Hinduism is the dominant religion[note 1] of the Indian subcontinent, particularly of India and Nepal, which consists of many diverse traditions. It includesShaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism among numerous other traditions, and a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions of "daily morality" based onkarma, dharma, and societal norms. Hinduism is a categorisation of distinct intellectual or philosophical points of view, rather than a rigid, common set of beliefs.
Hinduism has been called the "oldest religion" in the world,[note 2] and many practitioners refer to Hinduism as Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal law" or the "eternal way" beyond human origins. It prescribes the "eternal" duties all Hindus have to follow, regardless of class, caste, or sect, such as honesty, purity, and self-restraint.[web 1]
Western scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion[note 3] or synthesis[note 4] of various Indian cultures and traditions,[note 5] with diverse roots and no single founder. Among its roots are the Vedic religion of the late Vedic period and its emphasis on the status of Brahmans, but also the religions of the Indus Valley Civilisation, the Sramana or renouncer traditions of north-east India, and "popular or local traditions". This "Hindu synthesis" emerged around the beginning of the Common Era,[note 9] and co-existed for several centuries with Buddhism, to finally gain the upper hand in most royal circles during the 8th century CE.[note 10][web 2][note 11]
From northern India this "Hindu synthesis", and its societal divisions, spread to southern India and parts of Southeast Asia.[note 12][note 13][note 14]It was aided by the settlement of Brahmins on land granted by local rulers, the incorporation and assimilation of popular non-Vedic gods,[note 15] and the process of Sanskritisation, in which "people from many strata of society throughout the subcontinent tended to adapt their religious and social life to Brahmanic norms".[note 16]
Since the 19th century, under the dominance of western colonialism and Indology, when the term "Hinduism" came into broad use, Hinduism has re-asserted itself as a coherent and independent tradition. The popular understanding of Hinduism has been dominated by "Hindu modernism",[note 17] in which mysticism[note 18] and the unity of Hinduism have been emphasised. Hindutva ideology and Hindu politics emerged in the 20th century as a political force and a source for national identity in India.[note 19]
Hindu practices include daily rituals such as puja (worship) and recitations, annual festivals, and occasional pilgrimages. Select group of ascetics leave the common world and engage in lifelongascetic practices to achieve moksha.
Hindu texts are classified into Śruti ("revealed") and Smriti ("remembered"). These texts discuss theology, philosophy, mythology, Vedic yajna and agamic rituals and temple building, among other topics. Major scriptures include the Vedas, Upanishads (both Śruti), Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, Puranas, Manusmriti, and Agamas (all smriti).
Hinduism, with about one billion followers[web 3] is the world's third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam.
Courtesy : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism