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Unlike most other religions, Hinduism has no single founder, no single scripture, and no commonly agreed set of teachings. Throughout its extensive history , there have been many key figures teaching different philosophies and writing numerous holy books.

For these reasons, writers often refer to Hinduism as 'a way of life' or 'a family of religions' rather than a single religion. The term 'Hindu' was derived from the river or river complex of the northwest, the Sindhu.

Sindhu is a Sanskrit word used by the inhabitants of the region, the Aryans in the second millennium BCE. Later migrants and invaders, the Persians in the sixth century BCE, the Greeks from the 4th century BCE, and the Muslims from the 8th century CE, used the name of this river in their own languages for the land and its people. The term 'Hindu' itself probably does not go back before the 15th and 16th centuries when it was used by people to differentiate themselves from followers of other traditions, especially the Muslims Yavannas , in Kashmir and Bengal.

At that time the term may have simply indicated groups united by certain cultural practices such as cremation of the dead and styles of cuisine. The 'ism' was added to 'Hindu' only in the 19th century in the context of British colonialism and missionary activity. The origins of the term 'hindu' are thus cultural, political and geographical. Now the term is widely accepted although any definition is subject to much debate. In some ways it is true to say that Hinduism is a religion of recent origin yet its roots and formation go back thousands of years.

Some claim that one is 'born a Hindu', but there are now many Hindus of non-Indian descent. Others claim that its core feature is belief in an impersonal Supreme , but important strands have long described and worshipped a personal God. From about the 4th century ce , Hinduism had a dominant presence in Southeast Asia , one that would last for more than 1, years.

Despite its global presence, however, it is best understood through its many distinctive regional manifestations. The term Hinduism became familiar as a designator of religious ideas and practices distinctive to India with the publication of books such as Hinduism by Sir Monier Monier-Williams, the notable Oxford scholar and author of an influential Sanskrit dictionary.

Gradually the distinction became primarily religious rather than ethnic, geographic, or cultural. Since the late 19th century, Hindus have reacted to the term Hinduism in several ways. Some have rejected it in favour of indigenous formulations. Finally, others, perhaps the majority, have simply accepted the term Hinduism or its analogues , especially hindu dharma Hindu moral and religious law , in various Indic languages.

Since the early 20th century, textbooks on Hinduism have been written by Hindus themselves, often under the rubric of sanatana dharma. These efforts at self-explanation add a new layer to an elaborate tradition of explaining practice and doctrine that dates to the 1st millennium bce. The roots of Hinduism can be traced back much farther—both textually, to the schools of commentary and debate preserved in epic and Vedic writings from the 2nd millennium bce , and visually, through artistic representations of yaksha s luminous spirits associated with specific locales and natural phenomena and naga s cobralike divinities , which were worshipped from about bce.

The roots of the tradition are also sometimes traced back to the female terra-cotta figurines found ubiquitously in excavations of sites associated with the Indus valley civilization and sometimes interpreted as goddesses. More strikingly than any other major religious community , Hindus accept—and indeed celebrate—the organic, multileveled, and sometimes pluralistic nature of their traditions.

These multiple perspectives enhance a broad view of religious truth rather than diminish it; hence, there is a strong tendency for contemporary Hindus to affirm that tolerance is the foremost religious virtue. On the other hand, even cosmopolitan Hindus living in a global environment recognize and value the fact that their religion has developed in the specific context of the Indian subcontinent. Such a tension between universalist and particularist impulses has long animated the Hindu tradition.

When Hindus speak of their religious identity as sanatana dharma , they emphasize its continuous, seemingly eternal sanatana existence and the fact that it describes a web of customs, obligations, traditions, and ideals dharma that far exceeds the Western tendency to think of religion primarily as a system of beliefs.

A common way in which English-speaking Hindus often distance themselves from that frame of mind is to insist that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. Across the sweep of Indian religious history, at least five elements have given shape to the Hindu religious tradition: These five elements, to adopt a typical Hindu metaphor , are understood as relating to one another as strands in an elaborate braid.

Moreover, each strand develops out of a history of conversation, elaboration, and challenge. Hence, in looking for what makes the tradition cohere, it is sometimes better to locate central points of tension than to expect clear agreements on Hindu thought and practice. Here several characteristic tensions appear.

One concerns the relationship between the divine and the world. Expand All Guide Sections. The Sutras The Buddhist canon consists of the Sutras: There are two kinds of Hindu texts: Dulcinea's Picks To learn about Hindu texts …. You can also find the online versions of some Hindu scriptures on the site. To access Hindu texts and commentary …. Look for English and Sanskrit versions of the Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas, in addition to the Mahabharata and Ramayana epics, some further texts and the Bhagavad Gita.

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Later Hindu law books written by Narada and Brihaspati about CE. The Satapatha Brahmana A primary source for Vedic-era mythology, philosophy and magical practices.

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

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The world's oldest scriptures and the longest epic poems are among the sacred texts of the Hindus. Here is a brief introduction to these basic scriptures. Collectively referred to as the Shastras, there are two types of sacred writings in the Hindu scriptures: Shruti (heard) and Smriti (memorized). Vedas: the Sacred Writings of Hinduism on Sri Deva Sthanam | What are the sacred writings of Hinduism? This question begs a more basic question, namely, what.

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Hindus value many sacred writings as opposed to one holy book. The primary texts, known as the Vedas, were composed around B.C. This collection of sacred verses and hymns was written in. An overview of the Hindu texts as well as access to their translation. The Vedas, or “Books of Knowledge,” are the foremost sacred texts in Hinduism.