| Vishnu be praised
Hinduism (not to be confused with Hindutva) is one of the world's most prolific religions, and one of the two primary religions of the Indian subcontinent, along with Islam. It is also known as Sanātana Dharma by Hindus. Hinduism originated as a melding of the Vedic religion of invaders from the north with the native religion centred on forest hermits in India. It is perhaps the world's oldest extant religion, with the exclusion of authentic shamanism.
 Defining Hinduism
HInduism, like many Eastern spiritual schools of thought, does not fit into the Western concept of religion. Hinduism is not characterized by rigid beliefs in the same way Christianity and Islam are. In fact, Hinduism does "not have a unified belief encoded in the declaration of faith or a creed". It is an umbrella term denoting the plurality of spiritual phenomena based on Vedic traditions. There are many Hindus who revere the sacred literary works including the Vedas, Bhavagad-Gita and Upanishads. Yet, there are many Hindus unfamiliar with those works. The majority of Hindus subscribe to a belief in God responsible for the creation, subtenance and destruction of the universe and manifested in various gods and goddesses. However, there are atheistic Hindu schools of thought as well. Some academics suggest that Hinduism can be seen as a category with "fuzzy edges", rather than as a well-defined and rigid entity. Some forms of religious expression are central to Hinduism, while others are not as central but still remain within the category. To use an IT reference, one can think of Hinduism as open-source technology where new gods and goddesses are always being invented while certain concept remain central. In contrast, Christianity and Islam can be thought out as proprietary systems.
 The Invention of Hinduism
One fact that may surprise those of you reading this article is "Hinduism" wasn't even a word until the 19th century. According to Pankaj Mishra, a contributor to the New York Review of Books, "the British invented the holdall category in the early nineteenth century, and made India seem the home of a "world religion" as organised and theologically coherent as Christianity and Islam". However, as mentioned in the first paragraph, eastern religions were not categorized according to rigid definitions the way Western/Mid-east religions are. One interesting fact to note is that the word "Hindu" is a Persian word. It was used by the ancient Persians to refer to people living beyond the Sindh River, regardless of spiritual beliefs.
 Concept of God
Obviously there are atheistic schools of thought within Hinduism however, this paragraph will focus on a theistic Hindus perspective on God. The Rig Veda, the oldest sacred literary work, takes a rather unusual, yet interesting agnostic view of creation by saying:
Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. Who then knows whence it has arisen?
Most Hindus believe in a [soul], known by the Sanskirt word Atman. According to the non-dualistic school of Advaita Vedanta, the Atman is ultimately indistinct from Brahman, the universal soul or God. In contract however, the dualistic Dvaita and Bhakti schools state that Atman is distrinct from Brahman. Brahman is a Supreme Being possessing a personality, worshiped in the forms of Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva, or Shakti. The Supreme Being is worshiped as the Trimurti, consisting of the Brahma(creator), Vishnu(preserver) and Shiva(destroyer). These forms of the Supreme Being represents the phases of the universe: Creation, Preservation and Destruction.
A prominent aspect of Hindu Theism is the prevelence of Devas and Avatars. The Devas are the manifestations of the Supreme Being, usually personifying a certain ideal for the worshiper. For example, Saraswathi is a Devi(goddess) representing the ideal of wisdom. Avatars are the incarnations of the Supreme Beings on Earth. According to Hindus, there are ten Avatars of Vishnu including Krishna, Rama, and Buddha (yes, the Buddha).
 Karma and Samsara
Karma can be described as the moral law of cause and effect. They are based on the deeds and actions one has performed in his/her lifetime. The quality of one's Karma can determine one's path of Samsara, the transmigration of the soul. If one's Karma is good, he will obtain a good livelihood in the next life. The ultimate objective of a Hindu's life is Moksha, or liberation from Samsara. Moksha involves realizing one's unity with Brahma and detaching one's self from the material world. 
 Caste Systems, Holy Cows and other misconceptions
There is a common misconception that the Caste System is a intrinsic aspect of Hinduism. This is not necessarily the case. The caste rules currently practiced today were proposed by the Manu Smrthi only 2000 years ago. Hinduism has been around for much longer. The Caste rules not only apply to Hindus by they are observed by Christians as well. In fact, Dalit Christians are forced to worship in different churches and Dalit Christian clergymen face discrimination from their upper-caste counterpart. Therefore, the caste system, although promoted by the Brahmins for many centuries, is prominently a socioeconomic system.
Cows are not worshiped by Hindus. However, they are held in importance. The reason has to do with the cow's agricultural uses. Hindus relied heavily on it for dairy products and for tilling the fields, and on cow dung as a source of fuel and fertilizer. Thus, the cow’s status as a 'caretaker' led to identifying it as an almost maternal figure. Terence Mckenna that religious reverence for the cow is a result of early humankind's association of psilocybin mushroom with it, this association having developed as a result of the discovery of said mushrooms in the animal's excrement 
After the death of their husbands, in some areas, widows were required to climb on to his funeral pyre and immolate themselves. Nice. It has had to be banned several times, not only by the British raj, but also the Indian government post independence.
- ↑ Joshua Project listings of primary religions
- ↑ Flood 2001
- ↑ Koller, J. M. (1984), "JSTOR: Philosophy East and West, Vol. 34, No. 2 (April, 1984 ), pp. 234-236", Philosophy East and West (www.jstor.org) 34 (2): 234–236,
- ↑ http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00litlinks/pankajmishra/articles/txt_mishra_hinduism_2004.html
- ↑ See Theistic Explanations of Karma, pg. 146 of Causation and Divine Intervention by BR Reichenbach, citing Uddyotakara, Nyaayavaarttika, IV, 1, 21,
- ↑ Struggle for justice to Dalit Christians Brojendra Nath Banerjee, Uiliyāma Kerī Sṭāḍi eyāṇḍ Risārca Seṇṭāra. Page 42:
- ↑ McKenna, Terence (1992). Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge. Bantom Books. pp. 100-116.