History of Hinduism

History of Hinduism

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Hinduism is a term for a wide variety of related religious traditions native to India.[1] Historically, it encompasses the development of Religion in India since the Iron Age traditions, which in turn hark back to prehistoric religions such as that of the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization followed by the Iron Age Vedic religion.

Classical Hinduism emerges as a revival of Vedic traditions with the gradual decline of Buddhism in India from around the beginning of the Common Era. Hindu philosophy had six branches, evolving from about the 2nd century BC to the 6th century AD, viz. Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta. Monotheistic religions like Shaivism and Vaishnavism developed during this same period through the Bhakti movement.

Classical Pauranic Hinduism is established in the Middle Ages, as was Adi Shankara's Advaita Vedanta which reconciled the Vaishnava and Shaiva sects, and gave rise to Smartism, while initiating the decline of the non-Vedantic schools of philosophy.

Hinduism under the Islamic Rulers saw the increasing prominence of the Bhakti movement, which remains influential today. The colonial period saw the emergence of various Hindu reform movements partly inspired by western culture, such as spiritism (Theosophy). The Partition of India in 1947 was along religious lines, with the Republic of India emerging with a Hindu majority.

During the 20th century, due to the Indian diaspora, Hindu minorities have formed in all continents, with the largest communities in absolute numbers in the United States and the United Kingdom.



Evidence of prehistoric religion in India is found in the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization, showing the certain elements of Hinduism such as baths (assumed to serve a ritual purpose) and Symbols, compared to the Shiva lingam.[2][3] There were also found Swastika signs.

Many male and female figurines, the female figurines popularly dubbed "Mother Goddesses" have been found in the Indus Valley, although some have expressed doubt as to the divine character of these female figures.[4]

A seal discovered during excavation of the Mohenjo-daro archaeological site in the Indus Valley has drawn attention as a possible representation of a "yogi" or "proto-Shiva" figure.[5] This "Pashupati" (Lord of Animals, Sanskrit paśupati)[6][7] seal shows a seated figure, possibly ithyphallic, surrounded by animals.[8][9][10] Some observers describe the figure as sitting in a traditional cross-legged yoga pose with its hands resting on its knees. The discoverer of the seal, Sir John Marshall, and others have claimed that this figure is a prototype of Shiva, and have described the figure as having three faces, seated in a "yoga posture" with the knees out and feet joined.

However, these artefacts come from the Indus Valley civilization. This prehistoric Indian civilization collapsed around 1500BC and Vedism appeared in its place along with its Vedic literature, and a caste system.[11] However, it is possible that Vedism was influenced by a substratum of Indus Valley civilization culture.

Proto-Indo-European Religion

There is compelling linguistic and textual evidence that Vedism shares a common root with Roman religion, Greek mythology and Germanic mythology in Proto-Indo-European religion. The Dyaus Pita, the Sky God of the Vedic Rgveda bears functions similar to the Thunder gods of Roman Jupiter, Greek Zeus Pater, and Norse Týr. In all of these religions, the sky or thunder god often holds primacy over the other gods. They also share common traits as the tendency to personify aspects of nature as gods, and the weaving of tales of gods into poetry. The similarity in their respective religions is echoed in the similarities between their languages and their societal structure. As Proto-Indo-European culture was introduced into India, with possible influences of Indus Valley civilization and Gandhara grave culture, Vedism emerged.

Vedic period

Vedism was the religion of the early Indians, speakers of early Old Indic dialects, descened from the Proto-Indo-European language. Liturgy is preserved in the three Vedic Samhitas: the Rig-Veda, Sama-Veda and the Yajur-Veda. Of these, the Rig-Veda the oldest, a collection of hymns dated possibly as early as the 4th millennium BCE.[12] The other two add ceremonial detail for the performance of the actual sacrifice. The Atharva-Veda may also contain compositions dating to before 1000 BC. 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 BC, were transmitted by oral tradition alone until the advent of the Pallava and Gupta period and by a combination of written and oral tradition since then.

Rigvedic religion

The geographical horizon of the Rigveda (given with river names, together with the extent of the Swat and Cemetery H) extends from the Hindu Kush and the Punjab region to the upper Gangetic plain.

The earliest text of the Vedas is the Rigveda, 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 characterized 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,[13] containing allusions to Afghan Flora and Fauna,[14] 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.). Especially notable is the fact, that in the Avesta Asura (Ahura) is known as good and Deva (Daeva) as evil entity, quite the opposite of the RigVeda.


Map of early Iron Age Vedic India after Witzel (1989). Location hypotheses for Vedic shakhas are shown in green.

During a period roughly spanning the 10th to 6th centuries BC, the Mahajanapadas arise from the earlier petty kingdoms of the various Rigvedic tribes, and the failing 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 organized 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.

This period of dominance of priestly Brahmanic Hinduism declines with the appearance of mystical traditions (the oldest Upanishads, BAU, ChU and JUB besides the Shatapatha Brahmana) attacking the rigid ritualism available only to the elite, in favour of spiritual insight through asceticism and meditation. The rise of Buddhism at this time, according to tradition originating with Gautama Buddha, a 6th century BC prince, renouncing his status for enlightenment, is exemplary of this tendency. Politically, the Mahajanapadas declined by being absorbed into the Magadha Empire which as the Maurya Empire would encompass almost the whole subcontinent by the time of Ashoka.

Survival of Vedic ritual

Flow chart showing the growth of Bhagavatism

Vedism as the religious tradition of Hinduism of a priestly elite was marginalized 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 Vedic Hinduism 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.[15][16][17]

Ancient India

Mauryan and Sangam period

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 patronized by Ashoka, who ruled large parts of India, and Buddhism was also the mainstream religion until the Gupta empire period.

The Sangam literature (300 BC – 300 AD) 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 form of devotional poems. Vishnu, Shiva and Murugan were mentioned gods. These works are therefore the earliest evidences of monotheistic Bhakti traditions, preceding the large bhakti movement, which was given great attention in later times.

Gupta and Pallava period

The Pallavas (4th to 9th centuries) were, alongside the Guptas of the North, patronizers of Sanskrit in the South of the Subcontinent. The pallava reign saw the first Sankrit inscriptions in a script called Grantha. Early Pallavas had different connections to South-East Asian countries. The Pallavas used Dravidian architecture to build some very important Hindu temples and academies in Mamallapuram, Kanchipuram and other places; their rule saw the rise of great poets, who are as famous as Kalidasa.

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

Expansion in South-East Asia

Expansion of Hinduism in Southeast Asia.

From about the 1st century, 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 urbanized 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 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-15th centuries Sri Vijayan empire, a maritime empire centered 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 Austro-Asiatic 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 center of this development, with a temple complex and urban organization able to support around one million urban dwellers. The largest temple complex of the world , Angkor Wat , stands here; built by the king Vishnuvardhan , a king of the dynasty that believed themselves to be incarnations of Vishnu.

Middle Ages

By the 8th century, the "Hindu golden age" of the past millennium was over. The formerly rich philosophic literature tended to be reduced to scholastic quarreling and infighting between innumerable sects, notably between emerging traditions of Vaishnavism and Shaivism. Adi Shankara in the 8th century managed to reconcile the antagonistic sects and to establish Hinduism as a single, if diverse, religious tradition. The compilation of the Puranas provided a mythical backdrop for this tradition, and served as a means of acculturation of the various pre-literate tribal societies to the new religious mainstream. Various reforms of the later Middle Ages, notably the Bhakti movement, besides new Yogic schools (Jnana yoga, Karma yoga, Hatha yoga, Bhakti yoga) gave Hinduism its classical form as described by the 18th to 19th century pioneers of Indology.

Bhakti movement

The Bhakti movement was a Hindu religious movement in which the main spiritual practice was the fostering of loving devotion to God, called bhakti. It was a movement generally devoted to worship of Shiva, Vishnu or Shakti.

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. They constitute South India's 75 Apostles of Bhakti.

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

The introduction of Advaita Vedanta by Adi Shankara unified the theistic sects into a common framework of Shanmata system. Shankara stressed the importance of the Vedas, introducing the concept of apaurusheyatva, and his efforts helped Hinduism regain strength and popularity. He is the main figure in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta. He is the founder of the Dashanami Sampradaya of Hindu monasticism and Shanmata tradition of worship. He travelled all over India (Kerala to Kashmir and Nepal) three times over and was a major cause in the revival and integration of Sanatana Dharma. Shankara's reform essentially eclipsed all earlier schools of Hindu philosophy and became the nucleus of the medieval traditions, including Smartism and Sant Mat lineages,[18] that lead up to the current religion.

Adi Shankara, along with Madhva and Ramanuja, were instrumental in the revival of Hinduism. In their writings and debates, they provided polemics against the non-Vedantic schools of Sankhya, Vaisheshika etc. Thus, they paved the way for Vedanta to be the dominant and most widely followed tradition among the schools of Hindu philosophy.

Pauranic Hinduism

Brahmanic Hinduism evolves out of Vedism during Iron Age India, and in turn contributes to the development of Vedantic and eventually classical Pauranic Hinduism. 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 Brahmanic Hinduism 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.[19]

Hindu influence in Persia and Mesopotamia

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.

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.

Muslim conquests

Muslim rulers began to extend their rule across Hindu-Buddhist populated lands in the 8th century CE and the Abrahamic religion of Islam began to spread across the Indian-subcontinent over several centuries. Most converts were from Hinduism or Buddhism, the two dominant local religions. While all traditions of popular Hinduism continued – including the worship of popular reincarnations of the primordial ShaktiBhakti tradition attained new prominence; Bhakti poetry of lasting greatness was composed in northern India under the rule of Muslim emperors. The humble mystic saint Kabir, who established his own order, composed devotional verses in the Bhakti spirit, but in common-man's Hindi dialect and transcending the Hindu-Muslim theocratic divide. Tulsidas, Mira Bai and Surdas composed immortal Hindu devotional poetry in Hindi-dialects in the Mughal period – it is reminiscent of the earlier Kannada and Tamil Bhakti poetry of South India.

Mughal India

Photograph of the Surya Temple, The most impressive and grandest ruins in Kashmir, at Marttand-Hardy Cole's Archaeological Survey of India Report 'Illustrations of Ancient Buildings in Kashmir.' (1869)

After the conquest of Persia by the Mongol Empire, a regional Turko-Persio-Mongol dynasty formed. Just as eastern Mongol dynasties inter-married with locals and adopted the local religion of Buddhism and the Chinese culture, this group adopted the local religion of Islam and the Persian culture; their descendants ruled in India as Mughals.

The official State religion of the Mughal Empire was Islam, with the preference to the jurisprudence of the Hanafi Madhab (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 king 'Hemu' during 1553-56 when he had defeated Akbar at Agra and Delhi and had taken up the reign from Delhi as a Hindu 'Vikramaditya' king after his 'Rajyabhishake' or coronation at 'Purana Quila' in Delhi. However, during Mughal history, at times, subjects had freedom to practice any religion of their choice, though Non-Muslim able-bodied adult males with income were obliged to pay the Jizya (poll-tax to be spent by the State only on protection of non-Muslims), which signified their status as Dhimmis (responsibility of the State, in regard to safety of life and property).

Ruins of a temple, entirely made of stone. The four-storied temple ruins rise behind two free-standing pillared structures, one of which hides the entrance to the temple. Sculptures of human forms are seen on the upper stories. Grass grows on various exposed surfaces of the ruins. A pathway, paved with stone slabs, fringes the visible perimeter of the temple.
An 1868 photograph of the ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire at Hampi, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site[20]

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 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 center-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 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 the 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, Tamilnadu and Goa.

Early Modern period

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, Hinduism once again rose to political prestige, under the Maratha Empire, from 1707 to 1761.

Maratha Empire

The last Hindu empire of India – The Maratha Empire in 1760.

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 Maharaj was proclaimed 'Chhatrapati' (Emperor) in 1674; the Marathas had spread and conquered much of central India by Shivaji Maharaj's death in 1680. Subsequently, under the able leadership of Brahmin prime ministers (Peshwas), who often led as generals also, Maratha Empire reached its zenith. Pune, the seat of Peshwas, flowered as a centre of Hindu learning and traditions. In 1761, the empire broke into smaller Maratha kingdoms that survived till they were eventually subdued by the British East India Company.

Early colonialism

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.

In the century from 1760 to 1860, India was once more divided into numerous petty and unstable kingdoms: the Sikh Confederacy; the "lesser Mughals" following Bahadur Shah I; the Kingdom of Mysore; Hyderabad State; the Durrani Empire; and the territories held by the British East India Company. The entire subcontinent fell under British rule (partly indirectly, via Princely states) following the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

British Raj

Hindu revivalism

1909 Prevailing Religions, Map of British Indian Empire, 1909, showing the prevailing majority religions of the population for different districts.

During the 19th century, Hinduism developed a large number of new religious movements, partly inspired by the European Romanticism, nationalism, 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).

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

Reception in the West

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 ethnics 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.[21] 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 organization 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 an 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.

Contemporary Hinduism

As of 2007, of an estimated 944 million Hindus, 98.5% live in South Asia. Of the remaining 1.5% or 14 million, 6 million live in Southeast Asia (mostly Indonesia), 2 million in Europe, 1.8 million in North America, 1.2 million in Southern Africa.

South Asia

Modern Hinduism is the reflection of continuity and progressive changes that occurred in various traditions and institutions of Hinduism during the 19th and 20th centuries. Its main divisions are into Vaishnavism (largely influenced by Bhakti), Shaivism, Shaktism and Smartism (Advaita Vedanta).

Besides these traditional denominations, movements of Hindu revivalism look to founders such as Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayananda (Arya Samaj), Rabindranath Tagore, Ramana Maharshi, Aurobindo, Shriram Sharma Acharya, Swami Sivananda, Swami Rama Tirtha, Narayana Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, Swami Chinmayananda, Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, Pandurang Shastri Athavale (Swadhyay Movement) and others.

The Hindutva movement advocating Hindu nationalism originated in the 1920s and has remained a strong political force in India. The major party of the religious right, Bharatiya Janata Party, since its foundation in 1980 has won several elections, and after a defeat in 2004 remains the leading force of opposition against the current Congress Party government.

Southeast Asia

The resurgence of Hinduism in Indonesia is occurring in all parts of the country. In the early seventies, the Toraja people of Sulawesi were the first to be identified under the umbrella of 'Hinduism', followed by the Karo Batak of Sumatra in 1977 and the Ngaju Dayak of Kalimantan in 1980.

The growth of Hinduism has been driven also by the famous Javanese prophesies of Sabdapalon and Jayabaya. Many recent converts to Hinduism had been members of the families of Sukarno's PNI, and now support Megawati Sukarnoputri. This return to the 'religion of Majapahit' (Hinduism) is a matter of nationalist pride.

The new Hindu communities in Java tend to be concentrated around recently built temples (pura) or around archaeological temple sites (candi) which are being reclaimed as places of Hindu worship. An important new Hindu temple in eastern Java is Pura Mandaragiri Sumeru Agung, located on the slope of Mt. Semeru, Java's highest mountain. Mass conversions have also occurred in the region around Pura Agung Blambangan, another new temple, built on a site with minor archaeological remnants attributed to the kingdom of Blambangan, the last Hindu polity on Java, and Pura Loka Moksa Jayabaya (in the village of Menang near Kediri).

Neo-Hindu movements in the west

Influential in spreading Hinduism to a western audience were A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Hare Krishna movement), Sri Aurobindo, Meher Baba, Osho, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Transcendental Meditation), Sathya Sai Baba, Mother Meera, among others.

See also


  1. ^ Brodd, Jefferey (2003), World Religions, Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press, ISBN 978-0-88489-725-5 
  2. ^ (Basham 1967)
  3. ^ Hindu History, http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/history/history_1.shtml 
  4. ^ Clark, Sharri R. The social lives of figurines: recontextualizing the third millennium BC terracotta figurines from Harappa, Pakistan. Harvard PhD 2007
  5. ^ Flood (1996), pp. 28–29.
  6. ^ Marshall, Sir John, Mohenjo Daro and the Indus Civilization, London 1931
  7. ^ For translation of paśupati as "Lord of Animals" see: Michaels, p. 312.
  8. ^ For a drawing of the seal see Figure 1 in: Flood (1996), p. 29.
  9. ^ Singh, S.P., Rgvedic Base of the Pasupati Seal of Mohenjo-Daro, Puratattva 19: 19–26. 1989
  10. ^ Kenoyer, Jonathan Mark. Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  11. ^ Parker, Geoffery (2008). "Geoffrey Parker". ed. "The Times Compact history of the world: history brought to life". London: "Times Books". p. 28. ISBN 978-0-00-726731-6. 
  12. ^ Elst, Koenraad (1999). Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate. Aditya Prakashan. ISBN 81-86471-77-4. 
  13. ^ Indo-Iranian Studies: I by J.C. Tavadia, Vishva Bharati, Santiniketan, 1950
  14. ^ (RV 8.5; 8.46; 8.56)
  15. ^ Staal, J. F. 1961. Nambudiri Veda Recitations Gravenhage.
  16. ^ Staal, J. F. 1983. Agni: The Vedic ritual of the fire altar. 2 vols. Berkeley.
  17. ^ Staal, Frits (1988), Universals: studies in Indian logic and linguistics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-76999-2 
  18. ^ Ron Geaves (March 2002), From Totapuri to Maharaji: Reflections on a Lineage (Parampara), 27th Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions, Oxford. 
  19. ^ Vijay Nath, From 'Brahmanism' to 'Hinduism': Negotiating the Myth of the Great Tradition, Social Scientist 2001, pp. 19–50.
  20. ^ "The austere, grandiose site of Hampi was the last capital of the last great Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar. Its fabulously rich princes built Dravidian temples and palaces which won the admiration of travellers between the 14th and 16th centuries. Conquered by the Deccan Muslim confederacy in 1565, the city was pillaged over a period of six months before being abandoned." From the brief description UNESCO World Heritage List.
  21. ^ "Fragments for the history of philosophy", Parerga and Paralipomena, Volume I (1851).

Further reading

  1. Majumdar, R. C.; H. C. Raychauduri, Kaukinkar Datta (1960), An Advanced History of India, Great Britain: Macmillan and Company Limited, ISBN 0-333-90298-X, http://dli.iiit.ac.in/cgi-bin/Browse/scripts/use_scripts/advnew/aui/bookreader/bookReader_public.cgi?path1=/server6/disk2/DATA%20SUBMITTED/An_Advancd_History_Of_India_Part%20II/&first=1&last=432&barcode=5010010000259 
  2. Benjamin Walker Hindu World: An Encyclopedic Survey of Hinduism, (Two Volumes), Allen & Unwin, London, 1968; Praeger, New York, 1968; Munshiram Manohar Lal, New Delhi, 1983; Harper Collins, New Delhi, 1985; Rupa, New Delhi, 2005, ISBN 81-291-0670-1.
  3. Basham, A. L. (1967), The Wonder That was India 

External links

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