History of Hinduism

Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world. The worldwide religious tradition is based on the Vedas, beliefs, and customs of various groups in India. Hinduism’s origins include cultural elements of the Indus Valley Civilization(c. 3300–1700 BC), the Vedic religion of the Indo-Aryans, and other Indian civilizations. Being highly localized within India, Hinduism has seen many changes throughout the history of the Indian subcontinent. Over time, Hindu philosophy evolved into six schools: Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Purva Mimamsa and Vedanta.

The history/timeline of Hinduism would be a very interesting topic. As one researches more and more, more and more things keep coming. Yes, there are many sources that indicate many of the historic milestones seen by Hinduism, but is there a recorded history available ? As we see Hinduism is knowledge and experience supported religion, the ancestors have well thought of the need to record some of the important moments in the history. This history is given to us in the form of purANas and itihAsas. The word purANa means old and itihAsa means history. They refer to events that are very many thousands years old.

The history told in these purANas and itihAsas has the information as to who were the key people lived in various points of time – especially the sages and the kings and remarkable achievements by them if any. These texts apart from providing the mere information also serve as the source that inspires people about the heroes of the past. They narrate the good and evil of the past so that people could take forward the contours of positive growth and keep away from the errors.

The purANas are eighteen in count. There are also an equal number of sub purANas. (upa-purANas). They talk of the happenings of very ancient time. These typically in terms of many yugas (multi thousands years), chaturyugas (four such yugas is one chaturyuga), manvantara and kalpa. It would be quite involved task and at times impossible to assign a fixed date for these happenings. purANas came through various sources and were compiled by sage vedavyAsa. The importance that is given to the history and these purANas in Hinduism is obvious by the fact that some part of the purANas is read out as part of the daily worship in the temples along with the vedas. The knowledge of this ancient past was spread mainly through the word of mouth through the channels called paurANikas. So apart from the original theme, many later day insertions also could be found in them.