Hinduism is an Indian religion and dharma, or way of life, widely practised in the Indian subcontinent and parts of Southeast Asia. Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, and some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal tradition", or the "eternal way", beyond human history. Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder. This "Hindu synthesis" started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE, after the end of the Vedic period (1500 BCE to 500 BCE), and flourished in the medieval period, with the decline of Buddhism in India.
Although Hinduism contains a broad range of philosophies, it is linked by shared concepts, recognisable rituals, cosmology, shared textual resources, and pilgrimage to sacred sites. Hindu texts are classified into Śruti ("heard") and Smṛti ("remembered"). These texts discuss theology, philosophy, mythology, Vedic yajna, Yoga, agamic rituals, and temple building, among other topics. Major scriptures include the Vedas and Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, and the Āgamas. Sources of authority and eternal truths in its texts play an important role, but there is also a strong Hindu tradition of questioning authority in order to deepen the understanding of these truths and to further develop the tradition.
is a well known Hindu
temple at Angkor
. The temple was built for king Suryavarman II
in the early 12th century
as his state temple and capital city. The largest and best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre—first Hindu
, then Buddhist
—since its foundation. The temple itself has become a symbol of Cambodia as it appears on its national flag
. The temple is also noted for being the country's prime tourist attraction. The temples style is an example of Khmer architecture
, or the Angkor Wat style.
Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple mountain and the later galleried temples. This style is designed to represent Mount Meru, which is the home of the gods in Hindu mythology. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west; scholars are divided as to the significance of this.
A wedding is the most extensive personal ritual an adult Hindu undertakes in his or her life. A typical Hindu wedding is solemnized before Vedic fire ritual (shown).
The Hindu deity Ganesha is sometimes linked to the symbol Om.
Swami Vivekananda was a key figure in introducing Vedanta and Yoga in Europe and the United States, raising interfaith awareness and making Hinduism a world religion.
Babur visits a Hindu temple.
Basic Hindu symbols: Shatkona, Padma, and Swastika.
AUM, a stylised letter of Devanagari script, used as a religious symbol in Hinduism
A Ganesha-centric Panchayatana ("five deities", from the Smarta tradition): Ganesha (centre) with Shiva (top left), Parvati (top right), Vishnu (bottom left) and Surya (bottom right). All these deities also have separate sects dedicated to them.
Hinduism – Percentage by country
The festival of lights, Diwali, is celebrated by Hindus all over the world.
A statue of Shiva in yogic meditation
A goshala or cow shelter at Guntur
was a Hindu
philosopher and theologian from India
. He is the most renowned exponent of the Advaita Vedanta
school of philosophy
, from whose doctrines some of the main currents of modern Indian thought are derived. His works in Sanskrit
discuss the unity of the Ātman
, the idea that there is interconnected oneness in all of existence, that eternal Truth is Ātman that is within every human being and all living beings. He wrote copious commentaries on the Vedic canon (Brahma Sutras
, Principal Upanishads
and Bhagavad Gita
) in support of his thesis. Shankara also authored Upadesasahasri
, his most important original philosophical work. His works elaborate on ideas found in the Upanishads. He also explained the key difference between Hinduism and Buddhism, stating that Hinduism asserts "Atman (Soul, Self) exists", while Buddhism asserts that there is "no Soul, no Self".
Adi Shankara died in the thirty third year of his life, and reliable information on his actual life is scanty. Various texts state that Shankara travelled extensively across the Indian subcontinent to propagate his philosophy through discourses and debates with other thinkers of competing Indian philosophies. He established the importance of monastic life as sanctioned in the Upanishads and Brahma Sutra, in a time when the Mīmāṃsā school established ritualism and ridiculed monasticism. He is reputed to have founded four mathas ("monasteries"), which helped in the historical development, revival and the spread of Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism. He is also credited with initiating the Kumbh Mela – one of the world's largest periodic religious pilgrimages.
Adi Shankara is believed to be the organiser of the Dashanami monastic order and the founder of the Shanmata tradition of worship. He is also known as Adi Shankaracharya.
The Hindu religion is the only one of the world's great faiths dedicated to the idea that the Cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an infinite, number of deaths and rebirths. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond, to those of modern scientific cosmology. Its cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of Brahma, 8.64 billion years long. Longer than the age of the Earth or the Sun and about half the time since the Big Bang. And there are much longer time scales still.
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