Hinduism is referred to as Santana Dharma or the eternal spiritual path. It began in India, around four thousand years ago. Aryans, which means noble people, believed in this religion, philosophy and customs. All these have been recorded as sacred texts called the Vedas. The texts were handed over to disciples as a word of mouth in the beginning. They were written down much later by sages. According to archaeological evidence, Hinduism is the oldest living religion in the world today. The Indus Valley Civilization that flourished in Northwestern India helped to establish the religion.
More than one billion Hindus live across the world today. The Vedas hold the fundamentals of the belief system of Hinduism. It lays the foundation for all the various sects of the religion. These Vedas are also called Upanishads. The Upanishads were developed by various sages who meditated and discovered the truth and realities in life. They made several rules that a Hindu should follow to lead a good life. The rules have been divided into dharma and adharma which means the good and bad. These Vedas are very complicated and highly developed ideas. The Vedas have been divided into sruti and smriti. Sruti means heard and smriti means memorized. They were passed down for several generations.
Because the teachings were passed down orally in the beginning, there is disagreement among people on the inclusions in the Vedas. According to some people, Vedas means a collection of hymns that were meant for the Aryan gods. Others believe that it is an entire scripture that includes the hymns and the later inclusions of sages, and Brahmanas.
The exact timeline when the Vedas were written is not known. Some scholars believe that they could have been written ion 2000 B.C.E before the Aryans came and were continually developed in the 6th century. Some other estimates suggest that the Vedas could have been written in some time between 1500 and 400 B.C.E. The Vedas are segregated into Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda.
Historians believe that the origins of Hinduism are 5000 years or more. The name Hindu has come from the name Indus. River Indus flows from Northern India to the eastern part of the country. The Hindus called it the River Sindhu. The Persians, who migrated to India, called the people Hindu and the land Hindustan. Thus the religion that was followed by Hindus became known as Hinduism thereafter.
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