Background of Hinduism

Hinduism is a religious tradition that originated in the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism is often referred to as Sanātana Dharma by its practitioners, a Sanskrit phrase meaning “the eternal path” or “the eternal law”.

Hinduism is the world’s oldest major religion that is still practiced. Its earliest origins can be traced to the ancient Vedic civilization.  A conglomerate of diverse beliefs and traditions, Hinduism has no single founder.  It is the world’s third largest religion following Christianity and Islam, with approximately a billion adherents, of whom about 905 million live in India and Nepal.  Other countries with large Hindu populations include Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom and Canada.

Hinduism contains a vast body of scriptures. Divided as Śruti (revealed) and Smriti (remembered) and developed over millennia, these scriptures expound on theology, philosophy and mythology, and provide spiritual insights and guidance on the practice of dharma (religious living). In the orthodox view, among such texts, the Vedas and the Upanishads are the foremost in authority, importance and antiquity. Other major scriptures include the Tantras, the sectarian Agamas, the Purāṇas and the epics Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa. The Bhagavad Gītā, a treatise excerpted from the Mahābhārata, is sometimes called a summary of the spiritual teachings of the Vedas

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