Table of Contents

  About the Author
  Books by Bansi Pandit
  What is Hindu Dharma?
  Hindu View of God
  Why Hindus Worship Deities
  Hindu Scriptures
  Principal Hindu Doctrines
  Law of Karma
  Popular Systems 
  Moral & Ethical Ideals of Hindus
  Hindu View ...
  Hindu Reverence for Elders
  Daily Routine of a Devout Hindu
  Hindu Dharma
  Hindu View of Ecology
  Some Philosophical Aspects
  Hindu Response 
  Contribution of Hindus
  Practicing Hindu Dharma
  Timeless Wisdom 
  Swămi Vivekănanda's Address
  Works Cited
  Color Plates
  Download Book

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An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir


Symbol of Unity


Chapter 1: What is Hindu Dharma?

Hindu Dharma, popularly called Hinduism, is the religion of over a billion Hindus, who mostly live in India, but have large populations in many other countries. Hindu Dharma is also known as Vaidika Dharma, meaning "religion of the Vedas," the ancient Hindu scriptures. The original name of Hindu Dharma is Sanătana Dharma, or "universal religion." (See Chapter 12).

Unlike other religions, Hindu Dharma did not originate from a single person, a single book, or at a single point in time. The foundations of this oldest surviving religion were laid by ancient rishis (sages), who taught their disciples the eternal principles of life they had discovered through their meditations The rishis did not claim authorship of these spiritual principles. Although some names are mentioned in scriptures, nobody knows exactly who these people were or when they lived. Thus Hindu Dharma is essentially a religion of principles rather than persons.

Hindu Dharma is analogous to a fruit tree, with its roots representing the Vedas and the Upanishads, the thick trunk symbolizing the spiritual experiences of numerous sages and saints, its branches representing various theological traditions, and the fruit itself, in different shapes and sizes, symbolizing various sects and subsects.

Although there is no hard and fast line between one period and the next, the evolution of Hindu Dharma may be divided into three periods: the ancient (6500 BCE-1000 AD), the medieval (1000-1800 AD), and the modern (1800 AD to present). The major evolutionary milestones during these periods are summarized in the following table:

Date Activity
- 6500 (minus denotes BCE) Composition of the early Rig Vedic hymns (according to David Frawley, a Vedic scholar from the US). Current archeological evidence shows that Shiva worship existed in the Indus Valley Civilization in approximately 6000 BCE.1
- 5000 Beginning of the Indus Valley Civilization of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, that climaxed in 3700 BCE and ended in 1500 BCE due to natural causes.
- 4700 Period of Lord Răma and sage vălmiki.
-3138 The Mahăbhărata war took place in 3138 BCE and the Bhagavad Gîtă was recorded during this war.2 The Văyu Purăna (a Hindu scripture) states that Lord Krishna entered into mahăsamădhi (yogi's conscious exit from the body) 36 years after the war and Kaliyuga began on his mahăsamădhi.
- 2609 Period of Sage Vishvămitra, in whose reign a majority of the Vedic hymns were composed. The Yajur and Atharva Vedas were composed around 2400 BCE.
- 2393 King Bhărata, an ancient king and sage (the 44th in the Purănic list of kings and sages) was born. The original name of India is Bhărat, after the name of this ancient king.
- 1450 End of narration of the Vedic Samhităs.
- 500
200 AD
The Bhagavad Gîtă was compiled between BCE 500-200. Nyăya, Sănkhya, and Brahma Sűtras were recorded, which later gave birth to six popular schools of Hindu philosophy. Buddhism and Jainism also developed during this period.
Final versions of Purănas, Tantras, and other sectarian literature were developed.
Development of six popular schools of religious thought, establishment of Shankara's Advaita Vedănta, and decline of Buddhism are the main landmarks of this period.
This period saw the rise of devotional movements led by Rămănuja, Ramănanda, Tukarăm, Guru Nănak, Surdăs, Chaitanya, Mirăbai, Tulsî Dăs, and many other saints.

Modern Hindu Renaissance (1800 AD - Present)

During the domination of India by foreign rule, many social and religious vices appeared in Hindu society in India. There were many leaders of the modern Hindu renaissance including the following saints, scholars, social and religious reformers, who brought the society back into the tradition of Hindu Dharma:

  • Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833), a social and religious reformer, and founder of the Brahmo Samăj.
  • Swami Dayănanda (1824-1883), a saint, Vedic scholar, social and religious reformer, and founder of the Ărya Samăj.
  • Mrs. Annie Besant (1847-1933), an Englishwoman, translated and popularized the Bhagavad Gîtă, and established the Hindu College in
    Banăras, now known as the Banăras Hindu University.
  • Sri Rămakrishna (1836-1886), a famous sage of modern times, infused the true spirit of Hindu Dharma into his followers, who came from all walks of life to seek his spiritual help.
  • Swami Vivekănanda (1863-1902), the beloved disciple of Sri Rămakrishna, elucidated Hindu Dharma in and outside of India, and introduced the Vedănta philosophy to the West (see Chapter 19).
  • Sri Ăurobindo Ghose (1872-1950), eloquently interpreted the basic concepts of Hindu Dharma, and expounded yoga philosophy for the transformation of human consciousness.
  • Rabindranăth Tagore (1861-1941), one of the greatest mystical poets of the world, expounded the Upanishadic philosophy through his songs in Gitănjali and in many of his other works.
  • Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), extended non-violence, a Hindu cardinal virtue, to social, national, and international affairs.
  • Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950), another famous sage of modern times, expounded the teachings of Advaita Vedănta to his disciples, who came from all parts of the world to seek his help.
  • Dr. Sarvepăllî Rădhăkrishnan (1888-1975), a philosopher, statesman, and the second President of India, interpreted the classical Hindu philosophy in the context of the modern world through his numerous scholarly works, such as Hindu View of Life.


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