Hindu ( pronunciation) refers to any person who regards themselves as culturally, ethnically, or religiously adhering to aspects of Hinduism. It has historically been used as a geographical, cultural, and later religious identifier for people indigenous to the Indian subcontinent.
Hinduism is an Indian religion and dharma, or a way of life, widely practised in the Indian subcontinent and parts of Southeast Asia. Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, and some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, “the eternal tradition”, or the “eternal way”, beyond human history. Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder. This “Hindu synthesis” started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE, after the end of the Vedic period(1500 BCE to 500 BCE), and flourished in the medieval period, with the decline of Buddhism in India.
A sense of Hindu identity and the term Hindu appears in some texts dated between the 13th and 18th century in Sanskrit and regional languages.[The 14th- and 18th-century Indian poets such as Vidyapati, Kabir and Eknath used the phrase Hindu dharma (Hinduism).
Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include the four Puruṣārthas, the proper goals or aims of human life, namely Dharma(ethics/duties), Artha (prosperity/work), Kama (desires/passions) and Moksha (liberation/freedom/salvation); karma(action, intent and consequences), Saṃsāra (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 (monastic practices) to achieve Moksha. Hinduism prescribes the eternal duties, such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings (ahimsa), patience, forbearance, self-restraint, and compassion, among others. The four largest denominations of Hinduism are the Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and Smartism.
Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion; its followers, known as Hindus, constitute about 1.15 billion, or 15–16% of the global population. Hindus form the majority of the population in India, Nepal and Mauritius. Significant Hindu communities are also found in the Caribbean, Africa, North America, and other countries.