Theories About the Origin of Hinduism

A Brief History of Hinduism

Indus river and valley
Hinduism originated on the banks of River Indus in northern India. joSon

According to historians, the origin of Hinduism dates back to 5,000 or more years. The word "Hindu" is derived from the name of River Indus, which flows through northern India. In ancient times the river was called the 'Sindhu', but the Persians who migrated to India called the river 'Hindu', the land 'Hindustan' and its inhabitants 'Hindus'. Thus the religion followed by the Hindus came to be known as 'Hinduism'.

It was earlier believed that the basic tenets of Hinduism were brought to India by the Aryans who invaded the Indus Valley Civilization and settled along the banks of the Indus river about 1600 BC. However, this theory has now been proved to be a flawed one and is considered nothing more than a myth.

The Various Periods of the Evolution of Hinduism

According to scholars, the evolution of Hinduism may be divided into three periods: The ancient (3000 BCE-1000 AD), the medieval (1000-1800 AD), and the modern (1800 AD to present). Hinduism is commonly thought to be the oldest religion in the history of human civilization.

Timeline: History of Hinduism

  • 2500-1600 BCE: The earliest of Hindu practices form roots with the rise of the Indus Valley civilization in northern Indian sub-continent around 2500 BCE.
  • 1600-1200 BCE: The Aryans are said to invade southern Asia in c. 1600 BCE., which would have a lasting influence on Hinduism.
  • 1500-1200 BCE: The earliest Vedas, the oldest of all scriptures, are compiled in c. 1500 BCE.
  • 1200-900 BCE: The early Vedic period, during which the main tenets of Hinduism were developed. The earliest Upanishads were written in c. 1200 BCE.
  • 900-600 BCE: The late Vedic period, during which the Brahminical religion, which emphasized ritual worship and social obligations, came into being. During this time, the latter Upanishads are believed to have emerged, giving birth to concepts of karma, reincarnation and moksha.
  • 500 BCE-1000 CE: The Puranas were written during this time giving rise to the concepts of deities such as trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and their female forms or Devis. The germ of the great epics of the Ramayana & Mahabharata started to form during this time. 
  • 5th Century BCE: Buddhism and Jainism become established religious offshoots of Hinduism in India.
  • 4th Century BCE: Alexander invades western India; Mauryan dynasty founded by Chandragupta Maurya; Composition of Artha Shastra.
  • 3rd Century BCE: Ashoka, the Great conquers most of South Asia
  • 2nd Century BCE: Sunga dynasty founded
  • 1st Century BCE: Vikrama Era named after Vikramaditya Maurya begins
  • 1st Century CE: Composition of the Manava Dharma Sashtra or Laws of Manu (?)
  • 2nd Century CE: Composition of the Ramayana completed
  • 3rd Century CE: Hinduism spreads to Southeast Asia
  • 4th Century CE: Composition of the Mahabharata completed