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History of Hindu Religion

Hinduism has no founder and therefore it is difficult to pinpoint a particular period as the beginning of Hindu religion. In reality the history of Hinduism is lost in the obscure misty millennia of ages past.1

It must be noted that the term ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hinduism’ is not found in any of the important ancient religious texts associated with Hinduism. The word ‘Hindu’ came into being with the arrival of Muslims invaders. They called the people who lived along the Sindhu River as ‘Hindu’ and the place ‘Hindustan.’ The term Hindu and Hinduism was first widely used by the British.

The Hindu word for religion is Dharma i.e one that holds society together from disruption and disintegration.2 So for a Hindu religion is ‘Sanatana Dharma’ – The eternal religion.

The earliest evidence of Hinduism is found in the Indus Valley civilization (3300–1700 BC). Several figurines unearthed from here are 3-faced indicating them to be the forerunner of Hindu trinity and some quite similar to Lingas – the worshipping form of Lord Shiva.

But it must be understood here that the cultural level and style of living of the people of Indus Valley Civilization was of the highest kind and it cannot be attained overnight. They might have attained such high level through steady progress over the years. So it would be right to say the earliest seed of Hinduism was laid hundreds of years before Indus valley civilization flourished.

Next controversy is regarding the arrival of Aryans which traditional historians say happened between (2000 – 1000 BC). This again is challenged by several scholars. Aryans were a nomadic people and they brought with them their forms of worship and integrated with those already existing. Aryans were mainly nature worshippers.

Another important factor the traditional historians ignore, when dealing with the History of Hinduism is the existence of Dravidians. The Dravidians had their form of worship which is quite similar to modern day Hinduism.

As we dig for the history of Hinduism it only adds to the existing confusion.

Most historians shy away from fixing a particular period mainly because their claims will be easily challenged by other scholars. Each and every theory regarding the origin of Hinduism has been challenged and it is an ongoing controversy.

Hinduism believes that everything is from ‘Brahman,’ which is without a beginning and end. And therefore it is futile to search for the origin.

1, 2 - A Concept of Hinduism (T.K.Mukundan, Published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan)