Hinduism is so diverse that the basics are spread over thousands of texts and these depict a vast series of events that unfolded over a long course of time. The religious texts of Hindus encompass a very large corpus. The most important are the four Vedas called Rig-Veda, Sâma-Veda , Yajus-Veda and Atharva-Veda. These focus on rituals, while the Upanishads and Puranas throw light on mythological accounts, spiritual insight and philosophical teachings.
In addition to these, there are a many other classical texts (shastras) preaching the Hindu philosophy, as well as the major epics - the Mahâbhârata and the Râmâyana.
Hinduism has no central doctrines and most of the practicing Hindus do not claim to belong to any particular denomination. But there are some denominations in Hinduism, which are based mainly on which God is worshipped as the Omnipotent One. There are also those that developed as a result of the revivalist movements and reform within Hinduism. But these sects are not antagonistic to one other.
The most noteworthy impact of Hinduism has been on the evolution of Indian society. According to a traditional Hindu faith, there are four phases of a human life (Âshramas). These are the stage of a student (spent controlled and celibate and in contemplation under a guru), house-maker, retirement (detachment from the materialistic world) and finally, asceticism where the aim is to find the eternal bliss.
Hindu society was formerly classified into six divisions, which are called the Varnas. These are - 1. Priests and teachers (Brahmins), 2. Warriors, 3. Nobles and kings (Kshatriyas), 4. Farmers, 5. Merchants and businessmen (Vaishyas) and 6. Servants and labourers (Shudras). These classes gradually evolved into some extremely rigid castes and creeds. This paved the way to an exceedingly oppressive hierarchy which was in place for much of Hindu history. Most of the reform movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries revolved around a number of these issues. Although, modern Hinduism is far more liberal, the principles of castes and classes are still important in issues of social norms, marriage and politics.
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