Hinduism is the religion of the majority of people in India, Nepal, and some neighboring countries. It followed Brahmanism and co-existed with Buddhism for about 5 centuries BC. Then, it replaced Buddhism during the 5 following centuries. Nowadays, Hinduism has 900 million adherents worldwide. It is the world’s third-largest religion and the oldest organized religion in the world.
Unlike other religions, Hinduism does not have a single founder, a single scripture, a single concept of deity, a central religious authority. Hindus believe that our beliefs determine our thoughts and attitudes about life, which in turn direct our actions. By actions, we create our destiny.
Regarding gods, Hinduism not only inherits the whole system of gods from Brahmanism but it also develops many other ones. Of those, Brahman, Shiva, and Vishnu are the most important ones. Each god has different relations. For example, Shiva has a wife who exists in 15 different forms with 15 different names. One of those relations is with Uma, bearing Ganesha in the form of an elephant, named Skanda. Indra often rides an elephant, Brahma rides a goose, Agni a rhinoceros, Yama a buffalo, and Vayu a horse. Siva himself rides a cow named Nandin. Hinduism’s gods do not want to walk on foot. They often fly or ride different animals. They exist in different figures, with many wives, children, etc. Nobody can remember all gods in Hinduism.
From generation to generation, priests have added to the stories and developed into Shruti and Smriti. Shruti or Hindu scriptures are the Vedas, which are considered the oldest Hindu texts. There are 04 Vedas: Rig-Veda, Sama-Veda, Ya-jur Veda and Atharva-Veda. Of those, Rig-Veda is regarded as the oldest of all Hindu writings.
- Rig-Veda: is divided into 10 books, including 1028 hymns of various deities. These include Indra, Agni, Vishnu, Rudra, Varuna, and other early or “Vedic gods”.
- Yajur-Veda: is a priestly handbook used in the performance of sacrifices.
- Sama-Veda: is composed of chants and melodies to be sung during worship and the performance of sacrifices.
- Atharva-Veda: contains hymns, mantras, and incantations, largely outside the scope of sacrifices.
Smriti is a codified component of Hindu customary law. It is secondary in authority to Shruti. In Hindu law, Smriti is commonly translated as “tradition”. It differs from Shruti in such a way that Smriti does not have divine origins. Smriti is composed of the memories of wisdom that sages have passed down to their adherents. In essence, Smriti is complementary to Shruti. It translates Shruti into daily life, establishing the Hindu way of life.
While Vedaism is the religion of tribes and villages in the early days, Hinduism is the religion of a nation with different social castes, who altogether worship Hindu gods, believe in Hinduism, and practice Hindu traditions. Contrary to other religions which appreciate meditation, Hinduism encourages the natural expression of human beings, in which love and sex are integral parts. Therefore, Hinduism is closer to the daily lives of people. It has overcome Buddhism to be the most dominant religion in Indian sub-continent.