- the religion which has come to be called Hinduism by Westerners is an amalgamation of various CULTS and BELIEFS within the common social framework of India's CASTE system. It acquired its characteristic form in the period after the UPANISHADS with increasing importance of popular GODS like VSUDEVA, VISHNU, iva, as objects of devotion. This represented an amalgamation of VEDIC and BRAHMNICAL religion, mediated by a priestly class, the BRAHMINS. One can distinguish the following periods1) the VEDIC, during which Vedic HYMNS were composed and collected, lasting from the latter part of 2nd millennium B.C. to about 800 B.C;2) the UPANISADIC in which a MONISTIC and MONOTHEISTIC RELIGION developed;3) the classical period, during which Hinduism acquired its typical form. This period lasted from 500 B.C.to 500 A.D;4) the MEDIEVAL period which was important for the evolution of BHAKTI cults;5) finally, the modern period during which Hinduism came to terms with the impact of the West as mediated by the British. Typically this last period is identified with VEDNTA although other movements flourished in India and elsewhere. Hinduism is not usually thought of as a MISSIONARY religion though organizations like the RAMAKRISHNA and HARE KRISHNA increasingly make UNIVERSAL claims and seek non-Indian CONVERTS.
Concise dictionary of Religion. 2012.
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