Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world. Hinduism is world's third largest religion after Christianity and Islam. Hinduism is the dominant religion in India, where Hindus form about 84 per cent of the total population. Hinduism is also known as “Sanatan Dharma”or the everlasting religion. Hindu religion is based on the concept that human and animal spirits come back to earth to live many times in different forms. The Hindus believe that a soul moves up and down hierarchy on the basis of behavior.
Hinduism has no founder or date of origin. The authors and dates of most Hindu sacred texts are unknown. Scholars describe modern Hinduism as the product of religious development in India that spans nearly four thousand years, making it the oldest surviving world religion.
The first sacred writings of Hinduism, which date to about 1200 BC, were primarily concerned with the ritual sacrifices associated with numerous gods who represented forces of nature. A more philosophical focus began to develop around 700 BC, with the Upanishads and development of the Vedanta philosophy.
Most Hindus believe in a Supreme God, whose qualities and forms are represented by the multitude of deities which emanate from him. Hindus believe that existence is a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, governed by Karma.
Hindus believe that the soul passes through a cycle of successive lives and its next incarnation is always dependent on how the previous life was lived.
Hinduism preaches optimism, because it reposes confidence in the individual. This is born out by the theory of incarnation or birth in human form of god. Whenever the universe is overwhelmed by the wicked and whenever the dharma is threatened, these incarnations take place. These periodic purges are at the basis of the Hindu division of time (Krita, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali) and the ten incarnation of Vishnu, the "Dasavataras". Those go to heaven, who have accumulated merit, the others go to hell. Hinduism also emphasizes asceticism, renunication of worldly life and non-violence, but it does not say that the life of an ascetic is the only way or the best way, to attain the desired fruits.
The main Hindu scriptures are Sruti (what is heard), Smriti (what is remembered) the Vedas, the Brahmanas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and epics. The Sruti include deeply religious things communicated to a seer and recorded. The Vedas, the religious writings, include mantras (hymns of praise), brahmanas (sacrificial rituals) and Upanishads (108 sacred teachings). The Smriti include the law (books of laws), puranas (myths, stories, legends) and epics (sets of holy myths including Ramayana and Mahabharata).
The Char Dham (“four abodes”) are four places which the Hindus believed will help them achieve Moksha. Char Dham are the names of four pilgrimage sites in India that are widely revered by Hindus. It comprises Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram. It is considered highly sacred by Hindus to visit Char Dham during one's lifetime. The Char Dham defined by Adi Shankaracharya consists of four Vaishnavite pilgrimages.
Varanasi, the world’s oldest city, is the eye of the Indic world. It is to Sanatana Dharma what Mecca became to Islam and the Vatican to the Catholic Church.
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