Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963954 | Print ISBN: 9781412959087 | Online ISBN: 9781412963954| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Andrew J. Waskey
HINDUISM IS THE oldest of the world's major religions, with about one billion adherents, most of whom live in India. The term Hinduism was not applied to the religion that developed from the Vedas until after the arrival of the British. They used the name to identify the people of India who were culturally Indian but who were not believers in Buddhism, Christianity, Jainism, Judaism, Islam, Parsism (Parsees), Sikhism, or any of the other religions found in India. As a consequence, Hinduism may be regarded as “Indian—ism” and requires of its believers only that they subscribe to the Vedas and to the caste system. The Vedas are the oldest sacred writings of all of the world's major religions. They were transmitted orally for hundreds—if not thousands—of years before they were written down. The Vedas are now found in the form of four books that contain songs, stories, rituals, magical formulas, ...