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Hinduism religion that originated in India and is still practiced by most of its inhabitants as well as by those whose families have migrated from India to other parts of the world chiefly East Africa South Africa Southeast Asia the East Indies and England The word Hindu is derived from the Sanskrit word sindhu river-more specifically the Indus the Persians in the 5th century BC called the Hindus by that name identifying them as the people of the land of the Indus The Hindus define their community as those who believe in the Vedas see Veda or those who follow the way dharma of the four classes varnas and stages of life ashramas Hinduism is a major world religion not merely by virtue of its many followers estimated at more than 700 million but also because of its profound influence on many other religions during its long unbroken history which dates from about 1500 BC The corresponding influence of these various religions on Hinduism it has an extraordinary tendency to absorb foreign elements has greatly contributed to the religions syncretism-the wide variety of beliefs and practices that it encompasses Moreover the geographic rather than ideological basis of the religion the fact that it comprises whatever all the people of India have believed and done has given Hinduism the character of a social and doctrinal system that extends to every aspect of human life Fundamental Principles The canon of Hinduism is basically defined by what people do rather than what they think Consequently far more uniformity of behavior than of belief is found among Hindus although very few practices or beliefs are shared by all A few usages are observed by almost all Hindus reverence for Brahmans and cows abstention from meat especially beef and marriage within the caste jati in the hope of producing male heirs Most Hindus chant the gayatri hymn to the sun at dawn but little agreement exists as to
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