A worldwide religious tradition that is based on the Vedas and is the direct descendent of the Vedic religion. It encompasses many religious traditions that widely vary in practice, as well as many diverse sects and philosophies.
Hinduism is the dominant religion, or way of life, in South Asia, most notably India. Although Hinduism contains different philosophies, it is united by shared concepts, same textual resources, common ritual techniques, cosmology and pilgrimage to sacred sites. It includes Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism among other denominations, each with an interwoven diversity of beliefs and practices. Hinduism, with about one billion followers is the world's third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam.
Hinduism has been called the "oldest religion" in the world, and some practitioners refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal law" or the "eternal way" beyond human origins. Western scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no single founder. It prescribes the eternal duties, such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings (ahimsa), patience, forbearance, self-restraint, compassion, among others.
Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include (but are not restricted to), the four Puruṣārthas, the proper goals or aims of human life, namely Dharma (ethics/duties), Artha (prosperity/work), Kama (emotions/sexuality) and Moksha (liberation/freedom); karma (action, intent and consequences), samsara (cycle of rebirth), and the various Yogas (paths or practices to attain moksha). Hindu practices include rituals such as puja (worship) and recitations, meditation, family-oriented rites of passage, annual festivals, and occasional pilgrimages. Some Hindus leave their social world and material possessions, then engage in lifelong Sannyasa (ascetic practices) to achieve moksha.
Hindu texts are classified into Shruti ("heard") and Smriti ("remembered"). These texts discuss theology, philosophy, mythology, Vedic yajna and agamic rituals and temple building, among other topics. Major scriptures include the Vedas, Upanishads (both Śruti), Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, Puranas, Manusmṛti, and Agamas (all smriti).