Om or AUM — The Symbol of the Supreme Sound
Hinduism is a modern term, but it represents the ancient most living thought and culture of the world. The concept of 'Hindu-ism' (categorically termed 'Hinduism' in the narrow sense 'religion') being a single monolithic religion is recent, dating back only to the 19th century. Many scholars liken Hinduism to a family of religions, with all affiliated members bearing a family resemblance. The Hindu tradition consists of several schools of thought. Thus any definition of Hinduism is somewhat arbitrary and requires qualification. One such definition is "the followers of Vaidika Dharma," or those who follow the religious teachings outlined in the Vedas and their corollaries.

This difficulty arises from its universal world-view as it has concerned itself largely with the human situation rather than the Hindu situation. Instead of basing its identity on separating Hindu from non-Hindu or believer from non-believer, Hinduism has sought to recognize principles and practices that would lead any individual to become a better human being and understand and live in harmony with dharma.

Thus Hinduism is rightly called a dharma that was evolved by the great rishi (sages and seers) of ancient India. It emphasizes the dharma (right way of living) rather than a set of doctrines, and thus embraces diverse thoughts and practices. Hinduism has been called the "cradle of spirituality" and "the mother of all religions," partly because it has influenced virtually every major religion.

Hinduism is much more than an esoteric practice. For the millions of people who practice this religion, it is a way of life that encompasses all aspects of life including family, social life, sciences, politics, business, art, and health behaviors. The sacred scriptures contain instructions on these aspects of life and have a strong influence on art and drama. While the ascetic practices of yoga are a well-known aspect of Hinduism, family life is also considered a sacred duty.
"Hinduism is not just a faith. It is the union of reason and intuition that cannot be defined but is only to be experienced. Evil and error are not ultimate. There is no Hell, for that means there is a place where God is not, and there are sins which exceed his love. "— Dr S Radhakrishnan
               Origins
The Hindu Dharma or Sanatana Dharma has its origins in such remote past that it cannot be traced to any one individual. It is the only religion, that is not founded in a single historic event or prophet, but which itself precedes recorded history. Some scholars view that Hinduism must have existed even in circa 10,000 B.C. and that the earliest of the Hindu scriptures – the Rigveda — was composed well before 6,500 B.C. Yet, in spite of the fact that it first evolved more than 5,000 years ago, Hinduism is also very much a living tradition.

The word 'Hindu' has its origin in Sanskrit literature. In the Rigveda, Bharat is referred to as the country of 'Sapta Sindhu', i.e. the country of seven great rivers. The word 'Sindhu' refers to rivers and sea and not merely to the specific river called 'Sindhu'. In Vedic Sanskrit, according to ancient dictionaries, 'sa' was pronounced as 'ha'. Thus 'Sapta Sindhu' was pronounced as 'Hapta Hindu'. This is how the word 'Hindu' came in to being.

The term was used for those who lived in Bharatavarsha1 (the Indian subcontinent) on or beyond the "Sindhu". Since the end of the 18th century the word has been used as an umbrella term for most of the religious, spiritual, and philosophical traditions of the sub-continent, that includes othersampradaya (spiritual lineages) of Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It generally denotes the religious, philosophical, scientific and cultural traditions native to India.

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