The term Hinduism refers to the civilization of the Hindus (originally, the inhabitants of the land of the Indus River).Introduced in about 1830 by British writers, it properly denotes the Indian civilization of approximately the last 2,000 years, which evolved from Vedism the religion of the Indo-European peoples who settled in India in the last centuries of the 2nd millennium BC.
The spectrum that ranges from the level of popular Hindu belief to that of elaborate ritual technique and philosophical speculation is very broad and is attended by many stages of transition and varieties of coexistence. Magic rites, animal worship, and belief in demons are often combined with the worship of more or less personal gods or with mysticism, asceticism, and abstract and profound theological systems or esoteric doctrines. The worship of local deities does not exclude the belief in pan-Indian higher gods or even in a single high God.
Such local deities are also frequently looked down upon as manifestations of a high God.
In principle, Hinduism incorporates all forms of belief and worship without necessitating the selection or elimination of any. It is axiomatic that no religious idea in India ever dies or is superseded-it is merely combined with the new ideas that arise in response to it. Hindus are inclined to revere the divine in every manifestation, whatever it may be, and are doctrinally tolerant, allowing others - including both Hindus and non-Hindus - whatever beliefs suit them best. A Hindu may embrace a non-Hindu religion without ceasing to be a Hindu, and because Hindus are disposed to think synthetically and to regard other forms of worship, strange gods, and divergent doctrines as inadequate rather than wrong or objectionable, they tend to believe that the highest divine powers are complement one another. Few religious ideas are...