Latasinha's Weblog

Social and political Values and Systems in India.


Hinduism as a culture/civilization – Hinduism presents one of the oldest,  continuous and uninterrupted living culture and civilization in the world. Sometimes, during 19th century, English writers had added ‘ism’ to Hindu. it is  not possible for the aliens to understand the true meaning, ethos and nuances Hinduism. Hinduism is not a religion like Christianity or Islam. ‘Hinduism’ is  ‘a way of life’ and ’fusion of various beliefs’, mainly based on the principle ‘Dharma’.   

Hinduism is not merely a religion like other religions, i.e.  Christianity or Islam. While the term religion itself as a set of religious beliefs was shaped much later, during Renaissance movement of 14th/15th centuries, Before the colonization of India, Hinduism was popularly known as Sanatana Dharma.

Some people think that Hinduism as a culture has always existed and is beyond the limits of time. As a culture and civilization of the indigenous people living beyond Sindhu River, it has always existed. Later on, a large number of social groups migrated from elsewhere and willingly merged into the mainstream of Hindustan.

Others believe that Hinduism as a Vedic culture originated during the period of Indus Valley Civilization (around 3300–1300 BCE) on the Indo-Gangetic Plains, (in northern parts of India) and matured by 2600–1900 BCE), and spread/flourished throughout India during 1500 BC and 500 BC. The blending up of migrating social groups, their language, values, systems  and culture with that of the indigenous people living in the region gave rise to Vedic Culture of Hinduism.

Hinduism as a religion – Western thinkers have defined Hinduism as a religion/religious tradition/set of religious beliefs. They have  literally translated the Sanskrit word ‘Dharma’ into English as ‘religion’. Hinduism was used as a religion only after the colonization of Indus Valley civilization and under the influence of Europeans, especially the British.

The term religion was used originally to mean reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety. Western thinkers have defined Hinduism as a religion/religious tradition/set of religious beliefs. They have  literally translated the Sanskrit word ‘Dharma’ into English as ‘religion’.

According to the philologist Max Müller (the 19th century), the root of the English word religion is the Latin religio. The word means “to bind together.” For the first time the word was used in the 1500s to distinguish worldly things from spirituality  and  morality and set the domain of the church. Religion which means belief in or worship of God/Gods and a system of religious beliefs and practices.

At present, Hinduism (15%) is said to be one of the oldest and largest religion in the world after Christianity (Christianity 33%) and Islam (24.1%). The Upanishads (Vedic texts) were composed, containing the earliest emergence of some of the central religious concepts of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Its roots are traced back to prehistoric times, over 5,000 years ago. Hinduism spread through parts of Southeastern Asia, China, Korea, and Japan. Hindus worship a single god with different forms.

Hindu Philosophy as one of the most scientific ideology – Many intellectuals and reformers regard Hinduism, its values and systems, culture and philosophy, in its purest form, as one of the most scientific ideology ever developed anywhere in the world. It has taken thousands of years to take a shape of principle. It cannot be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be attributed to one single author.

In the beginning, the priestly schools had devised a most remarkable and effective system of transferring knowledge to succeeding generations in the form of hymns, restricting it only to those, possessing brilliant feats of memory and capability to keep extreme sanctity. Later on, it was put together in ‘Vedas’, ‘Smritis’ ‘Sutras’, and ‘Upanishads’. These Epics “contain an ocean of knowledge in a jar.”[i]

Scriptures of Hinduism – ‘Vedas’, ‘Smritis’ ‘Sutras’, ‘Upanishads’, Ramayana and Bhagvat Gita are not merely the scriptures/religious/spiritual books, but also a perfect guide to lead a happy life. The ”Rig Veda” , dated to between 1500–1200 BCE is said to be the oldest  complete religious holy book that has survived into the modern age. Laws of Manu, (date of publication uncertain but believed to be about 200 BC) was a hybrid moral-religious-law code and one of the first written law codes of Asia. According to Hindu tradition, the Manu Smruti records the words of Brahma. Manusmriti is also called the Mānava-Dharmaśāstra or Laws of Manu (human). In spite of its age, it has sustained paramountcy in the Hindu culture. It was also the code of conduct for inter-caste relationships in India.

These scriptures have guided people not only to live a quality of life here in this world, but also tells how to make life better after death. These scriptures are the magnificent example of scientific division and orderly arrangement of rules, in a few words, in different branches of human knowledge, covering almost all the aspects of life, be it spiritual, phonetics, arts, literature, medicine, polity, or metrics. Its rituals are techniques for leading a harmonious life.They speak of everything- on staying healthy, social evils, improving concentration and tenets of behavior, which are relevant even today.

[i]            Basham, Wonder That Was India, p51-52.


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