Hinduism is the third most followed religion in the world. Today, the number of people who believe in Hinduism is said to be more than 100 crores. There are many religions globally, such as Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, etc. If anyone asks you how old Christian or Muslim, Buddhist, and other religions are, you will answer it immediately.
But if you are asked how old Vedic, Sanatan, or Hindu religion is, then it is difficult to answer this question. What is Hinduism? Who founded Hinduism? When was Hinduism founded? How ancient is Hinduism? Let us try to find out the answers to these questions according to Hinduism history, tradition, scriptures, and scholars.
Hinduism is a religion whose origin or founder is not clear or distinct. Hinduism refers to the faith of the majority of people in India. Now, if questioned, where did Hinduism originate from? The answers lie with specific scholars. According to them, the term ‘Hindu’ was first used by the Persians to refer to the people living beyond the Indus River. Therefore, if we want to understand Hinduism in a few words, we can say that it is a commonwealth of thousands of different religious groups developed in India at least since 1,500 BC.
Hinduism is the oldest organized religion in the world. Hinduism is often referred to as being polytheistic. Well, Hinduism is a cult famous for its universality. The primary purpose of the oldest religion of the world is to establish communication between God and human beings. Hinduism is a way of life in which you follow God and follow morality.
When Was Hinduism Started?
Hinduism is believed to have originated from 2,300 BCE to 1500 BCE. It is a combination of faiths & belief systems. Unlike various other religions, there is no single founder of the faith. The Vedas were composed from 1500 BCE to 500 BCE. This period is called the Vedic period, and many traditions & customs of this phase still exist in Hinduism. The most important of these is the chanting of mantras.
On the other hand, the practice of divine worship began around 500 BCE to 500 AD. This is the period when, with faith and chanting, God entered the religion. Some texts introduced religion and other beliefs.
The Hinduism History – Place of Origin
The Early History of Hinduism
The Rigveda is one of the earliest sources of Hinduism. All the important Hindu texts, including the Rigveda, were written thousands of years before the birth of Jesus. That phase is recognised today as Brahmanism or Vedism. People of that era, or let us say the Vedic people were more close to Iranian civilization, which is also found in some early Iranian texts.
The Vedic Period In Hinduism
The knowledge for Rigveda was collected over several centuries and not written by an individual or group of people. It contains more than 1,000 verses offering prayers and praises to the deities, and even mythologies relevant to those deities are found in this scripture. Therefore, the Rigveda can be considered the first indicator of a developed religion during the Vedic period. Even on scientific grounds, Veda is recognized as the oldest known book in the world. According to some scientific estimates, the Rigveda originated around 1700 – 1100 BC.
A Time of Change
Hinduism underwent many changes from 550 to 450 BCE. The authority of the Vedas and Brahmins was challenged, and the concept of Buddhism and Jainism made their place among the people. During this period, Prajapati was considered the supreme lord, and Indra was second after him. The domination of Brahmins was challenged in many ways on economic and moral grounds.
This was also the time when people started believing in Yakshas (divine beings of fertility) and Nagas. Around 500 BCE, the concepts of the four ashramas became prominent. These include Brahmacharya (the student life), Grihastha (the married life), Vanaprastha (forest-dwelling seekers of truth), and Sannyas (renunciants who propagated truth).
Around the third century BCE, the Mauryan Empire rose. The famous emperor Ashoka was the third ruler of this empire, and he became a follower of Buddhism. Vasudeva was worshipped in Western India. He was identified as the old Vedic Vishnu. Krishna, one of the avatars of Vishnu, was later widely accepted in the same region.
Hinduism Taking Shape
The revised epics Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagavad Gita, marked the beginning of the evolved era of Hinduism. These epics introduced followers of Hinduism to Vishnu, Krishna, and Rama as their superiors or Gods. In addition, Lord Shiva, who was referred to as Rudra, came to be worshipped as Shiva or Shankar.
The Story Of Hinduism
At the end of the Rigveda period, Lord Rudra was gaining importance. Rudra was first called Shiva in the Upanishads. The branches of Vaishnavism and Shaivism were expanding during this phase. There is the mention of various temples in the various written records. During the Gupta dynasty (around 320 AD), the Vaishnavas enjoyed the support of the rulers, and the Gupta emperors took the title of Param Bhagavata, the supreme devotee of Vishnu. There were many temples of Lord Vishnu, and his avatars were also worshipped. Krishna and Varaha were amongst the most worshipped among them.
Time passed, and a time came when the entire Hindu religion began to dwell in the ocean of devotion. This ongoing stream of religious faith & devotion from the southern territories gradually took the whole of India into its grip. During the Bhakti period, two groups of religious poets & preachers called Shiva worshipers and Vishnu worshipers. The word Bhakti is mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita and the Shvetashvatara Upanishad. It was now for ordinary people. With the passage of time, there came a period when religion was used not just for the betterment of humans but also for setting up fights between people.
The invasion of the Mughals in the 12th century brought the end of Hindu royalty. Several Islamic emperors were anti-Hindu, while others were liberal. Several Hindu temples were destroyed during this time. Emperor Akbar tried to restore harmony in various ways. However, his efforts were destroyed by rulers like Aurangzeb. Besides, there are multiple exchanges between Islam and Hinduism. The hierarchy of caste made religion more complex and divided the people in a wrong way.
How Old Is Hinduism Based On Ramayana?
Ramayana contains the story of Rama, the heroic son of Bharat Bhoomi (the Indian soil). There is also the mention of the four yugas. Lord Rama was born in the Treta Yuga, which came after Satyug. Kaliyug is still going on, which began at the end of Dwapara Yuga. In the Hindu scripture, the Satyuga is said to last for 17 lakh 28 thousand years, Tretayug for 12 lakh 96 thousand years, Dwapar for 8 lakh 64 thousand years, and Kali Yuga 4 lakh 32 thousand years. Thus, a Mahayuga consists of four yugas. Therefore, Hinduism is millions of years old.
How Old Is Hinduism Based On Mahabharata?
Mahabharata was a war in which millions of people were killed. Lord Krishna played a decisive role in this war. Lord Krishna was born in Dwapara Yuga, which is around three thousand BCE. Gita, the original text of the Hindus, was also born from this Mahabharata war. Therefore, Hinduism based on the birth of Krishna can be considered older than 3112 AD.
Hinduism, hailed as the Sanatan Dharma (the eternal religion) by its proponents, is considered the oldest religion in the world. As a religion that defies definition, the uniqueness of Hinduism gets all the more glorified as it is stated to be a religion that is as old as human history.