Deciphering the Deities of Hinduism

Deciphering the Deities of Hinduism

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There are no ancient civilizations that have not practiced some kind of religion. When we study the history of the oldest and the earliest civilizations, we do not find exact dates or traces of events with much accuracy. With the help of preserved manuscripts, stone inscriptions, artifacts, and archaeological findings, we find many traces of civilization and its religions. When we explore the origin of Hinduism, it appears very different from other religions.

In Hinduism, we do not find a specific founder or events as might be recognized in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. The sacred texts of Hinduism were not discovered in written form, such as carved stones or recorded on papyrus. What we discover about Hinduism is a vast amount of scriptures and texts that were preserved by great seers for many centuries over millennia. These seers safeguarded the sacred heritage and comprehensive knowledge from century to century in their memories. This knowledge was transferred over the ages by the teachers and their disciples, without ever writing them down, and was later organized by the sage Veda Vyasa as “Vedas”.

Hinduism has survived for thousands of years despite many invasions and influences. Dating back more than 5000 years, Hinduism has embraced ideas from all parts of the globe. One of the oldest sacred scriptures of Hinduism, known as Rigveda says: "Let the noble thoughts come to us from all the directions".

How Many Gods?

Present day Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world. A survey reveals that 95% of Hindus believe in god, however, the number of gods worshiped in Hinduism is a complicated theology. Hinduism has many traditions, philosophies, heritage, saints, and scriptures. In Hinduism, idols are worshiped everywhere. Idols can be found all over India made of stone, wood, and metal and can be found in all sizes. Each idol is bright, gleaming, and mostly covered with red vermilion. Hindus worship many gods, deities, demigods, and legends.

Lord Ganesha, Mumbai, India

Hinduism views worship as anything to do with the nine planets, mother earth, gods, goddesses, family ancestors, saints, legends, the cow, the monkey, the river Ganga, and many, many more. The roots of Hindu gods are embraced and closely knit to its source of ancient Vedas and Upanishads. Together, they create a complex structure. When we try to understand and segregate the deities of Hinduism, one of the most obvious divisions might be:

● The Vedic Deities

● The Puranic Deities

● The Inferior Deities and Demigods.

Vedic Deities

Vedas is one of the oldest sacred scriptures available in Hinduism, and the most authoritative. Many of the Rigveda manuscripts are included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register . It is noted for being among the first literary documents in the history of humankind. Vedas are also known as Shruti literature, one “which is heard and should be remembered”. Vedas are represented as Anaadi in Sanskrit, as something which has no beginning or end and hence, are eternal. The Vedic gods are the principal foundation of Hinduism. The primary objective of human life during the Vedic period was the fulfilment of four duties, including Dharma, Karma, Artha, and Moksha. The sacrifices (Yajna) and worships mentioned in Vedas are directed towards these duties. Vedic hymns mostly speak about Nature Gods.

Due to the limited number of Vedic scriptures available today, we do not know the exact number of ancient gods worshiped during this period. There are approximately 33 major deities identified in Vedas today, each with their own unique story and symbolism. Vedas generally refers to them as Devas (devatas) and are not meant to represent supreme gods. Some Devas manifest the glory of the supreme god and are divided into eight Vasus, 11 Rudras, and 12 Aditya, including Indra and Prajapati. The Vedic Deities can be further divided into major and minor Deities.

Shatapatha Brahmana, Shukla Yajurveda, Sanskrit ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Major Deities worshiped were Indra (god of thunder and storm), Surya (sun god), Agni (god of fire), Varuna (god of sky), Yama (god of death), and Soma ( god of drink ). Some of the Minor Deities focused on were Ushas (goddess of dawn), Ashvins (twin Vedic god), Vishwakarma (god of architecture), and Dyaus (god of father sky).

While some of the gods from the Vedic period have lost their popularity or become forgotten, some are still worshiped in modern Hinduism. The gods still worshiped in Hinduism are Surya (sun god), Agni (god of fire), and Yama, along with a few others. Yajna is an important ritual described more than 1184 times in Vedas and remains a common practice to this day. There is no major ceremony in Hinduism that is completed without inviting the Agni or god of fire for the offering.

In the later or post-Vedic period, most of the gods mentioned in Vedas were set to inferior positions, as compared to the god of Puranas. One such example is Indra, the most prominent deity of the early Vedic period and also the king of heaven. Indra is the god of thunder, rain, and storms. He resides in the celestial city of Amravati in his palace. Indra is similar to Zeus, the king of the ancient Greek god. Indra is also mentioned for governing the eastern quarter of the world and often found with many Apsaras, the celestial girls. Lord Indra rides the Airavata elephant, which evolved during the churning of the ocean.

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Indra on his elephant attacked by demons

Puranic Deities

The Puranas are anonymous texts and were utilized by many seers and authors over the centuries. There are 18 Maha Puranas (including main Puranas) and 14 Upa Puranas (the minor Puranas) and include more than 400,000 verses. The Puranas did not enjoy the authority of scripture in Hinduism. They are considered Smritis. Puranic gods are currently known as Hindu gods and goddesses, which are very popular in modern society. Most of the present-day gods and goddesses of Hinduism come from the stories of Puranas, along with a description of their significance during the Puranic period. Another important source of gods in modern Hinduism are the two great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Mahabharata, which contains 220,000 verses, states that "what is not in the Mahabharata is not in Bharata (India)” . Similarly, Ramayana contains more than 50,000 verses which are the narrative by the seer Valmiki and greatly admired. The Puranic period in India evolved soon after the Vedic period.

The Puranas narrate most of the stories of Vishnu, Siva, and Lord Brahma. Lord Vishnu was the minor Vedic deity who was identified with Vasudeva in Vedas. Later on in the Puranic period, Lord Vishnu is mentioned as having ten incarnations (avatars). Lord Krishna and Lord Rama emerged as the most powerful incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Lord Shiva is another Puranic god who was an ancient minor Vedic god. In Puranas, Lord Shiva is one of the main gods of Trinity and is worshiped in various forms, such as Nataraja, Lingam, and the five headed Ardhanarishvara.

Madurai Meenakshi Temple ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

The female ensemble of Siva, Shakti, and Durga are also regarded to be among the Puranic deities, as is Lord Ganesh . Altogether, there are eighteen Puranas, two great epics, and many tantras that are the main source of knowledge of the gods of modern Hinduism.

The most powerful gods of the Hindu Trinity include Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwara, which stands for Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer from the Puranas period. The most powerful goddesses are the consorts of Hindu Trimurtis; goddess Saraswathi, goddess Lakshmi, goddess Parvati, or Shakti, and the goddess known as Trivedi.

Puranic stories are illustrated as Indra (major god of Vedas), seen riding the white elephant and worshiping Siva, Parvati, and Lord Ganesh (son of Lord Shiva), on the sacred bull Nandi. It is noticed that these gods of Vedas are degraded in the Brahmanas (a part of Vedas) and further up the lower levels in Puranas.

Ardhanarishvara Sculpture, Khajuraho ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Hindu dharma is further divided into more sects based on the gods of Puranas. Sects include Vaishnavism (Vishnu), Shaivism (Shiva), Shaktism (Devi), and Smartism (five deities treated as the same) in Hinduism today.

The Inferior Gods and Demigods

There is a third classification of deities in Hinduism, including demigods, which are mostly worshiped by local or specific communities. Gods from this period are similar to inferior gods, which are worshiped by fewer people from specific sects or villages or a particular region. Sometimes, evil demigods were also added to the lists of deities and mostly worshiped in small villages in India.

Generally, these gods have a specific purpose and serve a specific object with a cause, such as the Goddess of Cholera, still worshiped in many villages of India. Another example is the worship of sage Naarad, who is the messenger of the gods and has a reputation as a gossiping and meddling person. As Hinduism has always been close to nature, many of these minor gods originate directly or indirectly from nature, and result in the worshiping of trees, rivers, and mountains.

Worship of some of the planets or heavenly bodies can also be added to the list of inferior gods. Two of these planets are mentioned in Vedas as Vedic God, Surya the Sun, and the Moon, as Soma. The other five planets are Mercury (Budha), Venus (Sukra), Mars (Mangala), Jupiter (Brihaspati), and Saturn (Sani). Even in modern Hinduism, during all great festivals, a small offering is presented to the planets. Some of the planets are not worshiped together and some are always worshiped in groups. Even the planets are assigned names to align with the days of the week and have a great influence on Hindu life. Two additional connections include Rahu and Ketu, the eclipse demons, who are also worshiped in Hinduism. In Vishnu Purana, there are stories in which Rahu and Ketu cover the sun and moon with their hands and swallow them.

Ganga Aarti, Varanasi ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Hinduism Today

All three categories of god play an important part in strengthening the great Hindu society and give inspiration to millions of Hindu devotees across the world.

It would be not wrong to consider Hinduism as polytheistic in its worshiping of many deities. At the same time, Hinduism also supports the monotheistic belief of one supreme god called Brahman, also referred to as Parmataman. The supreme god has three forms; Brahma-the creator, Vishnu-the sustainer, and Shiva-the destroyer. The Hindu concept also supports the henotheistic belief, which suggests the worship of a single god while not denying the existence or possible existence of other deities and demigods. Henotheism was first used by western scholar, Max Müller, to describe the theology of Vedic religion during pre-ancient Aryan culture. Collectively, the complex structure of gods in Hinduism indicate a liberal and committed religious freedom for its devotees.

Nothing is more wonderful in today's world than the sight of the countless crowds at the Banaras Ghat, swarming into the sacred river of Ganga for cleansing the soul or watching vibrant Aarti with the serene beauty of the calm sacred river, at one of the 4000-year-old ancient heritages mentioned in Vedas and Puranas.

The author, Manhar Sharma has written a book on Hinduism, " Beyond the Credence " which was published by one of India's leading publishers, and is available from Amazon. His website is

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History of Hinduism


Hinduism's early history is the subject of much debate for a number of reasons.

Firstly, in a strict sense there was no 'Hinduism' before modern times, although the sources of Hindu traditions are very ancient.

Secondly, Hinduism is not a single religion but embraces many traditions.

Thirdly, Hinduism has no definite starting point. The traditions which flow into Hinduism may go back several thousand years and some practitioners claim that the Hindu revelation is eternal.

Although there is an emphasis on personal spirituality, Hinduism's history is closely linked with social and political developments, such as the rise and fall of different kingdoms and empires. The early history of Hinduism is difficult to date and Hindus themselves tend to be more concerned with the substance of a story or text rather than its date.

Hindu notions of time

Hindus in general believe that time is cyclical, much like the four seasons, and eternal rather than linear and bounded. Texts refer to successive ages (yuga), designated respectively as golden, silver, copper and iron.

During the golden age people were pious and adhered to dharma (law, duty, truth) but its power diminishes over time until it has to be reinvigorated through divine intervention.

With each successive age, good qualities diminish, until we reach the current iron or dark age (kali yuga) marked by cruelty, hypocrisy, materialism and so on. Such ideas challenge the widespread, linear view that humans are inevitably progressing.

Main historical periods

Although the early history of Hinduism is difficult to date with certainty, the following list presents a rough chronology.

  • Before 2000 BCE: The Indus Valley Civilisation
  • 1500–500 BCE: The Vedic Period
  • 500 BCE–500 CE: The Epic, Puranic and Classical Age
  • 500 CE–1500 CE: Medieval Period
  • 1500–1757 CE: Pre-Modern Period
  • 1757–1947 CE: British Period
  • 1947 CE–the present: Independent India

The Hindu Dharmashastras

According to the research, Hindu marriage is said to be derived from laws interpreted in the Dharmashastras or sacred texts, which has its roots in the Vedas, the oldest surviving documents from the Vedic era. Therefore, arranged marriages can be said to have initially risen to prominence in the Indian subcontinent when the historical Vedic religion gradually gave way to classical Hinduism.

These scriptures are said to have been written by male Aryan sages who inhabited the areas across the Indus river, long before the word "Hindu" came to be associated with religion. "Hindu" was simply an evolved Persian word for the people who lived across the river "Indus" or "Indu".

8c. The Rise of Hinduism

Each of the three main Hindu deities represents a part of the life cycle: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. Upon destruction, Hindus believe that the cycle of creation, preservation, and destruction begins again.

Dharma. Karma. Reincarnation.

Not many things have endured without interruption or major transformation for over 5,000 years. Hindu traditions such as these are great exceptions. Arguably, Hinduism is the oldest religion on Earth.

To understand how Hinduism has withstood the tests of time, it is important to know the principles upon which it is grounded. And to understand the principles, it is necessary to know their historical foundations.

Archaeologists have determined that highly developed civilizations flourished throughout the Indus Valley between 4000 and 1500 B.C.E. But for still unknown reasons, the valley's inhabitants appear to have moved out rather suddenly. They resettled among new neighbors in northwestern India and encountered a group of people from central Asia who brought with them warrior ethics and a religion called Vedism.

Within the ruins of the ancient Indus Valley civilization, archaeologists have discovered many artifacts of modern Hinduism that were not found in any Vedic civilizations. These include statues and amulets of gods and goddesses, huge temple tanks for bathing, and sculptures of people in yoga postures.

Based on this evidence, it seems that when the people from central Asia settled in India, their Vedic beliefs were mingled with the beliefs of indigenous Indians. Thus, it is likely that the Indus Valley tradition and Vedic gods and beliefs combined to form the foundations of Hinduism.

There is a trinity for Hindu goddesses as well as for gods. Laxmi, the second goddess of the trinity (shown here) is the goddess of wealth. The consort of Vishnu, she was incarnated on earth as the wife of each one of his avatars, exemplifying the devotion of a Hindu wife.

One Faith, Many Paths

Hinduism stands apart from all other religions for several reasons. It has no single founder, no single book of theological law and truth, no central religious organization, and no definition of absolute beginning and end.

Hinduism is a code of life &mdash a collection of attitudes, personal experiences, and spiritual practices. It is, in essence, defined by behaviors rather than beliefs.

According to Hindu philosophy, there is one divine reality, and all religions are simply various interpretations of it. Because of this, Hinduism allows and even encourages individuals to choose a religious path that best suits their social, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs.

One Hindu devotee might worship well-known gods such as Vishnu and Shiva in a large, public temple, whereas another might worship less common deities in a private shrine within his or her own home. Yet they would both be considered good Hindus, provided that they honored each other's choices.

This tolerance makes Hinduism difficult to understand and define, but it does explain why so many gods, goddesses, and rituals are described in the numerous Hindu scriptures.

The Vedas and the Upanishads

The Ramayana, a classic epic in the Hindu religion, tells the story of Rama and the 7th avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu, the preserver of life. This picture shows Rama breaking the bow of Shiva, winning a contest as well as his wife Sita's hand in marriage.

Despite the fact that Hindus characteristically believe and do different things, several concepts and traditions bind them together. Many of these beliefs were compiled in a set of scriptures written around 1300 B.C.E. known as the Vedas. It is believed that the Vedas are the eternal truths that were heard, then written down by holy seers.

According to the Vedas, time and life are cyclical. After death, one's soul leaves the body and is reborn, or reincarnated, into a new form.

The constant cycle of birth and rebirth is known as samsara and the measurement by which the quality of new birth is determined is known as karma. Karma, the accumulated result of one's actions in various lives, can be good or bad. Righteous and moral conduct, known as dharma, is the road to good karma.

Examples of traditional good conduct included marrying within one's caste, revering upper castes, doing good deeds, and abstaining from meat, particularly that of cows.

The writings known as the Upanishads appeared six to eight hundred years after the Vedas and focus mostly on how to escape the cycle of rebirth. The Upanishads explain how to leave Samsara through a release and ultimate enlightenment known as moksha . The appearance of the Upanishads marked the beginning of a period known as the Vedantic Age.

The End of the Vedas?

Literally, 'Vedantic" means "end of the Vedas." But the Vedic beliefs never really disappeared. Gods of the Vedic tradition became less commonly worshipped, but the Vedic philosophies recorded in the books were surely not forgotten. The principles of karma and dharma were too popular (especially among members of the lower castes) to fade away.

Scholars continue to debate over the beginning of Hinduism, but most agree that during the Vedantic Age (between 800 and 400 B.C.E.) there was a shift to the widespread worship of the gods Vishnu and Shiva. They also agree that this shift coincided with the emergence of new religions in India that sought enlightenment, such as Buddhism and Jainism.

In the years to come, Hinduism became divided into many sects. But true to the foundations of Hinduism, the new sects' beliefs and practices were accepted. Because of such tolerance, Hinduism thrives today, millennia after it began.

All You Need to Know About Hinduism

Hinduism is a mixture of sects, cults and doctrines which have had a profound effect on Indian culture. In Spite of this diversity, there are few of its aspects which do not rely in some way or the other on the authority of Indian religious literature – the Vedas, the Epics and the Puranas.

The Beginnings of Hinduism

The ancient Persians, who occupied the lands west to the Indus River called the whole country lying across the Indus River Sindh and its inhabitants Sindhus, a designation that was later taken over by the Greeks who succeeded them and resulted in the now commonly used designations of India and Indians. The Muslims, who began invading India from the eighth century onward, used the term Hindu as a generic designation for non-Muslim Indians, identical with “idol worshipers.” In the 1830s Englishmen, writing about the religions of India, added -ism to Hindu and coined the term Hinduism, making an abstract and generic entity out of the many diverse and specific traditions of the Hindus.

While Hindus have appropriated the designation Hindu and use it today to identify themselves over against Muslims or Christians, they have expressed reservations with regard to the designation of Hinduism as the “religion of the Hindus.” They see a certain disrespect in the -ism suffix and emphasize that the Hindu dharma is more comprehensive than the Western term religion: it designates an entire cultural tradition rather than only a set of beliefs and rituals. With these reservations in mind, we are going to use the widely introduced term Hinduism in describing the majority religio-cultural tradition of India in spite of the impossibility of defining it in any precise manner.

The Vedas, the oldest literary monument of the Indian people, a collection of hymns composed in an archaic Sanskrit, are universally considered the foundational scriptures of Hinduism. The authors of these hymns called themselves Āryans, “Noble People.” The date of the composition of these hymns and the original habitat of the Aryans have become one of the most contested issues in Indian studies. The polemical literature has reached such dimensions and the emotions have been raised to such heights that only a sketch of the controversy and some hints about its ideological background can be given in this place.

Prehistoric rock drawings: Bhīmbhetka (Maharashtra)
Around 1860 a group of European Sanskritists suggested that the best explanation for the many common features of what later were called the Indo-European languages was the assumption of an invasion of a band of Aryan warriors, who till then had been living somewhere between Central Asia and Western Europe, into India. Did not the Ṛgveda, the oldest Sanskrit source, describe the battles, which the Āryas, under their leader Indra, the “fortdestroyer,” fought against the Dasyus, whose land they occupied? Making the self-designation ārya (noble) a racial attribute of the putative invaders, every textbook on Indian history began with the “Āryan invasion” of northwestern India, the struggle between the “fair-skinned, blonde, blue-eyed, sharp-nosed Aryans on horse chariots” against the “black-skinned, snub-nosed indigenous Indians.”

This putative “Aryan invasion” was dated ca. 1500 bce, and the composition of the hymns of the Ṛgveda was fixed between 1400 and 1200 bce. The Aryan invasion theory was conceived on pure speculation on the basis of comparative philology, without any archaeological or literary evidence to support it. It was resisted as unfounded by some scholars from the very beginning. In the light of recent archaeological finds, it has become less and less tenable. Nevertheless, the Aryan invasion theory, recently downgraded to an Aryan migration theory, is still widely defended and forms part of many standard histories of Hinduism. In the following, the arguments pro and con will be presented, and it will be left to the reader to judge the merits of the case.


Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European attempts to explain the presence of Hindus in India were connected with the commonly held biblical belief that humankind originated from one pair of humans—Adam and Eve, created directly by God in 4005 bce—and that all the people then living on the earth descended from one of the sons of Noah, the only family of humans to survive the Great Flood (dated 2350 bce). The major problem associated with the discovery of new lands seemed to be to connect peoples not mentioned in chapter 10 of Genesis, “The Peopling of the Earth,” with one of the biblical genealogical lists.

With regard to India this problem was addressed by the famous Abbé Dubois (1770�), whose long sojourn in India (1792-1823) enabled him to collect a large amount of interesting materials concerning the customs and traditions of the Hindus. His (French) manuscript was bought by the British East India Company and appeared in an English translation under the title Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies in 1897 with a prefatory note by the Right Honorable F. Max Müller. Addressing the origins of the Indian people, Abbé Dubois, loath “to oppose [his] conjectures to [the Indians’] absurd fables,” categorically stated: “It is practically admitted that India was inhabited very soon after the Deluge, which made a desert of the whole world. The fact that it was so close to the plains of Sennaar, where Noah’s descendants remained stationary so long, as well as its good climate and the fertility of the country, soon led to its settlement.” Rejecting other scholars’ opinions that linked the Indians to Egyptian or Arabic origins, he ventured to suggest them “to be descendants not of Shem, as many argue, but of Japhet.” He explains: “According to my theory they reached India from the north, and I should place the first abode of their ancestors in the neighbourhood of the Caucasus.” The reasons he provides to prove his theory are utterly unconvincing—but he goes on to build the rest of his “migration theory” (not yet an Aryan invasion theory) on this shaky foundation.

When the affinity between many European languages and Sanskrit became a commonly accepted notion, scholars almost automatically concluded that the Sanskrit-speaking ancestors of the present-day Indians had to be found somewhere halfway between India and the western borders of Europe— Northern Germany, Scandinavia, southern Russia, the Pamir—from which they invaded the Punjab. When the ruins of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa were discovered in the early twentieth century, it was assumed that these were the cities the Aryan invaders destroyed.

In the absence of reliable evidence, they postulated a time frame for Indian history on the basis of conjectures. Considering the traditional dates for the life of Gautama, the Buddha, as fairly well established in the sixth century bce, supposedly pre-Buddhist Indian records were placed in a sequence that seemed plausible to philologists. Accepting on linguistic grounds the traditional claims that the Ṛgveda was the oldest Indian literary document, Max Müller, a greatly respected authority in Veda studies, allowing a time span of two hundred years each for the formation of every class of Vedic literature and assuming that the Vedic period had come to an end by the time of the Buddha, established the following sequence that was widely accepted:

* Ṛgveda, ca. 1200 bce * Yajurveda, Sāmaveda, Atharvaveda, ca. 1000 bce * Brāhmaṇas, ca. 800 bce * Āraṇyakas, Upaniṣads, ca. 600 bce

Max Müller himself conceded the purely conjectural nature of the Vedic chronology, and in his last work, The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy, published shortly before his death, admitted: “Whatever may be the date of the Vedic hymns, whether 1500 or 15000 bc, they have their own unique place and stand by themselves in the literature of the world.”

There were already in Max Müller’s time Western scholars, such as Moriz Winternitz, and Indians, like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who disagreed with his chronology and postulated a much earlier date for the Ṛgveda. Indian scholars pointed out all along that there was no reference in the Veda to a migration of the Āryas from outside India, that all the geographical features mentioned in the Ṛgveda were those of northwestern India and that there was no archaeological evidence whatsoever for the Aryan invasion theory. On the other side, there were references to constellations in Vedic works whose time frame could be reestablished by commonly accepted astronomical calculations. The dates arrived at, however, 4500 bce for one observation in the Ṛgveda, 3200 bce for a date in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, seemed far too remote to be acceptable, especially if one assumed, as many nineteenth-century scholars did, that the world was only about six thousand years old and that the flood had taken place only 4500 years ago.

Seals and figurines from the Sindhu-Sarasvatī civilization
Present-day defenders of the Aryan invasion/migration theory are displaying what they believe to be an impenetrable armor of philological detail research: in addition to the Ṛgveda and the Avesta, whole libraries of literary documents pertaining to dozens of languages are marshalled and “laws of scientific linguistics” are adduced to overrun any opposition. The scholarly debate has largely degenerated into an ideological battle. The defenders of the Aryan invasion theory call everyone who is not on their side “fundamentalist Hindu,” “revisionist,” “fascist,” and worse, whereas the defenders of the indigenous origin of the Veda accuse their opponents of entertaining “colonialistmissionary” and “racist-hegemonial” prejudices.

Many contemporary Indian scholars, admittedly motivated not only by academic interests, vehemently reject what they call the “colonial-missionary Aryan invasion theory.” They accuse its originators of superimposing—for a reason—the purpose and process of the colonial conquest of India by the Western powers in modern times onto the beginnings of Indian civilization: as the Europeans came to India as bearers of a supposedly superior civilization and a higher religion, so the original Aryans were assumed to have invaded a country that they subjected and on which they imposed their culture and their religion.

As the heat around the Aryan invasion theory is rising, it is also emerging that both sides return to positions that were taken by opposing camps more than a hundred years ago. The difference between then and now is the evidence offered by a great many new archaeological discoveries, which clearly tip the balance in favor of the “Indigenists.”


One would expect the proponents of an event to provide proof for its happening rather than demanding proofs for a non-event. The controversy about the Aryan invasion of India has become so bizarre that its proponents simply assume it to have taken place and demand that its opponents offer arguments that it had not taken place. In the following a number of reasons will be adduced to attest to the fact that the Aryan invasion of India—assumed by the invasionists to have taken place around 1500 bce—did not take place.

1. The Aryan invasion theory is based purely on linguistic conjectures, which are unsubstantiated.

2. The supposed large-scale migrations of Aryan people in the second millennium bce first into western Asia and then into northern India (by 1500 bce) cannot be maintained in view of the established fact that the Hittites were in Anatolia already by 2200 bce and the Kassites and Mitanni had kings and dynasties by 1600 bce.

3. There is no hint of an invasion or of large-scale migration in the records of ancient India: neither in the Vedas, in Buddhist or Jain writings, nor in Tamil literature. The fauna and flora, the geography, and the climate described in the Ṛgveda are those of northern India.

4. There is a striking cultural continuity between the archaeological artifacts of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization and later phases of Indian culture: a continuity of religious ideas, arts, crafts, architecture, and system of weights and measures.

5. The archaeological finds of Mehrgarh dated ca. 7500 bce (copper, cattle, barley) reveal a culture similar to that of the Vedic Indians. Contrary to former interpretations, the Ṛgveda reflects not a nomadic but an urban culture.

6. The Aryan invasion theory was based on the assumption that a nomadic people in possession of horses and chariots defeated an urban civilization that did not know horses and that horses are depicted only from the middle of the second millennium onward. Meanwhile archaeological remains of horses have been discovered in Harappan and pre-Harappan sites drawings of horses have been found in Paleolithic caves in central India. Horse drawn war chariots are not typical for nomadic breeders but for urban civilizations.

7. The racial diversity found in skeletons in the cities of the Indus civilization is the same as in today’s India there is no evidence of the coming of a new race.

8. The Rgveda describes a river system in North India that is pre-1900 bce in the case of the Sarasvatī River and pre-2600 bce in the case of the Dṛṣadvatī River. Vedic literature shows a population shift from the Sarasvatī (Ṛgveda) to the Ganges (Brāhmaṇas and Purāṇas) for which there is also evidence in archaeological finds.

9. The astronomical references in the Ṛgveda are based on a Pleiades-Kṛttika calendar of ca. 2500 bce. Vedic astronomy and mathematics were well-developed sciences: these are not features of the culture of a nomadic people.

10. The Indus cities were not destroyed by invaders but deserted by their inhabitants because of desertification of the area. Strabo (Geography XV.1.19) reports that Aristobulos had seen thousands of villages and towns deserted because the Indus had changed its course.

11. The battles described in the Ṛgveda were not fought between invaders and natives but between people belonging to the same culture.

12. Excavations in Dvārakā have led to the discovery of a site larger than Mohenjo Daro, dated ca. 1500 bce with architectural structures, use of iron, and a script halfway between Harappan and Brahmī. Dvārakā has been associated with Kṛṣṇa and the end of the Vedic period.

13. There is a continuity in the morphology of scripts: Harappan— Brahmī—Devanāgarī.

14. Vedic ayas, formerly translated as “iron,” probably meant copper or bronze. Iron was found in India before 1500 bce in Kashmir and Dvārakā.

15. The Purāṇic dynastic lists, with over 120 kings in one Vedic dynasty alone, date back to the third millennium bce. Greek accounts tell of Indian royal lists going back to the seventh millennium bce.

16. The Ṛgveda shows an advanced and sophisticated culture, the product of a long development, “a civilization that could not have been delivered to India on horseback.” (160)

17. Painted gray ware culture in the western Gangetic plains, dated ca. 1100 bce, has been found connected to earlier Indus Valley black and red ware.

It would be strange indeed if the Vedic Indians had lost all recollection of such a momentous event as the Aryan invasion in supposedly relatively recent times—much more recent, for instance, than the migration of Abraham and his people, which is well attested and frequently referred to in the Hebrew Bible.


The Sarasvatī is frequently praised as the mightiest of all rivers, as giving nourishment to the people and, unique among them, flowing pure from the mountains to the ocean. It is the most often mentioned river in the Ṛgveda—and it no longer exists. Its absence led to the suggestion that it might have been a symbolic rather than a real river, an idea supported by the later identification of Sarasvatī with the Goddess of Wisdom and Learning. More recent satellite photography and geological investigations have helped to reconstruct the ancient riverbed of the Sarasvatī and also established that it had dried out completely by 1900 bce due to tectonic shifts. Of the 2,600 archaeological sites so far discovered that were connected with the Indus civilization, over 1,500 were found located on the Sarasvatī River basin, including settlements that exceeded in size the by now famous Indus sites of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa. It is hardly meaningful to assume that the invading Vedic Aryans established thousands of settlements on its banks four centuries after the Sarasvatī had dried out.

When the first remnants of the ruins of the so-called Indus civilization came to light in the 1920s, the proponents of the Aryan invasion theory believed to have found the missing archaeological evidence: here were the “mighty forts” and the “great cities” that the warlike Indra of the Ṛgveda was said to have conquered and destroyed. Then it emerged that nobody had destroyed these cities and no evidence of wars of conquest came to light: floods and droughts had made it impossible to sustain large populations in the area, and the people of Mohenjo Daro, Harappa, and other places had migrated to more hospitable areas. Ongoing archaeological research has not only extended the area of the Indus civilization but has also shown a transition of its later phases to the Gangetic culture. Archaeo-geographers have established that a drought lasting two to three hundred years devastated a wide belt of land from Anatolia through Mesopotamia to northern India around 2300 bce to 2000 bce.

Based on this type of evidence and extrapolating from the Vedic texts, a new theory of the origins of Hinduism is emerging. This new theory considers the Indus valley civilization as a late Vedic phenomenon and pushes the (inner Indian) beginnings of the Vedic age back by several thousands of years. Instead of speaking of an Indus Valley civilization the term Sarasvatī-Sindhu civilization has been introduced, to designate the far larger extent of that ancient culture. One of the reasons for considering the Indus civilization “Vedic” is the evidence of town planning and architectural design that required a fairly advanced algebraic geometry—of the type preserved in the Vedic Śulvasūtras. The widely respected historian of mathematics A. Seidenberg came to the conclusion, after studying the geometry used in building the Egyptian pyramids and the Mesopotamian citadels, that it reflected a derivative geometry—a geometry derived from the Vedic Śulvasūtras. If that is so, then the knowledge (“Veda”) on which the construction of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro is based cannot be later than that civilization itself.

While the Ṛgveda has always been held to be the oldest literary document of India and was considered to have preserved the oldest form of Sanskrit, Indians have not taken it to be the source for their early history. Itihāsa-Purāṇa served that purpose. The language of these works is more recent than that of the Vedas, and the time of their final redaction is much later than the fixation of the Vedic canon. However, they contain detailed information about ancient events and personalities that form part of Indian history. The Ancients, like Herodotus, the father of Greek historiography, did not separate story from history. Nor did they question their sources but tended to juxtapose various information without critically sifting it. Thus we cannot read Itihāsa-Purāṇa as the equivalent of a modern textbook of Indian history but rather as a storybook containing information with interpretation, facts and fiction. Indians, however, always took genealogies quite seriously, and we can presume that the Purāṇic lists of dynasties, like the lists of guru-paramparās in the Upaniṣads, relate the names of real rulers in the correct sequence. On these assumptions we can tentatively reconstruct Indian history to a time around 4500 bce.

G. P. Singh defends the historical accuracy of the Purāṇic dynastic lists and calls the Purāṇas “one of the most important traditions of historiography in ancient India.” These lists he says “disprove the opinion that the ancient Indians (mainly the Hindus) had no sense of history and chronology.”

A key element in the revision of ancient Indian history was the recent discovery of Mehrgarh, a settlement in the Hindukush area, that was continuously inhabited for several thousand years from ca. 7000 bce onward. This discovery has extended Indian history for thousands of years before the fairly well dateable Indus civilization.

Nobody has as yet interpreted the religious significance of the prehistoric cave paintings at Bhīmbetka (from ca. 100,000 to ca. 10,000 bce), which were discovered only in 1967, and we do not know whether and how the people who created these are related to present-day populations of India. These show, amongst other objects, horses clearly readied for riding—according to the “Invasionists” horse breeding and horse riding were an innovations that the Aryans introduced to India after 1500 bce.

Civilizations, both ancient and contemporary, comprise more than literature. It cannot be assumed that the Vedic Aryans, who have left a large literature that has been preserved till now, did not have any material culture that would have left visible traces. The only basis on which Indologists in the nineteenth century established their views of Vedic culture and religion were the texts that they translated from Ancient Sanskrit.

Traditionally trained philologists, that is, grammarians, are generally not able to understand technical language and the scientific information contained in the texts they study. Consider today’s scientific literature. It abounds with Greek and Latin technical terms, it contains an abundance of formulas, composed of Greek and Hebrew letters. If scholars with only a background in the classical languages were to read such works, they might be able to come up with some acceptable translations of technical terms into modern English, but they would hardly be able to really make sense of most of what they read, and they certainly would not extract the information that the authors of these works wished to convey through their formulas to people trained in their specialties. Analogous to the observations, which the biologist Ernst Mayr made with regard to translations of Aristotle’s works, namely, that sixteenth-century humanists misunderstood and mistranslated his scientific terminology, we must also expect new insights to come out from new translations of ancient Indian technical texts that are more adequate than those made by nineteenth century European philologists.

The admission of some of the top scholars (like Geldner, who in his translation of the Ṛgveda—deemed the best so far—declares many passages “darker than the darkest oracle,” or Gonda, who considered the Ṛgveda basically untranslatable) of being unable to make sense of a great many Vedic texts—and the refusal of most to go beyond a grammatical and etymological analysis of these—indicates a deeper problem. The ancient Indians were not only poets and literateurs, but they also had their practical sciences and their technical skills, their secrets and their conventions that are not self-evident to someone who does not share their world. Some progress has been made in deciphering technical Indian medical and astronomical literature of a later age, in reading architectural and arts-related materials. However, much of the technical meaning of the oldest Vedic literature still eludes us. It would be enormously helpful in the question of the relation between the Ṛgveda and the Indus civilization if we could read the literary remnants of the latter: thousands of what appear to be brief texts incised on a very large number of soapstone seals and other objects, found over large areas of north-western India and also in Western Asia. In spite of many claims made by many scholars who laboured for decades on the decipherment of the signs, nobody has so far been able to read or translate these signs.

Computer scientist Subhash Kak believes to have rediscovered the “Vedic Code,” on the strength of which he extracts from the structure as well as the words and sentences of the Ṛgveda considerable astronomical information that its authors supposedly embedded in it. The assumption of such encoded scientific knowledge would make it understandable why there was such insistence on the preservation of every letter of the text in precisely the sequence the original author had set down. One can take certain liberties with a story, or even a poem, changing words, transposing lines, adding explanatory matter, shortening it, if necessary, and still communicate the intentions and ideas of the author. However, one has to remember and reproduce a scientific formula in precisely the same way it has been set down by the scientist, or it would not make sense at all. While the scientific community can arbitrarily adopt certain letter equivalents for physical units or processes, once it has agreed on their use, one must obey the conventions for the sake of meaningful communication.

Nāga: Khajurāho
Even a nonspecialist reader of ancient Indian literature will notice the effort made to link macrocosm and microcosm, astronomical and physiological processes, to find correspondences between the various realms of beings and to order the universe by establishing broad classifications. Vedic sacrifices—the central act of Vedic culture—were to be offered on precisely built, geometrically constructed altars and to be performed at astronomically exactly established times. It sounds plausible to expect a correlation between the numbers of bricks prescribed for a particular altar and the distances between stars observed whose movement determined the time of the offerings to be made. Subhash Kak has advanced a great deal of fascinating detail in that connection in his essays on the astronomy of the Vedic altar. He believes that while the Vedic Indians possessed extensive astronomical knowledge that they encoded in the text of the Ṛgveda, the code was lost in later times and the Vedic tradition was interrupted.


Based on the early dating of the Ṛgveda (ca. 4000 bce) and on the strength of the argument that Vedic astronomy and geometry predates that of the other known ancient civilizations, some scholars have made the daring suggestion that India was the “cradle of civilization.” They link the recently discovered early European civilization (which predates ancient Sumeria and ancient Egypt by over a millennium) to waves of populations moving out or driven out from northwest India. Later migrations, caused either by climatic changes or by military events, would have brought the Hittites to western Asia, the Iranians to Afghanisthan and Iran, and many others to other parts of Eurasia. Such a scenario would require a complete rewriting of ancient world history—especially if we add the claims, apparently substantiated by some material evidence, that Vedic Indians had established trade links with Central America and East Africa before 2500 bce. No wonder that the “new chronology” arouses not only scholarly controversy but emotional excitement as well. Much more hard evidence will be required to fully establish it, and many claims may have to be withdrawn. But there is no doubt that the “old chronology” has been discredited and that much surprise is in store for students not only of ancient India, but of the ancient World as a whole.

An entirely new twist to the question has been added by a recent suggestion that modern humankind did not originate circa one hundred thousand years ago in Africa, as was long assumed, but in Asia: and if in Asia, why not in the Indus Valley? To answer that question, much more archaeological work is necessary and many more pieces of the puzzle will have to be put together.

The ‘God of Gods’—Shiva ‘The Destroyer’

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In ancient Hinduism, Shiva is known as one of the gods of the Trimurti (‘three-forms’, the Hindu Trinity), where he represents the god that destroys the universe, along with Brahmá (the god who creates the universe) and Vishnu (the god that preserves the universe). Thus, he is referred to as Shiva the “destroyer of evil and the transformer”

Within the so-called Shivaism, Shiva is considered the supreme god. A powerful deity unlike any other.

Ancient Hinduism explains that Shiva is described as an omniscient yogi who lives an ascetic life on Mount Kailash, and is represented with his wife Parvati, and two sons, Ganesha and Kartikeia.

Shiva has many benevolent ways as well as others to fear. He is often depicted as immersed in deep meditation. However, in his most fierce aspects, Shiva is often depicted slaying demons. He is also known as Adiyogi Shiva and is regarded as the patron god of yoga, meditation, and arts.

In Shaivism tradition, Shiva is the Supreme being who creates, protects and transforms the universe. (Source)

He is usually worshiped in the aniconic form of Lingam—an abstract representation of the Hindu deity.

However, among the most devout Hindus, this powerful God is considered a real God, that walked among humans in the distant past.

Often considered as a force for incredible good, he is also feared as a force for incredible destruction.

Interestingly, he is said to possess a trident which could annihilate anything in its path. Sounds familiar?

Shiva was also called Mahadeva, which means the Great God, God of Gods. And this God of Gods had a dual function in Hindu life. Destruction and Creation. There is no creation without destruction.

If we look back at ancient history, we will see that Shiva, like many other powerful gods, were thought to have originated from the stars. They were revered as visitors fro the stars. In other words, they were seen as extraterrestrials, since they did not originate on Earth.

To understand more about this powerful deity, we look deep into India, a country covering over 1.2 million square miles, considered the seventh-largest country on the planet, home to around 1.3 billion people, and therefore the second most populated on the surface of the planet.

India is also home to our planets oldest surviving religion which originated as far as 2000 BC.

The interesting part is that, for many people in India, their gods are not mythological in nature, but are real beings that have, at times, been present on the surface of the planet.

Its a powerful and rich history. Hinduism has many gods and goddesses which adorn their plentiful culture with stories, myths, legends and various different principles that they represent. Therefore, it is natural to have a population who firmly believes their gods were real. And despite the fact that they may have existed physically, they may not have always been visible, or present.

Shiva as a householder with wife Parvati as depicted in an 1820 Rajput painting.

Vedas—a powerful history conveying an even greater message

Ancient Hindu Vedas and epics are their most powerful aspect. Through them, important messages were conveyed. In them we see that the Gods of Hinduism were not from Earth. Like the gods of many other cultures, their Gods came down from the sky.

The Vedas are historical records. Referred to as Itihasa–meaning history in Sanskrit–these ancient writings were not just ordinary religious stories.

And there is one important characteristic that marks the Hindu Gods stand out from other gods.

While other religions have their God depicted as an all-powerful being, the Vedic texts describe Hindu gods that often rely on the use of ‘tools’. These tools have been interpreted by ancient astronaut theorists as technologies. Technologies fro the Gods.

Having that said, an important question is raised: Is there a slight possibility—as some ancient astronaut theorists propose–that the Gods described in ancient Hindu texts were not only divine beings, but also extraterrestrial beings?

One of the most important Hindu stories is the Mahābhārata—one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Rāmāyaṇa.

Many authors believe that the Hindu story of the Mahābhārata is filled with descriptions of what many people would today interpret as advanced technologies.

The Mahābhārata mentions flying vehicles—the Vimana. It also mentions what seem to be weapons, missiles, and even nuclear bombs.

Statue of Lord Shiva at Murudeshwar. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 2.0

Curiously, depictions of Shiva embody this idea of destruction and creation.

Shiva is often depicted holding a drum called a Damaru.

Damaru was a tool Shiva used to create the universe. Depictions of Shiva show him having a cobra posed to strike, around his neck. In one hand he is illustrated holding a trident-like weapon called the ‘Trishula’ and at the center of it we see something unusual: the third eye. Shiva is the only god that has a depicted with third eye. It is said that if this third eye were to open, it would produce a powerful light that would destroy everything.

Now that strange because usually, when we talk about the third eye we speak of enlightenment, meditation and peace. And here we have Shiva, one of the most prominent ancient Hindu Gods with a third eye that had the ability to destroy anything.

So, we have to ask, are the third eye of Shiva—the weapon—and the peaceful concept of the third eye the same?

If not, what was it? And what or who exactly was Shiva?

The Creation

Chola dynasty statue depicting Shiva dancing as Nataraja (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

Some of the earliest Vedic texts are believed to have been written around 4,000 years ago. However, the Hindus claim that these stories can be traced back hundreds and perhaps even thousands of years earlier, existing as part of an oral tradition that like many other things, had been passed down from one generation to generation.

Ancient astronaut theorists tell us that Shiva most likely arrived at Earth at a time before modern humans walked the planet, but most importantly, before the event known, in Biblical tradition as the Great Flood.

Now the great flood is a very important clue. If you take a close look at history, you’ll find that nearly every culture around the globe has some sort of ancient writings or oral traditions, where they speak and detail a massive destruction that occurred on Earth: The Great Flood.

This catastrophic event is said to have wiped out much of the life on Earth in one single day.

Now, ancient astronaut theorists point towards Shiva the god of destruction. And in the Hindu tradition, you have to have destruction in order to have creation.

Even more interesting is the fact that Tibetan lamas tell that, after the great Flood, when the whole Earth was destroyed by extreme rising waters when the waters eventually receded, mankind was created by the seed that was guarded by Lord Shiva.

All of these descriptions are interesting.

Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, observed the first atomic explosion at the Trinity test site. There, he cited a line from the Bhagavad Gitaa 700 verse Hindu scripture in Sanskrit that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata.

“I have become death, destroyer of worlds.” That’s the title that belongs to Shiva. Shiva the Destroyer.

And looking from a different point of view, we ask whether it is possible Shiva was not just a deity, but an extraterrestrial visitor that was responsible for not only the creation of mankind but the destruction of an earlier race of beings that inhabited Earth?

And if so, did Shiva destroy, in order to create? To make way for modern humans?

Caste System:

Originally, there were no castes in Hinduism, but there were four Varnas, viz:

These Varnas were further divided into castes and sub-castes. Originally, the caste system was not based upon birth. Nowadays, caste is determined by birth. During the medieval period, the persons belonging to a particular caste were supposed to do the same business as of their ancestors. This type of caste system no longer exists. People are free to do whatever they want. Castes come into play mainly during marriages. In arranged marriages, people prefer to marry a person from the same caste.


While the Puranic chronology presents a genealogy of thousands of years, scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion [11] [note 4] or synthesis [12] [note 5] of various Indian cultures and traditions. [12] [note 6] Among its roots are the historical Vedic religion, [32] [14] itself already the product of "a composite of the Indo-Aryan and Harappan cultures and civilizations", [33] [note 7] which evolved into the Brahmanical religion and ideology of the Kuru Kingdom of Iron Age northern India but also the Sramana [21] or renouncer traditions [14] of northeast India, [21] and mesolithic [34] and neolithic [35] cultures of India, such as the religions of the Indus Valley Civilisation, [36] Dravidian traditions, [37] and the local traditions [14] and tribal religions. [38]

This Hindu synthesis emerged after the Vedic period, between 500 [12] -200 [22] BCE and c. 300 CE, [12] in the period of the Second Urbanisation and the early classical period of Hinduism, when the Epics and the first Puranas were composed. [12] [22] This Brahmanical synthesis incorporated śramaṇic [22] [39] and Buddhist influences [22] [40] and the emerging bhakti tradition into the Brahmanical fold via the smriti literature. [41] [22] This synthesis emerged under the pressure of the success of Buddhism and Jainism. [42] During the Gupta reign the first Puranas were written, [43] [note 8] which were used to disseminate "mainstream religious ideology amongst pre-literate and tribal groups undergoing acculturation." [43] The resulting Puranic Hinduism differed markedly from the earlier Brahmanism of the Dharmaśāstras and the smritis. [43] [note 9] Hinduism co-existed for several centuries with Buddhism, [44] to finally gain the upper hand at all levels in the 8th century. [45] [web 1] [note 10]

From northern India this "Hindu synthesis", and its societal divisions, spread to southern India and parts of Southeast Asia, as courts and rulers adopted the Brahmanical culture. [46] [note 11] [note 12] [note 13] It was aided by the settlement of Brahmins on land granted by local rulers, [47] [48] the incorporation and assimilation of popular non-Vedic gods, [web 2] [49] [note 14] and the process of Sanskritization, in which "people from many strata of society throughout the subcontinent tended to adapt their religious and social life to Brahmanic norms". [web 2] [note 15] [50] This process of assimilation explains the wide diversity of local cultures in India "half shrouded in a taddered cloak of conceptual unity." [51]

According to Eliot Deutsch, Brahmins played an essential role in the development of this synthesis. They were bilingual and bicultural, speaking both their local language, and popular Sanskrit, which transcended regional differences in culture and language. They were able to "translate the mainstream of the large culture in terms of the village and the culture of the village in terms of the mainstream," thereby integrating the local culture into a larger whole. [52] While vaidikas and, to a lesser degree, smartas, remained faithfull to the traditional Vedic lore, a new brahminism arose which composed litanies for the local and regional gods, and became the ministers of these local traditions. [52]

James Mill (1773–1836), in his The History of British India (1817), distinguished three phases in the history of India, namely Hindu, Muslim and British civilisations. This periodisation has been criticised, for the misconceptions it has given rise to. Another periodisation is the division into "ancient, classical, medieval and modern periods", although this periodization has also received criticism. [53]

Romila Thapar notes that the division of Hindu-Muslim-British periods of Indian history gives too much weight to "ruling dynasties and foreign invasions," [54] neglecting the social-economic history which often showed a strong continuity. [54] The division in Ancient-Medieval-Modern overlooks the fact that the Muslim-conquests took place between the eight and the fourteenth century, while the south was never completely conquered. [54] According to Thapar, a periodisation could also be based on "significant social and economic changes," which are not strictly related to a change of ruling powers. [55] [note 16]

Smart and Michaels seem to follow Mill's periodisation, while Flood and Muesse follow the "ancient, classical, medieval and modern periods" periodisation. An elaborate periodisation may be as follows: [28]

  • Pre-history and Indus Valley Civilisation (until c. 1750 BCE)
  • Vedic period (c. 1750-500 BCE)
  • "Second Urbanisation" (c. 600-200 BCE)
  • Classical Period (c. 200 BCE-1200 CE) [note 17]
  • Pre-classical period (c. 200 BCE – 300 CE)
  • "Golden Age" of India (Gupta Empire) (c. 320–650 CE)
  • Late-Classical period (c. 650–1200 CE)
  • Medieval Period (c. 1200–1500 CE)
  • Early Modern Period (c. 1500–1850)
  • Modern period (British Raj and independence) (from c. 1850).

Notes Smart [E] and Michaels [I] seem to follow Mill's periodisation (Michaels mentions Flood 1996 as a source for "Prevedic Religions". [P] ), while Flood [Q] and Muesse [R] [G] follow the "ancient, classical, mediaeval and modern periods" periodisation. [S]

Different periods are designated as "classical Hinduism":

  • Smart calls the period between 1000 BCE and 100 CE "pre-classical". It's the formative period for the Upanishads and Brahmanism (Smart distinguishes "Brahmanism" from the Vedic religion, connecting "Brahmanism" with the Upanishads. [T] ), Jainism and Buddhism. For Smart, the "classical period" lasts from 100 to 1000 CE, and coincides with the flowering of "classical Hinduism" and the flowering and deterioration of Mahayana-buddhism in India. [U]
  • For Michaels, the period between 500 BCE and 200 BCE is a time of "Ascetic reformism", [V] whereas the period between 200 BCE and 1100 CE is the time of "classical Hinduism", since there is "a turning point between the Vedic religion and Hindu religions". [J]
  • Muesse discerns a longer period of change, namely between 800 BCE and 200 BCE, which he calls the "Classical Period". According to Muesse, some of the fundamental concepts of Hinduism, namely karma, reincarnation and "personal enlightenment and transformation", which did not exist in the Vedic religion, developed in this time. [W]
  1. ^ abKhanna 2007, p. xvii
  2. ^Misra 2004, p. 194
  3. ^Kulke & Rothermund 2004, p. 7
  4. ^Flood 1996, p. 21
  5. ^ abSmart 2003, pp. 52–53
  6. ^ abMichaels 2004
  7. ^ abMuesse 2011
  8. ^Flood 1996, pp. 21–22
  9. ^ abcMichaels 2004, p. 32
  10. ^ abMichaels 2004, p. 38
  11. ^Michaels 2004, p. 39
  12. ^Michaels 2004, p. 40
  13. ^Michaels 2004, p. 41
  14. ^ abMichaels 2004, p. 43
  15. ^ abMichaels 2004, p. 45
  16. ^Michaels 2004, pp. 31, 348
  17. ^Flood 1996
  18. ^Muesse 2003
  19. ^Muesse 2011, p. 16
  20. ^Smart 2003, pp. 52, 83–86
  21. ^Smart 2003, p. 52
  22. ^Michaels 2004, p. 36
  23. ^Muesse 2003, p. 14
  • Bentley, Jerry H. (1996). "Cross-Cultural Interaction and Periodization in World History". The American Historical Review. 101 (3): 749–770. doi:10.2307/2169422. JSTOR2169422.
  • Flood, Gavin D. (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism . Cambridge University Press.
  • Khanna, Meenakshi (2007). Cultural History Of Medieval India. Berghahn Books.
  • Kulke, Hermann Rothermund, Dietmar (2004). A History of India. Routledge.
  • Michaels, Axel (2004). Hinduism. Past and present. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  • Misra, Amalendu (2004). Identity and Religion: Foundations of Anti-Islamism in India. SAGE.
  • Muesse, Mark William (2003). Great World Religions: Hinduism.
  • Muesse, Mark W. (2011). The Hindu Traditions: A Concise Introduction . Fortress Press.
  • Smart, Ninian (2003). Godsdiensten van de wereld (The World's religions). Kampen: Uitgeverij Kok.

Prehistory Edit

Hinduism may have roots in Mesolithic prehistoric religion, such as evidenced in the rock paintings of Bhimbetka rock shelters, [note 18] which are about 10,000 years old (c. 8,000 BCE), [56] [57] [58] [59] [60] as well as neolithic times. [note 19] Several tribal religions still exist, though their practices may not resemble those of prehistoric religions. [web 3]

Indus Valley Civilization (c. 3300–1700 BCE) Edit

Some Indus valley seals show swastikas, which are found in other religions worldwide. Phallic symbols interpreted as the much later Hindu linga have been found in the Harappan remains. [61] [62] Many Indus valley seals show animals. One seal shows a horned figure seated in a posture reminiscent of the Lotus position and surrounded by animals was named by early excavators "Pashupati", an epithet of the later Hindu gods Shiva and Rudra. [63] [64] [65] Writing in 1997, Doris Meth Srinivasan said, "Not too many recent studies continue to call the seal's figure a "Proto-Siva," rejecting thereby Marshall's package of proto-Shiva features, including that of three heads. She interprets what John Marshall interpreted as facial as not human but more bovine, possibly a divine buffalo-man. [66] According to Iravatham Mahadevan, symbols 47 and 48 of his Indus script glossary The Indus Script: Texts, Concordance and Tables (1977), representing seated human-like figures, could describe the South Indian deity Murugan. [67]

In view of the large number of figurines found in the Indus valley, some scholars believe that the Harappan people worshipped a mother goddess symbolizing fertility, a common practice among rural Hindus even today. [68] However, this view has been disputed by S. Clark who sees it as an inadequate explanation of the function and construction of many of the figurines. [69]

There are no religious buildings or evidence of elaborate burials. If there were temples, they have not been identified. [70] However, House – 1 in HR-A area in Mohenjadaro's Lower Town has been identified as a possible temple. [71]

Horned deity with one-horned attendants on an Indus Valley seal. Horned deities are a standard Mesopotamian theme. 2000-1900 BCE. Islamabad Museum. [72] [73] [74] [75]

Fighting scene between a beast and a man with horns, hooves and a tail, who has been compared to the Mesopotamian bull-man Enkidu. [76] [77] [78] Indus Valley Civilization seal.

Swastika Seals from the Indus Valley Civilization preserved at the British Museum

Dravidian folk religion Edit

The early Dravidian religion refers to a broad range of belief systems which existed in South Asia before the arrival of Indo-Aryans. [38] Scholars do not share a uniform consensus on early Dravidian religion but many scholars associated it with Neolithic societies of South Asia [79] which was later assimilated into migrating Indo-Aryan society [79] leading to formation of early Indian religious and cultural synthesis. [79] [note 4] [12] Some scholars suggest early Dravidian religion were either historically or are at present Āgamic. [80] and have been dated either as post-vedic [81] or as pre-vedic compositions [82] which were assimilated to the Vedic fold. [83] [84] [85]

The commonly proposed period of earlier Vedic age is dated back to 2nd millennium BCE. [86] Vedism was the sacrificial religion of the early Indo-Aryans, speakers of early Old Indic dialects, ultimately deriving from the Proto-Indo-Iranian peoples of the Bronze Age who lived on the Central Asian steppes. [note 20]

Origins Edit

The Vedic period, named after the Vedic religion of the Indo-Aryans of the Kuru Kingdom, [87] [note 21] lasted from c. 1750 to 500 BCE. [88] [note 22] The Indo-Aryans were a branch of the Indo-European language family, which many scholars believe originated in Kurgan culture of the Central Asian steppes. [89] [90] [note 23] [note 24] Indeed, the Vedic religion, including the names of certain deities, was in essence a branch of the same religious tradition as the ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians, and Germanic peoples. For example, the Vedic god Dyaus Pita is a variant of the Proto-Indo-European god *Dyēus ph2ter (or simply *Dyēus), from which also derive the Greek Zeus and the Roman Jupiter. Similarly the Vedic Manu and Yama derive from the Proto-Indo-European *Manu and *Yemo, from which also derive the Germanic Mannus and Ymir.

According to the Indo-European migration theory, the Indo-Iranians were the common ancestor of the Indo-Aryans and the Proto-Iranians. The Indo-Iranians split into the Indo-Aryans and Iranians around 1800-1600 BC. [91]

The Indo-Aryans were pastoralists [92] who migrated into north-western India after the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization, [93] [94] [95] [note 25] The Indo-Aryans were a branch of the Indo-Iranians, which originated in the Andronovo culture [96] in the Bactria-Margiana era, in present northern Afghanistan. [97] The roots of this culture go back further to the Sintashta culture, with funeral sacrifices which show close parallels to the sacrificial funeral rites of the Rig Veda. [98]

Although some early depictions of deities seem to appear in the art of the Indus Valley Civilisation, very few religious artifacts from the period corresponding to the Indo-Aryan migration during the Vedic period remains. [99] It has been suggested that the early Vedic religion focused exclusively on the worship of purely "elementary forces of nature by means of elaborate sacrifices", which did not lend themselves easily to anthropomorphological representations. [100] [101] Various artefacts may belong to the Copper Hoard Culture (2nd millennium CE), some of them suggesting anthropomorphological characteristics. [102] Interpretations vary as to the exact signification of these artifacts, or even the culture and the periodization to which they belonged. [102]

During the Early Vedic period (c. 1500 – 1100 BCE [92] ) Indo-Aryan tribes were pastoralists in north-west India. [103] After 1100 BCE, with the introduction of iron, the Indo-Aryan tribes moved into the western Ganges Plain, adapting an agrarian lifestyle. [92] [104] [105] Rudimentary state-forms appeared, of which the Kuru-tribe and realm was the most influential. [92] [106] It was a tribal union, which developed into the first recorded state-level society in South Asia around 1000 BCE. [92] It decisively changed their religious heritage of the early Vedic period, collecting their ritual hymns into the Veda-collections, and developing new rituals which gained their position in Indian civilization as the orthodox srauta rituals, [92] which contributed to the so-called "classical synthesis" [107] or "Hindu synthesis". [12]

Rigvedic religion Edit

Who really knows?
Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation?
The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?

The Indo-Aryans brought with them their language [111] and religion. [112] [113] The Indo-Aryan and Vedic beliefs and practices of the pre-classical era were closely related to the hypothesised Proto-Indo-European religion, [114] and the Indo-Iranian religion. [115] According to Anthony, the Old Indic religion probably emerged among Indo-European immigrants in the contact zone between the Zeravshan River (present-day Uzbekistan) and (present-day) Iran. [116] It was "a syncretic mixture of old Central Asian and new Indo-European elements", [116] which borrowed "distinctive religious beliefs and practices" [115] from the Bactria–Margiana Culture. [115] At least 383 non-Indo-European words were borrowed from this culture, including the god Indra and the ritual drink Soma. [117] According to Anthony,

Many of the qualities of Indo-Iranian god of might/victory, Verethraghna, were transferred to the adopted god Indra, who became the central deity of the developing Old Indic culture. Indra was the subject of 250 hymns, a quarter of the Rig Veda. He was associated more than any other deity with Soma, a stimulant drug (perhaps derived from Ephedra) probably borrowed from the BMAC religion. His rise to prominence was a peculiar trait of the Old Indic speakers. [97]

The oldest inscriptions in Old Indic, the language of the Rig Veda, are found not in northwestern India and Pakistan, but in northern Syria, the location of the Mitanni kingdom. [118] The Mitanni kings took Old Indic throne names, and Old Indic technical terms were used for horse-riding and chariot-driving. [118] The Old Indic term r'ta, meaning "cosmic order and truth", the central concept of the Rig Veda, was also employed in the mitanni kingdom. [118] And Old Indic gods, including Indra, were also known in the Mitanni kingdom. [119] [120] [121]

Their religion was further developed when they migrated into the Ganges Plain after c. 1100 BCE and became settled farmers, [92] [122] [123] further syncretising with the native cultures of northern India. [107] The Vedic religion of the later Vedic period co-existed with local religions, such as the Yaksha cults, [107] [124] [web 4] and was itself the product of "a composite of the indo-Aryan and Harappan cultures and civilizations". [33] [note 7] David Gordon White cites three other mainstream scholars who "have emphatically demonstrated" that Vedic religion is partially derived from the Indus Valley Civilizations. [125] [note 7]

Vedas Edit

Its liturgy is preserved in the three Vedic Samhitas: the Rig-Veda, Sama-Veda and the Yajur-Veda. The Vedic texts were the texts of the elite, and do not necessarily represent popular ideas or practices. [128] Of these, the Rig-Veda is the oldest, a collection of hymns composed between ca. 1500-1200 BCE. [129] [130] [97] The other two add ceremonial detail for the performance of the actual sacrifice. The Atharva-Veda may also contain compositions dating to before 1000 BCE. It contains material pertinent to domestic ritual and folk magic of the period.

These texts, as well as the voluminous commentary on orthopraxy collected in the Brahmanas compiled during the early 1st millennium BCE, were transmitted by oral tradition alone until the advent, in the 4th century AD, of the Pallava and Gupta period and by a combination of written and oral tradition since then.

. go back to a hoary antiquity. The Vedas, the Brahmanas, the Grhyasutras, the Dharmasutras, the Smritis and other treatises describe the rites, ceremonies and customs. [131]

The earliest text of the Vedas is the Rigveda, [132] a collection of poetic hymns used in the sacrificial rites of Vedic priesthood. Many Rigvedic hymns concern the fire ritual (Agnihotra) and especially the offering of Soma to the gods (Somayajna). Soma is both an intoxicant and a god itself, as is the sacrificial fire, Agni. The royal horse sacrifice (Ashvamedha) is a central rite in the Yajurveda.

The gods in the Rig-Veda are mostly personified concepts, who fall into two categories: the devas – who were gods of nature – such as the weather deity Indra (who is also the King of the gods), Agni ("fire"), Usha ("dawn"), Surya ("sun") and Apas ("waters") on the one hand, and on the other hand the asuras – gods of moral concepts – such as Mitra ("contract"), Aryaman (guardian of guest, friendship and marriage), Bhaga ("share") or Varuna, the supreme Asura (or Aditya). While Rigvedic deva is variously applied to most gods, including many of the Asuras, the Devas are characterised as Younger Gods while Asuras are the Older Gods (pūrve devāḥ). In later Vedic texts, the Asuras become demons.

The Rigveda has 10 Mandalas ('books'). There is significant variation in the language and style between the family books (RV books 2–7), book 8, the "Soma Mandala" (RV 9), and the more recent books 1 and 10. The older books share many aspects of common Indo-Iranian religion, and is an important source for the reconstruction of earlier common Indo-European traditions. Especially RV 8 has striking similarity to the Avesta, [133] containing allusions to Afghan Flora and Fauna, [134] e.g. to camels (úṣṭra- = Avestan uštra). Many of the central religious terms in Vedic Sanskrit have cognates in the religious vocabulary of other Indo-European languages (deva: Latin deus hotar: Germanic god asura: Germanic ansuz yajna: Greek hagios brahman: Norse Bragi or perhaps Latin flamen etc.). In the Avesta, Asura (Ahura) is considered good and Devas (Daevas) are considered evil entities, quite the opposite of the Rig Veda.

Cosmic order Edit

Ethics in the Vedas are based on the concepts of Satya and Rta. Satya is the principle of integration rooted in the Absolute. [135] Ṛta is the expression of Satya, which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it. [136] Conformity with Ṛta would enable progress whereas its violation would lead to punishment. Panikkar remarks:

Ṛta is the ultimate foundation of everything it is "the supreme", although this is not to be understood in a static sense. [. ] It is the expression of the primordial dynamism that is inherent in everything. " [137]

The term "dharma" was already used in Brahmanical thought, where it was conceived as an aspect of Rta. [138] The term rta is also known from the Proto-Indo-Iranian religion, the religion of the Indo-Iranian peoples prior to the earliest Vedic (Indo-Aryan) and Zoroastrian (Iranian) scriptures. Asha [ pronunciation? ] (aša) is the Avestan language term corresponding to Vedic language ṛta. [139]

Upanishads Edit

The 9th and 8th centuries BCE witnessed the composition of the earliest Upanishads. [140] Upanishads form the theoretical basis of classical Hinduism and are known as Vedanta (conclusion of the Veda). [141] The older Upanishads launched attacks of increasing intensity on the rituals, however, a philosophical and allegorical meaning is also given to these rituals. In some later Upanishads there is a spirit of accommodation towards rituals. The tendency which appears in the philosophical hymns of the Vedas to reduce the number of gods to one principle becomes prominent in the Upanishads. [142] The diverse monistic speculations of the Upanishads were synthesised into a theistic framework by the sacred Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita. [143]

Brahmanism Edit

Brahmanism, also called Brahminism, developed out of the Vedic religion, incorporating non-Vedic religious ideas, and expanding to a region stretching from the northwest Indian subcontinent to the Ganges valley. [144] Brahmanism included the Vedic corpus, but also post-Vedic texts such as the Dharmasutras and Dharmasastras, which gave prominence to the priestly (Brahmin) class of the society. [144] The emphasis on ritual and the dominant position of Brahmans developed as an ideology developed in the Kuru-Pancala realm, and expanded into a wider realm after the demise of the Kuru-Pancala realm. [92] It co-existed with local religions, such as the Yaksha cults. [107] [124] [web 4]

In Iron Age India, during a period roughly spanning the 10th to 6th centuries BCE, the Mahajanapadas arise from the earlier kingdoms of the various Indo-Aryan tribes, and the remnants of the Late Harappan culture. In this period the mantra portions of the Vedas are largely completed, and a flowering industry of Vedic priesthood organised in numerous schools (shakha) develops exegetical literature, viz. the Brahmanas. These schools also edited the Vedic mantra portions into fixed recensions, that were to be preserved purely by oral tradition over the following two millennia.

Upanishads and Śramaṇa movements Edit

Vedism, with its orthodox rituals, may have been challenged as a consequence of the increasing urbanisation of India in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE, and the influx of foreign stimuli initiated with the Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley (circa 535 BCE). [145] [99] New ascetic or sramana movements arose, which challenged established religious orthodoxy, such as Buddhism, Jainism and local popular cults. [99] [145] The anthropomorphic depiction of various deities apparently resumed in the middle of the 1st millennium BCE, also as the consequence of the reduced authority of Vedism. [99]

Mahavira (c. 549–477 BCE), proponent of Jainism, and Buddha (c. 563-483 BCE), founder of Buddhism, were the most prominent icons of this movement. [146] According to Heinrich Zimmer, Jainism and Buddhism are part of the pre-Vedic heritage, which also includes Samkhya and Yoga:

[Jainism] does not derive from Brahman-Aryan sources, but reflects the cosmology and anthropology of a much older pre-Aryan upper class of northeastern India – being rooted in the same subsoil of archaic metaphysical speculation as Yoga, Sankhya, and Buddhism, the other non-Vedic Indian systems. [147] [note 26]

The Sramana tradition in part created the concept of the cycle of birth and death, the concept of samsara, and the concept of liberation, which became characteristic for Hinduism. [note 27]

Pratt notes that Oldenberg (1854–1920), Neumann (1865–1915) and Radhakrishnan (1888–1975) believed that the Buddhist canon had been influenced by Upanishads, while la Vallee Poussin thinks the influence was nihil, and "Eliot and several others insist that on some points the Buddha was directly antithetical to the Upanishads". [149] [note 28]

Mauryan Empire Edit

The Mauryan period saw an early flowering of classical Sanskrit Sutra and Shastra literature and the scholarly exposition of the "circum-Vedic" fields of the Vedanga. However, during this time Buddhism was patronised by Ashoka, who ruled large parts of India, and Buddhism was also the mainstream religion until the Gupta period.

Decline of Brahmanism Edit

Decline Edit

The post-Vedic period of the Second Urbanisation saw a decline of Brahmanism. [151] [152] [note 29] At the end of the Vedic period, the meaning of the words of the Vedas had become obscure, and was perceived as "a fixed sequence of sounds" [153] [note 30] with a magical power, "means to an end." [note 31] With the growth of cities, which threatened the income and patronage of the rural Brahmins the rise of Buddhism and the Indian campaign of Alexander the Great (327-325 BCE), the rise of the Mauryan Empire (322-185 BCE), and the Saka invasions and rule of northwestern India (2nd c. BC – 4th c. CE), Brahmanism faced a grave threat to its existence. [154] [155] In some later texts, Northwest-India (which earlier texts consider as part of "Aryavarta") is even seen as "impure", probably due to invasions. The Karnaparva 43.5-8 states that those who live on the Sindhu and the five rivers of the Punjab are impure and dharmabahya.

Survival of Vedic ritual Edit

Vedism as the religious tradition of a priestly elite was marginalised by other traditions such as Jainism and Buddhism in the later Iron Age, but in the Middle Ages would rise to renewed prestige with the Mimamsa school, which as well as all other astika traditions of Hinduism, considered them authorless (apaurusheyatva) and eternal. A last surviving elements of the Historical Vedic religion or Vedism is Śrauta tradition, following many major elements of Vedic religion and is prominent in Southern India, with communities in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, but also in some pockets of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and other states the best known of these groups are the Nambudiri of Kerala, whose traditions were notably documented by Frits Staal. [156] [157] [158]

Early Hinduism (c. 200 BCE – 320 CE) Edit

Hindu synthesis Edit

The decline of Brahmanism was overcome by providing new services [164] and incorporating the non-Vedic Indo-Aryan religious heritage of the eastern Ganges plain and local religious traditions, giving rise to contemporary Hinduism. [154] [web 5] [107] [165] [92] [144] Between 500 [12] –200 [22] BCE and c. 300 CE the "Hindu synthesis" developed, [12] [22] which incorporated Sramanic and Buddhist influences [22] [40] and the emerging bhakti tradition into the Brahmanical fold via the smriti literature. [41] [22] This synthesis emerged under the pressure of the success of Buddhism and Jainism. [42]

According to Embree, several other religious traditions had existed side by side with the Vedic religion. These indigenous religions "eventually found a place under the broad mantle of the Vedic religion". [166] When Brahmanism was declining [note 29] and had to compete with Buddhism and Jainism, [note 32] the popular religions had the opportunity to assert themselves. [166] According to Embree,

[T]he Brahmanists themselves seem to have encouraged this development to some extent as a means of meeting the challenge of the heterodox movements. At the same time, among the indigenous religions, a common allegiance to the authority of the Veda provided a thin, but nonetheless significant, the thread of unity amid their variety of gods and religious practices. [166]

This "new Brahmanism" appealed to rulers, who were attracted to the supernatural powers and the practical advice Brahmis could provide, [164] and resulted in a resurgence of Brahmanical influence, dominating Indian society since the classical Age of Hinduism in the early centuries CE. [154] [155] It is reflected in the process of Sanskritization, a process in which "people from many strata of society throughout the subcontinent tended to adapt their religious and social life to Brahmanic norms", a process sometimes called Sanskritization. [web 2] It is reflected in the tendency to identify local deities with the gods of the Sanskrit texts. [web 2]

Late to Post-Mauryan development (200 BCE-50 CE) Edit

Vāsudeva and Saṃkarṣaṇa (later Balarama) were anciently powerful local deities associated with the local cult of the Vrishni heroes in Mathura from around the 4th century BCE. [167] [168] Some late Mauryan punch-marked coins main contain depictions of the Vrishni heroes and Balarama. [169] [170] Coins dated to about 185-170 BCE belonging to the Indo-Greek King Agathocles show Balarama's iconography and Greek inscriptions. Balarama-Samkarshana is typically shown standing with a gada in his right hand and holding a plough in his left. On the other side of these coins is Vāsudeva-Krishna holding the conch and chakra.

At Chilas II archeological site dated to the first half of 1st-century CE in northwest Pakistan, near Afghanistan border, are engraved two males along with many Buddhist images nearby. The larger of the two males hold a plough and club in his two hands. The artwork also has an inscription with it in Kharosthi script, which has been deciphered by scholars as Rama-Krsna, and interpreted as an ancient depiction of the two brothers Balarama and Krishna. [171] [172] The early Balarama images found in Jansuti (Mathura, Uttar Pradesh) and two at Tumain (Ashoknagar, Madhya Pradesh) are dated to 2nd/1st-century BCE and these show Balarama holding a Hala (plough) and a musala (pestle) in his two hands. [173]

In all of these early depictions, Balarama-Samkarsana seems to hold a senior position over Vāsudeva-Krishna. [161] On the coins of Agathocles of Bactria, Balarama is on the front of the coin (the side with a legend in Greek), whereas Vāsudeva-Krishna is on the reverse (Brahmi side). [161] At Chilas, Balarama is shown taller and bigger than Vāsudeva-Krishna. [161] The same relationship is also visible in the hierarchy of the Vrishni heroes. [161]

In some Indian ancient arts and texts, Balarama (Sankarsana) and Krishna (Vasudeva) are two of the five heroes (Pancaviras of the Vrishnis). [174] The other three differ by the text. In some those are "Pradyumna, Samba and Aniruddha", [175] in others "Anadhrsti, Sarana and Viduratha". [176] [177] The 1st-century Mora well inscription near Mathura, dated between 10 and 25 CE, mention the installation of five Vrishni heroes in a stone temple. [178]

Mauryan punch-marked coin with three deities 4th-2nd century BCE

Possible depiction of Balarama on late, post-Mauryan, punch-marked coins. [169] [170] He is shown wielding a mace and a plough. [179] [169]

Saṃkarṣaṇa, Vāsudeva and the female Goddess Ekanamsha shown in a rock painting at Tikla, 3rd-2nd century BCE. [180]

Saṃkarṣaṇa on a coin of Agathocles of Bactria, circa 190-180 BCE. [159] [160] This is "the earliest unambiguous image" of the deity. [161] [181]

(Bala)rama and Krishna with they attributes at Chilas. The Kharoshthi inscription nearby reads Rama [kri]ṣa. 1st century CE. [161]

Samkarsana-Balarama on a coin of Indo-Scythian Maues (90-80 BCE) [182]

Smriti Edit

The Brahmins response of assimilation and consolidation is reflected in the smriti literature which took shape in this period. [183] The smriti texts of the period between 200 BCE and 100 CE proclaim the authority of the Vedas, and acceptance of the Vedas became a central criterium for defining Hinduism over and against the heterodoxies, which rejected the Vedas. [184] Most of the basic ideas and practices of classical Hinduism derive from the new smriti literature. [note 33]

Of the six Hindu darsanas, the Mimamsa and the Vedanta "are rooted primarily in the Vedic sruti tradition and are sometimes called smarta schools in the sense that they develop smarta orthodox current of thoughts that are based, like smriti, directly on sruti". [185] [ verify ] According to Hiltebeitel, "the consolidation of Hinduism takes place under the sign of bhakti". [185] It is the Bhagavadgita that seals this achievement. [185] The result is a "universal achievement" that may be called smarta. [185] It views Shiva and Vishnu as "complementary in their functions but ontologically identical". [185]

The major Sanskrit epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, which belong to the smriti, were compiled over a protracted period during the late centuries BCE and the early centuries CE. [web 6] They contain mythological stories about the rulers and wars of ancient India, and are interspersed with religious and philosophical treatises. The later Puranas recount tales about devas and devis, their interactions with humans and their battles against rakshasa. The Bhagavad Gita "seals the achievement" [186] of the "consolidation of Hinduism", [186] integrating Brahmanic and sramanic ideas with theistic devotion. [186] [187] [188] [web 7]

Schools of Hindu philosophy Edit

In early centuries CE several schools of Hindu philosophy were formally codified, including Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Purva-Mimamsa and Vedanta. [189]

Sangam literature Edit

The Sangam literature (300 BCE – 400 CE), written in the Sangam period, is a mostly secular body of classical literature in the Tamil language. Nonetheless, there are some works, significantly Pattupathu and Paripaatal, wherein the personal devotion to God was written in the form of devotional poems. Vishnu, Shiva and Murugan were mentioned gods. These works are therefore the earliest evidence of monotheistic Bhakti traditions, preceding the large bhakti movement, which was given great attention in later times.

Artistic and cultual development under the Kushans (50-320 CE) Edit

Hindu art started to develop fully from the 1st to the 2nd century CE, and there are only very few examples of artistic representation before that time. [193] Almost all of the first known instances of Hindu art have been discovered in the areas of Mathura and Gandhara. [194] Hindu art found its first inspiration in the Buddhist art of Mathura. The three Vedic gods Indra, Brahma and Surya were actually first depicted in Buddhist sculpture from the 2nd-1st century BCE, as attendants in scenes commemorating the life of the Buddha, even when the Buddha himself was not yet shown in human form but only through his symbols, such as the scenes of his Birth, his Descent from the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven, or his retreat in the Indrasala Cave. [193] During the time of the Kushans, Hindu art progressively incorporated a profusion of original Hindu stylistic and symbolic elements, in contrast with the general balance and simplicity of Buddhist art. The differences appear in iconography rather than in style. [195] It is generally considered that it is in Mathura, during the time of the Kushans, that the Brahmanical deities were given their standard form:

"To a great extent it is in the visual rendering of the various gods and goddesses of theistic Brahmanism that the Mathura artist displayed his ingenuity and inventiveness at their best. Along with almost all the major cult icons Visnu, Siva, Surya, Sakti and Ganapati, a number of subsidiary deities of the faith were given tangible form in Indian art here for the first time in an organized manner. In view of this and for the variety and multiplicity of devotional images then made, the history of Mathura during the first three centuries of the Christian era, which coincided with the rule of the Kusanas, can very well be called revolutionary in the development of Brahmanical sculpture"

Cult images of Vāsudeva continued to be produced during the period, the worship of this Mathuran deity being much more important than that of Vishnu until the 4th century CE. [196] Statues dating to the 2nd and 3rd century show a possibly four-armed Vāsudeva standing with his attributes: the wheel, the mace and the conch, his right hand saluting in Abhaya mudra. [197] Only with the Gupta period, did statues focusing on the worship of Vishnu himself start to appear, using the same iconography as the statues of Vāsudeva, but with the addition of an aureole starting at the shoulders. [196] During this time, statues pertaining to Gopala-Krishna, the other main component of the amalgamated Krishna, are absent from Mathura, suggesting the near absence of this cult in northern India down to the end of the Gupta period (6th century CE). [198]

The concept of the avatars of Vishnu seems to have formed during the Kushan period in the 3rd to 2nd century CE. [199] Some sculptures during this period suggest that the "Vyūha doctrine" (Vyūhavāda, "Doctrine of the emanations") was starting to emerge, as images of "Chatur-vyūha" (the "four emanations of Vāsudeva") are appearing. [199] The famous "Caturvyūha" statue in Mathura Museum is an attempt to show in one composition Vāsudeva as the central deity together with the other members of the Vrishni clan of the Pancharatra system emanating from him: Samkarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha, with Samba missing. [190] [191] The back of the relief is carved with the branches of a Kadamba tree, symbolically showing the genealogical relationship being the different deities. [190] The depiction of Vāsudeva and later Vishnu was stylistically derived from the type of the ornate Bodhisattvas, with rich jewelry and ornate headdress. [200]

Sun God Surya, also revered in Buddhism, Kushan Period

Shiva Linga worshipped by Indo-Scythian, [201] or Kushan devotees, 2nd century CE.

War God Karttikeya and Fire God Agni, Kushan Period, 1st century CE

The Hindu God Shiva, 3rd century CE. Mathura or Ahichchhatra. [202]

Kushan-era image of Shashthi between Skanda and Vishakha, c. 2nd century CE

Three-faced four-armed Oesho with attributes, often identified with Shiva, on a coin of Huvishka. [203]

Indian trade with Africa Edit

During the time of the Roman Empire, trade took place between India and east Africa, and there is archaeological evidence of small Indian presence in Zanzibar, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, and the coastal parts of Kenya along with the Swahili coast, [204] [205] but no conversion to Hinduism took place. [204] [206]

Hindu Colony in the Middle East (The Levant) Edit

Armenian historian Zenob Glak (300-350 CE) said “there was an Indian colony in the canton of Taron on the upper Euphrates, to the west of Lake Van, as early as the second century B.C. [207] The Indians had built there two temples containing images of gods about 18 and 22 feet high." [207]

"Golden Age" of India (Gupta and Pallava period) (c. 320–650 CE) Edit

During this period, power was centralised, along with a growth of near distance trade, standardization of legal procedures, and general spread of literacy. [208] Mahayana Buddhism flourished, but orthodox Brahmana culture began to be rejuvenated by the patronage of the Gupta Dynasty, [209] who were Vaishnavas. [210] The position of the Brahmans was reinforced, [208] the first Hindu temples dedicated to the gods of the Hindu deities, emerged during the late Gupta age. [208] [note 34] During the Gupta reign the first Puranas were written, [43] [note 8] which were used to disseminate "mainstream religious ideology amongst pre-literate and tribal groups undergoing acculturation". [43] The Guptas patronised the newly emerging Puranic religion, seeking legitimacy for their dynasty. [210] The resulting Puranic Hinduism, differed markedly from the earlier Brahmanism of the Dharmasastras and the smritis. [43]

According to P. S. Sharma, "the Gupta and Harsha periods form really, from the strictly intellectual standpoint, the most brilliant epocha in the development of Indian philosophy", as Hindu and Buddhist philosophies flourished side by side. [211] Charvaka, the atheistic materialist school, came to the fore in North India before the 8th century CE. [212]

Gupta and Pallava Empires Edit

The Gupta period (4th to 6th centuries) saw a flowering of scholarship, the emergence of the classical schools of Hindu philosophy, and of classical Sanskrit literature in general on topics ranging from medicine, veterinary science, mathematics, to astrology and astronomy and astrophysics. The famous Aryabhata and Varahamihira belong to this age. The Gupta established a strong central government which also allowed a degree of local control. Gupta society was ordered in accordance with Hindu beliefs. This included a strict caste system, or class system. The peace and prosperity created under Gupta leadership enabled the pursuit of scientific and artistic endeavors.

The Pallavas (4th to 9th centuries) were, alongside the Guptas of the North, patronisers of Sanskrit in the South of the Indian subcontinent. The Pallava reign saw the first Sanskrit inscriptions in a script called Grantha. Early Pallavas had different connexions to Southeast Asian countries. The Pallavas used Dravidian architecture to build some very important Hindu temples and academies in Mahabalipuram, Kanchipuram and other places their rule saw the rise of great poets, who are as famous as Kalidasa.

The practice of dedicating temples to different deities came into vogue followed by fine artistic temple architecture and sculpture (see Vastu Shastra).

Dashavatara Temple is a Vishnu Hindu temple build during the Gupta period.

The Descent of the Ganges, also known as Arjuna's Penance, at Mahabalipuram, is one of the largest rock reliefs in Asia and features in several Hindu myths.

Bhakti Edit

This period saw the emergence of the Bhakti movement. The Bhakti movement was a rapid growth of bhakti beginning in Tamil Nadu in Southern India with the Saiva Nayanars (4th to 10th centuries CE) [213] and the Vaisnava Alvars (3rd to 9th centuries CE) who spread bhakti poetry and devotion throughout India by the 12th to 18th centuries CE. [214] [213]

Expansion in South-East Asia Edit

Expansion of Hinduism in Southeast Asia

Angkor Wat in Cambodia is one of the largest Hindu monuments in the world. It is one of hundreds of ancient Hindu temples in Southeast Asia.

Prambanan in Java is a Hindu temple complex dedicated to Trimurti. It was built during the Sanjaya dynasty of Mataram Kingdom.

Hoà Lai Towers in Ninh Thuận, Vietnam, a Hindu temple complex built in the 9th century by the Champa Kingdom of Panduranga.

Pura Besakih, the holiest temple of Hindu religion in Bali.

Hindu influences reached the Indonesian Archipelago as early as the first century. [215] At this time, India started to strongly influence Southeast Asian countries. Trade routes linked India with southern Burma, central and southern Siam, lower Cambodia and southern Vietnam and numerous urbanised coastal settlements were established there.

For more than a thousand years, Indian Hindu/Buddhist influence was, therefore, the major factor that brought a certain level of cultural unity to the various countries of the region. The Pali and Sanskrit languages and the Indian script, together with Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, Brahmanism and Hinduism, were transmitted from direct contact as well as through sacred texts and Indian literature, such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata epics.

From the 5th to the 13th century, South-East Asia had very powerful Indian colonial empires and became extremely active in Hindu and Buddhist architectural and artistic creation. The Sri Vijaya Empire to the south and the Khmer Empire to the north competed for influence.

Langkasuka (-langkha Sanskrit for "resplendent land" -sukkha of "bliss") was an ancient Hindu kingdom located in the Malay Peninsula. The kingdom, along with Old Kedah settlement, are probably the earliest territorial footholds founded on the Malay Peninsula. According to tradition, the founding of the kingdom happened in the 2nd century Malay legends claim that Langkasuka was founded at Kedah, and later moved to Pattani.

From the 5th to 15th centuries Sri Vijayan empire, a maritime empire centred on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, had adopted Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism under a line of rulers named the Sailendras. The Empire of Sri Vijaya declined due to conflicts with the Chola rulers of India. The Majapahit Empire succeeded the Singhasari empire. It was one of the last and greatest Hindu empires in maritime Southeast Asia.

Funan was a pre-Angkor Cambodian kingdom, located around the Mekong delta, probably established by Mon-Khmer settlers speaking an Austroasiatic language. According to reports by two Chinese envoys, K'ang T'ai and Chu Ying, the state was established by an Indian Brahmin named Kaundinya, who in the 1st century CE was given instruction in a dream to take a magic bow from a temple and defeat a Khmer queen, Soma. Soma, the daughter of the king of the Nagas, married Kaundinya and their lineage became the royal dynasty of Funan. The myth had the advantage of providing the legitimacy of both an Indian Brahmin and the divinity of the cobras, who at that time were held in religious regard by the inhabitants of the region.

The kingdom of Champa (or Lin-yi in Chinese records) controlled what is now south and central Vietnam from approximately 192 through 1697. The dominant religion of the Cham people was Hinduism and the culture was heavily influenced by India.

Later, from the 9th to the 13th century, the Mahayana Buddhist and Hindu Khmer Empire dominated much of the South-East Asian peninsula. Under the Khmer, more than 900 temples were built in Cambodia and in neighboring Thailand. Angkor was at the centre of this development, with a temple complex and urban organisation able to support around one million urban dwellers. The largest temple complex of the world, Angkor Wat, stands here built by the king Vishnuvardhan.

Late-Classical Hinduism – Puranic Hinduism (c. 650–1200 CE) Edit

After the end of the Gupta Empire and the collapse of the Harsha Empire, power became decentralised in India. Several larger kingdoms emerged, with "countless vasal states". [217] [note 35] The kingdoms were ruled via a feudal system. Smaller kingdoms were dependent on the protection of the larger kingdoms. "The great king was remote, was exalted and deified", [217] as reflected in the Tantric Mandala, which could also depict the king as the centre of the mandala. [218]

The disintegration of central power also lead to regionalisation of religiosity, and religious rivalry. [219] [note 36] Local cults and languages were enhanced, and the influence of "Brahmanic ritualistic Hinduism" [219] was diminished. [219] Rural and devotional movements arose, along with Shaivism, Vaisnavism, Bhakti and Tantra, [219] though "sectarian groupings were only at the beginning of their development". [219] Religious movements had to compete for recognition by the local lords. [219] Buddhism lost its position after the 8th century, and began to disappear in India. [219] This was reflected in the change of puja-ceremonies at the courts in the 8th century, where Hindu gods replaced the Buddha as the "supreme, imperial deity". [note 37]

Puranic Hinduism Edit

The Brahmanism of the Dharmashastras and the smritis underwent a radical transformation at the hands of the Purana composers, resulting in the rise of Puranic Hinduism, [43] "which like a colossus striding across the religious firmanent soon came to overshadow all existing religions". [222] Puranic Hinduism was a "multiplex belief-system which grew and expanded as it absorbed and synthesised polaristic ideas and cultic traditions". [222] It was distinguished from its Vedic Smarta roots by its popular base, its theological and sectarioan pluralism, its Tantric veneer, and the central place of bhakti. [222] [note 9]

The early mediaeval Puranas were composed to disseminate religious mainstream ideology among the pre-literate tribal societies undergoing acculturation. [43] With the breakdown of the Gupta empire, gifts of virgin waste-land were heaped on brahmanas, [48] [223] to ensure profitable agrarian exploitation of land owned by the kings, [48] but also to provide status to the new ruling classes. [48] Brahmanas spread further over India, interacting with local clans with different religions and ideologies. [48] The Brahmanas used the Puranas to incorporate those clans into the agrarian society and its accompanying religion and ideology. [48] According to Flood, "[t]he Brahmans who followed the puranic religion became known as smarta, those whose worship was based on the smriti, or pauranika, those based on the Puranas." [224] Local chiefs and peasants were absorbed into the varna, which was used to keep "control over the new kshatriyas and shudras." [225]

The Brahmanic group was enlarged by incorporating local subgroups, such as local priests. [48] This also lead to stratification within the Brahmins, with some Brahmins having a lower status than other Brahmins. [48] The use of caste worked better with the new Puranic Hinduism than with the Sramanic sects. [225] The Puranic texts provided extensive genealogies which gave status to the new kshatriyas. [225] Buddhist myths pictured government as a contract between an elected ruler and the people. [225] And the Buddhist chakkavatti [note 38] "was a distinct concept from the models of conquest held up to the kshatriyas and the Rajputs". [225]

Many local religions and traditions were assimilated into puranic Hinduism. Vishnu and Shiva emerged as the main deities, together with Sakti/Deva. [226] Vishnu subsumed the cults of Narayana, Jagannaths, Venkateswara "and many others". [226] Nath:

[S]ome incarnations of Vishnu such as Matsya, Kurma, Varaha and perhaps even Nrsimha helped to incorporate certain popular totem symbols and creation myths, especially those related to wild boar, which commonly permeate preliterate mythology, others such as Krsna and Balarama became instrumental in assimilating local cults and myths centering around two popular pastoral and agricultural gods. [227]

The transformation of Brahmanism into Pauranic Hinduism in post-Gupta India was due to a process of acculturation. The Puranas helped establish a religious mainstream among the pre-literate tribal societies undergoing acculturation. The tenets of Brahmanism and of the Dharmashastras underwent a radical transformation at the hands of the Purana composers, resulting in the rise of a mainstream "Hinduism" that overshadowed all earlier traditions. [48]

Bhakti movement Edit

Rama and Krishna became the focus of a strong bhakti tradition, which found expression particularly in the Bhagavata Purana. The Krishna tradition subsumed numerous Naga, yaksa and hill and tree-based cults. [228] Siva absorbed local cults by the suffixing of Isa or Isvara to the name of the local deity, for example, Bhutesvara, Hatakesvara, Chandesvara. [226] In 8th-century royal circles, the Buddha started to be replaced by Hindu gods in pujas. [note 39] This also was the same period of time the Buddha was made into an avatar of Vishnu. [230]

The first documented bhakti movement was founded by Karaikkal-ammaiyar. She wrote poems in Tamil about her love for Shiva and probably lived around the 6th century CE. The twelve Alvars who were Vaishnavite devotees and the sixty-three Nayanars who were Shaivite devotees nurtured the incipient bhakti movement in Tamil Nadu.

During the 12th century CE in Karnataka, the Bhakti movement took the form of the Virashaiva movement. It was inspired by Basavanna, a Hindu reformer who created the sect of Lingayats or Shiva bhaktas. During this time, a unique and native form of Kannada literature-poetry called Vachanas was born.

Advaita Vedanta Edit

Shankara (8th century CE) consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta. [232] [233] Shankara propounded a unified reality, in which the innermost self of a person (atman) and the supernatural power of the entire world (brahman) are one and the same. Perceiving the changing multiplicity of forms and objects as the final reality is regarded as maya, "illusion," obscuring the unchanging ultimate reality of brahman. [234] [235] [236] [237]

Shankara himself, and his grand-teacher Gaudapada, were influenced by Buddhism. [238] [239] [240] [241] Gaudapda took over the Buddhist doctrines that ultimate reality is pure consciousness (vijñapti-mātra) [242] and "that the nature of the world is the four-cornered negation". [242] Gaudapada "wove [both doctrines] into a philosophy of the Mandukya Upanishad, which was further developed by Shankara". [239] Gaudapada also took over the Buddhist concept of "ajāta" from Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka philosophy. [240] [241] Shankara succeeded in reading Gaudapada's mayavada [243] [note 40] into Badarayana's Brahma Sutras, "and give it a locus classicus", [243] against the realistic strain of the Brahma Sutras. [243]

Shankara is the founder of the Dashanami Sampradaya of Hindu monasticism and Shanmata tradition of worship. Shankara is also regarded as the greatest teacher [244] and reformer of the Smarta tradition. [245] [244] According to

Not all Brahmins specialized in this Smriti tradition. Some were influenced by Buddhism, Jainism or Charvaka tradition and philosophy. This did not mean that all these people rejected the authority of Vedas, but only that their tradition of worship and philosophy was based not on Smriti texts. In time, Shankaracharya brought all the Vedic communities together. He tried to remove the non-Smriti aspects that had crept into the Hindu communities. He also endeavoured to unite them by arguing that any of the different Hindu gods could be worshipped, according to the prescriptions given in the Smriti texts. He established that worship of various deities are compatible with Vedas and is not contradictory, since all are different manifestations of one nirguna Brahman. Shankaracharya was instrumental in reviving interest in the Smritis. [web 12]

In modern times, due to the influence of western Orientalism and Perennialism on Indian Neo-Vedanta and Hindu nationalism, [150] Advaita Vedanta has acquired a broad acceptance in Indian culture and beyond as the paradigmatic example of Hindu spirituality. [150]

Contact with Persia and Mesopotamia Edit

Hindu and also Buddhist religious and secular learning had first reached Persia in an organised manner in the 6th century, when the Sassanid Emperor Khosrau I (531–579) deputed Borzuya the physician as his envoy, to invite Indian and Chinese scholars to the Academy of Gundishapur. Burzoe had translated the Sanskrit Panchatantra. His Pahlavi version was translated into Arabic by Ibn al-Moqaffa under the title of Kalila and Dimna or The Fables of Bidpai. [246]

Under the Abbasid caliphate, Baghdad had replaced Gundishapur as the most important centre of learning in the then vast Islamic Empire, wherein the traditions, as well as scholars of the latter, flourished. Hindu scholars were invited to the conferences on sciences and mathematics held in Baghdad. [247]

Muslim rule Edit

The image, in the chapter on India in Hutchison's Story of the Nations edited by James Meston, depicts the Muslim Turkic general Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji's massacre of Buddhist monks in Bihar, India. Khaliji destroyed the Nalanda and Vikramshila universities during his raids across North Indian plains, massacring many Buddhist and Brahmin scholars. [248]

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple was destroyed by the army of Delhi Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak. [249]

Kakatiya Kala Thoranam (Warangal Gate) built by the Kakatiya dynasty in ruins one of the many temple complexes destroyed by the Delhi Sultanate. [249]

Though Islam came to the Indian subcontinent in the early 7th century with the advent of Arab traders, it started impacting Indian religions after the 10th century, and particularly after the 12th century with the establishment and then expansion of Islamic rule. [250] [251] Will Durant calls the Muslim conquest of India "probably the bloodiest story in history". [252] During this period, Buddhism declined rapidly while Hinduism faced military-led and Sultanates-sponsored religious violence. [252] [253] There was a widespread practice of raids, seizure and enslavement of families of Hindus, who were then sold in Sultanate cities or exported to Central Asia. [254] [255] Some texts suggest a number of Hindus were forcibly converted to Islam. [256] [257] Starting with the 13th century, for a period of some 500 years, very few texts, from the numerous written by Muslim court historians, mention any "voluntary conversions of Hindus to Islam", suggesting the insignificance and perhaps rarity of such conversions. [257] Typically enslaved Hindus converted to Islam to gain their freedom. [258] There were occasional exceptions to religious violence against Hinduism. Akbar, for example, recognized Hinduism, banned enslavement of the families of Hindu war captives, protected Hindu temples, and abolished discriminatory Jizya (head taxes) against Hindus. [254] [259] However, many Muslim rulers of Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire, before and after Akbar, from the 12th to 18th centuries, destroyed Hindu temples [web 13] [260] [web 14] [note 41] and persecuted non-Muslims. As noted by Alain Daniélou:

From the time Muslims started arriving, around 632 AD, the history of India becomes a long, monotonous series of murders, massacres, spoliations, and destructions. It is, as usual, in the name of 'a holy war' of their faith, of their sole God, that the barbarians have destroyed civilizations, wiped out entire races. [261]

Unifying Hinduism Edit

Ramanuja is one of the most important exponents of the Sri Vaishnavism tradition within Hinduism, depicted with Vaishnava Tilaka and Varadraja (Vishnu) statue. [262]

Madhvacharya, chief proponent of the Dvaita (dualism) school of Vedanta [263]

Hinduism underwent profound changes, aided in part by teachers such as Ramanuja, Madhva, and Chaitanya. [250] Followers of the Bhakti movement moved away from the abstract concept of Brahman, which the philosopher Adi Shankara consolidated a few centuries before, with emotional, passionate devotion towards the more accessible Avatars, especially Krishna and Rama. [264] According to Nicholson, already between the 12th and the 16th century, "certain thinkers began to treat as a single whole the diverse philosophical teachings of the Upanishads, epics, Puranas, and the schools known retrospectively as the 'six systems' (saddarsana) of mainstream Hindu philosophy." [265] [note 42] Michaels notes that a historicization emerged which preceded later nationalism, articulating ideas which glorified Hinduism and the past. [266]

Eastern Ganga and Surya States Edit

Eastern Ganga and Surya were Hindu polities, which ruled much of present-day Odisha (historically known as Kalinga) from the 11th century until the mid-16th century CE. During the 13th and 14th centuries, when large parts of India were under the rule of Muslim powers, an independent Kalinga became a stronghold of Hindu religion, philosophy, art, and architecture. The Eastern Ganga rulers were great patrons of religion and the arts, and the temples they built are considered among the masterpieces of Hindu architecture. [web 16] [web 17]

Early Modern period (c. 1500–1850 CE) Edit

The fall of Vijayanagar Empire to Muslim rulers had marked the end of Hindu imperial assertions in the Deccan. But, taking advantage of an over-stretched Mughal Empire (1526–1857), Hinduism once again rose to political prestige, under the Maratha Empire, from 1674 to 1818.

Vijayanagar Empire Edit

The Vijayanagar Empire was established in 1336 by Harihara I and his brother Bukka Raya I of Sangama Dynasty, [267] which originated as a political heir of the Hoysala Empire, Kakatiya Empire, [268] and the Pandyan Empire. [269] The empire rose to prominence as a culmination of attempts by the south Indian powers to ward off Islamic invasions by the end of the 13th century. According to one narrative, the empire's founders Harihara Raya I and Bukka Raya I were two brothers in the service of the Kampili chief. After Kampili fell to the Muslim invasion, they were taken to Delhi and converted to Islam. They were sent back to Kampili as the Delhi Sultan's vassals. After gaining power in the region, they approached Vidyaranya, who converted them back to the Hindu faith. [270]

The Vijayanagara Emperors were tolerant of all religions and sects, as writings by foreign visitors show. [271] The kings used titles such as Gobrahamana Pratipalanacharya (literally, "protector of cows and Brahmins") and Hindurayasuratrana (lit. "upholder of Hindu faith") that testified to their intention of protecting Hinduism and yet were at the same time staunchly Islamicate in their court ceremonials and dress. [272] The empire's founders, Harihara I and Bukka Raya I, were devout Shaivas (worshippers of Shiva), but made grants to the Vaishnava order of Sringeri with Vidyaranya as their patron saint, and designated Varaha (the boar, an avatar of Vishnu) as their emblem. [273] Over one-fourth of the archaeological dig found an "Islamic Quarter" not far from the "Royal Quarter". Nobles from Central Asia's Timurid kingdoms also came to Vijayanagara. The later Saluva and Tuluva kings were Vaishnava by faith, but worshipped at the feet of Lord Virupaksha (Shiva) at Hampi as well as Lord Venkateshwara (Vishnu) at Tirupati. A Sanskrit work, Jambavati Kalyanam by King Krishnadevaraya, called Lord Virupaksha Karnata Rajya Raksha Mani ("protective jewel of Karnata Empire"). [274] The kings patronised the saints of the dvaita order (philosophy of dualism) of Madhvacharya at Udupi. [275]

Market place at Hampi and the sacred tank located near the Krishna temple

Stone temple car in the Vitthala Temple at Hampi

Virupaksha Temple is dedicated to Lord Virupaksha, a form of Shiva.

An open mantapa with yali columns at the Vittala temple in Hampi

The Bhakti (devotional) movement was active during this time, and involved well known Haridasas (devotee saints) of that time. Like the Virashaiva movement of the 12th century, this movement presented another strong current of devotion, pervading the lives of millions. The haridasas represented two groups, the Vyasakuta and Dasakuta, the former being required to be proficient in the Vedas, Upanishads and other Darshanas, while the Dasakuta merely conveyed the message of Madhvacharya through the Kannada language to the people in the form of devotional songs (Devaranamas and Kirthanas). The philosophy of Madhvacharya was spread by eminent disciples such as Naraharitirtha, Jayatirtha, Sripadaraya, Vyasatirtha, Vadirajatirtha and others. [276] Vyasatirtha, the guru (teacher) of Vadirajatirtha, Purandaradasa (Father of Carnatic music [277] [note 43] ) and Kanakadasa [278] earned the devotion of King Krishnadevaraya. [279] [280] [281] The king considered the saint his Kuladevata (family deity) and honoured him in his writings. [web 18] During this time, another great composer of early carnatic music, Annamacharya composed hundreds of Kirthanas in Telugu at Tirupati in present-day Andhra Pradesh. [282]

The Vijayanagara Empire created an epoch in South Indian history that transcended regionalism by promoting Hinduism as a unifying factor. The empire reached its peak during the rule of Sri Krishnadevaraya when Vijayanagara armies were consistently victorious. The empire annexed areas formerly under the Sultanates in the northern Deccan and the territories in the eastern Deccan, including Kalinga, while simultaneously maintaining control over all its subordinates in the south. [283] Many important monuments were either completed or commissioned during the time of Krishna Deva Raya.

Vijayanagara went into decline after the defeat in the Battle of Talikota (1565). After the death of Aliya Rama Raya in the Battle of Talikota, Tirumala Deva Raya started the Aravidu dynasty, moved and founded a new capital of Penukonda to replace the destroyed Hampi, and attempted to reconstitute the remains of Vijayanagara Empire. [284] Tirumala abdicated in 1572, dividing the remains of his kingdom to his three sons, and pursued a religious life until his death in 1578. The Aravidu dynasty successors ruled the region but the empire collapsed in 1614, and the final remains ended in 1646, from continued wars with the Bijapur Sultanate and others. [285] [286] [287] During this period, more kingdoms in South India became independent and separate from Vijayanagara. These include the Mysore Kingdom, Keladi Nayaka, Nayaks of Madurai, Nayaks of Tanjore, Nayakas of Chitradurga and Nayak Kingdom of Gingee – all of which declared independence and went on to have a significant impact on the history of South India in the coming centuries. [288]

Mughal period Edit

The official state religion of Mughal India was Islam, with the preference to the jurisprudence of the Hanafi Madhhab (Mazhab). Hinduism remained under strain during Babur and Humanyun's reigns. Sher Shah Suri, the Afghan ruler of North India was comparatively non-repressive. Hinduism came to fore during the three-year rule of Hindu ruler Hemu Vikramaditya during 1553–1556 when he had defeated Akbar at Agra and Delhi and had taken up the reign from Delhi as a Hindu 'Vikramaditya' after his 'Rajyabhishake' or coronation at Purana Quila in Delhi. However, during Mughal history, at times, subjects had the freedom to practise any religion of their choice, though non-Muslim able-bodied adult males with income were obliged to pay the jizya, which signified their status as dhimmis.

Akbar, the Mughal emperor Humayun's son and heir from his Sindhi queen Hameeda Banu Begum, had a broad vision of Indian and Islamic traditions. One of Emperor Akbar's most unusual ideas regarding religion was Din-i-Ilahi (Faith of God), which was an eclectic mix of Islam, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Jainism and Christianity. It was proclaimed the state religion until his death. These actions, however, met with stiff opposition from the Muslim clergy, especially the Sufi Shaykh Alf Sani Ahmad Sirhindi. Akbar's abolition of poll-tax on non-Muslims, acceptance of ideas from other religious philosophies, toleration of public worship by all religions and his interest in other faiths showed an attitude of considerable religious tolerance, which, in the minds of his orthodox Muslim opponents, were tantamount to apostasy. Akbar's imperial expansion acquired many Hindu states, many of whom were Hindu Rajputs, through vassalage. The Rajput vassals maintained semi-autonomy in running religious affairs. Many Hindu Rajput vassals built monumental Hindu temples during the period, such as Chaturbhuj Temple and Lakshmi Temple at Orchha, by the Mughal vassal, the Hindu Rajput Orchha State. [289]

Akbar's son, Jahangir, half Rajput, was also a religious moderate, his mother being Hindu. The influence of his two Hindu queens (the Maharani Maanbai and Maharani Jagat) kept religious moderation as a centre-piece of state policy which was extended under his son, Emperor Shah Jahan, who was by blood 75% Rajput and less than 25% Moghul.

Religious orthodoxy would only play an important role during the reign of Shah Jahan's son and successor, Aurangzeb, a devout Sunni Muslim. Aurangzeb was comparatively less tolerant of other faiths than his predecessors had been and has been subject to controversy and criticism for his policies that abandoned his predecessors' legacy of pluralism, citing his introduction of the jizya tax, doubling of custom duties on Hindus while abolishing it for Muslims, destruction of Hindu temples, forbidding construction and repairs of some non-Muslim temples, and the executions of Maratha ruler Sambhaji [290] [291] and the ninth Sikh guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, [292] and his reign saw an increase in the number and importance of Islamic institutions and scholars. He led many military campaigns against the remaining non-Muslim powers of the Indian subcontinent – the Sikh states of Punjab, the last independent Hindu Rajputs and the Maratha rebels – as also against the Shia Muslim kingdoms of the Deccan. He also virtually stamped out, from his empire, open proselytisation of Hindus and Muslims by foreign Christian missionaries, who remained successfully active, however, in the adjoining regions: the present day Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Goa. The Hindus in Konkan were helped by Marathas, Hindus in Punjab, Kashmir and North India were helped by Sikhs and Hindus in Rajasthan and Central India were helped by Rajputs.

Maratha Empire Edit

The Hindu Marathas long had lived in the Desh region around Satara, in the western portion of the Deccan plateau, where the plateau meets the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats mountains. They had resisted incursions into the region by the Muslim Mughal rulers of northern India. Under their ambitious leader Shivaji, the Maratha freed themselves from the Muslim sultans of Bijapur to the southeast and, becoming much more aggressive, began to frequently raid Mughal territory, eventually sacking the wealthy Mughal port of Surat in 1664. After substantial territorial gains, Shivaji was proclaimed 'Chhatrapati' (Emperor) in 1674 the Marathas had spread and conquered much of central India by Shivaji's death in 1680. Subsequently, under the able leadership of Brahmin prime ministers (Peshwas), the Maratha Empire reached its zenith Pune, the seat of Peshwas, flowered as a centre of Hindu learning and traditions. The empire at its peak stretched from Tamil Nadu [293] in the south, to Panipat in Haryana [294] [note 44] ) in the north, and Bengal in the east. [web 19] In 1761, the Maratha army lost the Third Battle of Panipat to Ahmad Shah Abdali of the Afghan Durrani Empire which halted their imperial expansion into Afghanistan. Ten years after Panipat, the young Peshwa Madhavrao I's Maratha Resurrection reinstated Maratha authority over Uttar Pradesh.

In 1761, the Maratha army lost the Third Battle of Panipat to Ahmad Shah Abdali of the Afghan Durrani Empire which halted their imperial expansion into Afghanistan. Ten years after Panipat, the Peshwa Madhavrao I's Maratha Resurrection reinstated Maratha authority over North India. In a bid to effectively manage the large empire, he gave semi-autonomy to the strongest of the knights, which created a confederacy of Maratha states. They became known as the Gaekwads of Baroda, the Holkars of Indore and Malwa, the Scindias of Gwalior and Ujjain, the Bhonsales of the Nagpur and the Puars of Dhar & Dewas. In 1775, the East India Company intervened in a Peshwa family succession struggle in Pune, which became the First Anglo-Maratha War. The Marathas remained the preeminent power in India until their defeat in the Second Anglo-Maratha War which left the East India Company in control of most of India. They were defeated due to lack of unity.

The last Hindu empire of India, the Maratha Empire, in 1760 CE

Ahilya Ghat, part of the Ghats in Varanasi, many of which were built by the Marathas [296]

Kingdom of Nepal Edit

King Prithvi Narayan Shah, the last Gorkhali monarch, self-proclaimed the newly unified Kingdom of Nepal as Asal Hindustan ("Real Land of Hindus") due to North India being ruled by the Islamic Mughal rulers. The proclamation was done to enforce Hindu social code Dharmashastra over his reign and refer to his country as being inhabitable for Hindus. He also referred Northern India as Mughlan (Country of Mughals) and called the region infiltrated by Muslim foreigners. [297]

After the Gorkhali conquest of Kathmandu valley, King Prithvi Narayan Shah expelled the Christian Capuchin missionaries from Patan and revisioned Nepal as Asal Hindustan ("real land of Hindus"). [298] The Hindu Tagadharis, a Nepalese Hindu socio-religious group, were given the privileged status in the Nepalese capital thereafter. [299] [300] Since then Hinduisation became the significant policy of the Kingdom of Nepal. [298] Professor Harka Gurung speculates that the presence of Islamic Mughal rule and Christian British rule in India had compelled the foundation of Brahmin Orthodoxy in Nepal for the purpose building a haven for Hindus in the Kingdom of Nepal. [298]

Early colonialism Edit

Portuguese missionaries had reached the Malabar Coast in the late 15th century, made contact with the St Thomas Christians in Kerala and sought to introduce the Latin Rite among them. Since the priests for St Thomas Christians were served by the Eastern Christian Churches, they were following Eastern Christian practices at that time. Throughout this period, foreign missionaries also made many new converts to Christianity. This led to the formation of the Latin Catholics in Kerala.

The Goa Inquisition was the office of the Christian Inquisition acting in the Indian city of Goa and the rest of the Portuguese empire in Asia. St. Francis Xavier, in a 1545 letter to John III, requested for an Inquisition to be installed in Goa. It was installed eight years after the death of Francis Xavier in 1552. Established in 1560 and operating until 1774, this highly controversial institution was aimed primarily at Hindus and wayward new converts.

The Battle of Plassey would see the emergence of the British as a political power their rule later expanded to cover much of India over the next hundred years, conquering all of the Hindu states on the Indian subcontinent, [302] with the exception of the Kingdom of Nepal. While the Maratha Empire remained the preeminent power in India, making it the last remaining Hindu empire, [303] until their defeat in the Second Anglo-Maratha War which left the East India Company in control of most of India as noted by acting Governor-General Charles Metcalfe, after surveying and analyzing the conditions in India, in 1806 wrote: "India contains no more than two great powers, British and Mahratta." [304] [305] During this period, Northeastern India was divided into many kingdoms, most notable being the Kingdom of Manipur, which ruled from their seat of power at Kangla Fort and developed a sophisticated Hindu Gaudiya Vaishnavite culture, later the kingdom became a princely state of the British. [306] [307] [308] The Kingdom of Mysore was defeated in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War by the British East India Company, leading to the reinstatement of the Hindu Wadiyar dynasty in Mysore as a princely states. [309] In 1817, the British went to war with the Pindaris, raiders who were based in Maratha territory, which quickly became the Third Anglo-Maratha War, and the British government offered its protection to the mainly Hindu Rajput rulers of Rajputana from the Pindaris and the Marathas. [310] The mainly Hindu Palaiyakkarar states emerged from the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire, and were a bastion of Hindu resistance and managed to weather invasions and survive till the advent of the British. [311] From 1799 to 1849, the Sikh Empire, ruled by members of the Sikh religion, emerged as the last major indigenous power in the Northwest of the Indian subcontinent under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. [312] [313] After the death of Ranjit Singh, the empire weakened, alienating Hindu vassals and Wazirs, and leading to the conflict with the British East India Company, marked the downfall of the Sikh Empire, making it the last area of the Indian subcontinent to be conquered by the British. The entire subcontinent fell under British rule (partly indirectly, via princely states) following the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

With the onset of the British Raj, the colonization of India by the British, there also started a Hindu Renaissance in the 19th century, which profoundly changed the understanding of Hinduism in both India and the west. [316] Indology as an academic discipline of studying Indian culture from a European perspective was established in the 19th century, led by scholars such as Max Müller and John Woodroffe. They brought Vedic, Puranic and Tantric literature and philosophy to Europe and the United States. Western orientalist searched for the "essence" of the Indian religions, discerning this in the Vedas, [317] and meanwhile creating the notion of "Hinduism" as a unified body of religious praxis [150] and the popular picture of 'mystical India'. [150] [316] This idea of a Vedic essence was taken over by Hindu reform movements as the Brahmo Samaj, which was supported for a while by the Unitarian Church, [318] together with the ideas of Universalism and Perennialism, the idea that all religions share a common mystic ground. [319] This "Hindu modernism", with proponents like Vivekananda, Aurobindo and Radhakrishnan, became central in the popular understanding of Hinduism. [320] [321] [322] [323] [150]

Hindu revivalism Edit

During the 19th century, Hinduism developed a large number of new religious movements, partly inspired by the European Romanticism, nationalism, scientific racism and esotericism (Theosophy) popular at the time (while conversely and contemporaneously, India had a similar effect on European culture with Orientalism, "Hindoo style" architecture, reception of Buddhism in the West and similar). According to Paul Hacker, "the ethcial values of Neo-Hinduism stem from Western philosophy and Christianity, although they are expressed in Hindu terms." [324]

These reform movements are summarised under Hindu revivalism and continue into the present.

    establishes the Swaminarayan Sampraday sect around 1800. [325] is a social and religious movement founded in Kolkata in 1828 by Raja Ram Mohan Roy. He was one of the first Indians to visit Europe and was influenced by western thought. He died in Bristol, England. The Brahmo Samaj movement thereafter resulted in the Brahmo religion in 1850 founded by Debendranath Tagore — better known as the father of Rabindranath Tagore. [326] and his pupil Swami Vivekananda led reform in Hinduism in the late 19th century. Their ideals and sayings have inspired numerous Indians as well as non-Indians, Hindus as well as non-Hindus. [327] ("Society of Nobles") is a Hindureform movement in India that was founded by Swami Dayananda in 1875. He was a sannyasin (renouncer) who believed in the infallibleauthority of the Vedas. Dayananda advocated the doctrine of karma and reincarnation, and emphasised the ideals of brahmacharya (chastity) and sanyasa (renunciation). Dayananda claimed to be rejecting all non-Vedic beliefs altogether. Hence the Arya Samaj unequivocally condemned idolatry, animal sacrifices, ancestor worship, pilgrimages, priestcraft, offerings made in temples, the caste system, untouchability and child marriages, on the grounds that all these lacked Vedic sanction. It aimed to be a universal church based on the authority of the Vedas. Dayananda stated that he wanted 'to make the whole world Aryan', i.e. he wanted to develop missionary Hinduism based on the universality of the Vedas. To this end, the Arya Samaj started Shuddhi movement in the early 20th century to bring back to Hinduism people converted to Islam and Christianity, set up schools and missionary organisations, and extended its activities outside India. [328][329][330]

Reception in the West Edit

An important development during the British colonial period was the influence Hindu traditions began to form on Western thought and new religious movements. An early champion of Indian-inspired thought in the West was Arthur Schopenhauer who in the 1850s advocated ethics based on an "Aryan-Vedic theme of spiritual self-conquest", as opposed to the ignorant drive toward earthly utopianism of the superficially this-worldly "Jewish" spirit. [331] Helena Blavatsky moved to India in 1879, and her Theosophical Society, founded in New York in 1875, evolved into a peculiar mixture of Western occultism and Hindu mysticism over the last years of her life.

The sojourn of Vivekananda to the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 had a lasting effect. Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission, a Hindu missionary organisation still active today.

In the early 20th century, Western occultists influenced by Hinduism include Maximiani Portaz – an advocate of "Aryan Paganism" – who styled herself Savitri Devi and Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, founder of the German Faith Movement. It was in this period, and until the 1920s, that the swastika became a ubiquitous symbol of good luck in the West before its association with the Nazi Party became dominant in the 1930s.

Hinduism-inspired elements in Theosophy were also inherited by the spin-off movements of Ariosophy and Anthroposophy and ultimately contributed to the renewed New Age boom of the 1960s to 1980s, the term New Age itself deriving from Blavatsky's 1888 The Secret Doctrine.

Influential 20th-century Hindus were Ramana Maharshi, B.K.S. Iyengar, Paramahansa Yogananda, Prabhupada (founder of ISKCON), Sri Chinmoy, Swami Rama and others who translated, reformulated and presented Hinduism's foundational texts for contemporary audiences in new iterations, raising the profiles of Yoga and Vedanta in the West and attracting followers and attention in India and abroad.

Hinduism is followed by around 1.1 billion people in India. [web 20] Other significant populations are found in Nepal (23 million), Bangladesh (15 million) and the Indonesian island of Bali (3.9 million). [332] The majority of the Vietnamese Cham people also follow Hinduism, with the largest proportion in Ninh Thuận Province. [333]

Neo-Hindu movements in the West Edit

In modern times Smarta-views have been highly influential in both the Indian [web 21] and western [web 22] understanding of Hinduism via Neo-Vedanta. Vivekananda was an advocate of Smarta-views, [web 22] and Radhakrishnan was himself a Smarta-Brahman. [334] [335] According to,

Many Hindus may not strictly identify themselves as Smartas but, by adhering to Advaita Vedanta as a foundation for non-sectarianism, are indirect followers. [web 21]

Hindutva Edit

In the 20th century, Hinduism also gained prominence as a political force and a source for national identity in India. With origins traced back to the establishment of the Hindu Mahasabha in the 1910s, the movement grew with the formulation and development of the Hindutva ideology in the following decades the establishment of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1925 and the entry, and later success, of RSS offshoots Jana Sangha and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in electoral politics in post-independence India. [336] Hindu religiosity plays an important role in the nationalist movement. [337] [note 45] [note 46]

Besides India, the idea of Hindu nationalism and Hindutva can also be seen in the other areas with good population of Hindus, such as in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. [338] [339] [340] In the modern world, the Hindu identity and nationalism is encouraged by many organisations as per their areas and territories. In India, Sangh Parivar is the umbrella organisation for most of the Hindu nationalist organisations, including that of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bharatiya Janata Party, Vishva Hindu Parishad, etc. [341] [342] The other nationalist organisation includes Siva Senai (Sri Lanka), Nepal Shivsena, Rastriya Prajatantra Party, Hindu Prajatantrik Party, (Nepal) Bangabhumi (Bangladesh) and HINDRAF (Malaysia).

Saffron Flag of Hinduism in India

  1. ^ See:
    • "Oldest religion":
      • Fowler: "probably the oldest religion in the world" [2]
      • Gellman & Hartman: "Hinduism, the world's oldest religion" [3]
      • Stevens: "Hinduism, the oldest religion in the world", [4]
    • The "oldest living religion" [5]
    • The "oldest living major religion" in the world. [6][7]
      • Laderman: "world's oldest living civilisation and religion" [8]
      • Turner: "It is also recognized as the oldest major religion in the world" [9]
    Smart, on the other hand, calls it also one of the youngest religions: "Hinduism could be seen to be much more recent, though with various ancient roots: in a sense it was formed in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century." [10] See also:
      , Shamanism, Animism, Ancestor worship for some of the oldest forms of religion and Sanamahism, Indian Tribal religions connected to the earliest migrations into India , one of the oldest surviving religions in the world.
  2. ^ Among its roots are the Vedic religion[14] of the late Vedic period and its emphasis on the status of Brahmans, [17] but also the religions of the Indus Valley Civilisation, [15][18][19][20] the Sramana[21] or renouncer traditions [14] of east India, [21] and "popular or local traditions". [14]
  3. ^ There is no exact dating possible for the beginning of the Vedic period. Witzel mentions a range between 1900 and 1400 BCE. [25] Flood mentions 1500 BCE. [26]
  4. ^ abLockard (2007, p. 50): "The encounters that resulted from Aryan migration brought together several very different peoples and cultures, reconfiguring Indian society. Over many centuries a fusion of Aryan and Dravidian occurred, a complex process that historians have labeled the Indo-Aryan synthesis." Lockard: "Hinduism can be seen historically as a synthesis of Aryan beliefs with Harappan and other Dravidian traditions that developed over many centuries."
  5. ^Hiltebeitel (2007, p. 12): "A period of consolidation, sometimes identified as one of "Hindu synthesis," Brahmanic synthesis," or "orthodox synthesis," takes place between the time of the late Vedic Upanishads (c. 500 BCE) and the period of Gupta imperial ascendency" (c. 320-467 CE)."
  6. ^ See also:
    • J.H. Hutton (1931), in Ghurye (1980, pp. 3–4) [subnote 1] , pp. 218–219)
    • Tyler (1973), India: An Anthropological Perspective, Goodyear Publishing Company. In: Sjoberg (1990, p. 43) [subnote 2] , p. 16) , pp. 8–9) , p. 50) , p. 79) [subnote 3]
  7. ^ abc See:
      , p. 28): "[T]he religion of the Vedas was already a composite of the indo-Aryan and Harappan cultures and civilizations." , pp. 35–36): "It is important to bear in mind that the Indo-Aryans did not enter an unhabitated land. For nearly two millennia they and their culture gradually penetrated India, moving east and south from their original seat in the Punjab. They mixed with people who spoke Munda or Dravidian languages, who have left no traces of their culture beyond some archaeological remains we know as little about them as we would about the Indo-Aryans if they had left no texts. In fact we cannot even be sure whether some of the archaeological finds belong to Indo-Aryans, autochthonous populations, or a mixture.

Samuel (2010, p. 199): "By the first and second centuries CE, the Dravidian-speaking regions of the south were also increasingly being incorporated into the general North and Central Indian cultural pattern, as were parts at least of Southeast Asia. The Pallava kingdom in South India was largely Brahmanical in orientation although it included a substantial Jain and Buddhist population, while Indic states were also beginning to develop in Southeast Asia."

Brief Process

  1. Gain a basic understanding of Hinduism through the provided text and video resource.
  2. Create a persona that will go on this exploration of the largest Indian religion. You can draw from the many historical visitors and invaders who have come to India for trade and conquest – from the Romans to the Mughals to the British.
  3. Review and research five to seven topics from the provided text and video resources.
  4. Create a scrapbook page for each topic. Include basic information about the topic, the perception of your foreign visitor, and images that help illustrate the subject.

The Controversial Aryans

The Indus Valley culture began to decline around 1800 BCE, due possibly to flooding or drought. Until recently, it was held that the Aryans (an Indo-European culture whose name comes from the Sanskrit for "noble") 1861 invaded India and Iran at this time. According to this hypothesis, both the Sanskrit language and the Vedic religion foundational to Hinduism is attributable to the Aryans and their descendants. The original inhabitants of the Indus Valley are thought to have had a Dravidian language and culture, which became subordinate to that of the invading peoples.

Proponents of this hypothesis point to similarities between Zoroastrianism (the ancient religion of modern-day Iran) and the Vedic religion of ancient India, as well as similar finds in ancient cemeteries in modern-day India, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In addition, no trace of horses or chariots have been found in the remains of the Indus Valley culture, but these were central to Aryan military and ritual life.

Since the 1980s, this "Aryan Invasion" hypothesis has been strongly challenged as a myth propagated by colonial scholars who sought to reinforce the idea that anything valuable in India must have come from elsewhere. Critics of the hypothesis note that there is lack of evidence of any conquest, among other historical and archaeological problems. One alternative hypothesis is explained by Encyclopædia Britannica as follows:

Between about 2000 and 1500 BCE not an invasion but a continuing spread of Indo-Aryan speakers occurred, carrying them much farther into India, to the east and south, and coinciding with a growing cultural interaction between the native population and the new arrivals. From these processes a new cultural synthesis emerged, giving rise by the end of the 2nd millennium to the conscious expressions of Aryan ethnicity found in the Rigveda, particularly in the later hymns. 1862

The 19th-century Aryan Invasion theory has generally been abandoned as inaccurate, but most scholars do not reject the notion of some outside influence on the Indus Valley civilization. For many, it is a political issue as well as a historical one, with the original theory is regarded as racist and offensive. BBC Religion & Ethics summarizes the matter this way:

Many people argue that there is now evidence to show that Muller [original proponent of the hypothesis], and those who followed him, were wrong. Others, however, believe that the case against the Aryan invasion theory is far from conclusive. 1862

Watch the video: Θρησκευτική ινδουιστική γιορτή στο Siolim, Goa!


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