15

Hinduism is a very ancient religion and has predominated the area of modern India for millennia. It's a complex religion with a very large pantheon that doesn't seem to be strictly regulated by any "official" body. In fact, I have heard that there are so many gods that some are specific to just individual families and their dedication to them and no other believers seem to mind too much.

In light of this, what mythoi existed in the area before Hinduism predominated? Did they affect modern Hinduism in any way? If it is the case that we really don't know, please be sure to cite reputable sources that state there is no evidence of anything else existing there previously.

  • 5
    I'm pretty sure we have no pre-Rigvedic texts from or near India. Now, the Harappan civilization obviously had its own mythos, but aside from sparse artifactual evidence from Harappan sites (plus vestiges of it that might be argued to have been subsumed into Hinduism or Jainism), I don't think we know anything about the pre-Vedic myths of India. – senshin Apr 29 '15 at 0:22
  • 2
    @senshin I think you're probably right. Hinduism is just too old. But here's the question in case anybody comes across something. Of course, "not much" or "nothing" is an acceptable answer, albeit, disappointing and not very interesting. – user93 Apr 30 '15 at 1:45
  • 1
    The "modern India before Hinduism" phrasing was pretty confusing to me at first. I'm guessing the intent is to say "the region which has become India in modern times", in which case perhaps "people of the Indian region before Hinduism" might be clearer? – sundar - Reinstate Monica Jun 17 '15 at 18:45
  • @sundar Feel free to suggest an edit. – user93 Jun 17 '15 at 23:18
6

Hinduism is generally considered to have begun around 500-200 BCE. Hinduism was formed from a combination of other traditions, in what is often referred to as the "Hindu Synthesis" or "Brahmanic Synthesis". This formative process is counted as lasting into the beginning of the Gupta Empire, around 320 CE. (see The Religious Traditions of Asia: Religion, History, and Culture by Joseph M. Kitagawa).

As might be implied by the name, this formation of Hinduism involved the combining multiple earlier traditions, in particular the historical Vedic traditions (Brahmanism), and the Śramaṇa tradition (which is also linked to Buddhism and Jainism), over a course of centuries.

The most significant texts would be the Vedas and the Upanishads, which remain among the most prominent Hindu texts, and are generally considered to predate the formation of Hinduism.

  • 2
    The link you gave does not support your position for the date. The early dates for Veda formation is as early as 1400 BCE, while the four Samhitas were "probably complete" (according to your same source) by 1000 BCE. I think it's incorrect to only call the Brahmanic Synthesis "Hinduism" properly, especially considering the term itself is too modern to arbitrarily apply to only one period in a long history of polytheistic worship. – C. M. Weimer Feb 20 '16 at 19:48
  • 1
    @C.M.Weimer - The only date I gave is for the "Hindu Synthesis" (see pages 12-13), not for the creation of the Vedas or the Samhitas. It's somewhat arbitrary, yes, but seems to be the best definition available. If we don't make a distinction somewhere, the question is rendered unanswerable, since anything that comes before becomes a de facto part of Hinduism. – femtoRgon Feb 21 '16 at 7:14
  • 1
    I was referring to this one, "Hinduism is generally considered to have begun around 500-200 BCE." I don't disagree with your above assessment, I just think it hides a lot of the older historical processes that shape Indian polytheism. It should at least be clarified. – C. M. Weimer Feb 21 '16 at 15:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.