Hinduism is a set of beliefs that have developed in India for a long historical period since the 2nd millennium BC. Hinduism does not associate with the name of any founder, did not experience the formation of the influence of the religions of neighboring countries, does not have the symbols of faith, the organizational center, does not require the unification of worldviews and cultic actions, recognizes the existence of different levels of religious consciousness (mass – elite). The essence of Hindu worldview can be designated as veneration of the Vedas (even if formal in a number of sects); faith in God in one form or another; understanding man as a spiritual entity; recognition of the differences between spiritual and material, eternal and transient, correlated in the doctrines of samsara, moksha, karma and dharma; developed ritual culture. Hinduism has a monopoly position in the structure of social consciousness in India; it is a powerful culture-forming force and a very viable tradition.


Vedas – a comprehensive term in Indian culture, denoting the sacred canon of in-duoists. Historical, linguistic, and cultural studies show that the texts of the Vedas were created at different times from the 2nd millennium BC. up to 1-st centuries. AD In Indian culture, the Vedas are understood as the original na-radhimal sacred texts (sruti). In the hymns of the Vedas there are two explanations for their appearance. First: the Veda is eternal and intuitively “seized” by the sages; the texts of the Vedas are verbalized experience of the visionaries, who are not their authors, for they only gave the verbal form to visions that are inaccessible to other people. Second: Veda is the Revelation of God to the first Brahma and sages. Later both understandings were rationally conceptually developed in darshanas: the Vedas are the word of God (Nyaya); Vedas are a collection of eternal and impersonal truths (mimansa); The Vedas emanate from Brahman as a mystically pan-anteic first principle and are not the result of the action of the leading agent (Vedanta). The latter understanding dominates the religious consciousness: it is the Vedanta who is the philosophical “partner” of Hinduism; the struggle of currents in Hinduism, from antiquity to our days, is inseparable from the struggle of directions within the Vedanta. To a certain extent, the whole diversity of the theory and practice of Hinduism falls under the maximum of the dentist: “Something can express itself in different ways.”

To the Vedic canon, ie. infallible, unique, unique source of information about the Supreme Principle and dharma, which is accessible by tradition only to members of higher social groups (it is recognized that as a universal knowledge of the Veda is given to all but can not be understood by all), the texts constituting a kind of “sacred tradition” Hinduism (smrti). Among the members of the lower castes and women, the Puranas (Sanskrit – old histories), considered to be the “fifth Veda”, are especially popular. In mythopoetic form they give a holistic presentation of the Hindu worldview in all its diversity and in the form in which it was formed by the beginning of our era and in many respects has survived to the present day.

History of Hinduism

It is customary to distinguish three stages in the composition and development of Hinduism: Vedism, Brahmanism, Hinduism proper. Vedism corresponds with the beliefs recorded in the hymns of the Vedas, especially in the earliest collection – Rigveda (2nd millennium BC), and reflected the world-feeling of the Indo-Aryan tribes during their resettlement in Northern India and the development of the Ganges valley. The deification of the natural cycle, the man’s fusion with events and phenomena of the surrounding world, world-affirming perception are the main characteristics of Vedism. The number of gods is indefinite; their characteristics are fluid: moral qualities do not differ in height, God can also lie, and commit improper. God and man need each other, but in the Vedas, there is no mention of a man’s love of God. The difference between a man and a god is insignificant: the status of a deity can be earned, and it is possible to lose it. A mortal strives for earthly well-being and hopes for heaven after death.

Brahmanism is associated with a set of ideas, rules and social institutions that formed by the end of the Vedic era (around the first millennium BC) and reflected in many ways new views on the pantheon of gods, religious practice, eschatological representations of ancient Indians. Brahmanism teaches the threefoldness of eternal beings, for in the form of three gods (Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu) it is the first essence and the foundation of the world. In the unmanifest, it is called Brahman (in the middle genus), in the manifested – Brahma, the creator of the world and the first world (in the masculine). In Brahmanas, there is no living and personal God. The gods admit, but seemingly do not rule the world. Not God shows his mercy, and sacrifices are understood as a magical power: the result is inevitable if they are executed correctly. Extremely developed ritual culture provided an exceptionally high status in the society of the priests, the organizers of the offerings.


Vaishnavism unites more than 100 sects recognizing the god Vishnu as the supreme deity. The cult of Vishnu most fully embodied the elements of the Vedic-Brahmanist tradition, complicated by the inclusion of elements of the cult practice of the autochthonous population. Vishnu, known by the hymns of the Vedas, but not being the central god, gradually acquired the characteristics of the Supreme God, both immanent and transcendental. As an immanent God, he controls the world of objects, phenomena and individual souls: they are his changing modes. As a transcendental personal God, usually revered in the form of two avatars (descents to the earth to restore lost righteousness) – Rama and Krishna. The relationship between God and man is understood as the relationship of two conscious and independent personalities. Vaishnavism is based on the doctrine of bhakti – the primacy of love and devotion to a personal God: the emotional attitude of a person to him, the desire to establish love with him replaces rituals and the cult practice of Brahmanism. Salvation depends entirely on God: he so loves a person and cares about his good, which can even destroy the accumulated “bad” karma. Vaishnavism is spread throughout India.


Shivaism is the direction of Hinduism, uniting about 100 sects and named after the main deity – Shiva. The origins of Shaivism are rooted in the beliefs of the autochthonous population and date back to the culture of ancient Indian civilization (3rd millennium BC). In Shivaism preserved vestiges of the ancient cult of fertility. With him are associated ideas of the creative beginning of all living things and the veneration of male and female reproductive organs. The image of Shiva is ambivalent; he is worshiped in two ways: as a merciful, good, creative God and as a God of destruction, a fan of bloody sacrifices. The omniscient and all-perfect Shiva can grant salvation to the worthy, but the personal efforts of the believer are recognized as binding. Ritual practice (sometimes quite odious) plays a big role. Shivaism is especially common in Bengal and South India.


Shaktism is a syncretic trend in Hinduism, uniting elements of Buddhist Tantrism, Vishnuism, yogic cults and cults of village deities. There are more than 20 sects. Shaktism proceeds from the concept of energy as the power of God manifested through his spouse. They together represent the dualism of divine existence, representing different aspects of a single lifestream: activity and inertia, domination and dependence, etc. Often the feminine principle dominates, and Shakti is identified with the masculine and feminine at the same time. In the cult practice, various aspects of the feminine nature are played out: Shakti is revered as the Great Mother, the progenitor of all living things, then as a young virgin, then as a lovely lover. In the cult practice, there are many elements of magic preserved. It is most common in Assam and South India.


Since the 10th century, Islam has penetrated into India. The rejection of casteism in Islam contributed to the transition of the Hindus from the lower social groups. Gradually, the mutual influence of the views of the Sufis and the ideas of the followers of certain directions of Hinduism led to the creation of the doctrine (later – the movement) of bhakti (12th-15th centuries). Two aspects are most important in him: the idea of a single God who can have different names (Allah, Rama) and an understanding of God’s mercy as a means of eliminating “bad” karma. Bhakti assigned the main role not to writing and ritual practice, but to the spiritual state, the deep experience of a person. The main thing was seen in the person’s intention, the emotional state: the “overjoyed” God could hope for the salvation given by God. Bhakti elaborated in detail all possible ways of communication between man and God, meaningful as the relationship between servant and master, younger brother and elder, loving spouses. Bhakti elevated the institution of guruism (apprenticeship) as opposed to the scholastic study of the Vedic canon, markedly weakened the caste system, and gave a powerful impetus to artistic creativity.

Reform of Hinduism

The 19th century was marked by the beginning of a certain transformation of Hinduism, called the Reformation. Basic ideas about the Higher Principle, the doctrine of universal causation and the ideal of liberation are preserved. However, the neo-Vedic reformers (Dyanjananda Sarasvati, Vivekananda, etc.) present in many ways a new understanding of the theory and practice of Hinduism. The unconditional authority of the Vedic canon is questioned. The Vedas are declared accessible to all; some of their parts are translated into the New Indian languages; often not adherence to “holy scripture”, and personal experience is declared more important. There are many provisions that mitigate the social requirements of Hinduism (negation of untouchability, a new caste system, etc.). The need for personal efforts of man is emphasized in every way, although sometimes the recognition of the possibility of God’s intervention in natural and social processes remains. Moral principles are put forward in the first place; personal improvement is linked to a positive approach to the natural world and the need for its development. In the resultant for the 19th century Vivekananda’s teachings found an optimal solution to the actual problem of the correlation of religions: the religious feeling is first put forward as a natural property of the person of any culture, mystical unity with God is understood as an experience uniting the members of all communities. Reformation of Hinduism is inseparable from the development of political processes of the 19th and 20th centuries, it defined the spiritual image of the country and had a decisive influence on its historical destiny. MK Gandhi used the norms, principles and provisions of reformed Hinduism, expressing the ideal of independence in the terminology inherent in religious consciousness, i.e. making it understandable to the widest sections of the population.

Hinduism in independent India

The Republic of India has declared itself to be a secularized state, pursuing a policy of equal respect for members of all communities. Hinduism exerts a great influence on all aspects of society, Hindu-Muslim relations are sometimes seriously aggravated. The government focuses on supporting organizations such as the Ramakrishna Mission, which seeks to implement the humanistic aspects of any creed, and makes great efforts to prevent conflicts on the religious background.

Tags: Indian Philosophy
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