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Knowledge Center

Origins

The earliest evidence for elements of Hinduism dates back as far as the late neolithic, to the early Harappan period (ca. 5500-3300 BCE). In recognition of these ancient elements, it is claimed that Hinduism is the oldest surviving religion. The beliefs and practices of the pre-classical era (ca. 1500-500 BCE) are called the "Vedic religion". The oldest surviving text of Hinduism is the Rigveda and is dated to between 1700-1100 BCE, based on linguistic and philological evidence.

History

The History of Hinduism spans more than 4000 years. Hinduism is the world's oldest existing major religion. A worldwide religious tradition based on the Vedas and the beliefs and traditions of the various groups in India, Hinduism's origins include cultural elements of the Indus valley civilisation (c.3300 BC), and the Vedic religion of the Indo-Aryans, and other Indian civilisations. Being highly localised within India, Hinduism has seen many changes throughout the history of the Indian subcontinent.

Earliest records

The dates of Hinduism's origins are approximate, based on archaeological evidence and scriptural references.

Archaeological evidence unearthed at Indus Valley Civilization sites has been dated to circa 3000 BCE, suggesting that the Varnashrama system of four classes was adhered to no earlier than that. Seals depicting the deity Shiva in a Yogic posture of meditation also support that approximation. Philological evidence suggests that the earliest Hindu scripture, the Rig Veda, was composed around 1500-1300 BCE.

Astronomical interpretation of Hindu scriptures suggest a date of approximately 3102 BCE. This date results from close examination of the Mahabharata, where the positions of the stars were noted at Sri Krishna's birth. Hindus believe Krishna was born 5000 years ago, and using the star locations in the Mahabharata, the exact year was 3228 BCE. Sri Rama, according to the Ramayana, lived around 9000-5000 BCE.

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