"Its chief mark consists in concentration on the spiritual aspect, belief in the intimate relationship of philosophy and life, the inseparability of theory and practice and the insistence on intuition coexisting with the acceptance of authority."
Source: The Gazetteer of India, Volume 1: Country and people. Delhi, Publications Division, Government of India, 1965.
Where and when did Hinduism begin?
Hinduism basically started with Sruti “that which is heard”. The master of vedic age called Rishis, heard eternal truths in their heart and they taught their disciples telepathically, by transfer of thoughts. Later Vedas and Upanishads were taught in chanted lyrics and they laid the foundation of Hinduism.
An exact date of when Hinduism actually stared cannot be quoted, but there are many theories regarding the birth of Hinduism-
Mythological Stories – Hindu mythological stories says that it is trillions of years old. Some say Hinduism started soon after ice age ended and some even say its origin is 6000-7000 years before Christ [6000-7000 B.C.].
Theologians View – Theologist like Max Muller of Germany traces Hinduism to have begun in 3rd Millennium B.C. He says nomadic tribes called Aryans came from Europe and settled on banks of rivers like Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra in India and started a “Thinking Process” later known as Hinduism. Other Hindu Theologians say that the early settlers of North India exchanged knowledge with dark colored people of South India called Dravidians and thus laid the foundation of Hinduism in India.
Archeological Evidence – Evidence found at Indus valley civilization at Mohanjodaro and Harappa dates Hinduism to have started 6000-7000 years before Christ and the discoveries raise the question that is Hinduism Pre Aryan or Non Aryan or Post Aryan?
Thus the origin of Hinduism is a mixture of contradictory ideas and thoughts. But we can say that whatever may be the origin of Hinduism it was a blend of Aryan, Dravidian, Mayan, Egyptian and Greek civilization.
Major events in the development of the history of Hinduism are –
The original name of Hinduism was Santana Dharma meaning “righteousness forever “of” that which has no beginning or end”. This name was given by Persians when they invaded India in 6th B.C.
For long periods of time there was no written Hindu scripture. It was just in the forms of Sruti [that which is heard] and was narrated by rishis to their disciples with careful sound of words. Later with coming of various civilizations in India, Hinduism became a blend of various ideas and thoughts and thus came to be known as “The thinking process”.
In the development process of Hinduism the Hindu scriptures play a very vital role. The scriptures are written in Sanskrit and are –
Rig Veda [Vedas of Hymns] consists of 1028 hymns to gods like Indra & Agni.
Yajur Veda [Vedas of Liturgy] concerns the knowledge of how to perform all rites and rituals.
Sama Veda [Vedas of Music] concerns the knowledge of chants.
Atharva Veda – This Veda contains the knowledge given by Sage Atharvana. It contains many magical charms and incantations.
The word Upanishad is composed of Upa [Near], Ni [Down] and Shad[To sit]. Upanishad is a teaching given by Guru [teacher] to his disciples and it is a rule that no one except the disciple could hear his guru’s teachings.
These are the backbones of Hinduism ethics and morality. They are basically the first lawgiver code books to Hinduism written by sages like Manus, Yatnavalka, Parasara and Gauthama. The earliest Dharma sutra is called “Code of Manu” and is popularly known as Manusmriti.
It is a collection of stories told by Vishnusharman to princes to teach them worldly affairs. Each story has a moral and is like a fable book in which human characters are replaced by animal characters. It teaches what exactly should be the course of action of a wise man.
It is the code of ethics for kings written by Kautilya of Maurya Dynasty. It consists of methods of spy system, how to deal with the enemy and various political and social subjects.
These describes the nature of Brahman in depth and is written by Sage Badarayana [Veda Vyasa].
These are a group of literature which deals with worship of god in many forms and they have their own set of rules and regulations for their devotee. These Agamas gave rise to 5 branches of Hinduism –