What is Hinduism?

A Hindu is an adherent of the philosophies and scriptures of Hinduism , a set of religious, philosophical and cultural systems that originated in the Indian subcontinent. Due to the wide diversity in the beliefs, practices and traditions encompassed by Hinduism, there is no universally accepted definition on ‘who a Hindu is?' or even agreement on ‘whether Hinduism represents a religious, cultural or socio-political entity'. Many religions of the world like Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism etc have their origin attributed to one prophet or profounder. But, unlike other religions, the Hindu religion does not claim any one prophet; it does not worship any one God; it does not subscribe to any one dogma; it does not believe in any one philosophic concept; it does not follow any one set of religious rites or performances; in fact, it does not appear to satisfy the narrow traditional features of any religion or caste or creed. Thus, Hinduism is not just a religion, philosophy, culture, belief system but ‘a way of life' . It embraces the principle of ‘unity in diversity' for Indians .

Therefore, some scholars argue that the Hinduism is not a religion but rather a reunification of a diverse set of traditions and practices by ‘ rishis' (sages or saints) who constituted a unified system and arbitrarily labeled it as ‘Hinduism'. A commonly held view, though, is that while Hinduism contains both ‘uniting and dispersing tendencies', yet it has a common central thread of philosophical concepts (including dharma, moksha and samsara ), practices ( pooja, bhakti etc) and cultural traditions. These elements are originating or being codified within the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranic scriptures and epics ( Mahabharata and Ramayana) , which furnish an overall perspective of Hinduism..

Origin of Hinduism & Hindu

The word ‘ Hindu' is derived from Sanskrit word Sindhu . The word Hindu is in medieval Persian Hindo representing the ancient Avestan hendava (Sanskrit, saindhava ), a dweller on the Sindhu ( Indus ) River. Using the word Hindu for Sindhu , they referred to the people who lived near or across the Sindhu river and they called land further to Sindhu river as Hindostan (Hindu + stan = Hindustan, Modern Persian). Later, this became popular to the people around the world as Hinduism, which is a unified term for the vast variety of religious practices but having universal peace ingrained in it.

Scriptures of Hinduism

The major Hindu scriptures like Vedas , the Upanishads , and epics like Mahabharata and the Ramayana have been written in the ancient language of ‘Sanskrit' (which is commonly known as mother of majority of modern Indian languages). Hinduism has several important religious and philosophical works written in other ancient languages like Pali, Prakrit, and modern languages like Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Assamese, Punjabi, Gujarati, Oriya and Bengali etc. However, major literary works of Hinduism can be primarily found in two languages viz., Sanskrit and Tamil.

Interestingly, with the advancement of civilization & with a noble objective of spreading the essence of Hinduism to the global community, many modern writings, interpretations, discourses, essays and analysis of Hindu religion and society, Indian way of holistic living as well as its greatest epics ( Mahabharata and Ramayana) and scriptures ( Vedas and Upanishads) are published in the English language. Sometimes, some scholars have referred these together as ‘Eastern philosophy', while they generally refer to Christian principles as ‘Western philosophy'.