Hinduism is the predominant religion of the Indian subcontinent with over 1 billion followers. Hinduism cannot be attributed to any single doctrine (or set of beliefs) and represents numerous traditions. Unlike other religions, Hinduism is a way of life, a Dharma (Sanatana Dharma), the law that governs all action.
Origin of Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma
The word “Hindu” or “Hinduism” is not mentioned anywhere in the Indian scriptures. The term “Hindu” was coined by foreigners most likely the Muslim traders and invaders who referred to people living across the river Sindhu (Indus) as “Hindus”. These foreigners declared Hinduism as a religion of Hindus, but truly before that there was no concept of religion in the Indian Subcontinent. But we did have a way of life called the “Sanatana Dharma” which roughly means the ‘Eternal Law’. And “Dharma” roughly translates to duty and responsibilities of an individual or code of life or law.
Hinduism or the Sanatana Dharma is formed of diverse traditions and can’t be traced to one single founder. Some scholars believe its roots lie in the historical Vedic religion of Iron Age India due to which it is often called the “oldest living religion” in the world. Some scholars believe that Hinduism must have existed even in circa 10000 B.C. and that the earliest of the Hindu scriptures – The Rig Veda – was composed well before 6500 B.C.
Key Concepts of the Sanatana Dharma
Hinduism or the Sanatana Dharma is a conglomeration of religious, philosophical, cultural ideas, traditions and practices that originated in India. It is characterized by the following prominent themes:
- Dharma (ethics and duties)
- Samsara (rebirth or belief in reincarnation)
- Karma (right action, the law of cause and effect and following the path of righteousness)
- Moksha (liberation from the cycle of births and deaths)
It also believes in truth, honesty, non-violence, celibacy, cleanliness, contentment, prayers, austerity, perseverance, penance and pious company. It has its own beliefs, traditions, advanced system of ethics, meaningful rituals, philosophy and theology. It is solely responsible for the creation of such original concepts and practices as Yoga, Ayurveda, Vastu, Jyotish, Yajna, Puja, Tantra, Vedanta, Karma, etc.
Hinduism or the Sanatana Dharma believes in only one supreme Absolute called “Brahman”. It doesn’t advocate the worship of any one particular deity. However, the Gods and Goddesses amount to millions, representing multiple aspects of the Brahman. The most fundamental of deities are the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – creator, preserver and destroyer respectively.