Introduction to Hinduism
Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world. It originated around 8,000 years ago in the Indus River Valley in modern-day Pakistan. Today, there are an estimated one billion people practicing Hinduism worldwide—950 million of those in India. The religion consists of a variety of beliefs with no single set of practices or holy book or even a single founder. Because of this, Hinduism is often considered a way of life rather than a single religion.
Most Hindus believe in a supreme god whose form is represented by a pantheon of gods and goddesses. The central trinity of deities that Hindus recognize is Brahma, the creator of the cosmos; Vishnu, preserver of the cosmos; and Shiva, destroyer of the cosmos. Hindus recognize many incarnations of these deities; for example, Krishna and the Buddha are considered incarnations of Vishnu.
The most ancient Hindu texts are the Vedas, though there are many documents and scriptures based on the Vedas. Common to all texts is the idea of morality and a code of conduct, which is encompassed in the central concept of dharma. Hindus also believe that a soul passes through a perpetual cycle of life and death and that a soul’s rebirth (or next incarnation) is dependent on karma, or how the previous life was lived.