Hinduism is the world's third largest religion. It 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 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 the Upanishads, the Puranas, the Mahabharata, 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 spiritual concept found in Hinduism. In earliest ancient Sanskrit texts, it literally implies extraordinary power and wisdom. In later Vedic texts and modern literature, Māyā connotes "an illusion where things appear to be present but are not what they seem". It is "that which exists, but is constantly changing and thus is spiritually unreal", and the "power or the principle that conceals the true character of spiritual reality".
The term Maya of Hinduism is sometimes translated as 'illusion', but Maya does not concern normal illusion. In Hinduism, Maya or 'illusion' does not mean that the world is not real and simply a figment of the human imagination. Maya means that the world is not as it seems; the world that one experiences is misleading as far as its true nature is concerned. The true is that which never changes asserts Hinduism, it is the hidden essence and the pristine principles that drive change yet remain unchanged. Maya concept in Hinduism is often discussed with the concept of Atman (soul, self) and Brahman (cosmic soul, eternal universal). Maya is born, changes, evolves, dies with time, from circumstances, due to invisible principles of nature. Atman-Brahman is eternal, unchanging, invisible principle, unaffected absolute and resplendent consciousness. The universe, time and all life is viewed as a holistic expression of Māyā and Ātman in Hinduism.
The Hindu deity Ganesha is sometimes linked to the symbol Om.
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).
Basic Hindu symbols: Shatkona, Padma, and Swastika.
A statue of Shiva in yogic meditation
Hinduism – Percentage by country
AUM, a stylised letter of Devanagari script, used as a religious symbol in Hinduism
Babur visits a Hindu temple.
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.
A goshala or cow shelter at Guntur
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.
The festival of lights, Diwali, is celebrated by Hindus all over the world.
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.
agnim īļe purohitam|
yajñasya devam ŗtvijam|
English: "I praise Agni, the priest of the house, the divine ministrant of sacrifice, the invoker, the best bestower of treasure.
— Rig Veda
The first words of the first hymn.
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