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This article is about the Hindu religion; for other meanings, see Hindu (disambiguation).
Hinduism is the oldest of the major world religions and, with approximately 1.05 billion followers, the third largest. Hinduism originated on the Indian subcontinent, which is home to 96% of Hindus.

Table of contents
1 Overview
2 Origins
3 Current geographic distribution
4 Aspects of Hinduism
5 Hindu Scriptures
6 Hindu philosophy
7 Tantra
8 The bhakti (devotional) schools
9 Related faiths
10 See also
11 External links


Historically the word Hindu predates the reference to Hinduism as a religion; "Hindu" did not denote a system of religious belief; the term is of Persian origin and first referred to people who live on the other side (from a Persian point of view) of the Sindhu, or the Indus river. During British Raj, the term was used to denote a somewhat "fuzzy" set of religious perspectives and Hinduism began to be referred to as the religion of the Hindus.

The relatively new nomenclature raises many points of discussion. Many consider Hinduism as a way of life rather than an organised religion. Some consider Sanatana Dharma (Sanskrit : The Eternal Way) to be a better nomenclature. Often featuring in Hindu scriptures, the meaning of Sanatana Dharma is that it represents those spiritual principles that are eternally true; in this sense it represents the science of consciousness. Many Hindus also identify themselves strongly as members of one sect or another.

According to another view, a Hindu is one who believes in the philosophy expounded by the Vedas and the Tantric Agamas. The Vedas are considered the world's oldest scriptures. Their basic teaching is that our real nature is divine. God, or Brahman as is commonly referred to, exists in every living being. Religion is therefore a search for self-knowledge, a search for the divine within the self. The Vedas state that a person does not need to be "saved." He is never lost. At worst, one is living in ignorance of his true nature.

Vedanta (meaning literally the end of the Vedas) as the essence of the Vedas, acknowledges that there are many different approaches to God, and all are valid. Any kind of spiritual practice will lead to the same state of self-realization. Thus, Vedanta teaches respect for all religions and distinguishes itself from other major religions in that it strongly encourages tolerance for different belief systems. Advaita Vedanta considers the consciousness of the Self- Jeevatma - as continuous with and indistinguishable from the consciousness of the Supreme or Brahman- Paramatma.

However, in practice, most Hindus worship many Gods, largely through murtis (idols). These Gods are seen by Hindus as being various manifestations of the one true Brahman (principle, Divine Ground). Thus, Hinduism is unique among religions in neither being polytheistic or monotheistic, but a pantheistic universal view. Hinduism is also sometimes considered as being practised through a variety of yogas (spiritual practices), including bhakti yoga (devotion), karma yoga (selfless service), raja yoga (meditational yoga) and jnana yoga (yoga of knowledge and discrimination). These are described in three principal texts of Hindu Yoga: The Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

Legal Definition according to the Supreme Court of India

In a 1966 ruling, the Supreme Court of India defined the Hindu faith as follows for legal purposes:

  1. Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence as the highest authority in religious and philosophic matters and acceptance with reverence of Vedas by Hindu thinkers and philosophers as the sole foundation of Hindu philosophy.
  2. Spirit of tolerance and willingness to understand and appreciate the opponent's point of view based on the realization that truth is many-sided.
  3. Acceptance of great world rhythm-vast periods of creation, maintenance and dissolution follow each other in endless succession-by all six systems of Hindu philosophy.
  4. Acceptance by all systems of Hindu philosophy of the belief in rebirth and pre-existence.
  5. Recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are many.
  6. Realization of the truth that numbers of Gods to be worshiped may be large, yet there being Hindus who do not believe in the worshiping of idols.
  7. Unlike other religions, or religious creeds, Hindu religion's not being tied down to any definite set of philosophic concepts, as such.


Relatively little is known about the origins of Hinduism, as it predates recorded history. The religion has been said to derive from beliefs of the Aryans, Dravidians, and Harappans living on the Indian subcontinent; it probably evolved from all three sources. Hinduism was also later influenced by the other Indian religions of Buddhism and Jainism.

The earliest known Hindu texts, the Vedas, were only written after ~8000 years of transmission, via an oral tradition. It is sometimes argued that these texts show a Zoroastrian influence.

Indus-Sarasvati Tradition contribution to Hinduism

The archaeological excavations of the Sindhu-Sarasvati have not yielded much evidence of communal temples. However, there is sufficient evidence that the civilisation was certainly not purely secular. Only one Indus civilisation graveyard has been found and excavated, and has yielded no elaborate royal burials, but the personal possessions buried with the bodies may indicate that these people believed in an afterlife in which they would need these things.

Water seems to have played an important part in their social, and possibly their religious, life, judging by the large number of public baths that were constructed. The modern Hindu custom of bathing at the beginning of the day and before the main meals may well have started here.

Many figurines of female deities have been discovered. These most probably signified creativity and the origin and continuity of life, and they may have been worshipped as symbolic embodiments of the female principle of creative Energy and Power. In modern Hinduism, the counterpart of these symbols is called Shakti. But they have no counterparts in the thousands of clay seals that have been discovered, nor in major sculpture, so these "mother Goddess" figurines may have been worshipped in the home rather than in any major state cult.

Figures of male deities with elaborate horns (or horned headgear) have also been uncovered, some of them with three faces. These are perhaps the original conceptual forms of the triad that is expressed by the Trimurti of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva (Generator-Sustainer-Destroyer) in contemporary Hinduism, but they are strangely enough also very similar to sculptures, paintings and bas-reliefs of horned gods in Europe, stretching as far back as the Paleolithic painting of the "sorcerer" in the cave of Les Trois Frères in France. The Indian figurines are shown as sitting in the cross-legged posture of yogis, suggesting that yoga or inner contemplation was one of their modes of discovering the secrets of life and creation.

Current geographic distribution

The nations of India, Mauritius, and Nepal as well as the Indonesian island of Bali are predominantly Hindu; significant Hindu minorities exist in Bangladesh (11 million), Myanmar (7.1 million), Sri Lanka (2.5 million), the United States (1.7 million) Pakistan (1.3 million), South Africa (1.2 million), the United Kingdom (1.2 million), Malaysia (1.1 million), Canada (0.7 million), Fiji (0.5 million), Trinidad and Tobago (0.5 million), Guyana (0.4 million), the Netherlands (0.4 million) and Suriname (0.2 million).

Aspects of Hinduism

Hinduism exists today on two different planes - one based purely on faith and another based on philosophy. Often, the two planes intersect.

The philosophical plane

There are traditionally six ancient astika or orthodox (accepting the authority of the Vedas) schools of philosophy, or shaddarshana: Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa (also called just 'Mimamsa'), and Uttara Mimamsa (also called 'Vedanta'). (Note that the number six is traditional, and the division is somewhat artificial.) The nastika or unorthodox schools are Jainism, Buddhism, and Charvaka (ancient Indian atheist materialists). For more details about each of the schools of thought, refer below.

The faith-based plane

Contrary to popular belief, true Hinduism is neither polytheistic nor monotheistic. The various gods and avatars that are worshipped by Hindus are understood as different forms which the ONE supreme god, Brahman, has taken in order to be approachable. (Note: Brahman (pronounced braH-MUNN), the supreme being and ultimate source of all divine energy, is not to be confused with Brahma (pronounced braH-mA), the creator of this particular universe.)

In an interesting parallel to the Christian trinity, there are three main gods in the Hindu pantheon: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, much like the two sides of a coin are merely different aspects of the same physical object. The God Brahma symbolizes the creator, Vishnu represents the maintainer and Shiva represents the destroyer in the cycle of existence.

Vaishnava, constituting approximately 80% of today's Hindus, worship one of the three most recent avatars (earthly incarnations) of Vishnu as their main deity. The seventh (third most recent) avatar of Vishnu is Rama, the eighth is Krishna, the ninth is Gautama Buddha or the founder of the Hindu sect whose sacred texts are consulted. Some acknowledge all of the above as true avatars, thus increasing the traditional count of ten (including Kalki, who has yet to appear) to as much as 27. Most of the remaining 20% are Saivites, who worship Lord Siva; the remainder is devoted Shakti. Most worship all the forms of divinity.

Much like a single individual may be referred to as the daughter of someone, the friend of another, or the sister of yet another, Hinduism allows each individual to describe and develop a personal relationship with their chosen god in the form of an avatar. Vaishnava worship Brahman through Vishnu, ISKCON devotees through Krishna and Devi worshippers through Devi, but ultimately all worship is of the divine essence, Brahman.

Hindu Scriptures

Hindu scripture is divided into two categories: Shruti- that which is heard and Smriti- that which is remembered. The Vedas constituting the former category are considered scripture by all Hindus. The post-Vedic Hindu scriptures form the latter category; the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are notable epics considered scripture by many sects. A sort of cross-over between the relgious epics and Upanishads of the Vedas is the Bhagavad Gita, considered to be revealed scripture by almost all Hindus today.

Some also include the scriptures of the dissident movements such as Buddhism and Jainism. These were in large part reactions against the Vedas, but also took much from them, both in terms of actual teachings and in terms of a general outlook on life.

The Vedas

The Vedas are referred to as the Shruti. Scholars who have made a study of world scriptures maintain that the Vedas are the oldest extant religious texts. The ideas expressed in the Vedas were traditionally handed down orally from father to son and from teacher to disciple. Therefore, these ideas had been in circulation for a long time before their codification and compilation, which are attributed to a sage called Vyasa (literally, "the compiler"). On the basis of both internal and external evidence, scholars have suggested various dates for the origin of the Vedas, ranging from approximately 1500 BC to as far back as 5000 BC.

In the traditional Hindu understanding, Vedas are said to be non-personal and without beginning or end. This means that the truths embodied in the Vedas are eternal and that they are not creations of the human mind. It was precisely on this point that Buddhism and Jainism would part company with Hinduism.

There are four Vedas: Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda. Each is divided into four sections:

The religion of the Vedic period, particularly at its earliest, was distinct in a number of respects, including reference to females in positions of religious authority (female rishis, or sages), an apparent lack of belief in reincarnation, and a markedly different pantheon, with Indra generally the chief god, and little mention of the later trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.

Post-Vedic Hindu scriptures

The new books that appeared afterwards were called Smriti While the Sruti literature was written in Vedic and Classical Sanskrit, the smriti texts were written in the Prakrit, or common, languages of the ordinary people. Since it was accessible to all, the smrti literature established its popularity among every stratum of Indian society from the very beginning. Even today, the greater part of the Hindu world is more familiar with the smrti than with the sruti literature. Smrti literature includes Itihasas (epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata), Puranas (mythological texts), Agamas (theological treatises) and Darshanas (philosophical texts).

The Dharmashastras (law books) also form part of the smrti. From time to time great law-givers (eg Manu, Yajnavalkya and Parashara) emerged, who codified existing laws and eliminated obsolete ones to ensure that the Hindu way of life was consistent with both the Vedic spirit and the changing times.

The Hindu philosophy reflected in the epics is the doctrine of avatar (incarnation of God as a human being). The two main avatars of Vishnu that appear in the epics are Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, and Krishna, the chief protagonist in the Mahabharata. Unlike the gods of the Vedic Samhitas and the abstract Upanishadic concept of the all-pervading and formless Brahman god, the avatars in these epics are human intermediaries between the Supreme Being and mortals.

This doctrine has had a great impact on Hindu religious life, for it means that God has manifested Himself in a form that could be appreciated even by the least sophisticated. Rama and Krishna have remained beloved and adored manifestations of the Divine for thousands of years among Hindus. The Upanishadic concept of the all-embracing Brahman is undoubtedly the pinnacle of Indian thought, but the concept of the avatars has been the medium of most Hindu thought to the average Hindu. This is evident in one of the primary Hindu texts, the Bhagavad Gita.

The Bhagavad Gita

Composed between the fifth and second centuries BCE the Bhagavad Gita (literally: Song of the Lord) is a part of the epic poem Mahabharata and is revered in Hinduism, especially by those following the Vaishnava stream. The Gita is generally considered by many Hindus as the sacred text of the faith. It tells the story of Arjuna, a warrior prince, and his friend and mentor, an avatar (reincarnation) of the Lord Vishnu, Krishna, who is steering his chariot through the beginnings of the great Bharata war that forms the basis for the Mahabharata. Arjuna and Krishna have ridden out into the middle of a battlefield, with armies arrayed on either side of them. Arjuna's job is to blow a conch shell to announce the commencement of battle. Seeing friends and relatives in both armies, Arjuna is heartbroken at the thought that the battle will cost him many loved ones. He turns to Krishna for advice.

Krishna counsels Arjuna on a wide range of topics, beginning with a tenet that since souls are immortal, the lives lost in battle aren't really lost. Krishna goes on to expound on many spiritual matters, including the yogas (or paths) of devotion, action and knowledge. In the eleventh chapter, Krishna shows Arjuna that he is in fact an incarnation of the god Vishnu, and, fundamentally, both the ultimate ground of being behind the universe, and the material body of the universe, as well as the personal Lord who should be worshipped. This three-fold understanding of the nature of God has led to the Bhagavad Gita being interpreted as the basis for many varying manifestations of the Hindu faith and the fountainhead text of Yoga.

Hindu philosophy

The Astika (Believers or the orthodox school of thought) philosophies are elaborated below. The nastika philosophies are omitted as they are not descriptive of Hinduism.


The Nyaya school of philosophical speculation is based on a text called the Nyaya Sutra. It was written by Gautama (not to be confused with the founder of Buddhism), also known as Akshapada, round about the fourth or fifth century B.C. The most important contribution made by this school is its methodology. This is based on a system of logic that has subsequently been adopted by most of the other Indian schools (orthodox or not), much in the same way that western science, religion and philosophy can be said to be largely based on Aristotelian logic.

But Nyaya is not merely logic for its own sake. Its followers believed that obtaining valid knowledge was the only way to obtain release from suffering. They therefore took great pains to identify valid sources of knowledge and to distinguish these from mere false opinions. According to the Nyaya school, there are exactly four sources of knowledge (pramanas): perception, inference, comparison and testimony. Knowledge obtained through each of these can of course still be either valid or invalid, and the Nyaya scholars again went to great pains to identify, in each case, what it took to make knowledge valid, in the process coming up with a number of explanatory schemes. In this sense, Nyaya is probably the closest Indian equivalent to contemporary Western analytical philosophy. An important later development in Nyaya is the system of Navya Nyaya (New Logic).


The Vaisheshika system, which was founded by the sage Kanada, postulates an atomic pluralism. In terms of this school of thought, all objects in the physical universe are reducible to a certain number of atoms.

Although the Vaishesika system developed independently from the Nyaya, the two eventually merged because of their closely related metaphysical theories.

In its classical form, however, the Vaishesika school differed from the Nyaya in one crucial respect: where Nyaya accepted four sources of valid knowledge, the Vaishesika accepted only perception and inference.


Samkhya is widely regarded as the oldest of the orthodox philosophical systems in Hinduism. Its philosophy regards the universe as consisting of two eternal realities: purusha and prakrti. The purushas (souls) are many, conscious and devoid of all qualities. They are the silent spectators of prakrti (matter or nature), which is composed of three gunas (dispositions): satva, rajas and tamas (steadiness, activity and dullness). When the equilibrium of the gunas is disturbed, the world order evolves. This disturbance is due to the proximity of Purusha and prakrti. Liberation (kaivalya), then, consists of the realisation of the difference between the two.


The Yoga system is generally paired with the Samkhya philosophy. Its primary text is the Bhagavad Gita, which explores the four primary systems (see Bhagavad Gita); the sage Patanjali wrote an extremely influential text on Raja Yoga (or meditational) entitled the Yoga Sutra. The most significant difference from Samkhya is that the Yoga school not only incorporates the concept of Ishvara (a personal God) into its metaphysical worldview, which the Samkhya does not, but also upholds Ishvara as the ideal upon which to meditate. This is because Ishvara is the only purusha that has never become entangled with prakrti. It also utilizes the Brahman/Atman terminology and concepts that are found in depth in the Upanishads. The Yoga system lays down elaborate prescriptions for gradually gaining physical and mental control and mastery over the personal, body and mind, self, until one's consciousness has intensified sufficiently to allow awareness of one's real Self (the soul, or Atman) (as distinct from one's feelings, thoughts and actions). Realization of the goal of Yoga is known as moksha, nirvana and samadhi. They all speak to the realization of the Atman as being nothing other than the infinite Brahman. See Yoga for an in-depth look at its history.

Purva Mimamsa

The main objective of the Purva ("earlier") Mimamsa school was to establish the authority of the Vedas. Consequently this school's most valuable contribution to Hinduism was its formulation of the rules of Vedic interpretation. Its adherents believed that revelation must be proved by reasoning, that it should not be accepted blindly as dogma. In keeping with this belief, they laid great emphasis on dharma, which they understood as the performance of Vedic rituals. The Mimamsa accepted the logical and philosophical teachings of the other schools, but felt that these paid insufficient attention to right action. They believed that the other schools of thought, which pursued moksha(release) as their ultimate aim, were not completely free from desire and selfishness. In hinduism, we are all illuminated under the light of god. When we have moksha, we believe that we become closer to god. According to the Mimamsa, the very striving for liberation stemmed from a selfish desire to be free. Only by acting in accordance with the prescriptions of the Vedas could one attain salvation (rather than liberation). At a later stage, however, the Mimamsa school changed its views in this regard and began to teach the doctrines of God and mukti (freedom). Its adherents then advocated the release or escape from the soul from its constraints through what was known as jnana (enlightened activity). While Mimamsa does not receive much scholarly attention these days, its influence can be felt in the life of the practising Hindu. All Hindu ritual, ceremony and religious law is influenced by it.


The Uttara ("later") Mimamsa school, more commonly known as the Vedanta, concentrates on the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads rather than on the ritualistic injunctions of the Brahmanas. But there are over a hundred Upanishads and they do not form a unified system. Their systematisation was undertaken by Badarayana, in a work called the Vedanta Sutra.

The cryptic way in which the aphorisms of the Vedanta texts are presented leaves the door wide open for a multitude of interpretations. This led to a proliferation of Vedanta schools. Each of these interprets the texts in its own way and has produced its own series of sub-commentaries - all claiming to be faithful to the original.

Monism: Advaita Vedanta

This is probably the best known of all Vedanta schools. Advaita literally means "not two"; thus this is what we refer to as a monistic (or non-dualistic) system, which emphasises oneness. Its first great consolidator was Shankara (788-820). Continuing the line of thought of some of the Upanishadic teachers, and also that of his own teacher Gaudapada, Shankara expounded the doctrine of Advaita - a nondualistic reality. By analysing the three states of experience (waking, dreaming and deep sleep) he exposed the relative nature of the world and established the supreme truth of the Advaita: the non-dual reality of Brahman in which atman (the individual soul) and brahman (the ultimate reality expressed in the trimurti) are identified absolutely. His theories were controversial from the start and some of his contemporaries accused him of teaching Buddhism while pretending to be a Hindu.

Subsequent Vedantins debated whether the reality of Brahman was saguna (with attributes) or nirguna (without attributes). Belief in the concept of Saguna Brahman gave rise to a proliferation of devotional attitudes and more widespread worship of Vishnu and Shiva.

Qualified Monism: Vishistadvaita Vedanta

Ramanuja (1040-1137) was the foremost proponent of the concept of Sriman Narayana as the supreme Brahman. He taught that Ultimate reality had three aspects: Ishvara (Vishnu), cit (soul) and acit (matter). Vishnu is the only independentreality, while souls and matter are dependent on God for their existence. Because of this qualification of Ultimate reality, Ramanuja's system is known as qualified non-dualism.

Dualism: Dvaita Vedanta

Like Ramanuja, Madhva (1199-1278) identified god with Vishnu, but his view of reality was purely dualistic and is therefore called Dvaita (dualistic) Vedanta.


According to the most famous and Tantrik scholar, Sir John Woodroffe (pseudonym Arthur Avalon): " The Indian Tantras, which are numerous, constitute the Scripture (Shastra) of the Kaliyuga, and as such are the voluminous source of present and practical orthodox "Hinduism." The Tantra Shastra is, in fact, and whatever be its historical origin, a development of the Vaidika Karmakanda, promulgated to meet the needs of that age. Shiva says: "For the benefit of men of the Kali age, men bereft of energy and dependent for existence on the food they eat, the Kaula doctrine, O auspicious one! is given" (Chap. IX., verse 12). To the Tantra we must therefore look if we would understand aright both ritual, yoga, and sadhana of all kinds, as also the general principles of which these practices are but the objective expression." (Introduction to Sir John Woodroffe's translation of "Mahanirvana Tantra.")

The word "tantra" means "treatise", and is applied to a variety of mystical, occult, medical and scientific works as well as to those which we would now regard as "tantric". Most tantras were written in the late middle ages and sprang from Hindu cosmology and Yoga.

While Hinduism is typically viewed as being Vedic, the Tantras are not considered part of the orthodox Hindu/Vedic scriptures. They are said to run alongside each other, The Vedas of orthodox Hinduism on one side and the Agamas of Tantra on the other. However, it is notable that throughout the Tantras, such as the Mahanirvana Tantra, they align themselves as being natural progressions of the Vedas that exist for spiritual seekers in the age of Kaliyuga, when Vedic practices no longer apply to the current state of morality and Tantra is the most direct means to realization. Thus, aside from Vajrayana Buddhism, much of Tantrik thought is Hindu Tantra, most notably those that council worship of Lord Shiva and the Divine Mother, Kali.

The bhakti (devotional) schools

Adoration and loving devotional worship of a personal god (bhakti) is part and parcel of most religious traditions. In Hinduism, too, it has been found since the earliest days, but only in the second millennium A.D. do we start to see organised movements advocating this type of religious behavior. Among the first was the Vira-Shaiva school, in the thirteenth century. Its founder, Basava, rejected the caste system, denied the supremacy of the Brahmins, condemned ritual sacrifice and insisted on bhakti and the worship of the one god, Shiva. His followers were called Vira-Shaivas, meaning "stalwart Shiva-worshippers".

The Shaiva-Siddhanta school is a form of Shaivism (Shiva worship) found in the south of India and was established around A.D. 1300. Based on Tantra, it espouses the belief that Shiva is God, and his infinite love is revealed in the divine acts of the creation, preservation and destruction of the universe, and in the liberation of the soul.

In the period between 1400 and 1650, a great bhakti movement swept through Northern India. The implications of this movement were that people could cast aside the heavy burdens of ritual and caste and the subtle complexities of philosophy and simply express their overwhelming love for God.

This period was also characterised by a spate of devotional literature in the ethnic languages of the various Indian states or provinces.

In Southern India, there had been two parallel devotional movements just before this period, one centering on Vishnu and the other on Shiva. It was the Vishnu movement that mainly spread to the north, where it itself divided into two camps, the one worshipping Vishnu mainly in the form of his avatar Rama, the other in the form of Krishna.

The leader of the bhakti movement focussing on the Lord as Rama was Ramananda. Very little is known about him, but he is believed to have lived in the first half of the 15th century. He taught that Lord Rama is the supreme Lord, and that salvation could be attained only through love for and devotion to him, and through the repetition of his sacred name.

Ramananda's ashram in Varanasi became a powerful centre of religious influence, from which his ideas spread far and wide among all classes of Indians. One of the reasons for his great popularity was that he renounced Sanskrit and used the language of the people for the composition of his hymns. This paved the way for the modern tendency in northern India to write literary texts in local languages.

Devotees of Krishna worship him either as an adult together with his first wife and queen Rukmini (Rukmani) or, far more commonly, as an adolescent together with his childhood sweetheart and eternal consort Radha, who is regarded as an incarnation of Laxmi and the embodiment of devotion. Two major systems of Krishna worship developed, each with its own philosophical system.

Vallabhacharya (1479-1531) called his system of thought Shuddhadvaita (pure monism). According to him, it is by God's grace alone that one can obtain release from bondage and attain Krishna's heaven. This heaven is far above the "heavens" of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, for Krishna is himself the eternal Brahman.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1485-1533) named his system of philosophy Achintya Bheda-Bheda (incomprehensible dualistic monism). It attempts to combine elements of monism and dualism into a single system. Chaitanya's philosophy is one of the main elements in the belief system of the contemporary International Society for Krishna Consciousness, better known by Chaitanya's mantra as the Hare Krishna movement.

Beyond the confines of such formal schools and movements, however, the development of bhakti as a major form of Hindu practice has left an indelible stamp on the faith. Philosophical speculation had always been a minority interest, in India as elsewhere, which really only left the general population with increasingly archaic rituals and increasingly onerous religious duties to perform. Bhakti practice, however, was instantly available to all. If it did not do away with the worst features of the caste system, then at least it gave people a temporary respite from it.

Related faiths

Jainism and Buddhism evolved from Hinduism. Sikhism emerged from a synthesis of Hindu and Islamic ideas following the Islamic conquest of the Indian subcontinent.

See also

External links

Contemporary resources on Hinduism from the Hindu point of view:
See also: Agnihotra, Puja, Rama-Lilas, Rta