India has the largest concentration of Hindu people in the world. The roots of Hinduism dates back to prehistoric times, more than 5000-6000 years back according to scholars and historians. It has withstood the onslaught of many religious beliefs and practices, brought by the innumerable invaders of India. It has continuously evolved in the course of time, assimilating many systems and beliefs into itself, thus becoming more strong and deep rooted in the psyche of the Hindu people. Some scholars do not consider Hinduism as a religion. According to them it is a concept, incorporating many religious thoughts and views.
Hinduism is also known as ‘Sanatana Dharma,’ which means eternal religion, truth or rule. It lacks a unified system of belief, encompassing various belief systems like monism, theism, monotheism, polytheism and pantheism. It believes in idol worship, reincarnation, 'karma', 'dharma' and 'moksha'. The fundamental Hindu deity is the trinity of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, who are the creator, preserver and destroyer respectively. Followers of these deities have formed their own sects namely Brahmanism, Vaishnavism and Shaivism. Other sects in Hindu religion include Tantrism and
Shaktism. Apart from the multitude of gods and goddesses, a Hindu also worships spirits, trees and animals.
Hinduism differs from other religions in many aspects. No particular person can be attributed for its establishment. Its concept is not based on a particular book. It does not have any central authority or institution. It does not propagate any particular thought or system and is open to different beliefs and traditions. A person following the Hindu religion is free to choose his/her path of salvation. Complete freedom is the striking aspect of this religion.
According to Historians the word ‘Hindu’ has been derived from the Indus River, which flows in the north of India. This river was known by the name ‘Sindhu’ in the ancient times. The Persian people who migrated to India called this river ‘Hindu’ instead and the people inhabiting around it as the ‘Hindus.’ The religion followed by these local people was thus named ‘Hindu.’ It is a common belief that the Aryans sowed the seeds of Hinduism around the year 2000 BC, when they settled along the banks of River Indus.
The foundation of Hinduism has been laid by the ancient sages and texts, with the associated philosophies. Sacred writings in Hindu religion are made up of ‘sruti’ (heard) and ‘smriti’ (memorized). The Vedas and Upanishads belong to the sruti literature, while the Bhagavad Gita, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana make up the ‘smriti’ literature.