History Of Hinduism

Get a glimpse of hinduism and its history.

The term religion comes from Latin word consisting of two Latin words, re(back) and ligare(to bind or bring).The absence of religion from the life of a man causes his existence to become like animal existence. All over the world people of all castes, colours, creeds, races and nationality have devised religion in some form or the other to give meaning and purpose to their lives. Hinduism however, is not just a religion. It is a way of life, a philosophy and a guiding principle. It is the faith primarily followed by the people in the Indian subcontinent. It is also the religion of Nepal, a small Himalayan kingdom bordering India. Of course there are people all over the world who believe in and follow the Hindu religion.

The exact origin of the Hindu religion has been a matter of dispute to date and several theories regarding its origin have been forwarded. However, it is generally believed that the Indus Valley civilisation flourished near the river Indus around 3200 B.C.-1600 B.C. They developed a religion that bore a close relationship to Hinduism. Later, this religion was influenced by the combined religious practices of the southern Dravidians and the Aryan invaders who arrived in the north of India around 1500 BC. The period from 1500B.C. to 1400 B.C. goes undocumented. However in the recent times this theory of Aryan invaders is being repeatedly challenged. It is being widely believed that the Indus valley civilization died a natural death. In fact if ever there was a war, it was between people of the same culture and not two different cultures. Edmund Leach a distinguished British anthropologist makes a clear rejection of the Aryan invasion theory and he has termed it a theory born out of European racism

Around 1000 BC, the Vedic scriptures were introduced, providing the first loose framework for the religion. Rig Veda was one of the first Vedas to be written. Hinduism today has a number of holy books, the most important being the four Vedas (divine knowledge), which are the foundation of Hindu philosophy. The Upanishads are contained within the Vedas and delve into the metaphysical nature of the universe and soul. After these are the Great epics Ramayana and Mahabharta. Several texts were also written including the "˜Manu smriti' and "˜srutis'. It has been through these epics and texts that the essence of Hindu religion unfolds

The origin of the term Hindu also has historical connotations. The part of the Aryan race that migrated from central Asia, through the mountain passes into India settled first in the districts near the river Sindhu, now called the Indus. The Persians pronounced the word Sindhu as Hindu, and named their Aryan brethren Hindus. Thus Hindu is only a corrupt form of Sindhu. According to Lokmanya Tilak one of the prominent Indian freedom fighters "A Hindu is one who believes that the Vedas contain self-evident and axiomatic truths" The word Hindu is a geographic rather than a religious term. Hindus call their religion Sanatana Dharma - 'Eternal law'.

It is based on the practice of Dharma, the code of life. Since Hinduism has no founder, anyone who practices Dharma can call himself a Hindu. Hinduism lays emphasis on direct Experience rather than on authority. The aim is not intellectual conformity to inherited doctrine, but one of attainment of knowledge. He can question the authority of any scripture, or even the existence of the Divine. Despite being the oldest religion, the truth realized by the seers prove that the Truth and path provided by Hinduism is beyond time. Its concern is with the absolute Truth, not with systems of belief. The absolute Truth is universal, and forever impersonal. No one has a proprietary claim to it.

There are numerous Gods and Goddesses worshipped by Hindus all over the World. In fact Hinduism perpetrates polytheism. Mark Twain had said, " India has two million gods, and worships them all. In religion all other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire." However there exist several tenets of this ancient religion that attract people towards it. As Hinduism is a way of life, it offers something for everyone, including the atheist. It has delighted its followers, with its richness, its antiquity and its depth. Hinduism is a religion that is doctrinally less clear cut than say Christianity, politically less determined than Islam. Hinduism is a philosophy that appeals to reason, love, tolerance, harmony, unity and truth. It prompts us to live life to the fullest, to achieve and realize our goals; In fact communalism has never been a feature of Hinduism.

The Rig Veda has declared the Ultimate Reality (God) as:

"Ekam sat vipraha, bahudha vadanti" (Sanskrit)

"Truth is one, the wise call it by various names"

Symbolism in Hinduism is sublime and profound. Each act of Hindu worship reflects some deep spiritual significance. Meditation that has gained immense popularity in the west requires the mind to be fixed on God. If god becomes formless then where does one fix the mind?

Today Hinduism in India to an extent is plagued by fanaticism but still its purity and its true followers uphold relevance. Hinduism has withstood the test of time. Brutal attempts to uproot its existence by the Afghan invaders proved futile as also the subtle attempts by the Christians. Annie Besant leader of Indian freedom movement and member of Indian National Congress said "After a study of some forty years and more of the great religions of the world, I find none so perfect, none so scientific, none so philosophical and no so spiritual that the great religion known by the name of Hinduism. Make no mistake, without Hinduism, India has no future. Hinduism is the soil in to which India's roots are stuck and torn out of that she will inevitably wither as a tree torn out from its place

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