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Hinduism - Introduction

It is hard to define Hinduism. It is not a religion in a narrow sense associated with the word religion. Its comprehensiveness bypasses the human mind. No single approach is able to enunciate its basic concept and philosophy. In a very broad sense Hinduism is a way of life. From time immemorial indigenous religious consciousness ahs continuously enriched it. It has been influenced by the aspirations and needs of the human society from time to time. It embraces the indigenous religious of India which have been modified almost continuously with the development of ideas and the needs of local communities. As a result Hinduism is a mixture of sects, cults and doctrines which have had a profound effect on Indian culture. In spite of this diversity, there are few of its aspects which do not rely in some way or the other on the authority of Indian religious literature ? the Vedas, the Epics and the Puranas.

Vedic Deities

The Vedic gods who eventually became established in India may have been the result of the fusion of ideas brought by migrants and those of the indigenous people.


These deities were defined in the Vedas, along with meticulous descriptions of the ceremonies that were intended to propitiate them.


There is a popular school of thought which disputes the theory of the migrants having brought in ideas and is of the opinion that Hinduism was highly developed much before. It is not within the scope of this book to go into this controversy.


It is evident from the Vedas that these deities were, to a certain extent, visualized as having human or animal forms. But it is not certain whether they were worshipped in the form of images. There remains the possibility, important for its effect on the later development of images, that some of the lower castes worshipped images in human or animal form and that this practice gradually spread upwards to the higher sections of society. At a much later period, the Vedic deities were given human form and reproduced as images.

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