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Hinduism () is an or , a religious and universal order or way of life by which followers abide. The word Hindu is an , and while Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, it has also been described as sanātana dharma (lit='the eternal dharma'), a modern usage, based on the belief that its origins lie beyond , as revealed in the . Another for Hinduism is Vaidika dharma.

Hinduism entails diverse systems of thought, marked by a range of shared concepts that discuss theology, , among other topics, in textual sources. The major Hindu denominations are , , , and the . The six Āstika schools of , which recognise the authority of the Vedas, are: , Yoga, , , Mimāmsā, and .

(2024). 9780852297605, Encyclopædia Britannica India.
(2024). 9780231149877, Columbia University Press.
Hindu texts have been classified into Śruti ("heard") and ("remembered"). The major Hindu scriptures are the , the , the , the , the , and the Āgamas.
(1992). 9780679410782, Penguin Random House. .
Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include (action, intent and consequences) and the four Puruṣārthas, proper goals or aims of human life, namely: (ethics/duties), (prosperity/work), (desires/passions) and (liberation/freedom from the passions and the cycle of death and rebirth).; see also . Hindu religious practices include devotion (), worship (puja), sacrificial rites (), and meditation (dhyāna) and .

While the puranic chronology presents a genealogy of thousands of years, starting with the Vedic , scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of Brahmanical orthopraxy with various Indian cultures, having diverse roots and no specific founder. This emerged after the Vedic period, between –200 and , in the period of the second urbanisation and the early classical period of Hinduism when the epics and the first Purānas were composed. It flourished in the , with the decline of Buddhism in India. Since the 19th century, , influenced by western culture, has also a great appeal to the west, most notably in the popularisation of yoga and various sects such as Transcendental Meditation and the .

Hinduism is the world's third-largest religion, with approximately 1.2 billion followers, or 15% of the global population, known as . It is the most widely professed faith in India, Nepal, Mauritius, and in Bali, Indonesia. Significant numbers of Hindu communities are found in other countries of South Asia, in Southeast Asia, in the Caribbean, Middle East, North America, Europe, Oceania, Africa, and other regions.

(2024). 9781136367052, Routledge. .

The word Hindū is an , and is derived from the root Sindhu, believed to be the name of the in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent.

The Proto-Iranian sound change *s > h occurred between 850 and 600 BCE, according to .: "In Iranian languages, Proto-Iranian *s became h before a following vowel at a relatively late period, perhaps around 850–600 BCE." According to , "The actual term Hindu first occurs as a geographical term for the people who lived beyond the river Indus (Sanskrit: Sindhu)", more specifically in the 6th-century BCE inscription of (550–486 BCE). The term Hindu in these ancient records is a geographical term and did not refer to a religion. Thapar states that the word Hindu is found as heptahindu in – equivalent to Rigvedic sapta sindhu, while hndstn (pronounced Hindustan) is found in a inscription from the 3rd century CE, both of which refer to parts of northwestern South Asia.

(2024). 9780520242258, University of California Press. .
In Arabic texts, al-Hind referred to the land beyond the Indus: " Arab sources, al-Hind (the land beyond the Indus)." and therefore, all the people in that land were Hindus.: "Al-Hind was therefore a geographical identity and the Hindus were all the people who lived on this land." This Arabic term was itself taken from the pre-Islamic Persian term Hindū. By the 13th century, emerged as a popular alternative name of India, meaning the "land of Hindus".

Among the earliest known records of 'Hindu' with connotations of religion may be in the 7th-century CE Chinese text Record of the Western Regions by , and 14th-century Persian text Futuhu's-salatin by 'Abd al-Malik Isami. Some 16–18th century Gaudiya Vaishnava texts mention Hindu and Hindu dharma to distinguish from Muslims without positively defining these terms. In the 18th century, the European merchants and colonists began to refer to the followers of collectively as Hindus.

(2024). 9783931479497, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag.
The use of the English term "Hinduism" to describe a collection of practices and beliefs is a fairly recent construction. The term Hinduism was first used by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in 1816–17. By the 1840s, the term "Hinduism" was used by those Indians who opposed British colonialism, and who wanted to distinguish themselves from Muslims and Christians. Before the British began to categorise communities strictly by religion, Indians generally did not define themselves exclusively through their religious beliefs; instead identities were largely segmented on the basis of locality, language, varna, jāti, occupation, and sect.

"Hinduism" is an umbrella-term,Lochtefeld, Illustrated Encyclopedia of HinduismFlood (2022), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Hinduism, p.339 referring to a broad range of sometimes opposite and often competitive traditions. The term "Hinduism" was coined in Western ethnography in the 18th century and refers to the fusion, or synthesis, of various Indian cultures and traditions,; ; with diverse roots and no founder. This emerged after the Vedic period, between –200 BCE and , in the period of the Second Urbanisation and the early classical period of Hinduism, when the epics and the first Puranas were composed. It flourished in the , with the decline of Buddhism in India. Hinduism's tolerance to variations in belief and its broad range of traditions make it difficult to define as a religion according to traditional Western conceptions.

Hinduism includes a diversity of ideas on spirituality and traditions; Hindus can be , , , , , , , , or . Quote: "... one need not be religious in the minimal sense described to be accepted as a Hindu by Hindus, or describe oneself perfectly validly as Hindu. One may be polytheistic or monotheistic, monistic or pantheistic, henotheistic, panentheistic, pandeistic, even an agnostic, humanist or atheist, and still be considered a Hindu."

(2024). 9780123695031, Academic Press.
According to , "a man may not believe in God and still call himself a Hindu".MK Gandhi, The Essence of Hinduism , Editor: VB Kher, Navajivan Publishing, see page 3 According to , "ideas about all the major issues of faith and lifestyle – vegetarianism, nonviolence, belief in rebirth, even caste – are subjects of debate, not ."

Because of the wide range of traditions and ideas covered by the term Hinduism, arriving at a comprehensive definition is difficult. The religion "defies our desire to define and categorize it". Hinduism has been variously defined as a religion, a religious tradition, a set of religious beliefs, and "a way of life". From a Western lexical standpoint, Hinduism, like other faiths, is appropriately referred to as a religion. In India, the term dharma is preferred, which is broader than the Western term "religion".;

The study of India and its cultures and religions, and the definition of "Hinduism", has been shaped by the interests of colonialism and by Western notions of religion. Since the 1990s, those influences and its outcomes have been the topic of debate among scholars of Hinduism, and have also been taken over by critics of the Western view on India.

Hinduism as it is commonly known can be subdivided into a number of major currents. Of the historical division into six (philosophies), two schools, and Yoga, are currently the most prominent. The six āstika schools of Hindu philosophy, which recognise the authority of the Vedas are: , , Nyāya, , Mimāmsā, and Vedānta.

Classified by primary deity or deities, four major Hinduism modern currents are (Shiva), (Vishnu), (Devi) and (five deities treated as equals). Hinduism also accepts numerous divine beings, with many Hindus considering the deities to be aspects or manifestations of a single impersonal absolute or ultimate reality or God, while some Hindus maintain that a specific deity represents the supreme and various deities are lower manifestations of this supreme. Other notable characteristics include a belief in the existence of ātman (self), of one's ātman, and karma as well as a belief in dharma (duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and right way of living), although variation exists, with some not following these beliefs.

June McDaniel (2007) classifies Hinduism into six major kinds and numerous minor kinds, in order to understand the expression of emotions among the Hindus.June McDaniel "Hinduism", in

(2024). 9780195170214, Oxford University Press.
The major kinds, according to McDaniel are , based on local traditions and cults of local and is the oldest, non-literate system; Vedic Hinduism based on the earliest layers of the Vedas, traceable to the 2nd millennium BCE; Vedantic Hinduism based on the philosophy of the , including , emphasizing knowledge and wisdom; Yogic Hinduism, following the text of Yoga Sutras of Patanjali emphasizing introspective awareness; Dharmic Hinduism or "daily morality", which McDaniel states is stereotyped in some books as the "only form of Hindu religion with a belief in karma, cows and caste"; and or devotional Hinduism, where intense emotions are elaborately incorporated in the pursuit of the spiritual.

Michaels distinguishes three Hindu religions and four forms of Hindu religiosity. The three Hindu religions are "Brahmanic-Sanskritic Hinduism", "folk religions and tribal religions", and "founded religions". The four forms of Hindu religiosity are the classical "karma-marga", , , and "heroism", which is rooted in militaristic traditions. These militaristic traditions include Ramaism (the worship of a hero of epic literature, , believing him to be an incarnation of Vishnu) and parts of political Hinduism. "Heroism" is also called virya-marga. According to Michaels, one out of nine Hindu belongs by birth to one or both of the Brahmanic-Sanskritic Hinduism and Folk religion typology, whether practicing or non-practicing. He classifies most Hindus as belonging by choice to one of the "founded religions" such as Vaishnavism and Shaivism that are moksha-focussed and often de-emphasize (Brahmin) priestly authority yet incorporate ritual grammar of Brahmanic-Sanskritic Hinduism. He includes among "founded religions" , , Sikhism that are now distinct religions, movements such as and the Theosophical Society, as well as various "-isms" and new religious movements such as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and .

Inden states that the attempt to classify Hinduism by typology started in the imperial times, when proselytizing missionaries and colonial officials sought to understand and portray Hinduism from their interests. Hinduism was construed as emanating not from a reason of spirit but fantasy and creative imagination, not conceptual but symbolical, not ethical but emotive, not rational or spiritual but of cognitive mysticism. This stereotype followed and fit, states Inden, with the imperial imperatives of the era, providing the moral justification for the colonial project. From tribal Animism to Buddhism, everything was subsumed as part of Hinduism. The early reports set the tradition and scholarly premises for the typology of Hinduism, as well as the major assumptions and flawed presuppositions that have been at the foundation of . Hinduism, according to Inden, has been neither what imperial religionists stereotyped it to be, nor is it appropriate to equate Hinduism to be merely the monist pantheism and philosophical idealism of Advaita Vedanta.Ronald Inden (2001), Imagining India, Indiana University Press, , pp. 117–122, 127–130

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 and others, while not as central, still remain within the category. Based on this idea Gabriella Eichinger Ferro-Luzzi has developed a 'Prototype Theory approach' to the definition of Hinduism.

To its adherents, Hinduism is a traditional way of life.
(2024). 9780415221559, . .
Many practitioners refer to the "orthodox" form of Hinduism as , "the eternal law" or the "eternal way".; Hindus regard Hinduism to be thousands of years old. The Puranic chronology, as narrated in the , , and the , envisions a timeline of events related to Hinduism starting well before 3000 BCE. The word dharma is used here to mean similar to modern Indo-Aryan languages, rather than with its original Sanskrit meaning. All aspects of a Hindu life, namely acquiring wealth ( artha), fulfillment of desires ( kama), and attaining liberation ( moksha), are viewed here as part of "dharma", which encapsulates the "right way of living" and eternal harmonious principles in their fulfillment. The use of the term Sanātana Dharma for Hinduism is a modern usage, based on the belief that the origins of Hinduism lie beyond human history, as revealed in the .

Sanātana Dharma refers to "timeless, eternal set of truths" and this is how Hindus view the origins of their religion. It is viewed as those eternal truths and tradition with origins beyond human history, truths divinely revealed () in the – the most ancient of the world's scriptures. To many Hindus, Hinduism is a tradition that can be traced at least to the ancient Vedic era. The Western term "religion" to the extent it means "dogma and an institution traceable to a single founder" is inappropriate for their tradition, states Hatcher.

historically referred to the "eternal" duties religiously ordained in Hinduism, duties such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings ( ), purity, goodwill, mercy, patience, forbearance, self-restraint, generosity, and asceticism. These duties applied regardless of a Hindu's class, caste, or sect, and they contrasted with , one's "own duty", in accordance with one's class or caste ( varṇa) and stage in life (puruṣārtha). In recent years, the term has been used by Hindu leaders, reformers, and nationalists to refer to Hinduism. Sanatana dharma has become a synonym for the "eternal" truth and teachings of Hinduism, that transcend history and are "unchanging, indivisible and ultimately nonsectarian".

Vaidika dharma
Some have referred to Hinduism as the Vaidika dharma. The word 'Vaidika' in Sanskrit means 'derived from or conformable to the Veda' or 'relating to the Veda'. Traditional scholars employed the terms Vaidika and Avaidika, those who accept the Vedas as a source of authoritative knowledge and those who do not, to differentiate various Indian schools from Jainism, Buddhism and Charvaka. According to Klaus Klostermaier, the term Vaidika dharma is the earliest self-designation of Hinduism. According to , the historical evidence suggests that "the Hindus were referring to their religion by the term vaidika dharma or a variant thereof" by the 4th-century CE. According to Brian K. Smith, "it is 'debatable at the very least' as to whether the term Vaidika Dharma cannot, with the proper concessions to historical, cultural, and ideological specificity, be comparable to and translated as 'Hinduism' or 'Hindu religion'."

Whatever the case, many Hindu religious sources see persons or groups which they consider as non-Vedic (and which reject Vedic varṇāśrama – 'caste and life stage' orthodoxy) as being heretics (pāṣaṇḍa/pākhaṇḍa). For example, the considers Buddhists, Jains as well as some groups like the Paśupatas and to be pāṣaṇḍas (heretics).Valpey, Kenneth Russell; Gupta, Ravi Mohan (2013). The Bhāgavata Purāṇa, sacred text and living tradition, p. 146. Columbia University Press.

According to , the early Sanskrit texts differentiate between Vaidika, Vaishnava, Shaiva, Shakta, Saura, Buddhist and Jaina traditions. However, the late 1st-millennium CE Indic consensus had "indeed come to conceptualize a complex entity corresponding to Hinduism as opposed to Buddhism and Jainism excluding only certain forms of Shakta-Shaiva" from its fold. Some in the school of Hindu philosophy considered the Agamas such as the Pancaratrika to be invalid because it did not conform to the Vedas. Some Kashmiri scholars rejected the esoteric tantric traditions to be a part of Vaidika dharma. The Atimarga Shaivism ascetic tradition, datable to about 500 CE, challenged the Vaidika frame and insisted that their Agamas and practices were not only valid, they were superior than those of the Vaidikas. However, adds Sanderson, this Shaiva ascetic tradition viewed themselves as being genuinely true to the Vedic tradition and "held unanimously that the Śruti and Smṛti of Brahmanism are universally and uniquely valid in their own sphere, ... and that as such they Vedas are man's sole means of valid knowledge ...".

The term Vaidika dharma means a code of practice that is "based on the Vedas", but it is unclear what "based on the Vedas" really implies, states Julius Lipner. The Vaidika dharma or "Vedic way of life", states Lipner, does not mean "Hinduism is necessarily religious" or that Hindus have a universally accepted "conventional or institutional meaning" for that term. To many, it is as much a cultural term. Many Hindus do not have a copy of the Vedas nor have they ever seen or personally read parts of a Veda, like a Christian, might relate to the Bible or a Muslim might to the Quran. Yet, states Lipner, "this does not mean that their Hindus whole life's orientation cannot be traced to the Vedas or that it does not in some way derive from it".

Though many religious Hindus implicitly acknowledge the authority of the Vedas, this acknowledgment is often "no more than a declaration that someone considers himself or a Hindu," and "most Indians today pay lip service to the Veda and have no regard for the contents of the text."; see also ; and Some Hindus challenge the authority of the Vedas, thereby implicitly acknowledging its importance to the history of Hinduism, states Lipner.

Legal definition
Bal Gangadhar Tilak gave the following definition in Gita Rahasya (1915): "Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence; recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are diverse; and realization of the truth that the number of gods to be worshipped is large".Kohli Hari Dev (2010), Supreme Court On Hindu Law, p.251Ved P. Nanda (ed.)(2016), Compassion in the 4 Dharmic Traditions, p.71 It was quoted by the Indian Supreme Court in 1966, and again in 1995, "as an 'adequate and satisfactory definition,"Peter Beyer, Religions in Global Society and is, according to Doniger, "the still operative legal definition of a Hindu."

Diversity and unity

Hindu beliefs are vast and diverse, and thus Hinduism is often referred to as a family of religions rather than a single religion. Within each religion in this family of religions, there are different theologies, practices, and sacred texts. Hinduism does not have a "unified system of belief encoded in a declaration of faith or a ", but is rather an umbrella term comprising the plurality of religious phenomena of India. According to the Supreme Court of India,

Part of the problem with a single definition of the term Hinduism is the fact that Hinduism does not have a founder. It is a synthesis of various traditions,; the "Brahmanical orthopraxy, the renouncer traditions and popular or local traditions".

is also difficult to use as a unifying doctrine for Hinduism, because while some Hindu philosophies postulate a theistic of creation, other .

Sense of unity
Despite the differences, there is also a sense of unity. Most Hindu traditions revere a body of religious or , the Vedas, although there are exceptions. These texts are a reminder of the ancient cultural heritage and point of pride for Hindus,
(2024). 9780415600293, Routledge.
though stated that "even in the most orthodox domains, the reverence to the Vedas has come to be a simple raising of the hat".
(2024). 9780415635035, Routledge.

Halbfass states that, although Shaivism and Vaishnavism may be regarded as "self-contained religious constellations", there is a degree of interaction and reference between the "theoreticians and literary representatives" of each tradition that indicates the presence of "a wider sense of identity, a sense of coherence in a shared context and of inclusion in a common framework and horizon".

Classical Hinduism
played an essential role in the development of the post-Vedic Hindu synthesis, disseminating Vedic culture to local communities, and integrating local religiosity into the trans-regional Brahmanic culture. In the post- Vedanta developed in southern India, where and the Hindu culture were preserved, building on ancient Vedic traditions while "accommodating the multiple demands of Hinduism."

Medieval developments
The notion of common denominators for several religions and traditions of India further developed from the 12th century CE.; Lorenzen traces the emergence of a "family resemblance", and what he calls as "beginnings of medieval and modern Hinduism" taking shape, at c. 300–600 CE, with the development of the early Puranas, and continuities with the earlier Vedic religion. Lorenzen states that the establishment of a Hindu self-identity took place "through a process of mutual self-definition with a contrasting Muslim Other". According to Lorenzen, this "presence of the Other" is necessary to recognise the "loose family resemblance" among the various traditions and schools.

According to the Indologist , before Islam arrived in India, the "Sanskrit sources differentiated Vaidika, Vaiṣṇava, Śaiva, Śākta, Saura, Buddhist, and Jaina traditions, but they had no name that denotes the first five of these as a collective entity over and against Buddhism and Jainism". This absence of a formal name, states Sanderson, does not mean that the corresponding concept of Hinduism did not exist. By late 1st-millennium CE, the concept of a belief and tradition distinct from Buddhism and Jainism had emerged. This complex tradition accepted in its identity almost all of what is currently Hinduism, except certain tantric movements. Some conservative thinkers of those times questioned whether certain Shaiva, Vaishnava and Shakta texts or practices were consistent with the Vedas, or were invalid in their entirety. Moderates then, and most orthoprax scholars later, agreed that though there are some variations, the foundation of their beliefs, the ritual grammar, the spiritual premises, and the soteriologies were the same. "This sense of greater unity", states Sanderson, "came to be called Hinduism".

According to Nicholson, already between the 12th and the 16th centuries "certain thinkers began to treat as a single whole the diverse philosophical teachings of the Upanishads, epics, Puranas, and the schools known retrospectively as the 'six systems' ( saddarsana) of mainstream Hindu philosophy." The tendency of "a blurring of philosophical distinctions" has also been noted by . Hacker called this "inclusivism" and Michaels speaks of "the identificatory habit". Lorenzen locates the origins of a distinct Hindu identity in the interaction between Muslims and Hindus, and a process of "mutual self-definition with a contrasting Muslim other", which started well before 1800. Michaels notes:

Colonial views
The notion and reports on "Hinduism" as a "single world religious tradition" was also popularised by 19th-century proselytizing missionaries and European Indologists, roles sometimes served by the same person, who relied on texts preserved by Brahmins (priests) for their information of Indian religions, and animist observations that the missionary Orientalists presumed was Hinduism. These reports influenced perceptions about Hinduism. Scholars such as Pennington state that the colonial polemical reports led to fabricated stereotypes where Hinduism was mere mystic paganism devoted to the service of devils, while other scholars state that the colonial constructions influenced the belief that the Vedas, , and such texts were the essence of Hindu religiosity, and in the modern association of 'Hindu doctrine' with the schools of Vedanta (in particular Advaita Vedanta) as a paradigmatic example of Hinduism's mystical nature". Pennington, while concurring that the study of Hinduism as a world religion began in the colonial era, disagrees that Hinduism is a colonial European era invention. He states that the shared theology, common ritual grammar and way of life of those who identify themselves as Hindus is traceable to ancient times.

Hindu modernism and neo-Vedanta
This inclusivismHackel in . was further developed in the 19th and 20th centuries by Hindu reform movements and Neo-Vedanta, and has become characteristic of modern Hinduism.

Beginning in the 19th century, Indian modernists re-asserted Hinduism as a major asset of Indian civilisation, meanwhile "purifying" Hinduism from its Tantric elements and elevating the Vedic elements. Western stereotypes were reversed, emphasizing the universal aspects, and introducing modern approaches of social problems. This approach had great appeal, not only in India, but also in the west. Major representatives of are Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and .

Raja Rammohan Roy is known as the father of the Hindu Renaissance.

(2024). 9780761421160, Marshall Cavendish. .
He was a major influence on Swami Vivekananda, who, according to Flood, was "a figure of great importance in the development of a modern Hindu self-understanding and in formulating the West's view of Hinduism". Central to his philosophy is the idea that the divine exists in all beings, that all human beings can achieve union with this "innate divinity", and that seeing this divine as the essence of others will further love and social harmony. According to Vivekananda, there is an essential unity to Hinduism, which underlies the diversity of its many forms. According to Flood, Vivekananda's vision of Hinduism "is one generally accepted by most English-speaking middle-class Hindus today". Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan sought to reconcile western rationalism with Hinduism, "presenting Hinduism as an essentially rationalistic and humanistic religious experience".

This "Global Hinduism" has a worldwide appeal, transcending national boundaries and, according to Flood, "becoming a world religion alongside Christianity, Islam and Buddhism", both for the Hindu diaspora communities and for westerners who are attracted to non-western cultures and religions. It emphasizes universal spiritual values such as social justice, peace and "the spiritual transformation of humanity". It has developed partly due to "re-enculturation", or the , in which elements of Hindu culture have been exported to the West, gaining popularity there, and as a consequence also gained greater popularity in India. This globalization of Hindu culture brought "to the West teachings which have become an important cultural force in western societies, and which in turn have become an important cultural force in India, their place of origin".

Modern India and the world
The movement has extensively argued for the unity of Hinduism, dismissing the differences and regarding India as a Hindu-country since ancient times.
(1999). 9781400823055, Princeton University Press. .
And there are assumptions of political dominance of Hindu nationalism in , also known as 'Neo-Hindutva'. There have also been increase in pre-dominance of in , similar to that of . The scope of Hinduism is also increasing in the other parts of the world, due to the cultural influences such as and Hare Krishna movement by many missionaries organisations, especially by and this is also due to the migration of to the other nations of the world. Hinduism is growing fast in many western nations and in some African nations.

Main traditions

Hinduism has no central doctrinal authority and many practising Hindus do not claim to belong to any particular denomination or tradition. Four major denominations are, however, used in scholarly studies: Shaivism, Shaktism, Smartism, and Vaishnavism. These denominations differ primarily in the central deity worshipped, the traditions and the outlook.SS Kumar (2010), Bhakti – the Yoga of Love, LIT Verlag Münster, , pp. 35–36 The denominations of Hinduism, states Lipner, are unlike those found in major religions of the world, because Hindu denominations are fuzzy with individuals practicing more than one, and he suggests the term "Hindu polycentrism".

There are no census data available on demographic history or trends for the traditions within Hinduism. The global religious landscape: Hindus , Pew Research (2012) Estimates vary on the relative number of adherents in the different traditions of Hinduism. According to a 2010 estimate by Johnson and Grim, the Vaishnavism tradition is the largest group with about 641 million or 67.6% of Hindus, followed by Shaivism with 252 million or 26.6%, Shaktism with 30 million or 3.2% and other traditions including Neo-Hinduism and Reform Hinduism with 25 million or 2.6%.See also In contrast, according to Jones and Ryan, Shaivism is the largest tradition of Hinduism.

Vaishnavism is the devotional religious tradition that worships Vishnu and his avatars, particularly Krishna and Rama. The adherents of this sect are generally non-ascetic, monastic, oriented towards community events and devotionalism practices inspired by "intimate loving, joyous, playful" Krishna and other Vishnu avatars. These practices sometimes include community dancing, singing of and , with sound and music believed by some to have meditative and spiritual powers. Temple worship and festivals are typically elaborate in Vaishnavism.

(1998). 9780824049461, Routledge. .
The Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana, along with Vishnu-oriented Puranas provide its theistic foundations.

Shaivism is the tradition that focuses on Shiva. Shaivas are more attracted to ascetic individualism, and it has several sub-schools. Their practices include bhakti-style devotionalism, yet their beliefs lean towards nondual, monistic schools of Hinduism such as Advaita and Raja Yoga. Some Shaivas worship in temples, while others emphasize yoga, striving to be one with Shiva within. Avatars are uncommon, and some Shaivas visualize god as half male, half female, as a fusion of the male and female principles (). Shaivism is related to Shaktism, wherein Shakti is seen as spouse of Shiva. Community celebrations include festivals, and participation, with Vaishnavas, in pilgrimages such as the .James Lochtefeld (2010), God's Gateway: Identity and Meaning in a Hindu Pilgrimage Place, Oxford University Press, Shaivism has been more commonly practiced in the Himalayan north from Kashmir to Nepal, and in south India.

Shaktism focuses on goddess worship of Shakti or Devi as cosmic mother, and it is particularly common in northeastern and eastern states of India such as and . Devi is depicted as in gentler forms like , the consort of Shiva; or, as fierce warrior goddesses like and . Followers of Shaktism recognize Shakti as the power that underlies the male principle. Shaktism is also associated with practices. Community celebrations include festivals, some of which include processions and idol immersion into sea or other water bodies. History: Hans Koester (1929), The Indian Religion of the Goddess Shakti, Journal of the Siam Society, Vol 23, Part 1, pp. 1–18;
Modern practices: June McDaniel (2010), Goddesses in World Culture, Volume 1 (Editor: Patricia Monaghan), , Chapter 2

centers its worship simultaneously on all the major : Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti, Ganesha, and . The Smarta tradition developed during the (early) Classical Period of Hinduism around the beginning of the Common Era, when Hinduism emerged from the interaction between Brahmanism and local traditions. The Smarta tradition is aligned with Advaita Vedanta, and regards as its founder or reformer, who considered worship of God-with-attributes () as a journey towards ultimately realizing God-without-attributes (nirguna Brahman, Atman, Self-knowledge).

(1979). 9780195610796, Oxford University Press. .
The term Smartism is derived from Smriti texts of Hinduism, meaning those who remember the traditions in the texts.
(2024). 9780814794500, New York University Press.
This Hindu sect practices a philosophical Jnana yoga, scriptural studies, reflection, meditative path seeking an understanding of Self's oneness with God.
(1994). 9780195084894, Oxford University Press. .

Hinduism is traditionally a multi- or religion. On the Indian subcontinent, it is widespread among many Indo-Aryan, Dravidian and other South Asian ethnic groups, for example, the (Tibeto-Burman ethnicity in the northeastern Indian state ).

In addition, in antiquity and the , Hinduism was the in many Indianized kingdoms of Asia, the from Afghanistan () in the West and including almost all of in the East (, , , partly )and only by the 15th century was nearly everywhere supplanted by Buddhism and Islam, except several still Hindu minor Austronesian ethnic groups, such as the and Tenggerese people in Indonesia, and the in Vietnam. Also, a small community of the Afghan who migrated to India after partition remain committed to Hinduism.

The Indo-Aryan in Pakistan traditionally practice an indigenous religion which some authors characterise as a form of .

There are many new ethnic Ghanaian Hindus in Ghana, who have converted to Hinduism due to the works of Swami Ghanananda Saraswati and Hindu Monastery of Africa From the beginning of the 20th century, by the forces of Baba Premananda Bharati (1858–1914), Swami Vivekananda, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and other missionaries, Hinduism gained a certain distribution among the Western peoples.

The ancient scriptures of Hinduism are in Sanskrit. These texts are classified into two: Shruti and . Shruti is apauruṣeyā, "not made of a man" but revealed to the (seers), and regarded as having the highest authority, while the smriti are manmade and have secondary authority. They are the two highest sources of dharma, the other two being Śiṣṭa Āchāra/Sadāchara (conduct of noble people) and finally ("what is pleasing to oneself")

Hindu scriptures were composed, memorized and transmitted verbally, across generations, for many centuries before they were written down. Over many centuries, sages refined the teachings and expanded the Shruti and Smriti, as well as developed Shastras with epistemological and metaphysical theories of six classical schools of Hinduism.

Shruti (lit. that which is heard) primarily refers to the Vedas, which form the earliest record of the Hindu scriptures, and are regarded as eternal truths revealed to the ancient sages ( rishis). There are four Vedas, , and . Each Veda has been subclassified into four major text types – the (mantras and benedictions), the (text on rituals, ceremonies, sacrifices and symbolic-sacrifices), the (commentaries on rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices), and the (text discussing meditation, philosophy and spiritual knowledge).A Bhattacharya (2006), Hindu Dharma: Introduction to Scriptures and Theology, , pp. 8–14; George M. Williams (2003), Handbook of Hindu Mythology, Oxford University Press, , p. 285Jan Gonda (1975), Vedic Literature: (Saṃhitās and Brāhmaṇas), Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, The first two parts of the Vedas were subsequently called the (ritualistic portion), while the last two form the (knowledge portion, discussing spiritual insight and philosophical teachings).; "The Vedas are divided in two parts, the first is the karma-kanda, the ceremonial part, also (called) purva-kanda, and treats on ceremonies; the second part is the jnana kanda, the part which contains knowledge, also named uttara-kanda or posterior part, and unfolds the knowledge of Brahma or the universal Self."

(1998). 9780192822925, Oxford University Press.

The Upanishads are the foundation of Hindu philosophical thought, and have profoundly influenced diverse traditions.

(1993). 9780791410806, State University of New York Press.
Of the Shrutis (Vedic corpus), the Upanishads alone are widely influential among Hindus, considered scriptures par excellence of Hinduism, and their central ideas have continued to influence its thoughts and traditions.: "The Upanishads supply the basis of later Hindu philosophy; they alone of the Vedic corpus are widely known and quoted by most well-educated Hindus, and their central ideas have also become a part of the spiritual arsenal of rank-and-file Hindus." Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan states that the Upanishads have played a dominating role ever since their appearance.
(2024). 9788172231248, George Allen & Co.. .
There are 108 Muktikā Upanishads in Hinduism, of which between 10 and 13 are variously counted by scholars as Principal Upanishads.

The most notable of the Smritis ("remembered") are the Hindu epics and the . The epics consist of the and the . The is an integral part of the Mahabharata and one of the most popular sacred texts of Hinduism. Sarvopaniṣado gāvo, etc. ( Gītā Māhātmya 6). Gītā Dhyānam, cited in It is sometimes called Gitopanishad, then placed in the Shruti ("heard") category, being Upanishadic in content. The Puranas, which started to be composed from onward, contain extensive mythologies, and are central in the distribution of common themes of Hinduism through vivid narratives. The is a classical text for the Hindu Yoga tradition, which gained a renewed popularity in the 20th century.

(2024). 9780826487728, Continuum. .

Since the 19th-century Indian modernists have re-asserted the 'Aryan origins' of Hinduism, "purifying" Hinduism from its Tantric elements and elevating the Vedic elements. Hindu modernists like Vivekananda see the Vedas as the laws of the spiritual world, which would still exist even if they were not revealed to the sages.

are the religious scriptures which give prominence to the female energy of the deity that in her personified form has both gentle and fierce form. In Tantric tradition, , , and are worshipped symbolically as well as in their personified forms. The Agamas in Tantra refer to authoritative scriptures or the teachings of Shiva to Shakti, while Nigamas refers to the Vedas and the teachings of Shakti to Shiva. In Agamic schools of Hinduism, the Vedic literature and the Agamas are equally authoritative.

(1999). 9788876528187, Gregorian University and Biblical Press.
(1996). 9780521482349, Cambridge University Press. .

Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include (but are not restricted to) (ethics/duties), (the continuing cycle of entanglement in passions and the resulting birth, life, death, and rebirth), Karma (action, intent, and consequences), moksha (liberation from attachment and saṃsāra), and the various yogas (paths or practices). However, not all of these themes are found among the various different systems of Hindu beliefs. Beliefs in moksha or saṃsāra are absent in certain Hindu beliefs, and were also absent among early forms of Hinduism, which was characterized by a belief in an , with traces of this still being found among various Hindu beliefs, such as Śrāddha. once formed an integral part of Hindu beliefs and is today still found as an important element in various Folk Hindu streams.A.M. Boyer: Etude sur l'origine de la doctrine du samsara. Journal Asiatique, (1901), Volume 9, Issue 18, S. 451–453, 459–468Yuvraj Krishan: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1997,
(2024). 9781139469661, Cambridge University Press. .
(2024). 9783643904720, LIT Verlag Münster. .
(2024). 9780199896431, OUP USA. .

Purusharthas refers to the objectives of human life. Classical Hindu thought accepts four proper goals or aims of human life, known as Puruṣārthas – , , and .

Dharma (moral duties, righteousness, ethics)
Dharma is considered the foremost goal of a human being in Hinduism.
(1996). 9781896209302, Bayeux.
The concept of dharma includes behaviors that are considered to be in accord with , the order that makes life and universe possible, "Dharma" , The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions: "In Hinduism, dharma is a fundamental concept, referring to the order and custom which make life and a universe possible, and thus to the behaviours appropriate to the maintenance of that order." and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and "right way of living".
(2024). 9780787650155, Columbia University Press. .
Hindu dharma includes the religious duties, moral rights and duties of each individual, as well as behaviors that enable social order, right conduct, and those that are virtuous. Dharma is that which all existing beings must accept and respect to sustain harmony and order in the world. It is the pursuit and execution of one's nature and true calling, thus playing one's role in cosmic concert. The states it as:

In the , defines dharma as upholding 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.

(1986). 9780892132683, The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. .

Artha (the means or resources needed for a fulfilling life)
Artha is the virtuous pursuit of means, resources, assets, or livelihood, for the purpose of meeting obligations, economic prosperity, and to have a fulfilling life. It is inclusive of political life, diplomacy, and material well-being. The artha concept includes all "means of life", activities and resources that enables one to be in a state one wants to be in, wealth, career and financial security. The proper pursuit of artha is considered an important aim of human life in Hinduism.Bruce Sullivan (1997), Historical Dictionary of Hinduism, , pp. 29–30

A central premise of Hindu philosophy is that every person should live a joyous, pleasurable and fulfilling life, where every person's needs are acknowledged and fulfilled. A person's needs can only be fulfilled when sufficient means are available. Artha, then, is best described as the pursuit of the means necessary for a joyous, pleasurable and fulfilling life.John Koller, Puruṣārtha as Human Aims, Philosophy East and West, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Oct., 1968), pp. 315–319

Kāma (sensory, emotional and aesthetic pleasure)
Kāma (Sanskrit, : काम) means desire, wish, passion, longing, and pleasure of the , the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection and love, with or without sexual connotations.Monier Williams, काम, kāma Monier-Williams Sanskrit English Dictionary, p. 271, see 3rd column

In contemporary Indian literature kama is often used to refer to sexual desire, but in ancient Indian literature kāma is expansive and includes any kind of enjoyment and pleasure, such as pleasure deriving from the arts. The ancient Indian Epic the describes kama as any agreeable and desirable experience generated by the interaction of one or more of the five senses with anything associated with that sense, when in harmony with the other goals of human life (dharma, artha and moksha).R. Prasad (2008), History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, Volume 12, Part 1, , Chapter 10, particularly pp. 252–255

In Hinduism, kama is considered an essential and healthy goal of human life when pursued without sacrificing dharma, artha and moksha.See:

  • "The Hindu Kama Shastra Society" (1925), The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, University of Toronto Archives, pp. 8;
  • A. Sharma (1982), The Puruṣārthas: a study in Hindu axiology, Michigan State University, , pp. 9–12; See review by Frank Whaling in Numen, Vol. 31, 1 (July 1984), pp. 140–142;
  • A. Sharma (1999), "The Puruṣārthas: An Axiological Exploration of Hinduism" , The Journal of Religious Ethics, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Summer, 1999), pp. 223–256;
  • Chris Bartley (2001), Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy, Editor: Oliver Learman, , Routledge, Article on Purushartha, p. 443

Mokṣa (liberation, freedom from suffering)
Moksha (translit=mokṣa) or mukti (links=no) is the ultimate, most important goal in Hinduism. Moksha is a concept associated with liberation from sorrow, suffering, and for many theistic schools of Hinduism, liberation from (a birth-rebirth cycle). A release from this eschatological cycle in the afterlife is called moksha in theistic schools of Hinduism.
(1980). 9780520039230, University of California Press.

Due to the belief in Hinduism that the Atman is eternal, and the concept of (the cosmic self or cosmic consciousness),

(2024). 9781857431339, . .
death can be seen as insignificant in comparison to the eternal Atman or Purusha.
(1999). 9788876528187, Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana. .

Differing views on the nature of moksha
The meaning of moksha differs among the various Hindu schools of thought.

holds that upon attaining moksha a person knows their essence, or self, to be pure consciousness or the witness-consciousness and identifies it as identical to .

The followers of (dualistic) schools believe that in the afterlife moksha state, individual essences are distinct from Brahman but infinitesimally close, and after attaining moksha they expect to spend eternity in a (heaven).

More generally, in the theistic schools of Hinduism moksha is usually seen as liberation from saṃsāra, while for other schools, such as the monistic school, moksha happens during a person's lifetime and is a psychological concept.

(2024). 9788188683239, Abhijeet Publications. .

According to Deutsch, moksha is a transcendental consciousness of the perfect state of being, of self-realization, of freedom, and of "realizing the whole universe as the Self". Moksha when viewed as a psychological concept, suggests Klaus Klostermaier, implies a setting free of hitherto fettered faculties, a removing of obstacles to an unrestricted life, permitting a person to be more truly a person in the fullest sense. This concept presumes an unused human potential of creativity, compassion and understanding which had been previously blocked and shut out.

Due to these different views on the nature of moksha, the separates this into two views – (liberation in this life) and (liberation after death).

(1998). 9780791439043, . .

Karma and saṃsāra
Karma translates literally as action, work, or deed,
(1997). 9788120803008, Motilal Banarsidas. .
and also refers to a Vedic theory of "moral law of cause and effect".
(1991). 9780062507990, Harper. .
Karl Potter (1964), "The Naturalistic Principle of Karma", Philosophy East and West, Vol. 14, No. 1 (April 1964), pp. 39–49 The theory is a combination of (1) causality that may be ethical or non-ethical; (2) ethicization, that is good or bad actions have consequences; and (3) rebirth.Wendy D. O'Flaherty (1980), Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions, University of California Press, , pp. xi–xxv (Introduction) and 3–37 Karma theory is interpreted as explaining the present circumstances of an individual with reference to his or her actions in the past. These actions and their consequences may be in a person's current life, or, according to some schools of Hinduism, in past lives.Karl Potter (1980), in Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions (O'Flaherty, Editor), University of California Press, , pp. 241–267 This cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth is called saṃsāra. Liberation from saṃsāra through moksha is believed to ensure lasting happiness and peace.
(2024). 9781425482886, Kessinger Publishing.
(8th Printing 1993)
Hindu scriptures teach that the future is both a function of current human effort derived from free will and past human actions that set the circumstances.
(1986). 9780887062506, . .
The idea of , or saṃsāra, is not mentioned in the early layers of historical Hindu texts such as the Rigveda.
(1997). 9788120812338, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
The later layers of the Rigveda do mention ideas that suggest an approach towards the idea of rebirth, according to Ranade. According to Sayers, these earliest layers of Hindu literature show ancestor worship and rites such as sraddha (offering food to the ancestors). The later Vedic texts such as the Aranyakas and the Upanisads show a different soteriology based on reincarnation, they show little concern with ancestor rites, and they begin to philosophically interpret the earlier rituals.
(2024). 9780199896431, Oxford University Press. .
The idea of reincarnation and karma have roots in the of the late , predating the and the .
(2024). 9780199663835, Oxford University Press. .

Concept of God
Hinduism is a diverse system of thought with a wide variety of beliefs;
(1991). 9788120808997, Motilal Banarsidass. .
its concept of God is complex and depends upon each individual and the tradition and 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 ( Creation Hymn) of the is one of the earliest texts which "demonstrates a sense of metaphysical speculation" about what created the universe, the concept of god(s) and The One, and whether even The One knows how the universe came into being.; * Original Sanskrit: Rigveda 10.129 Wikisource;

  • Translation 1:
  • Translation 2:
  • Translation 3: The Rig Veda praises various , none superior nor inferior, in a henotheistic manner.
    The hymns repeatedly refer to . The "One Truth" of , in modern era scholarship, has been interpreted as monotheism, monism, as well as a deified Hidden Principles behind the great happenings and processes of nature.

Hindus believe that all living creatures have a Self. This true "Self" of every person, is called the ātman. The Self is believed to be eternal. According to the monistic/pantheistic (non-dualist) theologies of Hinduism (such as ), this Atman is indistinct from , the supreme spirit or . The goal of life, according to the , is to realise that is identical to , that the supreme Self is present in everything and everyone, all life is interconnected and there is oneness in all life.John Koller (2012), Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion (Editors: Chad Meister, Paul Copan), Routledge, , pp. 99–107Lance Nelson (1996), "Living liberation in Shankara and classical Advaita", in Living Liberation in Hindu Thought (Editors: Andrew O. Fort, Patricia Y. Mumme), State University of New York Press, , pp. 38–39, 59 (footnote 105) Dualistic schools ( and ) understand as a Supreme Being separate from individual Selfs.R Prasad (2009), ..A Historical-developmental Study of Classical Indian Philosophy of Morals , Concept Publishing, , pp. 345–347 They worship the Supreme Being variously as , , , or , depending upon the sect. God is called , , Parameshwara , Deva or '', and these terms have different meanings in different schools of Hinduism.

Hindu texts accept a polytheistic framework, but this is generally conceptualized as the divine essence or luminosity that gives vitality and animation to the inanimate natural substances. There is a divine in everything, human beings, animals, trees and rivers. It is observable in offerings to rivers, trees, tools of one's work, animals and birds, rising sun, friends and guests, teachers and parents.

(1988). 9780887066627, State University of New York Press. .
Taittiriya Upanishad Thirteen Principal Upanishads, Robert Hume (Translator), pp. 281–282;
Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, , pp. 229–231
It is the divine in these that makes each sacred and worthy of reverence, rather than them being sacred in and of themselves. This perception of divinity manifested in all things, as Buttimer and Wallin view it, makes the foundations of Hinduism quite distinct from , in which all things are themselves divine. The animistic premise sees multiplicity, and therefore an equality of ability to compete for power when it comes to man and man, man and animal, man and nature, etc. The view does not perceive this competition, equality of man to nature, or multiplicity so much as an overwhelming and interconnecting single divinity that unifies everyone and everything.
(1999). 9780792356516, Springer. .
(2024). 9780819222381, New York: Morehouse. .
(2024). 9781305888067, Cengage. .

The name celestial entities called Devas (or in feminine form), 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, architecture and through icons, and stories about them are related in the scriptures, particularly in Indian epic poetry and the . They are, however, often distinguished from , a personal god, with many Hindus worshipping in one of its particular manifestations as their , or chosen ideal. The choice is a matter of individual preference, and of regional and family traditions. The multitude of Devas are considered manifestations of Brahman.* . "Three gods or , , , and , and other deities are considered manifestations of and are worshipped as incarnations of ."

  • . "The members of various Hindu sects worship a dizzying number of specific deities and follow innumerable rituals in honor of specific gods. Because this is Hinduism, however, its practitioners see the profusion of forms and practices as expressions of the same unchanging reality. The panoply of deities is understood by believers as symbols for a single transcendent reality."
  • . "The devas are powerful spiritual beings, somewhat like angels in the West, who have certain functions in the cosmos and live immensely long lives. Certain devas, such as Ganesha, are regularly worshiped by the Hindu faithful. Note that, while Hindus believe in many devas, many are monotheistic to the extent that they will recognise only one Supreme Being, a God or Goddess who is the source and ruler of the devas."

The word does not appear in the ,

(1987). 9781349086429, Palgrave Macmillan. .
but appears in verb forms in post-Vedic literature, and as a noun particularly in the Puranic literature after the 6th century CE.
(1978). 9783447048606, Otto Harrassowitz.
Theologically, the reincarnation idea is most often associated with the avatars of Hindu god , though the idea has been applied to other deities.
(2024). 9780028657356, Thomson Gale.
Varying lists of avatars of Vishnu appear in Hindu scriptures, including the ten of the and the twenty-two avatars in the , though the latter adds that the incarnations of Vishnu are innumerable. The avatars of Vishnu are important in Vaishnavism theology. In the goddess-based , avatars of the are found and all goddesses are considered to be different aspects of the same
(2024). 9780195347135, Oxford University Press, USA. .
and (energy).
(2024). 9780520249141, University of California Press. .
(1998). 9788120815223, Motilal Banarsidass. .
While avatars of other deities such as and Shiva are also mentioned in medieval Hindu texts, this is minor and occasional."Shiva" in

Both theistic and atheistic ideas, for epistemological and metaphysical reasons, are profuse in different schools of Hinduism. The early school of Hinduism, for example, was non-theist/atheist,John Clayton (2010), Religions, Reasons and Gods: Essays in Cross-cultural Philosophy of Religion, Cambridge University Press, , page 150 but later school scholars argued that God exists and offered proofs using its theory of logic.Sharma, C. (1997). A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, , pp. 209–210 Other schools disagreed with Nyaya scholars. , Mimamsa: "For the Mimamsa the ultimate reality is nothing other than the eternal words of the Vedas. They did not accept the existence of a single supreme creator god, who might have composed the Veda. According to the Mimamsa, gods named in the Vedas have no existence apart from the mantras that speak their names. The power of the gods, then, is nothing other than the power of the mantras that name them." and schools of Hinduism, were non-theist/atheist, arguing that "God was an unnecessary metaphysical assumption". Sāṁkhyapravacana Sūtra I.92.

(2024). 9780791447789, SUNY Press. .
Its school started as another non-theistic tradition relying on naturalism and that all matter is eternal, but it later introduced the concept of a non-creator God.A Goel (1984), Indian philosophy: Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika and modern science, Sterling, , pp. 149–151Collins, Randall (2000), The sociology of philosophies, Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, , p. 836 The school of Hinduism accepted the concept of a "personal god" and left it to the Hindu to define his or her god.
(2024). 9780415648875, Routledge.
(2024). 9788120832329, Motilal Banarsidass.
(2024). 9780486417929, Dover.
Advaita Vedanta taught a monistic, abstract Self and Oneness in everything, with no room for gods or deity, a perspective that Mohanty calls, "spiritual, not religious".Knut Jacobsen (2008), Theory and Practice of Yoga: Essays in Honour of Gerald James Larson, Motilal Banarsidass, , pp. 77–78 Bhakti sub-schools of Vedanta taught a creator God that is distinct from each human being.

God in Hinduism is often represented, having both the feminine and masculine aspects. The notion of the feminine in deity is much more pronounced and is evident in the pairings of Shiva with Parvati (), accompanied by Lakshmi, with and with .

According to , Hinduism has the strongest presence of the divine feminine in world religion from ancient times to the present. The goddess is viewed as the heart of the most esoteric .

Authority and eternal truths play an important role in Hinduism.
(2024). 9780826499660, Continuum. .
Religious traditions and truths are believed to be contained in its sacred texts, which are accessed and taught by sages, gurus, saints or avatars. But there is also a strong tradition of the questioning of authority, internal debate and challenging of religious texts in Hinduism. The Hindus believe that this deepens the understanding of the eternal truths and further develops the tradition. Authority "was mediated through ... an intellectual culture that tended to develop ideas collaboratively, and according to the shared logic of natural reason." Narratives in the present characters questioning persons of authority. The repeatedly asks kena, 'by what' power something is the case. The and Bhagavad Gita present narratives where the student criticizes the teacher's inferior answers. In the , Shiva questions Vishnu and Brahma. Doubt plays a repeated role in the Mahabharata. 's presents criticism via .


Most Hindus observe religious rituals at home.. "rituals daily prescribe routine" The rituals vary greatly among regions, villages, and individuals. They are not mandatory in Hinduism. The nature and place of rituals is an individual's choice. Some devout Hindus perform daily rituals 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 bhajans (devotional hymns), yoga, , chanting mantras and others.

Vedic rituals of fire-oblation ( ) and chanting of Vedic hymns are observed on special occasions, such as a Hindu wedding. Other major life-stage events, such as rituals after death, include the yajña and chanting of Vedic .

The words of the mantras are "themselves sacred," and "do not constitute ." Instead, as Klostermaier notes, in their application in Vedic rituals they become magical sounds, "means to an end." In the Brahmanical perspective, the sounds have their own meaning, mantras are considered "primordial rhythms of creation", preceding the forms to which they refer. By reciting them the cosmos is regenerated, "by enlivening and nourishing the forms of creation at their base. As long as the purity of the sounds is preserved, the recitation of the mantras will be efficacious, irrespective of whether their discursive meaning is understood by human beings."

Sādhanā is derived from the root "sādh-", meaning "to accomplish", and denotes a means for the realization of spiritual goals. Although different denominations of Hinduism have their own particular notions of sādhana, they share the feature of liberation from bondage. They differ on what causes bondage, how one can become free of that bondage, and who or what can lead one on that path.NK Brahma, Philosophy of Hindu Sādhanā, , pp. ix–x

Life-cycle rites of passage
Major life stage milestones are celebrated as sanskara ( saṃskāra, rites of passage) in Hinduism.
(1969). 9788120804340, Motilal Banarsidass.
(2024). 9780199397693, Oxford University Press.
The rites of passage are not mandatory, and vary in details by gender, community and regionally. Gautama composed in about the middle of 1st millennium BCE lists 48 sanskaras, while Gryhasutra and other texts composed centuries later list between 12 and 16 sanskaras.
(2024). 9780813540689, Rutgers University Press.
The list of sanskaras in Hinduism include both external rituals such as those marking a baby's birth and a baby's name giving ceremony, as well as inner rites of resolutions and ethics such as compassion towards all living beings and positive attitude.
(2024). 9780199555376, Oxford University Press.

The major traditional rites of passage in Hinduism include (pregnancy), (rite before the fetus begins moving and kicking in womb), (parting of pregnant woman's hair, baby shower), Jatakarman (rite celebrating the new born baby), Namakarana (naming the child), Nishkramana (baby's first outing from home into the world), Annaprashana (baby's first feeding of solid food), Chudakarana (baby's first haircut, tonsure), Karnavedha (ear piercing), Vidyarambha (baby's start with knowledge), (entry into a school rite),For Vedic school, see: For music school, see:

(1999). 9780824049461, Routledge.
For sculpture, crafts and other professions, see:
(2024). 9780304707393, Bloomsbury Academic.
Keshanta and Ritusuddhi (first shave for boys, menarche for girls), (graduation ceremony), Vivaha (wedding), Vratas (fasting, spiritual studies) and (cremation for an adult, burial for a child). In contemporary times, there is regional variation among Hindus as to which of these sanskaras are observed; in some cases, additional regional rites of passage such as Śrāddha (ritual of feeding people after cremation) are practiced.

Bhakti (worship)
Bhakti refers to devotion, participation in and the love of a personal god or a representational god by a devotee.
(2024). 9780826499660, Bloomsbury. .
Bhakti-marga is considered in Hinduism to be one of many possible paths of spirituality and alternative means to moksha.; also see articles on karmamārga and jnanamārga The other paths, left to the choice of a Hindu, are Jnana-marga (path of knowledge), Karma-marga (path of works), Rāja-marga (path of contemplation and meditation).
(2024). 9781482819557, Partridge India.
(2024). 9788120802933, Motilal Banarsidass.

Bhakti is practiced in a number of ways, ranging from reciting mantras, (incantations), to individual private prayers in one's home shrine,

(2024). 9780300089059, Yale University Press. .
or in a temple before a or sacred image of a deity. and domestic altars, are important elements of worship in contemporary theistic Hinduism.
(2024). 9781135189785, Routledge. .
While many visit a temple on special occasions, most offer daily prayers at a domestic altar, typically a dedicated part of the home that includes sacred images of deities or gurus.

One form of daily worship is aarti, or "supplication", a ritual in which a flame is offered and "accompanied by a song of praise".

(2024). 9780198042204, Oxford University Press. .
Notable aartis include Om Jai Jagdish Hare, a prayer to , and Sukhakarta Dukhaharta, a prayer to .
(1995). 9788185026312, Marg Publications.
(2024). 9780520233829, University of California Press.
Aarti can be used to make offerings to entities ranging from deities to "human exemplars". For instance, Aarti is offered to , a devotee of God, in many temples, including Balaji temples, where the primary deity is an incarnation of .
(2024). 9780198042204, Oxford University Press. .
In Swaminarayan temples and home shrines, aarti is offered to , considered by followers to be supreme God.
(2024). 9781108421140, Cambridge University Press. .

Other personal and community practices include puja as well as aarti, kirtan, or bhajan, where devotional verses and hymns are read or poems are sung by a group of devotees.

(2024). 9780199940035, Oxford University Press.
While the choice of the deity is at the discretion of the Hindu, the most observed traditions of Hindu devotion include Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism.
(2024). 9781576079058, Abc-Clio. .
A Hindu may worship multiple deities, all as henotheistic manifestations of the same ultimate reality, cosmic spirit and absolute spiritual concept called Brahman. Bhakti-marga, states Pechelis, is more than ritual devotionalism, it includes practices and spiritual activities aimed at refining one's state of mind, knowing god, participating in god, and internalizing god.
(2024). 9780028657356, Thomson Gale.
While bhakti practices are popular and easily observable aspect of Hinduism, not all Hindus practice bhakti, or believe in god-with-attributes ( saguna Brahman).
(2024). 9781870345392, OCMS.

(1996). 9780802840974, Eerdmans Publishing. .
(2024). 9780415684996, Routledge.
Concurrent Hindu practices include a belief in god-without-attributes ( ), and god within oneself.
(2024). 9781138862647, Routledge.

(2024). 9781285197128, Cengage Learning.
(2024). 9788120819375, Motilal Banarsidass.

Hindu festivals (Sanskrit: Utsava; literally: "to lift higher") are ceremonies that weave individual and social life to dharma.
(2024). 9780742544635, Rowman & Littlefield.
Hinduism has many festivals throughout the year, where the dates are set by the lunisolar , many coinciding with either the full moon ( Holi) or the new moon ( Diwali), often with seasonal changes.
(2024). 9780700712670, Routledge.
Some festivals are found only regionally and they celebrate local traditions, while a few such as Holi and Diwali are pan-Hindu.
(2024). 9781902210438, Sussex Academic Press. .
The festivals typically celebrate events from Hinduism, connoting spiritual themes and celebrating aspects of human relationships such as the sister-brother bond over the Raksha Bandhan (or ) festival.
(2024). 9780852297605, Encyclopædia Britannica (India).
The same festival sometimes marks different stories depending on the Hindu denomination, and the celebrations incorporate regional themes, traditional agriculture, local arts, family get togethers, Puja rituals and feasts.
(2024). 9780700712670, Routledge.
(2024). 9781472511515, Bloomsbury Academic.

Some major regional or pan-Hindu festivals include:

Many adherents undertake , which have historically been an important part of Hinduism and remain so today. Pilgrimage sites are called Tirtha, Kshetra, Gopitha or Mahalaya. The process or journey associated with Tirtha is called Tirtha-yatra. According to the Hindu text , Tirtha are of three kinds: Jangam Tirtha is to a place movable of a , a , a ; Sthawar Tirtha is to a place immovable, like Benaras, Haridwar, Mount Kailash, holy rivers; while Manas Tirtha is to a place of mind of truth, charity, patience, compassion, soft speech, Self.
(2024). 9788189091095, Northern Book Centre. .
(1997). 9781850721901, Sessions Book Trust. .
Tīrtha-yatra is, states Knut A. Jacobsen, anything that has a salvific value to a Hindu, and includes pilgrimage sites such as mountains or forests or seashore or rivers or ponds, as well as virtues, actions, studies or state of mind.

Pilgrimage sites of Hinduism are mentioned in the epic Mahabharata and the . Most Puranas include large sections on Tirtha Mahatmya along with tourist guides,

(2024). 9780199718252, Oxford University Press. .
which describe sacred sites and places to visit. In these texts, (Benares, Kashi), , , , , , , , , , , , twelve and have been mentioned as particularly holy sites, along with geographies where major rivers meet ( sangam) or join the sea. is another major pilgrimage on the eve of the solar festival . This pilgrimage rotates at a gap of three years among four sites: at the confluence of the and rivers, near source of the , on the river and on the bank of the river. This is one of world's largest mass pilgrimage, with an estimated 40 to 100 million people attending the event.
At this event, they say a prayer to the sun and bathe in the river, a tradition attributed to . Some pilgrimages are part of a Vrata (vow), which a Hindu may make for a number of reasons. It may mark a special occasion, such as the birth of a baby, or as part of a rite of passage such as a baby's first haircut, or after healing from a sickness. It may, states Eck, also be the result of prayers answered. An alternative reason for Tirtha, for some Hindus, is to respect wishes or in memory of a beloved person after his or her death. This may include dispersing their cremation ashes in a Tirtha region in a stream, river or sea to honor the wishes of the dead. The journey to a Tirtha, assert some Hindu texts, helps one overcome the sorrow of the loss.

Other reasons for a Tirtha in Hinduism is to rejuvenate or gain spiritual merit by traveling to famed temples or bathe in rivers such as the Ganges.

(2024). 9780761853145, Rowman & Littlefield. .
Tirtha has been one of the recommended means of addressing remorse and to perform penance, for unintentional errors and intentional sins, in the Hindu tradition. The proper procedure for a pilgrimage is widely discussed in Hindu texts. The most accepted view is that the greatest austerity comes from traveling on foot, or part of the journey is on foot, and that the use of a conveyance is only acceptable if the pilgrimage is otherwise impossible.

The term "" refers to mean aspects of culture that pertain to the religion, such as and dress codes followed by the which is mainly can be inspired from the culture of India and Southeast Asia.


encompasses the artistic traditions and styles culturally connected to Hinduism and have a long history of religious association with Hindu scriptures, rituals and worship.

The Hindu calendar, Panchanga (पञ्चाङ्ग) or Panjika is one of various lunisolar calendars that are traditionally used in the Indian subcontinent and , with further regional variations for social and religious purposes. They adopt a similar underlying concept for timekeeping based on for solar cycle and adjustment of lunar cycles in every three years, but differ in their relative emphasis to moon cycle or the sun cycle and the names of months and when they consider the New Year to start. Of the various regional calendars, the most studied and known Hindu calendars are the (Based on the , also the Indian national calendar) found in the of Southern India and the (Bikrami) found in Nepal and the North and Central regions of – both of which emphasize the lunar cycle. Their new year starts in spring. In regions such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the solar cycle is emphasized and this is called the (though Tamil calendar uses month names like in Hindu Calendar) and Malayalam calendar and these have origins in the second half of the 1st millennium CE.
(2024). 9780691120485, Princeton University Press. .
A Hindu calendar is sometimes referred to as (पञ्चाङ्गम्), which is also known as in Eastern India.
(2024). 9780791470824, State University of New York Press. .

The ancient Hindu calendar conceptual design is also found in the , the , and the Babylonian calendar, but different from the Gregorian calendar.

(2024). 9780198745570, Oxford University Press. .
Unlike the Gregorian calendar which adds additional days to the month to adjust for the mismatch between twelve lunar cycles (354 lunar days)
(2024). 9780521235945, Cambridge University Press. .
, Quote: "the lunar year consists of 354 days".
and nearly 365 solar days, the Hindu calendar maintains the integrity of the lunar month, but inserts an extra full month, once every 32–33 months, to ensure that the festivals and crop-related rituals fall in the appropriate season.

The Hindu calendars have been in use in the Indian subcontinent since Vedic times, and remain in use by the all over the world, particularly to set Hindu festival dates. Early Buddhist communities of India adopted the ancient Vedic calendar, later Vikrami calendar and then local Buddhist calendars. Buddhist festivals continue to be scheduled according to a lunar system.

(2024). 9781583403754, BRB. .
The Buddhist calendar and the traditional lunisolar calendars of , , , and are also based on an older version of the Hindu calendar. Similarly, the ancient traditions have followed the same lunisolar system as the Hindu calendar for festivals, texts and inscriptions. However, the Buddhist and Jain timekeeping systems have attempted to use the Buddha and the Mahavira's lifetimes as their reference points.
(2024). 9780857713926, I.B.Tauris. .
(2024). 9780195132342, Oxford University Press. .
(2024). 9781400848058, Princeton University Press. .

The Hindu calendar is also important to the practice of Hindu astrology and zodiac system. It is also employed for observing the auspicious days of deities and occasions of fasting, such as .

Person and society

Hindu society has been categorised into four classes, called varṇas. They are the : teachers and priests; the : warriors and kings; the : farmers and merchants; and the : servants and labourers. The links the varṇa to an individual's duty ( svadharma), inborn nature ( svabhāva), and natural tendencies ( guṇa). The categorises the different castes. Some mobility and flexibility within the varṇas challenge allegations of social discrimination in the caste system, as has been pointed out by several sociologists, although some other scholars disagree.
(1994). 9780060674403, Harper Collins. .
Scholars debate whether the so-called caste system is part of Hinduism sanctioned by the scriptures or social custom. And various contemporary scholars have argued that the caste system was constructed by the .

A man of knowledge is usually called Varṇatita or "beyond all varṇas" in works. The bhiksu is advised to not bother about the caste of the family from which he begs his food. Scholars like affirm that not only is beyond all varṇas, the man who is identified with Him also transcends the distinctions and limitations of caste.

(1989). 9788120805743, Motilal Banarsidass. .

In whatever way a Hindu defines the goal of life, there are several methods (yogas) that have taught for reaching that goal. is a Hindu discipline which trains the body, mind, and consciousness for health, tranquility, and spiritual insight.
(1998). 9788176250399, Sarup & Sons.
Texts dedicated to include the , the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the and, as their philosophical and historical basis, the . is means, and the four major marga (paths) of Hinduism are: (the path of love and devotion), (the path of right action), Rāja Yoga (the path of meditation), and Jñāna Yoga (the path of wisdom) An individual may prefer one or some yogas over others, according to his or her inclination and understanding. Practice of one yoga does not exclude others. The modern practice of yoga as exercise (traditionally ) has a contested relationship with Hinduism.

Hinduism has a developed system of symbolism and iconography to represent the sacred in art, architecture, and worship. These symbols gain their meaning from the scriptures or cultural traditions. The syllable Om (which represents the and Atman) has grown to represent Hinduism itself, while other markings such as the Swastika sign represent auspiciousness, and (literally, seed) on forehead – considered to be the location of ,
(1987). 9780520045330, University of California Press.
marks ceremonious welcome, blessing or one's participation in a ritual or rite of passage.
(2024). 9781578086801, CRC Press.
Elaborate Tilaka with lines may also identify a devotee of a particular denomination. Flowers, birds, animals, instruments, symmetric drawings, objects, , idols are all part of symbolic iconography in Hinduism.
(1998). 9788120808782, Motilal Banarsidass.
(2004). 9781417950089, Kessinger.

Ahiṃsā and food customs
Hindus advocate the practice of () and respect for all life because divinity is believed to permeate all beings, including plants and non-human animals. The term appears in the , the epic For as one of the "emerging ethical and religious issues" in the see:
and is the first of the five (vows of self-restraint) in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.For text of Y.S. 2.29 and translation of as "vow of self-restraint", see:
(1961). 9788170592129, The Theosophical Publishing House.

In accordance with , many Hindus embrace to respect higher forms of life. Estimates of strict in (includes adherents of all religions) who never eat any meat, fish or eggs vary between 20% and 42%, while others are either less strict vegetarians or non-vegetarians.Surveys studying food habits of Indians include:

  • Those who eat meat seek (quick death) method of meat production, and dislike (slow bled death) method, believing that quick death method reduces suffering to the animal.
    (2024). 9781845932152, CABI.
    (2024). 9780195645828, Oxford University Press.
    The food habits vary with region, with Bengali Hindus and Hindus living in , or river delta regions, regularly eating meat and fish.
    (2024). 9788180690747, Concept Publishing Company.
    Some avoid meat on specific festivals or occasions.
    (2024). 9788170174158, Abhinav.
    (2024). 9780814795866, New York University Press.
    Observant Hindus who do eat meat almost always abstain from beef. Hinduism specifically considers to be sacred. The 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, selfless sacrifice, gentleness and tolerance.
There are many Hindu groups that have continued to abide by a strict diet in modern times. Some adhere to a diet that is devoid of meat, eggs, and seafood.
(2024). 9780521652797, Cambridge University Press. .
Food affects body, mind and spirit in Hindu beliefs.
(2024). 9780195422078, Oxford University Press. .
Hindu texts such as Śāṇḍilya Upanishad
(2024). 9781164026419, Kessinger Publishing.
and Svātmārāma
(1972). 9780520018426, University of California Press. .
recommend (eating in moderation) as one of the (virtuous Self restraints). The Bhagavad Gita links body and mind to food one consumes in verses 17.8 through 17.10.
(2024). 9781438428420, State University of New York Press. .

Some Hindus such as those belonging to the tradition,

(2024). 9781406789447, Read Books.
and Hindus in regions such as and
(2024). 9789793780009, Equinox Publishing (Asia).
practise animal sacrifice. The sacrificed animal is eaten as ritual food.
(2024). 9781444360059, John Wiley & Sons. .
In contrast, the Hindus abhor and vigorously oppose animal sacrifice., Quote: "It is well known that Vaishnavas abhor animal sacrifice. In this province, like nearly all Bengalis, they celebrate , but their ceremonies are bloodless". The principle of non-violence to animals has been so thoroughly adopted in Hinduism that animal sacrifice is uncommon, Quote: "The acceptance of the principle of non-violence has been so through that animal sacrifice among Hindus today is uncommon, and many Indians are of the opinion that such things as cow slaughter were never practiced in ancient India". and historically reduced to a vestigial marginal practice.
(2024). 9780313352560, ABC-CLIO. .


A is a house of god(s). It is a space and structure designed to bring human beings and gods together, infused with symbolism to express the ideas and beliefs of Hinduism. A temple incorporates all elements of Hindu cosmology, the highest spire or dome representing – reminder of the abode of Brahma and the center of spiritual universe, the carvings and iconography symbolically presenting , , , and . The layout, the motifs, the plan and the building process recite ancient rituals, geometric symbolisms, and reflect beliefs and values innate within various schools of Hinduism. Hindu temples are spiritual destinations for many Hindus (not all), as well as landmarks for arts, annual festivals, rite of passage rituals, and community celebrations.

Hindu temples come in many styles, diverse locations, deploy different construction methods and are adapted to different deities and regional beliefs.

(1990). 9788120807051, Motilal Banarsidass Publ..
Two major styles of Hindu temples include the style found in south India, and Nagara style found in north India. Other styles include cave, forest and mountain temples. Yet, despite their differences, almost all Hindu temples share certain common architectural principles, core ideas, symbolism and themes.

Many temples feature one or more idols (). The idol and Grabhgriya in the Brahma-pada (the center of the temple), under the main spire, serves as a focal point ( darsana, a sight) in a Hindu temple. In larger temples, the central space typically is surrounded by an ambulatory for the devotee to walk around and ritually circumambulate the (), the universal essence.

Traditionally the life of a Hindu is divided into four Āśramas (phases or life stages; another meaning includes monastery).
(1993). 9780195083279, Oxford University Press. .
The four ashramas are: (student), (householder), Vānaprastha (retired) and (renunciation).
(1999). 9788171566655, Atlantic Publishers & Dist.
Brahmacharya represents the bachelor student stage of life. Grihastha refers to the individual's married life, with the duties of maintaining a household, raising a family, educating one's children, and leading a family-centred and a dharmic social life. Grihastha stage starts with Hindu wedding, and has been considered the most important of all stages in sociological context, as Hindus in this stage not only pursued a virtuous life, they produced food and wealth that sustained people in other stages of life, as well as the offsprings that continued mankind. Vanaprastha is the retirement stage, where a person hands over household responsibilities to the next generation, took an advisory role, and gradually withdrew from the world.
(2024). 9789004146013, Brill Academic.
(2024). 9780195383430, Oxford University Press.
The Sannyasa stage marks renunciation and a state of disinterest and detachment from material life, generally without any meaningful property or home (ascetic state), and focused on Moksha, peace and simple spiritual life.
(2024). 9781441981097, Springer. .

The Ashramas system has been one facet of the dharma concept in Hinduism. Combined with four proper goals of human life (), the Ashramas system traditionally aimed at providing a Hindu with fulfilling life and spiritual liberation. While these stages are typically sequential, any person can enter Sannyasa (ascetic) stage and become an Ascetic at any time after the Brahmacharya stage.

(2024). 9780415215275, Routledge. .
Sannyasa is not religiously mandatory in Hinduism, and elderly people are free to live with their families.
(1993). 9780195344783, Oxford University Press.

Some Hindus choose to live a life (Sannyāsa) in pursuit of liberation (moksha) or another form of spiritual perfection.
(1996). 9781563381614, Bloomsbury Academic. .
Monastics commit themselves to a simple and celibate life, detached from material pursuits, of meditation and spiritual contemplation. A Hindu monk is called a , Sādhu, or Swāmi. A female renunciate is called a Sanyāsini. Renunciates receive high respect in Hindu society because of their simple -driven lifestyle and dedication to spiritual liberation (moksha) – believed to be the ultimate goal of life in Hinduism. Some monastics live in monasteries, while others wander from place to place, depending on donated food and charity for their needs.

Hinduism's varied history overlaps or coincides with the development of religion in the Indian subcontinent since the Iron Age, with some of its traditions tracing back to prehistoric religions such as those of the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilisation. Scholars regard Hinduism as a synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no single founder.

The history of Hinduism is often divided into periods of development. The first period is the pre-Vedic period, which includes the Indus Valley Civilization and local pre-historic religions, ending at about 1750 BCE. This period was followed in northern India by the Vedic period, which saw the introduction of the historical Vedic religion with the Indo-Aryan migrations, starting somewhere between 1900 BCE to 1400 BCE. The subsequent period, between 800 BCE and 200 BCE, is "a turning point between the Vedic religion and Hindu religions", and a formative period for Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. The Epic and Early Puranic period, from to 500 CE, saw the classical "Golden Age" of Hinduism (), which coincides with the . In this period the six branches of Hindu philosophy evolved, namely , Yoga, , , Mīmāṃsā, and . Monotheistic sects like and developed during this same period through the . The period from roughly 650 to 1100 CE forms the late Classical period or early Middle Ages, in which classical Puranic Hinduism is established, and 's influential consolidation of .

Hinduism under both Hindu and Islamic rulers from ,Blackwell's History of India; Stein 2010, page 107Some Aspects of Muslim Administration, R.P.Tripathi, 1956, p. 24 saw the increasing prominence of the Bhakti movement, which remains influential today. Historic persecutions of happened under Muslim rulers

(1999). 9788186471722, Aditya Prakashan.
and also by Christian Missionaries.
(1992). 9780836427530, South Asia Books.
In , the by is also considered one of the most brutal persecutions of Hindus.
(1994). 9788170224976, Concept Publishing Company. .
The saw the emergence of various Hindu reform movements partly inspired by western movements, such as and Theosophy. In the Kingdom of Nepal, the Unification of Nepal by was accompanied by the Hinduization of the and continued till the . Https:// 56">
(1988). 9788185119397, Northern Book Centre. .
were hired as plantation labourers in such as , , Trinidad and Tobago.
(2024). 9780195391640, Oxford University Press. .
The Partition of India in 1947 was along religious lines, with the emerging with a Hindu majority. Between 200,000 and one million people, including both Muslims and Hindus, were killed during the Partition of India. During the 20th century, due to the , Hindu minorities have formed in all continents, with the largest communities in absolute numbers in the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Although religious conversion from and to Hinduism has been a controversial and debated subject in India, Nepal,

(2024). 9780195979114, Harvard University Press. .
and in Indonesia, in the 20th–21st century, many missionary organizations such as , Sathya Sai Organization, have been influential in spreading the core culture of Hinduism outside India. Religious leaders of some Hindu reform movements such as the launched Shuddhi movement to proselytize and reconvert Muslims and Christians back to Hinduism,
(2024). 9780199995448, Oxford University Press. .
(1987). 9780887065729, SUNY Press.
while those such as the suggested Hinduism to be a non-missionary religion. All these sects of Hinduism have welcomed new members to their group, while other leaders of Hinduism's diverse schools have stated that given the intensive proselytization activities from missionary Islam and Christianity, this "there is no such thing as proselytism in Hinduism" view must be re-examined.
(1998). 9780691058993, Princeton University Press.
There have also been an increase of in politics, mostly in , and in the form of .
(2024). 9788171675197, Rupa & Company. .
The revivalist movement was mainly started and encouraged by many organisations like RSS, and other organisations of in India, while there are also many Hindu nationalist parties and organisations such as and RPP in , in , etc.
(2024). 9788180698132, Concept Publishing Company. .
Https:// 56" /> In September 2021, the State of New Jersey aligned with the World Hindu Council to declare October as Hindu Heritage Month.

Hinduism is a major religion in India. Hinduism was followed by around 80% of the country's population of 1.21 billion (2011 census) (966 million adherents). India contains 94% of the global Hindu population. Other significant populations are found in Nepal (23 million), Bangladesh (13 million) and the Indonesian island of (3.9 million). A significant population of Hindus are also present in Pakistan (4 million). The majority of the Indonesian Tenggerese people in and the Vietnamese also follow Hinduism, with the largest proportion of the Chams in Ninh Thuận Province. Hinduism is the third fastest-growing religion in the world after and , with a predicted growth rate of 34% between 2010 and 2050.

Countries with the greatest proportion of Hindus:

  1. 81.3%
  2. 80.0%
  3. 48.5%
  4. 28.4%
  5. 27.9%
  6. 22.6%
  7. 22.3%
  8. 18.2%
  9. 13.8%
  10. 12.6%
  11. 9.8%.
  12. 7.5%
  13. 6.8%
  14. 6.6%
  15. 6.3%
  16. 6%
  17. 5.5%
  18. 5%
  19. 3.86%
  20. 2.7%
  21. 2.62%
  22. 2.4%
  23. 2.14%

Demographically, Hinduism is the world's third largest religion, after and .

(2024). 9781498225373, Wipf and Stock Publishers.

+ Demographics of major traditions within Hinduism (World Religion Database, )
Reform Hinduism5,200,0000.50.1GrowingGrowing

See also

Related systems and religions


For references on specific authors or topics, please see the relevant article.

Printed sources
  • (2024). 9780300062175, Oxford University Press (Republ. by Motilal Banarsidass). .

  • (1998). 9783900271329, Institut für Indologie der Universität Wien.

Web sources

Further reading
    • Vol. 1: Regions, Pilgrimage, Deities (2009).
    • Vol. 2: Sacred Languages, Ritual Traditions, Arts, Concepts (2010).
    • Vol. 3: Society, Religious Professionals, Religious Communities, Philosophies (2011).
    • Vol. 4: Historical Perspectives, Poets/Teachers/Saints, Relation to Other Religions and Traditions, Hinduism and Contemporary Issues (2012).
    • Vol. 5: Symbolism, Diaspora, Modern Groups and Teachers (2013).
    • Vol. 6: Indices (2015).
  • Ongoing monographic series project.
  • (1997). 9780700710492, Curzon Press.



Philosophy and theology


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