In many ways Hinduism is the longest living tradition on the planet, surviving aeons. Thus, Hinduism will not be neatly defined, it defies ‘pigeonholing’. There are lights within lights within lights, a multitude of practices and thought forms intermingling: each arising out of and branching into Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.
Unlike religions derived from the Near East, Hinduism has no ‘best selling narrative’ no prize-winning author, no monotheism, no cult figure, no celebrity son of God, no virgin babe, no single scripture, and no fixed teachings.
Throughout its lifespan it has arrayed itself in a thousandfold of petals, colorful saris, various heavenly ideas, such that people often allude to Hinduism as ‘a lifestyle’ or ‘a group of religions’ but never a solitary, or fixed set of beliefs.
The expression “Hindu” was inferred from the water known as the Sindhu. Sindhu is a Sanskrit word spoken by the Aryans in the second millennium BCE.
The expression “Hindu” itself derives from those Indian people wishing to separate themselves from devotees of other ideologies, particularly the Muslims (Yavannas), in Kashmir and Bengal. It would distinguish practices and customs, food, and traditions.
The “ism” is a British invention.
The politics aside, the roots of Hinduism stretch far back in history. It’s adherents worship individually, some choose an impersonal divine, others prefer to devote themselves to a personal god. Broadly speaking Hindus are devotees of either the Vedic texts, ‘Veda’ being the ancient Sanskrit word for knowledge, or they choose to follow the Santayana Dharma, which is essentially a rule of conduct.
Song of Durga
Out of the primordial swamp, I came, my foot treading softly on the land,
and when I saw how good it was, I spread my wings across the span of the earth,
I am beginning, middle and ending, neither ‘she’ nor ‘he,’ am I,
stepping forth from the river Indus, in the land now known as Pakistan,
I gave birth to the multitude of children who now inhabit the earth.