Hinduism is described as one of the world’s oldest religions, dating back to the third and second millennium BC. The Hindu religion boasts of a billion adherents today. Hindus teach that, although termed a religion, Hinduism is more of a way of life, a culture, and a code of behaviour.
Naturally, any way of life or code of behaviour must have some source or fountainhead. Astonishingly, we do not find any historically agreed upon founder of Hinduism. In fact, Hinduism is a religion without a founder, in a sense, an unfounded religion.
The beliefs and practices of Hindus are extremely diverse. Unlike Islam, there is no text or creed that forms the basis of all Hindu beliefs. Despite this, there are a number of texts that all branches of Hinduism consider as fundamental. These texts are divided into two categories.
1. Eternal or Revealed Texts
2. Texts based upon human learning and recording
The Vedas are of the first type and Mahabharata and Ramayana are of the second type.
The four Vedas, written in Vedic Sanskrit are:
1. The Rigveda
2. The Yajurveda
3. The Samaveda
These texts offer a large variety of beliefs and teaching that are sometimes mutually contradictory. For example, while most agree that Hinduism is polytheistic, some Hindus claim it is monotheistic and others claim it is henotheistic, i.e., the worship of one god without denying the existence of other gods. Nonetheless, some estimates put the numbers of Gods in Hinduism at about thirty-three million.
The core Hindu texts largely speak about the many Gods. For example:
HYMN XIV. Viśvedevas.
1 To drink the Soma, Agni, come, to our service and our songs.
With all these Gods; and worship them.
2 The Kaṇvas have invoked thee; they, O Singer, sing thee songs of praise
Agni, come hither with the Gods;
Other Hindu texts, like the Puranas, consist of stories of the Hindu deities. The ritual practices surrounding the various deities are covered in the Tantras. Yet, another text cited to claim that Hinduism is mono- or henotheistic reads:
“They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuṇa, Agni, and he is heavenly nobly-winged Garutmān.
To what is One, sages give many a title — they call it Agni, Yama, Mātariśvan.”
Without a founder or even a central scripture, Hinduism is at loggerheads with itself in the deep pit of polytheism. With so many Gods, how does a child learn to pray? How does an old man remember the names of all the gods he is supposed to pray to? How do Hindus even know what they are supposed to believe to be Hindus in the first place?
- https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hinduism ↑
- Ibid ↑
- https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-asia/beginners-guide-asian-culture/hindu-art-culture/a/roots-of-hinduism ↑
- Ibid ↑
- https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedas ↑
- https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-33-million-demigods-o_b_1737207 ↑
- Rig Veda, tr. by Ralph T.H. Griffith, https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/rigveda/rv01014.htm ↑
- Klaus K. Klostermaier (2010). A Survey of Hinduism: Third Edition ↑