Friday, 30 September 2011


Parallels and Possible Ancestral Connections of the Ancient Druids and Hindus
Renu K. Aldrich
Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids
Author Note
This paper was presented by the author, Renu K. Aldrich, a bard in the Order of Bards, Ovates &
Druids,, at the Spirituality in Indigenous Cultures and Religious
Traditions Conference in Lanham, Maryland. The conference, which was held Oct. 24-25, 2009,
was sponsored by the International Center for Cultural Studies,
Druidry and Hinduism are seemingly at opposite ends of both the religious and geographical
spectrums. Extraordinary connections between the two cultures belie the split between East and
West. Linguistic, archaeological and genetic evidence support the theory of common ancestry. In
addition, similarities in beliefs, spiritual practices, myths, symbols, laws and customs, traditions,
holidays, and astrology all point to a link between the two spiritual practices and their members.
This compelling data warrants further scientific investigation.
Keywords: Druidry, Hinduism, spirituality, common ancestry, East and West, Proto-Indo
Parallels and Possible Ancestral Connections of the Ancient Druids and Hindus
I. Introduction..………………………………………………………………………….......4
II. Brief background of the Vedantic Religions..…………………………………………….4
III. Brief background of the Druids………………………………………………………...…6
IV. Common Ancestry Hypotheses…………………………………………………………...8
V. Similarities…………………………………………………………………………….......8
a. Language……………………………………………………………………….…9
b. Spiritual Traditions
i. Beliefs………………………………………………..………………10
ii. Sacred Chant & Meditation………………………………..………...10
iii. Festivals & Holidays…………………………………………………11
iv. Myths & Folklore…………………………………………………….12
c. Symbols ……………………………………………………………………...….14
d. Astrology……………………………………………………………………...…16
e. Music & Poetry………………………………………………………………..…17
f. Laws & Customs………………………..………………………………………..18
VI. Conclusion…………………………………………………………………...…………..20
VII. References…………………………………………………………………….…………21
VIII. Footnotes……………………………………………………………………….……..…24
IX. Figures and Captions………………………………………………………………...…..25
Parallels and Possible Ancestral Connections of Ancient Druids and Hindus
Many practitioners of modern-day Hinduism and Druidry feel a deep resonance with each
other’s path. Anthropologists, linguists and other scientists have amassed evidence that this is
more than mere spiritual camaraderie. While ancient European and Vedic cultures would seem to
be as opposite as their geography, scholarly theories growing in strength over the past few
decades connect the Hindu Brahmins of the East and the Celtic Druids of the West to a common
Indo-European priesthood. They served the same functions, which include officiating at
ceremonies that sometimes involved sacrifices, teaching philosophy and star-lore, advising
royalty, and conveying an oral tradition through didactic verse.
While scientists theorize that their common Indo-European root split some 5,000 years
ago, it is only recently that they have begun to investigate the parallels between ancient Celtic
society and Vedic culture (Berresford-Ellis, 2000). This paper will examine the most popular of
these common-link theories and analyze the similarities between these two groups.
Hinduism, considered by some to be the oldest religion in the world, is a philosophy of
life without a central belief. It evolved in the Indus River Valley c. 6500 BCE and spread
throughout Northern India in the 1500s BCE as an oral tradition until the writing of the Vedic
scriptures some 600 years later. In addition to a series of texts on yogas and temple-building,
existential questions such as the very meaning of life are addressed in The Upanishads.
The Mahabharata is the longest poem in history, with more than 200,000 lines of Hindu
myths and philosophical discussions (Adams, 2000). Within this poem is the Bhagavad Gita, in
which the God Krisna and his chariot driver Arjuna discuss war, virtue, life, and death on the eve
of a great battle. Another avatar of Vishnu is the focus of the epic Ramayana, which details the
kidnapping and rescue of Ram’s wife, Sita. Their triumphant return to India is the basis for the
important Hindu festival of Diwali, which celebrates good over evil, signals the time of returning
to the inner light within ourselves, and honors the Goddess of Prosperity.
Hinduism is a term that reflects a diverse set of common spiritual practices centered on
the basic beliefs of dharma, karma, reincarnation, and a monotheistic divinity (Hinduism Today,
1994). Dharma is spiritual law based upon natural justice, harmony and compassion. Living by
these guidelines will create good karma, which is the result of action and reaction.
Karma is the cause and effect of the choices we are free to make and the consequences
meted out by the Universe. There is no hell or damnation. Hindus reach for a spiritual summit
through cycles of reincarnation, and karma not only determines the experience of this lifetime,
but also affects the next birth. Hindus cremate the dead to enable the soul’s release for its
Hindus believe in one Divinity, with multiple Gods and Goddesses representing major
and minor aspects of the Supreme Deity. There is a major trinity: Brahma the Creator and his
consort Sarasvati, the Goddess of learning and the creative arts; Vishnu the Preserver and his
consort Lakshmi, the Goddess of Prosperity; and Siva the Destroyer and his consort Parvati, the
benign Mother Goddess who can become the fearless and fearsome Durga or the terrifying
redeemer Kali.
The three major Hindu denominations are Shaivism, the belief that Siva is the Supreme
Being; Vaishnavism, the worship of Vishnu or one of his avatars, principally Ram or Krisna; and
Shaktism, the primary worship of the Divine Mother. In addition to the wide-ranging Hindu sects
and practices of over a billion people living in the subcontinent of India and throughout the
world (Hunter, 2007), Vedic culture also developed Jainism in 500 BCE and Buddhism in 400
BCE as distinct religious movements for reaching enlightenment.
The ancient Druids were the teachers, priests, judges, healers and historians of the Celtic
Tribes of Europe. No one truly knows when Druidry began, but the first evidence of the
priesthood comes as the Ice Age retreated around 2000 BCE and the tribes moved westward
towards Britain and Ireland. Great monuments were built at this time, including the mounds of
New Grange and the famous Stonehenge. These Druids possessed knowledge that included
advanced astronomy, engineering and mathematics (Carr-Gomm, 2006).
From the Fourth Century BCE to the Fifth Century AD, the Druids were documented by
Julius Caesar and a few other writers. The Druids gathered in sacred groves, caves, and remote
valleys under three classifications: Bards, who sang parables to entertain and teach, and who
recorded the stories and genealogy of the tribe through oral tradition; Ovates, who were the
healers and seers; and Druids, who were the teachers, philosophers and judges.
The third period of Druid history (from the Sixth to the Sixteenth Century AD) is one of
darkness. After the Romans conquered the Celts, banning Druidry in the process, they left
Western Europe to the burgeoning Christian faith. Christians fought to become the most
powerful force in the West and persecuted the Old Religion until it vanished. But Druidry didn’t
completely fade into the mists; it transcended. Pagan rituals became Christian ones. Bards
continued to teach; Ovates remained midwives and village healers; and Druids became part of
the intellectual elite of priests, poets and judges. Practices and beliefs of the old religion survived
in memory, folklore, myths, legends and ancient customs. The stories changed names, but the
intrinsic values continued to live on (Carr-Gomm, 2006).
The Romantic Revival of Druidry came in the Seventeenth Century. Archaeologists and
antiquarians unearthed evidence that showed Western European scholars that their ancestors
were not the heathen brutes they had believed. Into the Eighteenth Century, philosophers, artists
and poets used Druidry to fall in love again with the Earth. In this Celtic Twilight period, several
different groups evolved, including the Ancient Druid Order in 1717. In 1964, members of this
group formed the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD), now the largest community of
Druids in the world (Greer, 2010).
Rather than a religion, modern Druidry is a philosophy of life that integrates a love of the
earth and the creative arts. It is a philosophy that developed over time, unlike religions
“revealed” by prophets. There are no sacred texts, dogma or central figures, but rather seekers
engaged in self-study at the school of nature. Because of the repression in its history, modern
Druidry does not have the same continuity as some other indigenous cultures. OBOD,
specifically, claims no direct link to the past, but derived its teachings from the oral tradition of
parables and myths in order to address today’s issues and needs (Carr-Gomm, 2006).
Those who self-identify as Druids can be found in all walks of life and belief systems
such as Hinduism and Christianity. In a single grove of Druids, there could be monotheists,
polytheists, animists, pantheists, atheists or agnostics. The Druids of today are largely a cultural
community who share basic principles and who gather to worship nature, to share creative
expression and to enjoy each other’s company. The life goals of those on the nature-based
spiritual path are to cultivate wisdom, creativity and love.
Scholars have long puzzled over ancient maps and wondered how Hindus and Druids
might have evolved from a common ancestor. There are at least five origin theories from India to
Africa, but only one has not been summarily rejected.
The most favored, though still contentious, is the Kurgan hypothesis, which suggests a
common origin in the Pontic-Caspian steppe. This comprises the area north of the Black Sea, the
Ukraine and Southern Russia (Figure 1). In addition to the animal husbandry practices of the
Kurgan people from the fifth millennia, linguistic, archaeological, and genetic evidence support
the theory (Volk, 2000).
According to Reconstructionists, the expansion of these nomadic tribes began during the
Copper Age. They had a threefold division of priests, warriors, and peasants or farmers. The
number five was sacred to these people as it is in Druidry. They had hill-forts, which could have
been prototypes for the Celtic castle-hills. Their horse mythology links the Kurgans to both East
and Western cultures; both ancient Indian kings and the tribal kings of Ulster in Ireland
consumed sacrificial horseflesh (Volk, 2000, Wikipedia, 2010).
At the base of the common ancestry theories lie multi-layered, intriguing connections
between the ancient Druids and Hindus as well as their modern-day equivalents. There are
significant parallels in linguistics, spiritual traditions, beliefs, mythology and folklore, symbols,
astrology, music and poetry, laws and customs. We will explore a wide range of similarities that
lend credence to the hypotheses.
“The very name Druid is composed of two Celtic word roots which have parallels in
Sanskrit. Indeed, the root vid for knowledge, which also emerges in the Sanskrit word Veda,
demonstrates the similarity. The Celtic root dru which means "immersion" also appears in
Sanskrit. So a Druid was one ‘immersed in knowledge.’” (Berresford-Ellis, 2000, p. 1)
The first point of entry for validating a common origin is language. During the 1,000
years of darkness for Druidry, Ireland remained free from the influence of Latin culture because
the Roman legion’s heavy fist did not extend to the area. By the time of Christian persecution in
the Fifth Century, Irish culture had retained clear and startling links to Hindu society
(Berresford-Ellis, 2000). According to Harvard University professor and leading linguistics
expert Calvert Watkins, Old Irish is closer to the language from which all Indo-European
languages developed and can offer a far better comparison with Vedic Sanskrit than can
Classical Greek or Latin (1963).
Renowned Celtic scholar Peter Berresford-Ellis analyzes linguistic similarities between
Sanskrit and Old Irish in Figure 2. He also states that both ancient Irish and Hindus used the
name Budh for the planet Mercury. The root budh in both Celtic languages and Sanskrit means
enlightened, exalted, victorious, and accomplished. Derived from this root are some famous
names: Celtic Queen Boudicca of the First Century AD, Jim Bowie (1796-1836) of the Texas
Alamo, and of course Buddha (Berresford-Ellis, 2000).
Spiritual Traditions
Beliefs. There are numerous common spiritual beliefs between Druidry and Hinduism, leading
the non-profit educational magazine Hinduism Today to conduct an extensive comparison in
Both paths believe that the dead continue to live in alternative realms of the Universe
until reincarnation into a human or animal body. Human souls are indestructible, but the
Universe is created and destroyed in a repeating cycle through fire and water (symbolic of primal
light and sound). They prized truth-telling as a supernatural power and held honor and eloquence
in high esteem. Ancient Druids and Vedic Hindus honored women, who were allowed to own
property and become priestesses (Hinduism Today, 1994).
Fundamentally, Druids and Hindus believe that human beings are connected to nature
and are only a slice of the web of life. Both value karma, which is the law of cause and effect and
reaping what we sow in the field and in life. Restorative justice has been a cornerstone of
Druidry, which believes that the Universe is our ultimate judge and juror. As such, many Druids
adopt the Hindu practice of Ahimsa, which avoids the negative karmic consequences of violence.
The Druid tradition has long honored being in service to others akin to the Hindu path of
Bhakti Yoga. Many Druids continue to strive to be healers, counselors, peacekeepers, mediators,
judges and priests today.
While Druids are known for their ability to manipulate energy and cast spells, the
Hindu’s ancient Atharva Veda scripture contains incantations and spells (Embree, 1972).
Sacred Chant & Meditation. Kirtan is the ancient Hindu devotional practice of chanting the
names of God and mantras in ecstatic call-and-response format. This is done in both temples and
homes as a pathway to the Divine through the power of words. Chanting Aum (also written as
Om in the West), the most scared Hindu syllable that conveys the essence of the universe, is one
of the many forms of meditation advocated by the religion. In fact, the practice of yoga is
designed to calm the body so that the mind can still for meditation.
Druids chant Awen instead of Aum to connect to the Universe, and meditation is an
integral part of the pathway. They also believe that words can be imbued with power in both
chanting and in spell-casting, which is just another form of prayer.
The Ancient Druids sought meditative ecstasy and used special postures similar to yoga
asanas. Bards in training in Ireland during the quiet period of Druidic history were known to
keep all-night vigils in the darkness with a stone on their stomachs to foster the deep
diaphragmatic breathing found in Pranayama yoga. A key element of yoga is the Kundalini,
which is similar to the Druids’ leaping salmon of wisdom (Hinduism Today, 1994).
Festivals & Holidays. “Ritual was developed as a means of contacting and utilizing the energy
within humans as well as in the natural world.” (Scott Cunningham, 2002, p. 10)
By some estimates, Hinduism has 330 million Gods in its pantheon, and Hindus joke that
every day is a festival for one or the other. Many holidays relate to the cycle of nature such as the
changing of the seasons or the harvest, but some have lost that connection over time. Others
relate to specific deities’ birthdays or accomplishments. While Indians use the modern Gregorian
calendar for everyday life, the dates of festivals are calculated using the Hindu calendar. Each
lunar day of the 15 phases of the moon has specific properties to make it appropriate for specific
observances (Verma, 2005).
Druids celebrate the seasons through eight festivals per year, including four dictated by
the relationship between Earth and Sun. The summer and winter solstices, the longest and
shortest days of the year, occur when the sun rises and sets at either the most southerly or
northerly points. The spring and autumn equinoxes take place when the lengths of day and night
are in balance (Carr-Gomm, 2006). The other four Druid holidays have evolved from the
traditional harvest festivals of ancient Western Europe.
In addition to chanting, both Hindus and Druids conduct rites suffused by the elements of
earth, air, fire, water and spirit. Fire is a central focus point of the ceremonies, which include
food, flowers and incense. While the Druids use herbs, mead, fruit and cakes, the Hindus use
ghee, spices, fruit, rice and sweets as symbolic gifts to God (Hinduism Today, 1994). After
giving these gifts to the deities, the rites end with the participants consuming the offerings.
There are also startling similarities in some of the actual holidays themselves. The Winter
Solstice marks the new solar year for the Druids and for Hindus (Hinduism Today, 1994). The
Hindu festival of Diwali celebrates the awareness of our inner light as the Druid’s Winter
Solstice or Alban Arthan welcomes the rebirth of the Sun-God as the Celtic Son of Light, the
Mabon. During Pitru Paksha Shradh in September/ October, Hindus honor the ancestors. Druids
celebrate Samhain, the predecessor to Halloween, on October 31st. Samhain is one of the oldest,
most sacred Druid ceremonies on record and is a time to commune with the dead and begin a
transition to the inner world, releasing unwanted aspects of your life and the sorrows in your
Myths & Folklore. Evidence of common folklore from Ireland to India is purported by
Berresford-Ellis as well as Stith Thompson in his book The Folktale, which traces stories from
Ireland to India. Many surviving Irish and Welsh myths show remarkable resemblances to the
themes, stories and even names in the sagas of the Indian Vedas (Ellis, 2000).
As a historically oral tradition, Druids believe in myth and the power of storytelling to
heal and enlighten as well as entertain. Teachings are transmitted through the creative arts – most
especially via parables and songs full of symbolism and inspiration. Celtic deities had multiple
functions and represented the forces of nature, dispensing ideas on ethics, justice, knowledge,
arts, crafts, medicine, speech, harvests (Hinduism Today, 1994; Ralls, 2008). They were called
deuos or "shining one" (Hinduism Today, 1994).
The stories of Hindu Gods and Goddesses teach Dharma, right from wrong and other
important life lessons. The early Vedic pantheon included deities with overlapping functions
such as natural forces, speech, crafts, arts, harvest, medicine, ethical order and war (Hinduism
Today, 1994; Ralls, 2008). They were invoked as deva or "shining one" (Hinduism Today,
1994). Figure 3 provides a comparison of a few of the Gods.
According to Berresford-Ellis, the parallels among Hindu and Druid Gods and Goddesses
are almost endless (2000).
One common myth correlates the Hindu Goddess Ganga and the Celtic Mother Goddess
Danu (Figures 4-5). Hindu myth says Ganga was a Goddess resting in heaven when Lord Siva
brought her to the earth in the form of water to save and purify the sons of King Sagar and to
rinse away the sins of mankind. According to an early Celtic creation myth, Danu fell from
heaven in the form of rain and her waters created the Danuvius River. From this sprang the
pantheon of gods known as the Tuatha de Danaan, who taught wisdom to humankind and fought
valiantly against invaders. This race was also known as the sidhe. Interestingly enough, the
Sanskrit word siddha means “power”. And in Sanskrit, Danu means “waters of heaven”. There is
a temple in Bali dedicated to the Goddess of the Lake, Devi Danu. A Hindu Danu is depicted in
the Vedic story "The Churning of the Oceans," a story with parallels in Irish and Welsh
mythology (Berresford-Ellis, 2000).
Other deities are also comparable. The Celtic God Cernunnos, or Horned One, is the God
of fertility, produce, and the underworld. He has long hair and a beard, and sits cross-legged in a
meditative state when not hunting. He wears torcs, or ornate neck-rings. He is associated with a
serpent, which has the horns of a ram. Pashupati is the Horned God of the Indus Valley and the
proto-God of Lord Siva, the long-haired Hindu God who spent time immersed in the forest in the
form of a deer. He often assumes a meditative pose, is garlanded with snakes and is associated
with fertility a la the Siva Lingam. He uses a Bisana, the long horn. As part of the Trimurti, he is
the Destroyer in order for re-creation to occur and wears the ashes of the dead. Both are known
as Lord of the Animals. See Figures 6-9 for a depiction of the Gods.
The contested Gundestrup Cauldron is a silver vessel found in Denmark that has been
dated to the First Century BCE. Is this Cernunnos or Pashupati? The cup has Celtic imagery and
Indian iconography (Figures 10-11).
Symbols. It is worth noting further the similarities in symbols between the two cultures. In
modern times, the resemblance between the Indian flag and the Irish flag are no coincidence.
Both are representative of a truce between cultures and living in peace – Hindus, Muslims and all
other religious communities (Wikipedia, 2010); Roman Catholics and Protestants (Col, 2010).
Ancient symbols illuminate the enormous connections among Druids and Hindus, most
notably the significance of the number three.
Druid teachings include a storehouse of powerful triadic poems. One of the most
important Celtic symbols is the triple spiral, which is found in many types of images including a
triskele or triskelion (Figures 12-15), and offers an array of associations to the sacred three
including the realms of land, sea and sky, or mind, body and soul. The spiral of life represents
the cycle of life, death, and rebirth as well as the Triple Goddess – the Maiden, Mother and
Crone. It also symbolizes the male, female, and child on the path of life. The OBOD symbol has
three outer circles representing the circles of creation, three bars of light representing the Triple
Deity, and a triad of sunrises symbolized by dots (Summer Solstice, the Equinoxes and the
Winter Solstice).
In traditional Buddhist art, triskeles are frequently seen in the center of Dharma wheels,
four-pronged vajras and auspicious symbol mandalas (Figures 16-19).
Hindus perceive threes all throughout creation. In addition to having three letters and
three hidden sounds, the word Aum consists of three curves representing the three states of
consciousness: moving wakeful, inner moving dream, and deep sleep state (Jayaram, 2010). The
Devanagri script depicting Aum (Figures 20-21) even looks like the numeral three. Today, the
synergy between the two cultures is evident on eBay, where several pieces of jewelry combining
the Hindu Aum with Druidic symbols are for sale (Figures 22-24).
The three strands of creation themselves are called gunas: Raja, which means activity,
passion, desire and movement; Sattva, which means truth, goodness, intelligence and
consciousness; Tamas, inertia, darkness and heaviness. The gunas entwine to make everything in
creation including human consciousness (Doran, 2010).
There are numerous other Hindu triadic associations including the three duties of a
Brahmin (sacrifice, study the Vedas and charity), three paths to self-realization (knowledge, love
and action), and the three lines of ash worn by Saivites on their foreheads (Jayaram, 2010).
As mentioned previously, Hindus also have Trimurti, a Triple Deity – Brahma the
Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Siva the Destroyer (Figure 25). Siva is known as Tryambaka,
the three-eyed Lord (Gradinarov, 2005). The three eyes have multiple associations, and can
represent triloka, the three worlds, the physical, astral and causal (Subramuniyaswami, 2003),
the three aspects of time: past, present, future (Baba, 2010), or the sun, moon and fire (Pandit,
2010). The third eye signifies spiritual knowledge and power.
Siva is third in the trinity, is often represented as a triangle to mean Absolute Reality, and
has three braids of hair that represent the integration of the physical, mental and spiritual
energies. He carries a trident (Figure 26) that some say represents God’s three fundamental
shaktis or powers: icchha (desire, will, love), kriya (action) and jnana (wisdom)
(Subramuniyaswami, 2003). He is often depicted with a snake wrapped around his neck three
The confluence of three rivers, the revered Ganges, the Yamuna and Sarasvati rivers in
Allahabad, is a sacred site where the famous Khumb Mela occurs. Temples line the area, and
worshippers bathe in the water to purify themselves of sin.
Astrology. Leading scholar Peter Berresford-Ellis cites numerous references linking Celtic and
Vedic cosmology in addition to their use of the same word for the planet Mercury. Celtic
astrologers used a system of 27 lunar mansions similar to the nakshatras in Vedic Sanskrit. Both
the Hindu God Soma and King Ailill of Connacht, Ireland, had a circular palace constructed with
27 windows to gaze upon the 27 star alignments (Berresford-Ellis, 2000). A First Century BCE
Celtic calendar (the Coligny Calendar), discovered in 1897 had parallels to Vedic calendrical
computations (Berresford-Ellis, 2000; Hinduism Today, 1994).
Both cultures conceived of cosmic creation as a sacrifice of a primal person or being, and
they recognized four interrelated worlds of existence. The Celts perceived the netherworld; the
earth realm; heavenly realm of dead and demi-gods; and a white realm of supreme Deities and
energy source of stars. Vedic cosmology cites the physical world; the astral world of dead and
demi-gods; the causal universe of Deities, Supreme Being and primal energy; and the
netherworld. These planes divide into smaller existences occupied by those of similar character
and where time moves slower (Hinduism Today, 1994).
The Vedas say that the heavens were divided into seventeen regions. In Irish mythology,
the Druids advise Maelduin to take only seventeen men with him on his famous voyage and in
the Book of Invasions1, Mil arrived in Ireland in the seventeenth of the moon. The age of consent
in early Ireland was seventeen (Ralls, 2008).
Music & Poetry. Historian Bryan McMahon plays a game with every Indian guest he meets at
his hotel in County Kerry, Ireland. He hums Irish folk music and asks the traveler to complete
the tune. Almost every time, Indian guests sing like they already knew the song, indicating to
him that Indians and Irishmen have a common past (Hinduism Today, 1994; Ralls, 2008).
Just as a slow ballad on the Celtic harp is reminiscent of an Indian raga played on a sitar,
the ancient Celtic music form of marbhnai, also called “death song” or keening, has been
compared with the raga style because both are improvised around three or four notes (Ralls,
Both cultures valued music, sound and vibration for its spiritual benefits and because it
pleased the Gods. Irish music critic Fanny Feehan noted in a paper that when she played a
Claddagh recording of Barr an tSleibhe for an Indian Professor of Music, her counterpart was
transfixed by the eerie musical resemblance to an Indian raga about a young girl being lured
toward a mountain (1982).
Taking the arts further, we reach the common ground of poetry. Poetic verse was a
revered force in both worlds. Both the Druid and Vedic Bards trained for 12 years and orated
epics conveying spiritual knowledge. The poetic meter was a fixed syllable line, free form, with
a three-part cadence at the end (Hinduism Today, 1994; Ralls, 2008, Hinduism Today, 1994).
Both ancient societies had a class of poets who chanted in praise of their kings and warriors.
Among the Druids, the Bards are the shaman poets who teach through verse using the magic of
sound in words, music and song. Praise poems were called narasamsi in Sanskrit and fursundud
in old Irish (Ellis, 2000).
Amairgen, the warrior-poet son of the Celtic Iberian chief Golamh and the first Druid to
set foot in Ireland, wrote a poem in the Book of Invasions1 with a philosophic outlook that
parallels a declaration by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (Figure 27) (Berresford-Ellis, 2000).
Berresford-Ellis contends that the Amairgen poem is similar in style and content to the more
ancient Sri Rudra chant of the Yajur Veda (2000).
Laws, Customs & Training. Theories of a common origin for Druids and Hindus are further
buttressed by the similarities in societal structure.
Celtic society was divided into a hierarchy: priests, warriors and producers (including
merchants). Upward progression through classes was possible. The Druids memorized the
history and knowledge of the Celts and passed it on orally, forbidding written transmission. They
were divided into several classes: seers, judges, royal advisors, hymn chanters, poet bards, and
sacrificers. They were also astronomers, healers and magicians (Hinduism Today, 1994; Carr-
Gomm, 2006).
Vedic society divided into castes: priests, warriors, merchants, workers. Upward mobility
was sanctioned in Vedas, but later frozen in societal law books. The Brahmins, priests of the
Vedic community, also memorized the scriptural and societal law knowledge of the Hindus,
passing it on only verbally. Brahmins had several classes including seers, royal advisors, and
medical and cosmology specialists (Hinduism Today, 1994).
In life stages defined by both, enlightenment is sought after one has reached old age and
the ideal was to live 100 years. The ancient cultures both recognized eight forms of marriage
from arranged to love to abduction, and the groom conveyed a gift or money for his bride. The
family unit comprised four generations from a great-grandfather (Hinduism Today, 1994).
There is an interesting parallel in debt law. A man owed money in Celtic society could
fast at the door of the debtor, who had to join the fast until he paid or they entered into
arbitration. In Hindu law, a creditor could fast at the door of the past due debtor, who then had to
protect the health of the creditor by paying the debt (Hinduism Today, 1994).
In other practices, Druids utilized breathing, posture and meditation techniques that
resemble hatha yoga.
This paper has presented the theories behind a common ancestry and compelling
evidence in the similarities between the Ancient Hindus and Druids. Upon examination, there is
a rich body of evidence to suggest that the societies did indeed split from a single Indo-European
The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids is conducting a research program on the subject
and plans to bring scholars together in Rishikesh, India in 2012. As a result of these endeavors, it
is hoped that much more scholarly and scientific work will be done to prove the theory.
Druid. (2010). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved April 24, 2010 from Encyclopædia
Britannica Online:
Celtic religion. (2010). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved April 24, 2010 from
Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
Ralls, K, (2008). Druids. In Ancient Quest. Retrieved April 2, 2010 from the author’s web site:
Carr-Gomm, Philip (2009). The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Druidism and the Ancient
Religions of India. Retrieved April 24, 2010 from the OBOD web site:
Das, Subhamoy (2010). In Theories About the Origin of Hinduism: The Basics
of Hinduism. Retrieved April 24, 2010 from the author’s blog on
Embree, Ainslee T. (1972). The Hindu Tradition. Random House.
Editors of Hinduism Today Magazine. (2007) What is Hinduism? Himalayan Academy.
Das, Subhamoy (2010). In What Is Dharma? About the Path of Righteousness.
Retrieved April 24, 2010 from the author’s blog on
Shaivism (2010). In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 24, 2010 from Wikipedia Online:
Greer, John Michael (2010). ADF and OBOD. Retrieved April 24, 2010 from Ár nDraíocht Féin:
A Druid Fellowship, Inc.’s web site:
Carr-Gomm, Philip (2006). What Do Druids Believe? Granta.
Volk, Sylvia (2000). Kurgan Culture. Retrieved April 2, 2010 from the author’s web site:
Kurgan Hypothesis (2010). In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 25, 2010 from:
Col, Jeananda (2010). The Republic of Ireland’s Flag. In Enchanted Learning’s web site.
Retrieved April 27, 2010 from:
Flag of India. (2010). In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 27, 2010 from:
Gradinarov, Plamen (2005). Tryambakam. In Indopedia. Retrieved April 27, 2010 from:
Doran, William (2010). Transcending the Three Gunas – The Primary Forces of Creation. In
author’s web site. Retrieved April 27, 2010 from:
V, Jayaram (2010). Symbolic Significance of Numbers in Hinduism. In
Retrieved April 27, 2010 from:
Subramuniyaswami, Satguru Sivaya (2003). Dancing with Siva. Himalayan Academy.
Baba, Bhagavan (2010). Who is Lord Siva? Retrieved April 27, 2010 from author’s web site:
Pandit, Bansi (2010). Web site of the Kashmiri Overseas Association USA, Inc. Retrieved April
27, 2010 from:
Berresford-Ellis, Peter (2000). Our Druid Cousins: Meet the Brahmins of ancient Europe, the
high caste of Celtic society. Hinduism Today. Retrieved online 10/14/2009:
Watkins, Calvert (1963). Indo-European Metrics and Archaic Irish Verse. Celtica (Dublin
Institute for Advanced Studies).
Editors of Hinduism Today Magazine. (1994, May). The Celts: Common Ground of European
Celts & Indian Vedic Hindus. Hinduism Today Magazine.
Gallaher, Cynthia (2001, March). The Celts. Irish American Post. Vol. 1 Issue 10. Retrieved
online October 25, 2009 from:
Hunter, Preston (2007). Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents. In Retrieved April 26, 2010 from:
Verma, Manish (2005). Fasts and Festivals of India. Diamond Pocket Books.
Berresford-Ellis, Peter (1996). In Réalta vol 3 no.3. Early Irish Astrology: An Historical
Feehan, Fanny (1982). Suggested Links Between Eastern and Celtic Music. The Celtic
Consciousness. George Braziller.
Jones, Mary (2010). Lebor Gabala Erenn. Retrieved April 27, 2010 from the author’s web site
Cunningham, Scott (2002). The Truth About Witchcraft Today. Llewellyn Publications
Berresford-Ellis, Peter (2002). Celtic Myths & Legends. Running Press
Thompson, Stith (2007). The Folktale. Kessinger Publishing, LLC
1. Lebor Gabala Erenn, known as The Book of Invasions, is the earliest known history
written by the Irish. It recounts the successive invasions of Ireland by different tribes
from the creation of the world to the coming of the Iberian Celts (Jones, 2010).
Figure 1. The Kurgan Hypothesis: Scheme of Indo-European migrations from ca. 4000 to 1000
BCE. The purple area corresponds to the assumed Urheimat (Samara culture, Sredny Stog
culture). The red area corresponds to the area which may have been settled by Indo-Europeanspeaking
peoples up to ca. 2500 BC; the orange area to 1000 BC (Wikipedia, 2010).
Old Irish Sanskrit
Figure 2. Comparison of Old Irish and Sanskrit words (Ellis, 2000).
The God of thunder was Taranus, who carried
The God of rain and thunder was Indra, who
carried thunderbolts.
God of fire is Aedh (pronounced uh-ee).
Vedic God of fire is Agni.
The sun Deity is Sulios
The solar Being is Surya.
The Celtic word for invocation is gutuater.
The Sanskrit term for invocation is hotar.
Figure 3. A comparison of Celtic and Vedic Gods (Hinduism Today, 1994).
Figures 4-5. The Hindu Goddess Ganga emanating from Lord Siva, and the Celtic Mother
Goddess Danu.
Figures 6-9. Depictions of the Hindu God Siva and the Celtic God Cernunnos.
Figures 10-11. The Gundestrup Cauldron.
Celtic Triple Spirals
Figure 12. Entrance stone at Newgrange built
between c. 5500 and 3200 BCE
Figure 13. Example of a Triskele
Figure 14. Example of a Triquetra
Figure 15. Example of a Triskelion
Buddhist Triskeles
Figure 16. Indian Buddhist Dharma wheel
Figure 17. English Buddhist Dharma wheel
Figure 18. Japanese Buddhist Dharma wheel
Figure 19. Tibetan four-pointed vajra
Figures 20-21. The sacred Hindu Aum symbol.
Figures 22-24. Jewelry for sale on eBay, melding Hindu and Druid symbols.
Figure 25. The Trimurti, the Hindu trinity of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva.
Figure 26. Lord Siva with his Trident.
I am the wind on the sea
I am the wave of the sea
I am the bull of seven battles
I am the eagle on the rock
I am a flash from the sun
I am the most beautiful of plants
I am a strong wild boar
I am a salmon in the water
I am a lake in the plain
I am the word of knowledge
I am the head of the spear in battle
I am the God that puts fire in the head
Who spreads light in the gathering on the hills?
Who can tell the ages of the moon?
Who can tell the place where the sun rests?
I am the taste in the waters, O Son of Kunti.
I am the syllable Aum in all the Vedas.
I am the sound in ether and manhood in men.
I am the pure fragrance in earth and brightness
in fire.
I am the life in all existences and the austerity
in ascetics.
Know Me, O Partha, to be the eternal seed of
all existences.
I am the intelligence of the intelligent.
I am the splendour of the splendid.
I am the strength of the strong, devoid of desire
and passion.
In beings I am the desire which is not contrary
to dharma, O Lord of the Bharatas.
And whatever states of being there may be, be
they harmonious, passionate, slothful--
know they are all from Me alone.
I am not in them, they are in Me.
Figure 27. Similar Druid and Vedic poems.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

What is Hindu Dharma?

What is Hindu Dharma?
One of the major living religious traditions of the world, Hinduism is also recognized as the most
ancient. It is different from most others because it was not started by any single individual, seer or
prophet, and its origins cannot be traced to a particular period of human history.
It is not based on one single book or a set of dogmas; on the contrary, it allows a great deal of
freedom of thought, faith and worship. Hinduism is not a single religious faith system because it
does not insist on any fixed set of doctrines. There are a variety of religious sects or traditions in
Hinduism. However, in spite of this diversity, there is a unity among all the doctrines and schools
of thought because their basic principles are based on the 'eternal laws of nature' which can be
rightly defined as Sanatana (eternal) Dharma (laws of nature). The knowledge of the universe and
the laws contained in the Vedas and in the subsequent scriptures is considered to be applicable at
all times and places. As these laws bind the universe and its components together, it is called
'Dharma', i.e. that which keeps all together.
'Dharma' is one of the most intractable terms used in the Hindu philosophy and is derived from
the root 'dhru', meaning to uphold, sustain or support. Hindu Dharma comprises a medium, an
instrument or an integrated scheme of life by which one is prevented from falling down and is
uplifted spiritually. It is thus a way of life or a value system. The word 'Religion' is used for the
lack of a better synonym for 'Dharma' in English language.
Hinduism describes Dharma as the natural universal laws whose observance enables humans to
be contented and happy, and to save himself from degradation and suffering. Dharma is the moral
law combined with spiritual discipline that guides one's life. Hindus consider Dharma the very
foundation of life. Atharva Veda describes Dharma symbolically: Prithivim Dharmana dhritam,
that is, "this world is upheld by Dharma".
Anything that helps human being to reach god is Dharma and anything that hinders human being
from reaching god is Adharma. For instance, in the epic poem Maha Bharata, the Pandavas
represent Dharma in life and the Kauravas represent Adharma. According to the Bhagavat
Purana, righteous living or life on a dharmic path has four aspects: austerity (tap), purity (shauch),
compassion (daya) and truthfulness (satya); and adharmic or unrighteous life has three vices:
pride (ahankar), contact (sang), and intoxication (madya).
Manusmriti written by the ancient sage Manu prescribes ten essential rules for the observance of
Dharma: Patience (dhriti), forgiveness (kshama), piety or self control (dama), honesty (asteya),
sanctity (shauch), control of senses (indraiya-nigrah), reason (dhi), knowledge or learning
(vidya), truthfulness (satya) and absence of anger (krodha). Manu further writes, "Nonviolence,
truth, non-coveting, purity of body and mind, control of senses are the essence of Dharma".
Therefore dharmic laws govern not only the individual but all in society.
The purpose of Dharma is not only to attain a union of the soul with the supreme reality; it also
suggests a code of conduct that is intended to secure both worldly joys and supreme happiness.
Hinduism is the religion that suggests methods for the attainment of the highest ideal and eternal
bliss here and now on earth and not somewhere in heaven.
In essence Hinduism is a way of life and culture in which several religious practices are
harmoniously blended and bound by the common bond of 'Dharma'. In the words of a Hindu
scholar and writer, Ram Swarup, "it is the name of one religion or one truth lived at hundred
points in hundred ways by people of different capacities and preparedness. Unity of Hinduism is
not external and geographical; it is deep, subtle, spiritual; it has multiple expressions; it lives in
them all; it also exceeds them."
The word 'Hindu'
History is mostly guessing; the rest is prejudice. - Will Durant
The word 'Hindu' has its origin in Sanskrit literature. In the Rig Veda, Bharat is referred to as the
country of 'Sapta Sindhu', i.e. the country of seven great rivers. The word 'Sindhu' refers to rivers
and sea and not merely to the specific river called 'Sindhu'. In Vedic Sanskrit, according to
ancient dictionaries, 'sa' was pronounced as 'ha'. Thus 'Sapta Sindhu' was pronounced as 'Hapta
Hindu'. This is how the word 'Hindu' came in to being. The ancient Persians also referred to
Bharat as 'Hapta Hind', as recorded in their ancient classic 'Bem Riyadh'. That is why some
scholars came to believe that the word 'Hindu' had its origin in Persia. The Greeks, who invaded
Bharat under Alexander, dropped 'H' and used the name Indoos or Indus, which later led to the
formation of the word 'India'.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Vedas - Upanishads - Puranas


The oldest literature of Indian thought is the Veda, a collection of religious and philisophical poems and hymns composed over several generations beginning as early as 3000 BC. The Veda was composed in Sanskrit, the intellectual language of both ancient and classical Indian civilizations. Four collections were made, so it is said that there are four Vedas. The four as a group came to be viewed as sacred in Hinduism.

Some Vedic hymns and poems address philosophic themes, such as the henotheism that is key to much Hindu theology. Henotheism is the idea that one God takes many different forms, and that although individuals may worship several different gods and goddesses, they really revere but one Supreme Being.

There are four Vedas:

The Rig-Veda
Its traditional date goes back to 3000 BC, something which the German scholar Max Mueller accepted. As a body of writing, the Rig-Veda (the wisdom of verses) is nothing short of remarkable. It contains 1028 hymns (10,589 verses which are divided into ten mandalas or book-sections) dedicated to thirty-three different gods. The most often addressed gods were nature gods like Indra (rain god; king of heavens), Agni (fire god), Rudra (storm god; the 'howler'), Soma (the draught of immortality, an alcoholic brew).

The Sama-Veda
The Sama-Veda or the wisdom of chants is basically a collection of samans or chants, derived from the eighth and ninth books of the Rig-Veda. These were meant for the priests who officiated at the rituals of the soma ceremonies. There are painstaking instructions in Sama-Veda about how particular hymns must be sung; to put great emphasis upon sounds of the words of the mantras and the effect they could have on the environment and the person who pronounced them.

The Yajur-Veda
The Yajur-Veda or the wisdom of sacrifices lays down various sacred invocations (yajurs) which were chanted by a particular sect of priests called adhvaryu. They performed the sacrificial rites. The Veda also outlines various chants which should be sung to pray and pay respects to the various instruments which are involved in the sacrifice.

The Atharva-Veda
The Atharva-Veda (the wisdom of the Atharvans) is called so because the families of the atharvan sect of the Brahmins have traditionally been credited with the composition of the Vedas. It is a compilation of hymns but lacks the awesome grandeur which makes the Rig-Veda such a breathtaking spiritual experience.


The term Upanishad means sitting down near; this implies the students sitting down near their Guru to learn the big secret. In the splendid isolation of their forest abodes, the philosophers who composed the Upanishads contemplated upon the various mysteries of life and its creation � whether common, or metaphysical. The answers were however not open to all, but only for select students. The reason for this was simple: not everyone can handle knowledge.

The composition of the Upanishads marks a significant and stride forward in the direction of knowing the mystery of earth's creation and one comes tantalizingly close to the answers. Through episodes, commentaries, stories, traditions and dialogue, the Upanishads unfold the fascinating tale of creation, life, the essence of life and of that beyond to the seeker of truth.

There is no exact date for the composition of the Upanishads. They continued to be composed over a long period, the core being over 7th -5th centuries BC. The Upanishads were originally called Vedanta, which literally means the conclusion to the Vedas.

In the Upanishads, views about Brahman (the Absolute, or God) and atman (one's true self) were proposed.

There are 18 principal Upanishads viz:

Brhad-aranyaka Upanishad
The Brhad-aranyaka Upanishad is widely accepted to be the most important of all Upanishads. It has three khandas or parts. The madhu khanda contemplates on the relationship between the individual and the Universal self. The muni khanda or yajnavalkya is a debate which goes on to give the philosophical backing to the earlier teaching. The khila khanda tackles various rituals of worship and meditation.

Chandogya Upanishad
This Upanishad is a part of the Sama-Veda (see The Vedas). The name comes from the singer of the songs (samans) who is called Chandoga. The initial chapters of the Upanishad, discuss the ritual of sacrifice. The others debate the origin and profundity of the concept of Om, among other things.

Aitareya Upanishad
This one forms part of the Rig-Veda. The purpose is to make the reader understand the deeper meaning of sacrifice and to take him away from the outer trappings of the actual act.

Taittriya Upanishad
A part of the Yajur-Veda, this Upanishad is divided into three sections or vallis. The siksa valli deals with the phonetics of the chants, while the others, brahmananda valli and bhrgu valli deal with self-realization.

Isa Upanishad
Also called the Isavasya Upanishad, this book deals with the union of God, the world, being and becoming. The stress is on the Absolute in relation with the world (paramesvara). The gist of the teachings is that a person's worldly and otherworldly goals need not necessarily be opposed to each other.

Kena Upanishad
The name of this Upanishad comes from the first word kena, or by whom. It has two sections of prose and two of poetry. The verses deal with the supreme spirit or the absolute principle (brahmaana) and the prose talks of ishvara (god). The moral of the story is that the knowledge of ishvara reveals the way to self-realization.

Katha Upanishad
Also called the Kathakopanishad, this Upanishad uses a story (katha) involving a young Brahmin boy called Nachiketa to reveal the truths of this world and the other beyond the veil.

Prashna Upanishad
Prashna literally means question, and this book is part of the Athrava-Veda. It addresses questions pertaining to the ultimate cause, the power of Om, relation of the supreme to the constituents of the world.

Mundaka Upanishad
This book also belongs to the Atharva-Veda. The name is derived from 'mund' or to shave, meaning that anyone who understands the Upanishads is s(h)aved from ignorance. This book inscribes the importance of knowing the supreme brahmaana, only by which knowledge can one attain self-realization.

Mandukya Upanishad
The Mandukya is an exquisite treatise which expounds on the principle of Om and its metaphysical significance in various states of being, waking, dream and the dreamless sleep. The subtlest and most profound of the Upanishads, it is said that this alone will lead one to the path of enlightenment.

Svetasvatara Upanishad
The name of this Upanishad is after its teacher. It comments on the unity of the souls and the world in one all-encompassing reality. The concept of there being one god is also talked about here. It is dedicated to Rudra, the storm god.

Kausitaki Brahmana Upanishad
The Upanishad has come down to us in bits here and pieces there. The core of the text is dedicated to illustrating the fact that the path to release is through knowledge.

Maitri Upanishad
This is a comparatively later Upanishad as it has references to the Trinity of Hindu Gods (Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma) which is a later development, and plus references to the world being illusory in character reflects Buddhist influence.

Subala Upanishad
Belonging to the Yajur-Veda, this Upanishad puts down a dialogue between the sage Subala and Brahma the creator of the Hindu Trinity of Gods. It discusses the universe and the absolute.

Jabala Upanishad
Belonging to the Athrava-Veda this Upanishad addresses some questions pertaining to renunciation.

Paingala Upanishad
The Paingala is again a dialog, this between Yajnavalkya, the sage mentioned the Brhad-aranyaka's muni khanda and Paingala, a student of his. It discusses meditation and its effects.

Kaivalya Upanishad
This Upanishad delves into the state of kaivalya or being alone.

Vajrasucika Upanishad
Belonging to the Sama-Veda the Vajrasucika reflects on the nature of the supreme being.

The core of the teachings of the Upanishads is summed up in three words: tat tvam as� you are that.


The Puranas contain the essence of the Vedas. They were written to impress the teachings of the Vedas onto the masses and to generate devotion to God in them. They have five characteristics: history, cosmology (with symbolical illustrations of philosophical principles), secondary creation, genealogy of kings, and Manvantaras (the period of Manu's rule consisting of 71 celestial yugas).

The Puranas were meant, not for the scholars, but for ordinary people who could not understand high philosophy and could not study the Vedas. There is an emphasis on the worship of Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver), Shiva (the destroyer), Surya (the Sun God), Ganesha (the elephant headed god known to be the remover of obstructions ), and Shakti (the goddess). All the Puranas belong to the class of Suhrit-Sammitas, or the Friendly Treatises, while the Vedas are called Prabhu-Sammitas or Commanding Treatises with great authority.

There are 18 Puranas : Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, Vishnu Purana, Vayu Purana or Siva Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Narada Purana, Markandeya Purana, Agni Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Linga Purana, Varaha Purana, Skanda Purana, Vamana Purana, Kurma Purana, Matsya Purana, Garuda Purana and Brahmanda Purana.

Of these, six are Sattvic Puranas glorifying Vishnu; six are Rajasic, glorifying Brahma; six are Tamasic, glorifying Siva. Vyasa, the son of Rishi Parasara, is said to be the author of them all.


Hinduism: A Short History by Klaus K. klostermaier


Hinduism is unlike any of the other major historic religions. It does not claim an identifiable human founder or a specific origin in history -- some Hindus derive their tradition from a primeval revelation of the Supreme, others consider it the beginningless sanatana dharma, the eternal law that governs everything, independently of any divine or human agent -- nor has it ever rejected a parent tradition from which it separated as a rebel child, as all others have done. Hindus had not found it necessary to define ``the essentials of Hinduism'' or prove it different from other religions until challenged by break-away spiritual movements like Buddhism or invaders from outside, who wanted to impose their own religions, such as Islam and Christianity.

Traditional Hinduism has preserved surprisingly much of the character of autochthonous native traditions, maintaining the holistic, all-embracing approach typical of these: there is no hard and fast distinction between the sacred and the secular, no strict separation of religious ritual from essential daily activities, no real difference or tension between religion and culture.

The various branches of what became known as ``Hinduism'' do not have a common creed and they do not demand from their followers any declaration of a ``Hindu'' faith. Until recently one could not become a Hindu unless one was born into a Hindu family; and one could not cease to be a Hindu if one was born a Hindu. As far as one's membership in the Hindu community was concerned, it did not matter what one thought or believed as long as one participated in the traditional rituals, which were also part and parcel of traditional Indian culture. On the other hand, many of the sampradayas, specific worship traditions within Hinduism, draw very close and narrow boundaries: those who wish to be members must obey a very strict regimen with regard to diet, life-style, reading, and worship; they must not accept the teachings of any other sampradaya, or read books or listen to sermons from them.

Left to itself the large and old Hindu civilization quietly appropriated whatever was brought into it from the outside, absorbed it, transformed it, and made it part of its own. That process of assimilation was disturbed in a major way first by the massive onslaught of Islamic conquerors from the tenth century C.E. onwards. The Muslims came to conquer India and to covert the native ``idolaters'' to their own religion. The rigid monotheism of Islam, the exclusivity claim of Mohammed's revelation, the rejection of the caste system proved irreconcilable with the native religio-cultural traditions of India.

While Islam could claim partial successes -- for over half a millennium most of India was under Muslim rule and a third of the population accepted Islam -- it generated a resistance among Hindus who began to realize an identity of their own based on their native ``Hindu'' traditions. Not by accident was it that from the eleventh century onwards nibandhas were composed -- encyclopedic works that collected Hindu legal traditions, information about Hindu holy places, Hindu rituals, and customs of all sampradayas. Hindus became aware of Hinduism as distinct from Islam. Islamic hostility toward ``idolatry'' further served to underscore the differences between Hindu traditions and other religions.

The second major disturbance was created by Western European powers from the sixteenth century C.E. onwards. While the main interest of the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Danish, the French and the English -- all of whom established colonies in India -- was trade, they were soon persuaded by the ecclesiastical powers of their homebases that they also had a duty to spread their Christian faith among the heathen.

Notwithstanding the presence of significant groups of indigenous Christians, who had lived for centuries peacefully side by side with their Hindu neighbors, the European Churchmen of various denominations considered India a mission field to be harvested for their sectarian Western Christian Churches. By demanding from the citizens of Goa, the first European colony on Indian soil, either to convert to the Catholic Church or to emigrate, the Portuguese established a hard and fast line between Christianity and Hinduism, and also made sure that future relations between the two religions were based on hostility and exclusivity. Like Islam, Christianity became a foreign invader and remained a foreign religio-cultural presence in India. It also provoked a reaction and a resistance among Hindus that became quite articulate from the end of the nineteenth century onwards.

The term ``Hinduism'' has recently been problematized in western scholarly literature. ``Hindutva,'' the Indian-languages equivalent, identified with a cultural political program promoted by right-wing Hindu political parties and extremist Hindu organizations, is viewed with suspicion and apprehension by many non-Hindus. Some question the appropriateness of the very word ``Hinduism,'' which, they say, is an ``orientalist construct'' invented by western colonial interest. All agree that the term ``Hindu'' was imposed on the Indians by outsiders. However, the designation ``Hindu'' has meanwhile been adopted by Indians themselves, who identify their religion as ``Hinduism'' over against Islam or Christianity. Others deny historic validity to the very notion of ``Hinduism'' prior to nineteenth century ``Neo-Hinduism,'' which arose as a reaction to Christianity, the religion of the foreign colonizers.

The global designation ``Hinduism'' is apt to disguise the great diversity of Indian religious traditions. Till very recently ``Hindus'' defined their religious identities by using specific appellations like Vaisnava, S�aiva, S�akta, Smarta etc., and several modern movements like the Ramakrishna Mission and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness emphatically denied being ``Hindu,'' so as not to be identified with other branches of Hinduism that hold beliefs contrary to their own.


There is an uncanny resemblance between the original Greek word historia and the Sanskrit term for history, itihasa, meaning both story and history (in the modern sense), tale, narrative, as well as the event narrated and told. Herodotus, commonly called the ``Father of History'' in the West, offers in his Historiae a great variety of reports about events observed by himself, about customs of other peoples, about tales and traditions whose authority he was not able to vouchsafe. By comparison Indian itihasa, as reflected in the Epics and the Puranas, also consists of a rich store of historical events and legends, of myths and of moral lessons inextricably interwoven in order to tell a story, not to document ``facts.''

History writing in a more narrow sense is not unknown to India: the Buddhists chronicled the progress of their missions, and the famous Rajatarangini documents several centuries of Kashmir's history. The Upanisads maintained lists of guru-paramparas, containing scores of genealogies of teacher--disciple successions. But they give no dates and no references that allow precise dating by comparison with historic figures or events elsewhere. The Puranas contain many lists of dynasties and attempts have been made to identify these names and to relate them to datable rulers outside India and to historic events. There are Digvijayas, records of the encounters of great teachers with their opponents, temple-chronicles, like the Koil Olugu, that faithfully describes the history of Srirangam, and undoubtedly there are still many undiscovered manuscripts with historical information on many persons and places in India.

However, history in the modern sense, a chronological write-up of past events, the recording of ``facts, nothing but facts,'' was never popular with Hindus. They were seeking meaning in their religious texts, not resumes of past events. Mahatma Gandhi once said, when doubts about the historicity of the person of Jesus were expressed, that even if it should be proven that Jesus never lived, the Sermon on the Mount would still be true for him.

Until recently Hindus had found it rather unnecessary to prove the historicity of avataras like Rama and Krsna. Should endeavors of recent Hindu scholarship to find such proof be successful, that would probably not change anything for those who had always considered Rama and Krsna manifestations of the divine, their teaching a revelation, and their myths profoundly symbolically meaningful. It might, however, fuel competition between Hinduism and Christianity, pitting a historical Rama and Krsna against a historical Christ, and possibly worshipers of the one against worshipers of the other in an attempt to prove one to be the ``only true god.''

On a philosophical level, Hindus always made a distinction between appearance and reality, rating the waking consciousness, in which we note ``facts,'' lower in comparison to other states of awareness, in which we note ``ideas.'' Hinduism is a state of mind rather than an assembly of facts or a chronological sequence of events. The re-interpretations of scriptural texts, which Hindu acaryas have undertaken throughout the ages, and the freedom with which contemporary Hindu teachers modify traditional teachings and modernize ancient symbolisms, should caution us not to expect much enlightenment concerning the essentials of Hinduism from a ``history of Hinduism'' in the modern sense.

Most Hindus believe that the series of events which we call ``history'' repeats itself endlessly in a never-ending cycle. It is quite significant that some major Hindu schools of thought identify this self-repeating factual world (samsara) with maya (deception), or avidya (ignorance). A kind of ``higher ignorance'' can well be assumed to be the basis of a ``history'' that is content with documenting appearances and describing surface events.

One of the favorite images in South Indian Vaisnava temples shows Visnu resting on s�esa, the coiled up world-snake representing eternity. The philosophy associated with this image opens up a new horizon for the philosophy of history; there is not only one human history and one universe, there are -- in succession -- many universes and many histories rolled up underneath the deity! What would be the meaning of these, in their totality, and what would be the purpose of the many universes?


In the light of the foregoing, it appears that history in the modern sense may not be the best approach to understand Hinduism. That point can also be proven by examining attempts to write histories of Hinduism. A history of Hinduism does not work as a history of Christianity or even a history of Buddhism works for understanding the content of these traditions. In Hinduism the momentous event of a foundation at one point in time, the initial splash in the water, from which concentric circles expand to cover an ever-wider part of the total surface, is absent. The waves that carried Hinduism to a great many shores are not connected to a central historic fact nor to a common historic movement.

The idea of a ``History of Hinduism,'' short or long, is almost a contradiction in terms. Hindus call their tradition sanatana dharma, the eternal law, and everything of religious importance is termed anadi, beginningless. Hinduism has never consciously given up anything of its large heritage that accumulated over the centuries. It appropriated many ideas and practices from many quarters, brought forth many creative minds, developed a large number of traditions that differ from each other in many respects but which collectively form what became known as ``Hinduism.''

Given all the discussion about ``Hinduism'' and the fact that the word ``Hindu'' has become a loaded term in today's India as well as in Indological writing, a clarification may be appropriate before setting out to introduce the reader to this short history of Hinduism. The term Hinduism has been fully accepted by today's ``Hindus'' and is hardly replaceable by any other designation to describe the religious culture of the majority of the inhabitants of India. The acceptance of the term Hindu by the adherents of this tradition makes it advisable to apply it when dealing with their beliefs and customs. While an extension of the term Hinduism to the earliest sources of the Hindu tradition is clearly an extrapolation, it appears justifiable. There are, after all, historical parallels that have been accepted unquestioningly by scholars and the general public alike.

There is little justification for the divisions found in much western scholarly writing between ``Vedism,'' ``Brahmanism,'' and ``Hinduism.'' If the term ``Hinduism'' is found problematic in connection with the Vedas and the Brahmanas, which certainly do not use the term, it is equally problematic in its application to the Epics and the Puranas, who do not use it either. Inversely, today's Hindus call their living religious traditions ``vedic,'' defining ``Hinduism'' as vaidika dharma, and making acceptance of the Veda as scripture the criterion of ``orthodoxy.'' It would hardly find the approval of those who are critical of the term ``Hinduism'' to replace it by ``Vedic Religion.''

In this book ``Hinduism'' is used as an umbrella designation for all traditions that declare allegiance to the Veda, however tenuous the actual connection with that body of writing might be, and however old or recent the particular branch might be. While speaking of ``Hinduism,'' without qualifying the term each time by a hundred caveats, it will also be made quite clear that Hinduism is not one homogeneous ``religion'' (in the biblical sense) but a ``family of religions,'' a vast and heterogenous tradition without a common leader, a common center or a common body of teachings.

Hinduism has continually been developing new expressions. It has aptly been compared to a Banyan tree that constantly sends forth new shoots that develop into trunks from which other roots originate to form other trunks, and so forth. The Banyan tree simile not only illustrates the diversity but also the interconnectedness of the countless forms under which ``Hinduism'' appears. While Hinduism may be lacking a definable doctrinal unity or uniformity in worship and ritual, it surely has a distinct shape of its own when set over against Islam or Christianity.


In the absence of a general common denominator and of an authoritative institution it is impossible to construct a schema for a history of Hinduism that provides a clear and commonly accepted periodization. While there certainly has been development, and innovation is not unknown to Hinduism, the situation was always complex and not amenable to being fitted into ``time lines,'' suggesting a progressive movement from a point A in the remote past via a point B in recent history to a point C today.

India has been called a ``living museum'' and Hinduism is as good an example to demonstrate the truth of this statement as any other facet of Indian culture. Side by side with naked Hindu sadhus practicing archaic forms of penance and living a life of utter contempt for comfort and hygiene, there are jet-set Hindu gurus who move among millionaires and surround themselves with every luxury imaginable. One still can see Vedic altars being built in today's India and observe Vedic sacrifices being offered accompanied by the muttering of Vedic hymns -- rites and compositions that may be six thousand or more years old. One can also see temples built in a futuristic style where worshipers offer obeisance to images of still living teachers accompanied by rock music and the latest in electronic sounds. There are Hindus who find their faith best expressed in the theology of medieval masters, and there are Hindus who have rejected everything from the past for the sake of a complete reinterpretation of traditional beliefs.

The periodization offered in the following pages must be taken with more than just a grain of salt. Although Western scholars, since the early nineteenth century, have labored hard to stick labels with historic dates on the written sources of Hinduism, many of these dates are far from established (the dates given by the experts often vary by thousands of years!) and even when and where they are certain, they may be of limited relevance to a history of Hinduism as a whole.

Accepting, hypothetically, the claim made by many Hindus that Hinduism is ``vedic,'' i.e. based on the collections of books called Veda, we could postulate an initial period of ``Vedic religion'' that represents the ``beginnings'' of Hinduism. Apart from the questionable nature of this assumption -- there is a counterclaim established by tradition and supported by some scholars, that the Puranas are older than the Vedas, and ``mainstream Hinduism'' alive in Vaisnavism, S�aivism, S�aktism, and others contains a large heritage of un-vedic and possibly pre-Vedic beliefs and practices -- the problem about dating the ``Vedic period'' has given rise to one of the most enduring and most hotly conducted scholarly debates of our time, summarized in chapter 3 of this book.

In the so-called post-Vedic period, the development of Hinduism proper, instead of one, there is a multitude of fairly exclusive, frequently intertwining traditions, whose history is difficult to trace, because of many local variants of each. Things are made more complicated through the appropriation of particular philosophical schools by specific religious traditions, the formation of parallel teaching lines, and the emergence of new sects.


In Joseph E. Schwartzberg's A Historical Atlas of South Asia the following periodization of the history of India, and within it, the history of Hinduism, is given:

I. Prehistory, comprising everything from the early Stone Age to the Indus Civilization (``Harappan Era'').

II. The Vedic Age.

III. The Age of the Epics (Ramayana and Mahabharata).

IV. The Pre-Mauryan Age.

V. The Mauryas.

VI. The Post-Mauryan Period.

VII. The Imperial Guptas and the Classical Age.

VIII. Kingdoms and Regional Cultures of the 8th through the 12th Centuries.

IX. The Period of the Delhi Sultanate.

X. The Mughal Period.

XI. The Contest for Power and the Establishment of British Supremacy 1707--1857 [The only period with precise years given for events and persons mentioned].

XII. Imperial India and the growth of National Identity, comprising also the ``Indian Renaissance'' and Hindu Reform Movements.

XIII. Post-Independence India.

Jan Gonda, until his death in 1997, was for many decades the acknowledged doyen of European Indology and a prolific writer on many aspects of Hinduism. He contributed two volumes on Hinduism for a comprehensive series on ``The Religions of Mankind.'' His major divisions are as follows:

I. Veda and Older Hinduism

1. Vedic (and Brahmanic) Hinduism

2. Epic (and Puranic) Hinduism

II. Younger Hinduism

1. Major Phases of Post-epic Hinduism

2. Vaisnavism

3. S�aivism

4. Hinduism in the 19th and 20th Centuries

In his Chronology he provides the following dates for the key periods:

2600--1600 B.C.E. Indus-Civilisation.

From 1200 B.C.E. Aryan immigration to India: Development of Vedas.

From 600 B.C.E. The Oldest Upanisads.

c.200 B.C.E. The Bhagavadgita.

From 4th century B.C.E. to 2nd century C.E. Development of Ramayana.

From 4th century B.C.E. to 4th century C.E. Development of Mahabharata.

From the 2nd to the 6th century C.E. Expansion of Hinduism into Southeast Asia.

320 C.E. to 6th century C.E. the Gupta Dynasty.

3rd to 5th centuries C.E. Origin of Visnu Purana.

7th century C.E. Flowering of Vedanta.

8th century C.E. Origin of Samhita literature; Pan�caratra.

After 7th century C.E. Development of bhakti Movements.

7th to 9th centuries C.E. Period of Brahmanic Reconstruction.

With great reluctance I am offering my own very tentative periodization of the ``History of Hinduism.'' Most Western experts will probably object to the first half -- its rationale will be provided in the text itself.

I. Beginnings of the Vedic ritual and textual tradition: possibly as early as 6000 B.C.E. in Northwest India (Saptasindhu), superseding and incorporating earlier local (village) cults.

II. Consolidation and expansion of Vedic tradition, formation of the ``Canon'' of the Rgveda and emergence of ritual specialists: c.4000 B.C.E.

III. Full flowering of Vedic religion in the Panjab and adjacent areas: c.3000 B.C.E. This would also include the so-called ``Indus civilization.''

IV. Major natural cataclysms and desiccation of Sindh and adjacent areas followed by migrations from the indus area eastward towards the Gangetic plains: As a result of population pressure building up in the Yamuna-Ganges doab the Mahabharata war was precipitated c.1900 B.C.E. Gradual acceptance of S�aivism and Vaisnavism.

V. Internal Disputes and Development of Many Mutually Incom�patible (``heterodox'') Traditions: while most of these, like the Ajivikas, have died out, some survived: Jainism (re-organization in the seventh century B.C.E. of an older independent ascetic movement) and Buddhism (originating in the sixth century B.C.E.). For several centuries (300 B.C.E. to 300 C.E.) non-Hindu traditions were dominant in India, and from there expanded into neighbouring countries.

VI. Restoration of Hinduism under the Guptas: from the late fourth century C.E. to the sixth century. Anti-Buddhist and anti-Jain polemics and development of orthodox (non-theistic) Hindu theologies (Mimamsa and Vedanta) as well as of mainstream (theistic) sampradayas (Vaisnavism, S�aivism, later also S�aktism). Foundation of Hindu kingdoms in the countries of South East Asia (Indonesia, Kampuchea, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines).

VII. Repression of Hinduism under Muslim Rule: from c.1200 C.E. till about 1800 C.E. Disappearance of Hinduism from public life, cultivation of personal piety (bhakti) and private ritual (Tantra).

VIII. Emergence of new Hindu kingdoms in Muslim-dominated India: Vijayanagara (1336--1565) and Maharastra (eighteenth century).

IX. Rising of reformers of Hinduism under British (Christian) influence: nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Development of a distinct Hindu identity and a Hindu consciousness.

X. Partition of India (1947): formation of a theocratic Indian Muslim State (Pakistan) and a secular Indian democratic state (Bharat). Efforts by Hindu nationalist political parties to ``hinduize'' Bharat and transform it into a Hindu rastra.

Basic Hindu Source Literature

The total mass of writings considered Hindu Scriptures, i.e. books that are religiously authoritative and believed inspired by a superhuman agency, far exceeds any scriptural tradition of any other religion. While much of it is accepted as divinely revealed only by believers in particular communities, there is a large corpus of books that form the basis of the ``Vedic tradition'' and that (at least nominally) is accepted by all Hindus as ``sacred.'' Although writing down of sacred texts was apparently forbidden for a long time, the collection of such texts, the memorization and their recitation, was central to ancient Indian traditions.


The authoritative Hindu religious literature is divided into two main categories: sruti (literally: ``that which has been heard'') and smrti (literally: ``that which has been remembered''). Sruti has the connotation of ``revelation,'' ``truth'' in an unquestionable sense, norm of belief and practice. Smrti bases its authority on the standing of the writer to which it is attributed, authoritative only to the extent to which it conforms to sruti. It offers a certain freedom of choice between conflicting opinions, allows interpretation that is more than the mere establishing of the one correct meaning of words and sentences.

Sruti is identical with the Veda (literally ``knowledge'') in its wider sense, which comprises:

(a) the Veda in the narrower sense, i.e. the four samhitas (literally ``collections'')

Rg-Veda (Veda of hymns, or verses)

Sama-Veda (Veda of melodies)

Yajur-Veda (Veda of rituals)

Atharva-Veda (Veda of incantations and spells)

(b) the Brahmanas, large texts explanatory of the rituals, associated with each of the four samhitas as follows:

Rg-Veda: (1)�Aitareya (As�valayana)

(2)�Kaus�itaki (Samkhayana)

Yajur-Veda: (1)�Taittiriya

(2) S�athapatha

Sama-Veda: Eight, of which the most important are

(1)�Praudha (Pan�cavims�a)



Atharva-Veda: Gopatha

(c) Aranyakas, literally ``forest treatises,'' i.e. teachings no longer relating to sacrifice and ritual, namely:





(d) Upanisads, also called ``Vedanta,'' ``end of the Veda,'' mystical utterances designed to teach the means for liberation from rebirth and all suffering. There is a very large number of these, of whom 108 are usually enumerated as ``genuine.'' The so-called ``Major Upanisads,'' commented upon by classical authors, are about ten to twelve. There is a large number of so-called ``sectarian Upanisads,'' compendia of Vaisnava, Saiva, and Sakta teachings and practices, and others.

Smrti or ``Tradition'' comprises a very large number of heterogeneous works, classified as follows:

(a) Smrtis, Codes of Law, often introduced by creation narratives and concluded by advice on how to reach salvation. They are fairly numerous, but some have acquired an authority that stands out, such as Manu-Smrti, attributed to Manu, the forefather of all humans now living, Yajn�avalkya-Smrti, attributed to an important Vedic sage, Visnu-Smrti, and many others.

(b) Itihasa, ``history,'' comprising the two ancient Indian epics


Mahabharata (including Bhagavadgita)

(c) Puranas, ``old books,'' texts that provide information about the creation of the universe, about genealogies of patriarchs and kings, rules of life and mythologies of the major deities they are dealing with. They are subdivided into 18 Maha-Puranas, ``Great Puranas,'' classified according to the deity they are devoted to, and a large number of Upa-Puranas, ``Lesser Puranas.''

1. The Maha-Puranas comprise:

6 Vaisnava (sattvika) Puranas:







6 Saiva (tamasa) Puranas:







6 Brahma (rajasa) Puranas:







2. Upa-Puranas, of which there are a large number.

The ascription to either category is not undisputed. Thus e.g. the Saktas consider the (Maha)-Devi Bhagavata Purana a ``Maha-Purana,'' while others classify it as a ``Upa-Purana.''

In general, the members of a particular sampradaya would consider the Purana, that they adopt as theirs, as sruti, revelation, with the same authority as that of the Vedas.

3. Numerous Sthala-Puranas, works that describe the history of a particular holy place (sthala), embellishing it with numerous miraculous events associated with the image and its worship.


At a certain time, when memorizing the increasingly voluminous primary literature apparently became next to impossible, short compendia, sutras (literally ``threads''), were composed that presented the essentials of each discipline in a succinct and reliable manner. In the course of time, virtually all subjects of traditional learning received their sutras. Thus we have in the context of religion Srauta-Sutras, summarizing the rules applying to public sacrifices; Grhya-Sutras, providing a summary of domestic rites; Kalpa-Sutras, compendia of other rituals; Dharma-Sutras, manuals of religious and secular law; and Sulva-Sutras, providing elementary geometry and rules of construction for fire-altars and so forth.

When the Veda became difficult to understand owing to the archaic language it used and the distance in time between its composers and its later students, Vedangas, books teaching the auxiliary sciences connected with Veda-study, were provided. Thus we have Siksa (phonetics), Chandas (meter), Vyakarana (grammar), Nirukta (etymology), Jyotisa (astronomy) and Kalpa (ritual).

While training in the Vedas was mandatory for brahmins in order to enable them to fulfill their priestly duties, very often they were also taught secular subjects, termed Upa-Vedas (sciences not connected with Veda-study). The traditional subjects were Ayur-Veda (medicine), Gandharva-Veda (music and dancing), Dhanur-Veda (archery), and Sthapatya-Veda (architecture).

Sectarian Scriptures

In addition to the vast body of writing described above, which forms the common heritage of Hinduism, there is an extensive sectarian literature which advocates tenets that are exclusive to certain sampradayas and are not shared by other Hindus. Thus there are numerous Samhitas, sectarian Vaisnava writings; Agamas, sectarian Saivite works; and Tantras, sectarian Sakta books. By the followers of these sampradayas these works are considered revealed (sruti) and equal in authority to the Veda. While offering some philosophical reflections on the nature of God, world, and living beings from the specific theological perspective which the particular sect advocates, they are mostly concerned with ritual and with regulations of the life of the devotees. Some are manuals of worship as it is performed in major temples. Thus the Paramesvara Samhita, to mention just one example, codifies the worship of the great Visnu sanctuary at Srirangam, the Somasambhupaddhati details the daily ritual in South Indian Siva temples.

While the classification of Hindu scriptures is fairly universally accepted, both the relative and the absolute dating are controversial. With regard to the relative dating, there are Hindu scholars who assume that the Atharvaveda is older than the Rgveda and there is a fairly strong Hindu tradition that insists that the Puranas are as old as the Vedas, antedating the epics.

With regard to absolute dating the gap between those who accept the Aryan invasion theory and those who do not is enormous. Because the dating has to be seen in this context, no figures will be mentioned here and the reader is advised to compare the sets of dates provided earlier. The estimated age of Epics, Puranas, and Tantras will be mentioned when dealing with these writings. There is a tendency among Hindus to consider scriptures ``beginningless'' (anadi) and to take literally the claim of many of them to be direct revelations from the Supreme -- again removing them from any meaningful historical process of dating.


There is an ancient rivalry between North and South in India that also extends to language and scriptures. While the North insists on the primacy of Sanskrit scriptures and considers Sanskrit the only sacred language proper, the South claims that Tamil is older than Sanskrit and that certain Tamil writings are on an equal footing with Sanskrit sruti. This linguistic cum religious issue came to the fore in medieval Tamilnadu: the acaryas of Srirangam had the Tamil hymns of the Alvars recited in temple-worship, side by side with Sanskrit hymns. One branch of Srivaisnavas, the Vadagalais, even placed the Tamil writings above the Sanskritic ones.

With the development of popular bhakti movements, which replaced much of traditional Brahminism and its ritual, compositions in the vernaculars of India also became part of religious ritual. The Hindi re-creation of the Ramayana, Tulsidasa's Ramcaritmanas all but eclipsed Valmiki's Sanskrit original and the inspired poetry of singers in many tongues became the preferred hymns sung by groups of devotees meeting for bhajan singing. The religious literature created by hundreds of saint-singers is enormous.

In addition, contemporary leaders and poets add to the volume. For the devotees of a particular guru his or her words are usually inspired and worth recording and repeating. Thus the recorded conversations of saints like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Ramana Maharsi, Anandamayi Ma, and many others are treated as ``Gospels'' by their followers and read out in religious gatherings. There is, quite literally, no end to producing ever more religious literature and there is no hope that any single person could read all of it.


``Indian Islam'' did develop some peculiarities that were frowned upon by Islamic authorities elsewhere, and from the sixteenth century onwards there was considerable interest in upper-class Muslim circles in becoming familiar with and even accepting certain aspects of the Hindu tradition. Sufism, as it developed in India, incorporates many Buddhist and Hindu features.

The ``St. Thomas Christians'' in India trace their origins back to a direct disciple of Jesus, whose tomb they believe to be in St. Thome, near Cennai (Madras). They probably originated from a group of Syrian merchants who settled in India in the fourth century. They still use Syriac as liturgical language and until recently their bishops came from the see of Edessa.

Richard F. Young, Resistant Hinduism. Sanskrit Sources on Anti-Christian Polemics in Early Nineteenth-Century India, Vienna: Indologisches Institut der Universitat Wien, 1981

The term ``Hindu-dharma'' occurs for the first time in Sanskrit literature in Chapter 33 of the Merutantra (date unknown, but certainly fairly recent, because it refers already to the English foreigners and their capital London).

A comprehensive encyclopedic description of Hinduism in Hindi authored by Ramdas Gaur and published in Samvat 1995 (1938 C.E.) carried the title Hindutva. It was planned to be paralleled by similar volumes on all other major religions.

Vir Savarkar's seminal 1938 English essay ``Essentials of Hindutva'' attempts to differentiate between Hindutva as ``Hindu culture'' shared by all who live in India, and Hinduism, as a religion, which is not shared by all. This is usually the interpretation given today by the advocates of a ``Hindu India'' and Hindutva.

The Indian expression ``Hindu-dharma'' is used over against ``Isai-dharma,'' or ``Islam-dharma''.

Taranatha's History of Buddhism in India, Buston's History of Buddhism, the Culavamsa and the Mahavamsa, are the best-known examples.

Cf. A. D. Pusalker, ``Historical Traditions,'' in The History and Culture of the Indian People, vol. I, Bombay, 4 1965, pp.271--336.

Whereas the rulers in most other countries had their court-chroniclers, singing the praises of their masters and immortalising their great deeds, such a custom was curiously absent in ancient India. Possibly the Indian tradition of considering kings as but one element of the state, and not the raison d'etre of it, prevented them from having their deeds recorded by a court historian. The Muslims, who ruled India, left voluminous records of their activities.

I am following the same logic by which historians of Christianity apply the term ``Christians'' to the immediate followers of Jesus, while the term ``Christianoi'' was coined by outsiders at a later time and it took centuries before becoming universally accepted by the ``Christians'' as self-designation.

In this respect Hinduism is not that different from today's Christianity either. While ``Christianity'' is considered one ``religion,'' all of whose followers are supposed to accept the New Testament as their scripture and Jesus of Nazareth as their saviour, in reality there have been from the very beginning many independent and mutually exclusive ``Christian Churches'' whose interpretations of the New Testament as well as customs and forms of worship have hardly anything in common. Still, nobody objects to using the term ``Christianity'' in connection with works on the ``History of Christianity.''

Joseph E. Schwartzberg, A Historical Atlas of South Asia, New York--Oxford: Oxford University Press, second impression, with additional material, 1992.

Die Religionen Indiens, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1960--63.

Sankara commented on sixteen.

Hundreds of these have been published with English translations by the Adyar Library.

So far no translation into a Western language exists of this text, which was published in 1953 at Srirangam.

Sanskrit text with French translation by H. Brunner-Lachaux, published by the Institut Fran‡ais d'Indologie at Pondicherry in two volumes, 1963 and 1968.

Govinda Krishna Pillai, Vedic History (Set in Chronology), Kitabistan: Allahabad, 1959.

Some idea of its range can be gained from J. N. Farquhar, An Outline of the Religious Literature of India, originally published by Oxford University Press in 1920, Indian reprint 1967 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass). Since then much more has been printed and produced.