The word Hindu comes from the Sanskrit terms Sindhu or Indus, ocean or river; from the geography of their region. This article will examine the origin of many terms, the history of Hinduism, major tenets and practices of their religion and their decline in 21st century.
Sanskrit is one of the official ancient languages of India, which also gets its name from the great Indus (River; Indus River; also called Sindhu). They received the word Indus from the ancient Persians between 500BC and 400BC. The Indus River is the longest river in southern Asia and at almost 2,000 miles (3,610 km), one of the longest rivers in Asia and the world. Currently, over 90% of the Indus runs through Pakistan and the 1,569 mile (2,525 km) Ganges River is the dominate river of India and considered their holy river.
However, after World War II in 1947 the British partitioned India and Pakistan. India (once part of the British Empire or British Raj) ratified its secular Constitution in 1949 and Pakistan in 1956. Pakistan was given the Muslim-majority provinces and took its name from a formula: P for Punjab, A for the Afghanis of the north-west frontier, K for Kashmir, S for Sind and Tan denoting Baluchistan. The word also means land of the pure in Urdu. By October 1947, India and Pakistan; the Hindus and the Muslims were at war; but what of Sanskrit and the Hindu?
2500BC: According to the college text A History of World Societies (1988), “The earliest Indian civilizations, like those of Mesopotamia and Egypt, centered around a river, in this case the Indus… Ancient India – which encompassed modern Pakistan, Nepal and part of Afghanistan, as well as modern India – was a geographically protected …land. …The first civilization of India, known as the Indus Civilization… archaeologists …date to about 2,500 B.C.”
|Note the text also states, “Mesopotamia, located in the eastern part of modern Iraq, drew its life from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers… by 3,000 B.C. they had established a number of cities… the Sumerians …made Mesopotamia the ‘cradle of Western Civilization…’ Through the Bible, Mesopotamian as well as Jewish religious concepts influenced Christianity and Islam.” It should be noted that the Bible speaks of life beginning in Mesopotamia (‘land between the rivers’) in Genesis 2:14; and that by 2500 B.C., the prophet Noah was already 200 years old. Genesis Chronology|
c.a. 1750 BC: The Indo-Aryans mitigated away from the Iranians about this time (400 years after the Great Flood as recorded in the Bible and other sources). And the migration was actually from Mt. Ararat down into Iran and Noah’s descendants through Turkey into Europe; through Iran into Asia, and through Syria and Iraq into Palestine/the Levant/’Middle East’ and Africa.
c.a. 1750 BC – 1400 BC: Early Vedic Period: Indo-Aryans migrated into the Indus Valley and Ganges Plain during this time. It is called the Early Vedic Period after the Vedas, the oldest Hindu scriptures. The Vedas (Sanskrit from veda; knowledge) are considered the sacred texts and revelation of Hinduism. According to Indian legend Brahma, a creator god with four faces created the four Vedas, one from each of his mouths.
|Note: according to the BORI.ac.in “the Government of Bombay, in 1866, started a pan Indian Manuscript Collection project… and collected more than 17,000 important Manuscripts… after the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute was founded in 1917… 11,000 (were) added.” They state under Subjects: Vedic that the ‘oldest dated manuscripts in the BORI Collection’ are 1320 AD and 906 AD. This is so for from 1500 BC, that the text being from that period is only by legends, oral traditions and other facts will be explode about this later. However, the Jewish Bible original texts of 2nd century BC and 1st century; as well as the Christian Bible are not separated by a generation, and the Dead Sea Scrolls found 1700 years after their publishing verify their accuracy. https://thetruthsource.org/the-bible-history-and-accuracy/|
Vedic Period: 1400 BC – 500 BC: There are no ‘surviving’ temples of Hinduism from this time; and it is likely that the religion at the time including primarily non-religion, atheism, agnostic, tribalism, paganism, Baal worship, creation of false legends, and a mixture of these. Zoroastrianism was being developed in Persia about 5th century BC and would spread. However, Buddhism did originate in India around 500 BC to 350 BC and had an influence on the development of Hinduism.
500 BC to 330 BC: Sometime during this period Hinduism developed; long after the Jews (Judaism) settled in Palestine and prophesied of the coming Lord Jesus Christ. The Mahabharata Puranic writings (Sanskrit not included in the Vedas) are said to have come between 500 BC and 400 CE. They tell of the descent of Krishan about 3228 BC and a ‘Mahabharata War’ in 3138 BC; neither of which have modern creditable to the events or dates. The texts give a much debated chronology in ancient India; including the ascension of Krishna (which was likely fore model after Jesus descent and resurrection), and the time of Guatama Buddha (called Siddhartha: 1887-1807 BC). The most creditable part of the chronology speaks of Chandragupta, the Gupta Dynasty, and Alexander’s Invasion.
326 BC: The Greeks called the Indians, Indoi (Ἰνδοί), or ‘the people of the Indus.’ After conquering Syria and Egypt, Alexander the Great of Greece conquered the Achaemenid Empire (550-330BC) of Persia, then invaded the Punjab – land of the five rivers, ruled by King Porus. The conquest began in 327 BC and by 325 BC the Greeks controlled the Indus River and named at least two villages Alexandria (as was their custom throughout their lands). In 323 BC, Alexander died age 32 in Babylon, at the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II. Two years after his death (321 BC), Chandragupta Maurya founded the Maurya Empire. The king was born a Buddhist but converted to Jainism.
322 BC – 185 BC: Bindusara succeed his father, then Ashoka his father; and continued the Maurya Empire. Buddhist, Jain and Hindu legends seek to piece together this period. Ashoka (also called Piyadasi, ‘beloved of the gods’) is said to have converted from Hinduism to Buddhism about 262 BC. About 252 BC, the Edicts of Ashoka were inscribed on the Pillars of Ashoka; as well as on rocks. They speak of: “King Piyadasi, beloved of the gods” and that he had the “Dhamma edit” written. They forbid “human sacrifice,” tell of “borders… (including with) Antiochos, the Greek king;” conduct towards the “Brahmans;” and “faith in the Buddha, the Dhamma and Sangha (community).” Buddha, Dhamma (teachings of Buddha) and the Sangha (religious order of Buddhists) make up the Three Jewels or Three Refuges of Buddhism. The last of the Maurya kings was killed by his general, who began the Shunga Empire.
185 BC to 220 CE: The kings of the Shunga Empire practiced Buddhism and Hinduism; and established a Brahmin dynasty or Caste (class) system of priests, teachers and protectors of their sacred religion. Some of the Shunga leaders persecuted Buddhists and forced them to Kashmir, Gandhara and Bactria. The last emperor of the Shunga was assassinated by his minister Vasudeva Kanva. The Kanva dynasty was ended quickly by the Satavahanas, who had 10 kings reign – they practiced Buddhism and Brahmanism – for which came the Vedanta, Samkhya and Yoga schools of Hinduism.
30 – 375 CE: The Kushan Empire north of the Satavahana Empire and of the Satraps began by Kanishka, a Buddhist leader; but later a Hindu convert king over a Hindu majority. One of their most noted regions is Hindu-Kush.
320 – 550 CE: The Gupta Empire was during a period when its people practiced Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It had 17 kings; the first was said to have built a Buddhist temple for Chinese Buddhist migrating into India; although Sri Gupta was a Hindu. The Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were published during this period and Hinduism expanded greatly throughout the Empire and India.
712 – 1030 (Muslim Invasions): Over the next few centuries, the Indian population increased, as did followers of Hinduism. Then, in the late 7th century, Muslim Arabs begin to spread towards India. In 712, Mohammed-bin-Qasim (Umayyad Dynasty) led the Arab conquest of the Sind province. Muslim raids and border disputes continued; and by about 1002, Mahmud of Ghazni (Sunni Islam) had conquered much of Iran, Afghanistan and spent more than 30 years in India (Hindustan; now Eastern Pakistan and north India to the Himalayas) raiding, looting and annihilating much of the regions Hindu population. He is said to be the first to take the title ‘Sultan’ or ‘power/authority.’ By 1025, the Indian kingdoms or provinces of Nagarkot, Thanesar, Kannauj, Gwallor, Mathura, Kannauj, Kalinjar and Somnath were all made vassal states under Hindu, Jain and Buddhist kings.
The book Tarikh-i-Yamini states that Mahmud al-Ghazni invaded India at least 17 times from 1001 to 1026 and reports: “The blood of the infidels flowed so copiously that the stream was discolored, notwithstanding its purity, and people were unable to drink it…the infidels deserted the fort and tried to cross the foaming river…but many of them were slain, taken or drowned… Nearly fifty thousand men were killed.”
1030 – 1206: The Ghaznavid Dynasty continued until about 1186, when the last Sultan, Khusrau Malik, was imprisoned and executed. By that time Islam was well estimated in north-west India (Pakistan), after they had killed tens of thousands of Indians and taken their lands. By 1187, Mu’izz al-Din (Ghurid Dynasty), after controlling present Afghanistan and much of Pakistan, made an alliance with a Hindu leader in Lahore, and this ended the Ghaznavid Dynasty. The Ghurid or Ghorid Dynasty began about 880. Its early leaders converted from Buddhism (about 1011) to Sunni Islam; but Mu’izz was one of its most powerful leaders, raiding, killing and expanding his Muslim lands and forcing many into Islam and his armies; which also took Hindu women as their wives and converted them. As became their custom, they took lands and built their mosques, schools and Persian architecture. They also moved their Muslim region capital to Delhi.
1206-1526: For about 320 years, five Muslim dynasties ruled over the Sultante of Delhi. The Mamluks and Sayyids were among these; the Mumluk (‘owned’) were primarily Turk slaves converted to Islam soldiers, and were fierce warriors. By 1526, as the historians Durant and Khan write, the Muslims had killed millions of Hindus, made eunuch slaves of millions, plundered their lands, raped and took their women, destroyed their Hindu temples and set up their own. By some accounts, such as M. Khan (“Islamic Jihad;’ 2009), due to Muslim rule and persecution, India’s population fell from 200 million in 1000 to 170 million in 1500.
1510: the Portuguese (European Catholics) sailed to the coast and took Goa (was part of Maurya Empire 200s BC and Delhi Sultanate 1312). The Portuguese would control the region until 1961.
1526-1630: By the end of his reign in 1605, Muhammad Akbar (1483-1530) – Akbar the Great – had tripled the Mughal Empire to include about half of India. His religion was Din-i-llahi; a form of Islam-Hinduism-Zoroastianism-Christianity. He had 6 wives and a vast library. His son, Mohammad Khan Salim was called Jahangir (‘conqueror of the world’); he did not conquer much, except gaining numerous wives. He was a Sunni Muslim. Then in 1556, Akbar – grandson of Babur, disestablished Islam as the state religion to give freedom to Hinduism. Chidambaram Temple of a Thousand Pillars begins construction 1595 (completed c.a. 1650). In 1600 the East India Company is formed and soon sets up in Surat (British).
1630-1707: Muhammad Khurram, the 5th Mughal Emperor, took the name Shah Jahan (‘King of the World’). During his reign a famine killed about 2 million. He drained most of the treasury gaining jewels for his ‘Peacock Throne.’ In 1647, Shah Jahan completed the Taj Mahal in Agra. His son called Aurangzeb (Alamgir – ‘conqueror of the World’) overthrew him and ruled 49 years to 1707, his armies took nearly all of India, while destroying many Hindu temples and followers. During his reign he banned alcohol and castration of slaves, but also demolished temples and schools that were non-Muslim and taxed non-Muslims to support his military. He also shut down four East India Company factories owned by the British.
Built by Shah Jahan as a memorial to his 3rd wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died during the birth of their 14th child (1631); it has a mosque and minarets to call Muslims to prayer. In 2015, the India government brought forth a legal case saying it originally began as a shrine to Shiva (Hindu god) and that its name was ‘Tejo Mahalay.’ The court in India just recently (August 2017) heard evidence from the Archaeological Survey of India; they maintain it was not a Hindu temple. In 1688, Aurangzeb had thousands of Hindu temples destroyed; it seems that he would have done the same with this one if Hindu.
1707-1800: A few weak and short lived Mughal emperors followed Aurangzeb. Struggles for power continued, with feuds, coups and assassinations. By 1717, the Sayyid brothers (Mughal Generals) gained the Regency. The Sayyids (Sunni Muslims) claimed they were descendants of Muhammad through his daughter Fatima. By 1722, both of the brothers were murdered and Muhammad Shah (12th Mughal emperor) regained control and reigned until his death in 1748. At that time the Afghan Ahmad Shah invaded the Mughal, but after thousands died on both sides they were repelled at Manipur. The Mughal Empire was collapsing as foreign powers sought to take their lands and treasuries of India. Shah Alam II (16th Mughal Emperor) could not defeat all of the invading forces. The Afghans gained lands and control, as did the British East India Company who was allowed to collect taxes under their own governor of Bengal. The British fought against the Maratha Empire in India in the First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-1782).
1803-1856: The Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-1805) resulted in the weakening of the Maratha rule – the last major non-British power in India. The Maratha Hindu Confederacy and Empire ended 1818 during the Third Anglo-Maratha War, after over 140 years in existence. In 1833, slavery was abolished in British Commonwealth countries. In 1837, the British ban Kali-worship (Hindu goddess of destruction). In 1843, the British conquered the Sind province (Pakistan). In 1845, the British entered the First Anglo-Sikh War and separated Kashmir from the Sikhs in 1846. In 1850, the first English translation of the Rig Veda was completed to “enable (the English) to proceed with the conversion of the natives of India to the Christian religion (H. Wilson of Oxford).” In 1851, an Sanskrit-English Dictionary was published.
1857-1900: In 1857, with the rise of both British power and the First Indian Revolution (Sepoy Mutiny) the Mughal Empire came to an end, as Bahadur Shah II, the 19th and last Mughal emperor was deposed during the First War of Independence (1857). After 330 years, the Mughal rule was replaced by the British Raj. In 1876, Queen Victoria, head of the Church of England, was proclaimed Empress of India (1876-1901). In 1894, after studying law in London and working in South Africa a year, Mahatma Gandhi drafted a petition against the Indentured Servant System in British South Africa.
1900-1920: By 1900 there were about 4000 tea plantations in India (and 2000 in Sri Lanka). In 1900, over 130 million pounds of tea was being exported to Britain. Indians fought with the British in the Boer Wars in South Africa, and during World War I they had a million soldiers fight in Africa and Europe; where over 74,000 died. Immediately after WWI, India fought with the British in the Waziristan campaign against Muslim tribes in Afghanistan; this immediately followed the Third Anglo-Afghan War where Afghanistan won independence from the British Empire in 1919.
1920-1947: In 1920, due in large part to Mahatma Gandhi, India abolished the indentured servitude system. In 1939, Mohammed Ali Jinnah petitioned for a separate Muslim state. During WWII, India was still under British control; about 3 million civilizations were killed during the war by the Japanese and the Bengal Famine. They fought in N. Africa and in the 1941 Anglo-Iraqi War. In 1947, after centuries of suppression and exporting its resources for little gain to the poor, India gained independence from Britain. At the same time Pakistan was partitioned and formed as a separate Islamic nation. That year as many as 800,000 Indians died in the disputes. Additionally, the Indo-Pakistani Wars began; the First Kashmir War started in 1947. Wars and disputes and struggles continued and the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Nations picked their sides.
In 2001, both India and Pakistan became state members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) with founding members China, Russia and others. The United States was denied observer status. According to India’s Office of the Registrar General and Census, in 2011 the Hindu population declined below 80% and the Muslim increased to 14%, with Christians at about 2%. But, note that if Pakistan (200 million) was not separate, but added to India’s 1.2 billion at that time, then nearly 1 in 3 would claim to be Muslims. Although India has a secular Constitution; most Indians at their children’s birth are required to declare a religion on their birth certificate. And in truth, there are not likely 25% that understand and practice traditional Hinduism (for example, a Hindu can be an atheist); most Indians do not have a particular belief system. Nevertheless, in 2015 Pew Research Center ranked India the 4th worst in the world for religious intolerance (After Syria, Nigeria, and Iraq). Like, the Jews and Muslims; the Hindus and Muslims will likely never settle their disputes – both want the land and their children and communities to have their culture.