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Hinduism: Origins Figures and Texts

Page history last edited by Brock Baker 12 years ago


Hinduism: Origins, Figures and Texts



     Hinduism is one of the oldest religions know to man. It is in the top three oldest along with Christianity and Islam. Around 800 million people are Hindu and around 80% of India is Hindu. Unlike other religions there is no founder or creed of Hinduism. There wasn't one person or group of people that founded it either. It developed over thousands of years and many religions and cultures formed it. There is also no exact date of origin. Hinduism is thought to have started back when an ancient civilization lived along the Indus River (in the Indus Valley). Evidence of early civilization dating back from around 3000-1700 BCE was found there by archaeologists in the 1920's. Mordern Hinduism was believed to begin around 1500-1200 BCE when the Aryans invaded these people in the Indus Valley (in North India) and introduced some of their gods and customs.


     Hinduism has many sects or branches that different people believe. It is know as a "community of religions"(6) because everbody might believe in something different but are still considered Hindu.  There are so many differences between the different Hindu's and what they believe. There is no certain belief that makes them Hindu. There are some central beliefs that most Hindus believe though, such as reincarnation and dharma. Reincarnation is the belief of rebirth and dharma is their code of conduct (eternal law) and their moral responsibility.


     The word "hindu" comes from the Persian word "sindhu" which means river. It was given this name because of the people who lived along the Indus River. The Persions changed "sindhu" to "hindu."  



 There are hundreds of gods and goddesses in Hinduism but Brahman Is known to some as the main god who takes form in all other gods and is the center of the religion. 


Brahman - Is the creator of the universe and is a univeral spirit. He can take many forms in all of the different gods in Hinduism but is thought by some people to be the only god or most important god in this religion. Brahman is know as Universal Soul, World Soul, or Ultimate reality and usually takes form in these gods:  

  • Brahma (creator)- Creates the universe again after each world cycle.   
  • Shiva (destroyer)- Takes life away so it can make it again.
  • Vishnu (protector or perserver) - Holds the universe together and keeps it in order.  Vishnu has many human forms.


          Brahma                       Shiva                            Vishnu


Mohandas Ghandi -  (1869-1948) Ghandi is the best known and was one of the most important Hindus in the world. He became a national leader and fought for India's independence from the British Empire's rule in India. He was against discrimination and oppression and used non-violent ways to make his opposition known.


Sacred Texts:

     All sacred texts in the Hindu religion are divided into two categories. The Shruti and Smriti.


Shruti - Shruti means what has been heard. It consists of the 4 Vedas and the Upanishads 

Smriti - Smriti means what is "remembered." it has been passed on by word of mouth. It consists of the Mahabharata, Puranas, Ramayana, and the Law of Manu.


Vedas (holy knowledge) - The 4 vedas were composed by the Aryans around 1700-1200 BCE. They are the oldest and most important of all sacred texts.

  • Rig Veda (praise) - The most important and best known veda. There are 1028 hymns for sacrificial worship to gods (contained in 10 books).  
  • Sama Veda - Many hymns put in a special order for worship. 
  • Yajur Veda - Instructions for a priest when he is sacraficing.
  • Atharva Veda - (most recent) Contains spells and magic incantations.


Upanishads - Are the end of each vedaand are teachings. Most upanishads are about the relationship between Brahman and yourself (individual soul - atman).


Mahabharata - The longest poem in the world and has around 100,000 verses. It is an epic poem about a war between two royal families. The sixth book of the Mahabharata is called the Bhagavad-Gita which means "the song of the Lord" and is thought to many to be the most important of all the sacred texts. Its about hard teachings in Hinduism that Hindu's can relate to.


Ramayana - Is another epic poem with 24,000 verses (in seven books). It is a story about Prince Rama who is human form of Vishnu.


Puranas - Puranas are stories about all the gods.


The Laws of Manu  - The Laws of Manu are law books for Hindus. Manu was said to be the first man. They contain instructions for Hindus on their social and moral responsibilities.


The Golden Rule:


"This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you" - Mahabharata 5:1517


     (1)Exploring World Religions, Oxford University Press, 2001

     (2)Illustrated Dictionary of Religions, Phillip Wilkinson, Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1999.

     (3)Religion, Myrtle Langley, DK Publishing Inc., 2005.

     (4)Religions, Alan Brown, Johan Rankin, Angela Wood, Longman Group limited, 1988.

     (5)World Beliefs and Cultures - Hinduism, Sue Penny, Heinemann Library, 2008.

     (6)World Religions, Franjo Terhart, Janina Schulze, Parragon Books Ltd, 2007


Take the Hindusim: Origins Quiz





Comments (2)

Jennifer said

at 9:17 pm on Sep 16, 2008

heather...ihave a lot of stuff on my page.

Jennifer said

at 8:47 pm on Sep 22, 2008

heather, are you done already?

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