Hinduism

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Name Means

Persian hindu, Sanskrit sindhu, literally "river," meaning "of the Indus Valley" or "Indian." First used by British writers in the 19th century.

Adherents

1 billion

Beliefs

One Supreme Reality (Brahman) manifested in many gods and goddesses. Reincarnation based on karma.

Practices

Yoga, meditation, worship (puja), devotion to a god or goddess, pilgrimage to holy cities, live according to one's dharma (purpose/ role).

Main Holidays

Holi, Diwali, Mahashivaratri

Texts

Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, etc.

Symbols

lotus, swastika, trisula, om

There are an estimated 1 billion Hindus worldwide, making Hinduism the third largest religion after Christianity and Islam. About 80 percent of India's population regard themselves as Hindus and 30 million more Hindus live outside of India.

Hinduism has no founder or date of origin. The authors and dates of most Hindu sacred texts are unknown, although the oldest text (the Vedas) are estimated to date from as early as 1500 BCE. Scholars describe Hinduism as the product of religious development in India that spans nearly 4,000 years, making it perhaps the oldest surviving world religion.

The broad term "Hinduism" encompasses a wide variety of traditions, which are closely related and share common themes but do not constitute a unified set of beliefs or practices. Hinduism is not a homogeneous, organized system. Many Hindus are devoted followers of Shiva or Vishnu, whom they regard as the only true God, while others look inward to the divine Self (atman). But most recognize the existence of Brahman, the unifying principle and Supreme Reality behind all that is.

Most Hindus respect the authority of the Vedas (the oldest sacred texts) and the Brahmans (the priestly class), but some reject one of both of these authorities. Hindu religious life might take the form of devotion to God or gods, the duties of family life, or concentrated meditation. Given all this diversity, it is important to take care when generalizing about "Hinduism" or "Hindu beliefs."

The first sacred writings of Hinduism, which date to about 1500-1200 BCE, were primarily concerned with the ritual sacrifices associated with numerous gods who represented forces of nature. A more philosophical focus began to develop around 700 BCE, with the Upanishads and development of the Vedanta philosophy. Around 500 BCE, several new belief systems sprouted from Hinduism, most significantly Buddhism and Jainism.

In the 20th century, Hinduism began to gain popularity in the West. Its different worldview and its tolerance for diversity in belief made it an attractive alternative to traditional Western religion. Although there are relatively few western converts to Hinduism specifically, Hindu thought has influenced the West indirectly by way of religious movements like Hare Krishna and New Age, and even more so through the incorporation of Indian beliefs and practices (such as the chakra system and yoga) into health and spirituality.

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Books on Hinduism

Hand-selected books on Hinduism available for purchase at online bookstores.

Glossary of Hinduism

Definitions of terms related to Hinduism.

Hindu Beliefs

Hinduism embraces a diversity of beliefs, a fact that can be initially confusing to Westerners accustomed to creeds, confessions, and carefully-worded belief statements...

Brahman

Gods

karma (Hinduism)

Meaning of Life

Religious Authority

Hindu History

The history of Hinduism is unique among the world religions in that it has no founder or date of origin. While most major religions derive from new ideas taught by a charismatic leader, Hinduism is simply the religion of the people of India, which has gradually developed over four thousand years...

Hindu Holidays and Festivals

It has been said that Hindus have a holiday for every day of the year, but even that may be an understatement! Exactly how many Hindu festivals are celebrated is not known, but one scholar of Hinduism has listed more than a thousand different Hindu festivals...

Dewali

Holi

Mahashivaratri

Hindu Ritual Objects

This section explores the history, meaning and use of a variety of Hindu sacred objects, ritual items and other "things" that are found in Hindu art, ritual and daily life...

bindi

Shiva Linga

tilak

Hindu Rituals & Practices

The religious life of many Hindus is focused on devotion to God (perceived as Brahman, Shiva, Vishnu, or Shakti) or several gods. This devotion usually takes the form of rituals and practices associated with sculptures and images of gods in home shrines...

Ayurveda

Hatha Yoga

Hindu cow taboo

Hindu temple

Kundalini Yoga

Namaste

sadhu

Worship

Hindu Sacred Texts

The sacred texts of Hinduism fall into one of two categories: sruti ("heard") or smruti ("remembered"). Sruti scriptures are considered divinely inspired and fully authoritative for belief and practice, while smruti are recognized as the products of the minds of the great sages...

Darshanas

Itihasas

Sutras

Tantras

Vedas

Hindu Sects & Schools

Modern Hinduism is divided into four major devotional sects: Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. Vaishnavism and Shaivism are generally regarded as monotheistic sects: each believes in one supreme God, who is identified as Vishnu in Vaishnavism and Shiva in Shaivism...

Eckankar

Hare Krishna

Shaivism

Vaishnavism

Vedanta

Hindu Symbols

Symbols of Hinduism include the lotus, swastika, trisula, om, and more.

lotus

om

pratik

swastika

trisula

yantra

Hinduism FAQ

Ten common questions about Hinduism and brief answers from Hinduism Today magazine.

Timeline of Hinduism

The history of Hinduism at a glance.

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