Hindu religious literature is the large body of traditional narratives related to Hinduism, notably as contained in Sanskrit literature, such as the Sanskrit epics and the Puranas. As such, it is a subset of Nepali and Indian culture...

  • Hindu 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...

  • Hinduism by country
    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...

  • Jagran
    Jagran
    Jāgran or jāgrata is a Hindu religious holiday consisting of all night worship of the mother goddess Durga, where her devotees worship her all night by singing her praises and her prayers, normally led by a single person along with a chorus who acts as a lead in the singing of prayers.Usually this...


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{{Portal|Hinduism}}
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Related systems and religions
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  • Ayyavazhi
    Ayyavazhi
    Ayyavazhi is a dharmic belief system that originated in South India in the 19th century. It is cited as an independent monistic religion by several newspapers, government reports and academic researchers. In Indian censuses, however, the majority of its followers declare themselves as Hindus...

  • Ayyavazhi and Hinduism
    Ayyavazhi and Hinduism
    This is an article comparing the beliefs, mythology, theology, rituals etc. of Ayyavazhi and Hinduism. Though Ayyavazhi exists within Hinduism officially it functions autonomously....

  • 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...

  • Buddhism and Hinduism
    Buddhism and Hinduism
    The practices and goals of Buddhism and Hinduism have similarities and differences. The Theravada Buddhism is relatively conservative, and generally closest to the early form of Buddhism. The Mahayana and Vajrayana beliefs developed later...

  • Christianity and Hinduism
  • Eastern philosophy
    Eastern philosophy
    Eastern philosophy includes the various philosophies of Asia, including Chinese philosophy, Iranian philosophy, Japanese philosophy, Indian philosophy and Korean philosophy...


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  • Hellenism and Hinduism
  • Hindu 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...

  • Hinduism and other religions
    Hinduism and other religions
    In the field of comparative religion, some have sought to discover similarities between Hinduism and other religions.Hinduism has a history of co-existence with Buddhism and Jainism , and more recently, with Sikhism, within the Indian subcontinent...

  • Hinduism and Sikhism
  • Indian religions
  • Islam and Hinduism

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  • 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...

  • Proto-Indo-European religion
    Proto-Indo-European religion
    Proto-Indo-European religion is the hypothesized religion of the Proto-Indo-European peoples based on the existence of similarities among the deities, religious practices and mythologies of the Indo-European peoples. Reconstruction of the hypotheses below is based on linguistic evidence using the...

  • Proto-Indo-Iranian religion
  • 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...

  • Verhudtbrahma
    Verhudtbrahma
    Verhudtbrahma is the messenger-in-dream of the Hindu creator God Brahmaparameshwar of traditional Indian religions which endorse a plethora of so many different kinds of ideas...

  • Zoroastrianism
    Zoroastrianism
    Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...


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Hinduism in popular culture
  • Hinduism in Avatar (2009 film)


Other
  • United States military chaplain symbols
    United States military chaplain symbols
    Religious symbolism in the United States military includes the use of religious symbols for military chaplain insignia, uniforms, emblems, flags, and chapels; symbolic gestures, actions, and words used in military rituals and ceremonies; and religious symbols or designations used in areas such as...


External links


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