An Ethnic Religion

Origins of the Religion


Hinduism did not have a specific founder. The word "Hinduism" originated in the sixth century referring to the people living in India.The real origin of the religion is unknown because the religion existed before recorded history.

Basic religious beliefs

Hindus believe that it is up to the person to decide the best way to worship God. The various paths are the path of knowledge, path of renunciation, path of devotion, and the path of action. The fundamental beliefs: the authority of Vedas( the oldest indian sacred texts) and the Brahmans(priests), the existence of an enduring soul that transmigrates from one body to another body at death(reincarnation), and the law of karma that determines their life now and in the next life.

Classification of religion

Hinduism is a 3 in the classification after Buddhism and Christianity which are 1 and 2.

Branches or divisions of religion

In Hinduism, there are two gods that are mainly believed by people, which splits the Hinduism religion into Vaishnavism and Sivaism. Vedism and Brahmanism are also divisions in the Hindu religion.

Geographic Distribution

How Did Hinduism Diffuse?

Hinduism did not really diffuse because of Islam’s spread towards southern Asia and the Middle East. Although Islam prevented the diffusion of Hinduism, Hinduism was still practiced by many Indians in India and still managed to exist. Even after the colonization of Britain, Hinduism was still kept alive. Many people have migrated to other countries carrying the religion of Hinduism, but most followers still remain in India.

Holy Places

Ganges River is considered the holiest river.
Many Indians come to Haridwar which is the most popular place to bathe in the Ganges River. Many other places for pilgrimage includes Mt. Kailas, the source of the Ganges in the Himalayas. The mountain is considered holy because Siva lives there. Many other mountains can be holy if Siva was thought to have visited those mountains. There are also Hindu temples like Mandir and Deula where people practice Hinduism.

Where it is practiced today?

Hinduism is mainly practiced in India, Nepal, parts of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Trinidad, Mauritius, Surinam, South Africa, Kenya, U.K., Canada and USA.

Number of Followers

Hinduism has about 999,800,358 adherents. Hinduism covers about 15.48% of the world’s population.

Distribution of Hinduism

Unique Features

Key Figures and Important People

Hinduism does not have a central authority figure or religious leader.

Hinduism's 3 main worshipped Gods:

Vishnu: a loving God that is worshipped by 70% of Hindu adherents of Vaishnavism

Siva: a protective and destructive God that is worshipped by 25% of Hindu adherents of Sivaism

Shakti: the female consorts of Vishnu and Siva in Shaktism

(picture above is the God, Vishnu)

Holy Texts

Hinduism does not have a single, central holy book.

The primary texts are the Four Vedas:

The Rig Veda: Book of Mantra

Includes practices of meditation and yoga, prayers, and traditional medicines.

The Sama Veda: Book of Song

Includes chants used in sacrificial events and religious ceremonies.

The Yajur Veda: Book of Ritual

Includes the methods of executing sacrifices and performing ceremonies.

The Atharva Veda: The Book of Spell

Includes spells and charms.

Religious Symbols

Om (Aum)- symbolizes universe and ultimate reality

(first syllable of prayers)

Swastika- sign of good luck and fortune

(four angles represent the four Vedas)

(variation)- the four angles represent honesty, truth, purity, and stability

Sri Yantra- symbolizes the bond and unity of male and female

(unity of everything in the cosmos)

(picture above represents Om)

Places of Worship

Places of Worship are typically geographic features.

Pilgrimages to Mt. Kailas in the Himalayas are common, because it is thought that the God, Siva, lives there.

Bathing in the Ganges River, considered the holiest river, is common, because bathing in holy rivers is thought to help achieve purification.

The Great Pilgrimage

Impact on Social and Family Structures


Hindu Caste System:

Brahmin: The intellectual and spiritual leaders.

Ex. Priests, seers, etc.

Kshatriyas: The protectors of society.

Ex. Policemen, military, politicians, etc.

Vaisyas: The skillful makers of material things.

Ex. Craftsmen, artisans, farmers, etc.

Shudras: The unskilled laborers.

Ex. Ordinary labor force, followers, etc.

Untouchables: The social oucasts that are given the worst jobs.

Ex. Cleaners


Extended (many generations) families live together

Women: stay home and do housework

Men: Hold jobs and provide income for the family

(Picture below represents Hindu Caste system)

Impact on Cultural Beliefs and Expectations

Respect and Reverence:

Respect Towards Elders:

- Sitting to the left of elders

- Bringing gifts

- Not contradicting or being over-talkative during a conversation

Touching the Feet:

-Touching the feet of a holy, or more skilled, person

-Shows recognition of one's skills


Left Hand is Impure:

- Handing someone an object with one's left hand is considered rude

Shoes are Impure:

- Never wear shoes into religious places or places of residency

Exchange of Prana (life or spirit):

- Giving and receiving with both hands

- Not holding conversations in doorways

- Not pointing fingers (pointing fingers is an act of aggression and panic)

Essential Question

Even with its large number of adherents, why is Hinduism still considered an ethnic religion?