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Religion Library: Hinduism


Written by: Jacob N. Kinnard

Title: In academic scholarship, the only surviving use of the word 'Aryan' is that of the term

  1. the Rigveda: hymns
    (for the chief priest to recite)
  2. the Yajurveda: formulas
    (for the priest to recite)
  3. the Samaveda: formulas
    (for the priest to chant)
  4. the Atharvaveda: collection of stories, spells, and charms

Regardless of who the Aryans were or where they came from, it is clear that their religious world focused on ritual sacrifice, particularly sacrifice involving fire. They also worshipped a variety of gods, many of them linked to natural forces. These religious rituals and myths were eventually formulated as the Vedas, a genre of orally-transmitted texts that would come to form the foundation of Hinduism.

In the 6th (or 5th) century B.C.E., two important veins of religion emerged in India that had a tremendous influence on the formation of Hinduism: Jainism and Buddhism. Although these did not necessarily begin as "new" religions, they formulated new ideas that significantly challenged the religious status quo. In particular, both Buddhism and Jainism challenged the religious efficacy of sacrifice, rejecting it as too materialistic. They instead advocated detachment from the physical world—renunciation—as the ultimate religious path. Classical Hinduism absorbs the ideals of renunciation and asceticism, not supplanting but supplementing the Vedic practices and ideals of sacrifice.

*challenges sacrifice*challenges sacrifice*wandering*missionary practices
*advocates renunciation*advocates renunciationSufi ascetics 

Hinduism has also been influenced by two distinctly foreign religions: Islam, which arrived in India sometime around the 8th century C.E. and dominated substantial parts of India with the rise of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century; and Christianity, which arrived in India with the Portuguese in the 15th century—although there had been small Christian communities in South India even before the Portuguese—and held considerable sway with the rise of the British Raj in the 18th century.


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