When we are going to talk about the oldest religion in the world, ‘how old is Hindu religion?’ must be the first question rising in your mind. Then we need to start from the very beginning. Here are the things you need to know about Hinduism!
There are more than 4000 religions (yes, you read it right- Four Thousand it is!) all over the world. Religion sometimes misinterpreted as individual faith, is a public prospect of the personal beliefs! Faith is something very personal where only you and your God (as we’ve named the supreme power we trust for our lives) are involved; while the religion is about a particular belief system where different customs, behaviours and some kind of membership are involved.
Faith doesn’t involve rules while the religion has a set of rules to be followed by the mass following it. A difference why we can’t state a religion as faith is, it requires a gathering unlike faith. Trusting the almighty is totally an individual thing, but if we’re talking about religion, it has to have a group of people with almost the same beliefs about their almighty, they have the same procedures or practices to please him and a set of rules as I’ve mentioned earlier to which they have to be bound though sometimes they don’t agree to.
Hinduism is also a religion, then what makes it different from others?‘The origin’, I think! It has emerged from the Sanatan Dharma (सनातन धर्म) by the 4th century. The most distinct feature of this Vedic Dharma (वैदिक धर्म) is that it has no founder like the other religions have.
Before knowing more about Hinduism Origin, it’s inevitable to know about the Sanatan Dharma.People misinterpret Hinduism as Sanatan Dharma many a times, but it’s not the same. The Sanatan Dharma is a sea or ocean; Hinduism is a lagoon separated from the larger body by the barriers of practice! We can say that the roots of the hinduism ideology lie into the Sanatan Dharma! The Sanatan Dharma is believed to be started before about 155.52 trillion years ago; while Hinduism has been believed to be synthesized from it with the end of the Vedic Period, round about 5000 years back!
As the Sanatan Dharma is said to be beyond human history, we can’t find something much evident on it like we have for the other religions. Also the Sanatan Dharma was all about experiencing, living and exploring the eternal truth of life and even beyond this life. The world depends on the Vedic scriptures (written between 1500 to 1000 BCE) to know more about this ‘Never started-Never ending’ Nature’s Law – the Sanatan Dharma as we call it!
With passing time and mainly with increasing population, people needed something to guide them. Some kind of rulebook. People were eager to learn more about the ways of living and attaining the final destination. So, I believe they might have written the Vedas.Vedic literature is believed to be ‘Apaurusheya’ (अपौरुषेय) i.e. not written by a man or can say it’s considered superhuman. (I think it might have been an assemblage of work by many scholars!)
Image courtesy: https://www.ancient.eu/The_Vedas/
These authorless scriptures or the Shruti literature (what is learnt through hearing) are considered to be the disclosure of the experiences the ancient sages acquired after long practiced meditation and has been delivered to the common people to get the ultimate knowledge of life and living.Hinduism, through Vedas (वेद) covers almost all the aspects of life. All the four Vedas can be considered as manuals for whatever a man or the whole society may require for leading a virtuous, meaningful life.
Rig Veda(ऋग्वेद) – The oldest scripture contains mantras (10,600 precisely) in hymns called ‘suktas’ (1028) of devotion to various Hindu deities.You’ll find the most practiced Hindu mantra, The Gayatri Mantra (गायत्री मंत्र) – created by rishi Vishwamitra in the Rig Veda.
Except all this, Cosmology, the origin of the universe, the importance of charity in life and many other abstract subjects like being, knowing, identity, time, space etc. are discussed in this oldest existing Indic text! “Nasadiya Sukta” is quite popular not only in India but in other parts of the world, as it contains the theories about the creation and expansion of the Universe. It’s also known as the ‘Hymn of Creation’!
Sam Veda (सामवेद)– The Rig Veda and Sam Veda are considered to be a couple! Unlike the other Vedas, the Sam Veda is meant to be sung and learnt. It has the roots of all kinds of music. And it contains 1875 Rig Vedic verses depicted in melodies! Sam Veda emphasizes the importance of power of emotions all along with the knowledge. It has hymns of praises from Rig Veda rendered cordially that catch the real emotions of the words said in adoration of any deity. Rig Vedic hymns come alive when sung in particular melodies described in Sam Veda.
Yajurveda (यजुर्वेद)– With advancing time, the religion gets a variety of sets of rituals. So, the Yajurveda is all about the mantras and procedures offered at the time of performing particular rituals.It’s a compilation of various ritual offering formulas chanted by priests.
In Hinduism, fire god is a portal to other deities so; all the offerings have to go through the fire which we call as Yajna/ Yagna fire! We have ‘Black or Krishna Yajurveda’ and ‘White or Shukla Yajurveda’ on the basis of the precision or the arrangements of the prose mantras. Having been created on the same basis, Yajurveda has around 663 mantras accepted as they are in Rig Veda. One thing I’d like to draw attention at is, sacrificing animals, creatures or using alcohol for rituals has not at all been mentioned in Yajurveda!
Atharva Veda (अथर्ववेद) – It’s believed to be the last and the modern (on the basis of the timeline) Veda. It contains 5987 mantras. It has mantras from Rig Veda but other than that, the Atharva Veda covers a variety of subjects like languages, Geography, Politics, spirituality, power of oneness, marriage, interpretation of dreams, law of attraction, hospitality, burial/funeral rituals, hypnotism and magic tricks etc.
It’s also referred to as ‘The Veda of Magical Formula’ (Interesting, isn’t it?) But, let me clear that it’s not at all about only Black Magic as people assume it to be. It’s a complete collection of sacred mantras. Ayurveda including surgical treatment is also one of the precious gifts from Atharva Veda. It has mantras for curing various ailments!! (Now, this I call the real magic!)
The number system, decimals, powers and exponents are also found to be originated from these sacred scriptures.
This brief introduction of Vedas is enough to tell us what the actual scope of Hinduism is! It’s a tool rather a path that leads us to our ultimate destination via roads of knowledge. I believe that to meet the purest, one has to be enlightened! And Hinduism is the only religion in this whole world that gives you the choice of being enlightened by going through the way you like!!