HINDUISM is the name of a religion which, is professed to-day by four-fifths of the population of East India, and which embraces within its folds the subtlest philosophic pan theist and the grossest animist. Unlike any otlicr religion extant in the world, it owes its origin to no individual. Hinduism has passed through various stages of development, distin guishable by marked features; but it would be wrong to associate the stages with any process of evolution. The foundation of the faith is a collection of sacred writ, collectively 'known as the Vedas Sruti (revelation). The Hindu Scriptures or the Veda has four subdivisions: Rig, Yajush, Sanwa and Atharvan. Each of the Vedas is further subdivided into Santhitas or sacred• texts,. Mantras or hymns and Upani shads or philosophic discussions. Besides Upanishdd, each Veda has an Aran yaks, which is principally connected with methods and effi cacy of the worship of the Divine Being. The Hindu, tradition is that the Veda, which means qrnowledge,s is eternal, and like the Divine Being it is ever-existent and part of it. But, the evidence is that all parts of the Veda are not equally old, nor could the authorship be ascribed to a single individual or even a group of individuals. The earliest are the hymns of the Rig Veda, which indicate the purest form of nature worship known to mankind. The grand and striking phenomena of nature are visualized incomparably, and the hymns are dis sociated from the mythology usually connected with polytheistic forms of belief. The hymns to Dyapus or the Dawn in the Rig Vega exalts one as no other poetry or any written word does. The idea underlying the hymns was not, however, nature worship. The ancient seers saw the Divine anywhere and everywhere, and they did not consider the world in water-tight compartments. The Divine was in all, and ev erything was in the Divine.
The deities referred to in the Vedas are India, the lord of atmospheric region• Vayu, the lord of air; Agui, the god of fire; byayus, the lord of dawn; Varuna, the lord of water; Brahaspathi, the lord of prayer; Projapati, the lord of people; Visvakarman, the maker of all.
The sage that praises Varuna attributed all creation, all qualities and all power to him, and had no cognizance of the rest of the pantheon. The same sage forgets all but Agui, when he chanted a hymn to him. The under lying thought is that there is only one universal self-existent soul, and that all else are attri butes. As the Vedic thought unfolded itself, the universal soul was identified with Brihma.
But the underlying thought has, of neces sity, to suit itself to historic and social condi tions. When the first Aryan settlers on the banks of Sindhu wished to chant hymns and devote their entire attention to worship they had to fight and cultivate and nrovide for their own sustenance. The more they went inside the country, the fiercer was the resistance of the aboriginal tribes, who were called Rak shasas and Pisachas. The necessity of exist ence led to the division of the people into castes, which, at the outset, was not intended to be the hide-bound system that it latterly grew up to be. The Brahmin became the priest, the Khathruja, the fighter and the ruler, the Vaiiya the trader, and the Sudra the laborer. Caste was• defined as varna, which is usually foolishly held to denote color by European writers.
On account of the lack of adequate historic material, it is extremely difficult to trace the evolution of Hinduism. Owing, again, to the extraordinarily long period during which the re ligion has remained a virile force, one can hardly point out any special trait which helped to keep its vigor. If there is any quality above all which distinguishes the religion, it is its catholicism. The Vedic texts, which formed the basis of thought, subscribed themselves to every kind of interpretation put upon them. Throughout the long of its growth it has assimilated much that should normally be considered alien to it. It found a place for every phase of thought and every grade of life. No special thought, ritual or philosophy was superimposed upon the peoples it came in contact with.