Unlike the other religions, Hinduism was not originated by a particular founder or not written in a single book at a particular point of time therefore when was Hinduism founded is a very difficult mystery to solve. The main and oldest written scripture of Hinduism is 7000 years old which means 5000BC or earlier than the time. Hinduism is the primary religion in South Asia which gradually rose by the various combinations of ancient Indian cultures. They are the believer of Dharma and Karma which entitles them to the right path of life in the name of religion. There are also many denominations of Hinduism found like Shaivism, Shaktism, and Vaishnavism. Hinduism is actually a large and complex socio-religious body which was used to express the complexity of society to the human beings. Hinduism covers a rich geography, many languages and dialects and racial diversity. These elements formed the whole shape of Hinduism. The scriptures which we found as the first written proof of Hinduism were also unable to answer that when was Hinduism founded. It is actually a gradual development of Brahmanism with the help of Sanatan Dharma concept.
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There were many debates about when was Hinduism founded as there was no sense of Hinduism before the modern era but it acclaims to be one of the oldest religion since the ancient times. Though the history of Hinduism is very difficult, we can get a clear idea of the time certainty of this religion if we divide the history in some time periods.
- Indus Valley Civilization: The Indus valley civilization was located in the Basin of Indus River which now flows through Pakistan. The Indus valley civilization developed around 2500BC, its origin is in Neolithic period. It faded away by 1500BC but it developed an urban culture in contact with Mesopotamia. When the Harappan culture was uncovered, it was seen that the households of the civilization enjoyed high quality of life style having sophisticated water systems, drainage systems. The civilization was extended from the eastern foothills of Himalayas’, to Lothar in Gujrat and to Sutgagen Dor near the border of Iran. It was an indigenous development of civilization without making any contact with other famous civilizations. After having all the aspects of urban civilization, and the research of when was Hinduism founded has been done by many scholars. The religion in Indus Valley includes temple rituals and temple bathing. Animal sacrifice, number of terracotta of gods images were also seen in some places.
- The Vedic Age: Though the holy book of Hinduism is Bhagvat Gita, the idea of it was actually derived from the Vedas which is acclaimed to be the oldest written scripture as a literature. If we consider the ‘Vedic Period’ as the time of composing Vedas, then we can find that the early Vedic religion was centered on sacrificing and sharing it with each other and with many devas. The Vedic gods are divided into three broad realms of this hierarchical universe: The Earth, atmosphere and sky. This period of time symbolized the rise of large urbanized areas and the beginning of shramana movement including Buddhism and Jainism.
- Epic, Puranic and Classical Age(500BCE-500CE): This period began from the time when Buddha died and it witnessed the composition of Dharma Sutras and Shastras. The two epics- Ramayana and Mahabharata were also written in this period. The idea of Dharma which is the basic of Hinduism started to be recognized from this time and the Dharma Sutra expresses three sources of Dharma: Revelation, Tradition and Good custom. These ancient writings had removed many doubts about when was Hinduism founded. Devotional worship of images of deities had been started then in the temples. In this period, Hinduism witnessed many unique elements of it such as ‘Bhakti’, temple worship.
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- Medieval Period (500 CE – 1500 CE): From this period, we have seen the rise of major deities like Vishnu, Shiva, and Devi. Many famous temples were also built to worship them. This period also witnessed the development of vernacular languages whose writers started to record their devotional sentiments. The question when was Hinduism founded was gradually being answered by the saint and poets. Subsequent teachers consolidated new theologies and manifested them with their own ideology and disciple successions.
- Pre-Modern Period (1500 CE – 1757 CE): Along with the development of Hinduism, a new religion was founded in this era. The Muslim culminated Mughal emperor Akbar was a liberal leader and gave the freedom to Hindus to practice. During this period, the term devotion got more improved and a unique sant tradition was founded which combines Yoga, Bhakti, meditation and Islamic mysticism. It united the two religions into one.
- British Period (1757 CE – 1947 CE): The question was still there in the mind of people that when was Hinduism founded. Meanwhile British had stepped into India and started preaching Christianity all over the country within a few days. This had hurt everyone’s religious emotions and therefore the 19th century saw the development of Bengal Renaissance by Hindu reformers. They started a term Hindutva to unite all the Hindus against the brutal prevailing government.
- Independent India (1947 CE – Present): After the partition of India on 1947, it was generally denoted as ‘Hindustan’ because of the large population of Hindus. The post-independent-war imported into the West and they asked the actual identity of Hinduism and when was Hinduism founded. At the end of the millennium, The Hindus have established themselves very well both in India and foreign having enough social and economical status.
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Hence, the gradual rise and development among Hindus and Hinduism somewhat clarified the fact about when was Hinduism founded. Though the actual time of origin of the religion has still not been found, the religion has proved itself as one of the well-balanced religions. It is not a single region; it inspired and was inspired by many traditions which made it different from the others and the basic practice of people to live united. Mentioning the history of Hinduism with proper date must be a difficult one and the Hindus are more concerned about the stories rather than dates.