History

Who: One of the oldest religions in the world, Hinduism has no identifiable founder because it is a religion that evolved and developed through ages from the spiritual, religious and social practices of the people of Indian Sub-continent. Unlike most other religions in the world, Hindu tradition has no single founder and no specific book or even a path to follow. People are allowed to choose their own path for enlightenment, which suits a person most in terms of his/her current position, abilities and need, guided by a Guru or book or tradition or purely conscience.

What: The word “Hindu” comes from the Sanskrit name for the river Indus (Sindhu). Most likely the people from the Middle East used this term first to indicate the people who lived on the eastern side of the Indus river. The term India also has same root, however, this may have been coined by the Greeks. European colonists used Hinduism to indicate the spiritual and social practices of the people of India. Hindus use Sanatana Dharma, or the “eternal universal tradition of righteousness and duty” to describe their spiritual and social practices. In this sense all Indic traditions such as Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism – all are part of the greater Hindu or Indic heritage and civilization. Concepts such as Yoga, Karma and reincarnation, Ahimsa, Dharma, Mantra, Guru, Moksha, etc. are common for all these paths.

When: According to many, Hinduism in its recognizable form first appeared in about 1500 BCE (Before the Common Era, formerly BC, Before Christ), but Hindus and some other scholars believe that it is much older than that (according to some accounts it is between 5 to 10 thousand years old).

Where: Hinduism, commonly referred to as Hindu Dharma by the Indic traditions developed in the Indian Sub-continent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal) and today is mainly practiced in India, Nepal, parts of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Trinidad, Mauritius, Surinam, South Africa, Kenya, U.K., Canada and USA. Hinduism is, however, spreading throughout the world as the result of immigration, and as people in the west become increasingly interested in eastern religion and spirituality.