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VCE Religion & Society Units 1 & 2: Hinduism

Year 11 research guide

Tenets of Hinduism

Practiced primarily in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, Hinduism is considered the world's oldest religion, with traditions originating in and before the Neolithic era, around 8,000 years ago. Hinduism may have had its beginnings in the Indus River Valley in modern Pakistan, and the word hindu comes from the Persian name for that river.

Unlike most other religions, Hinduism has no single founder, no single scripture, and no commonly agreed set of teachings.

A heterogeneous philosophy, Hinduism has many sacred texts, the most ancient being the Vedas. Also influential are the great epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, written between 500 BCE and 200 CE.

Although Hinduism contains elements of polytheism, monotheism, and monism, all gods within Hinduism are today considered manifestations of Brahman. Many Hindus practice devotion to one of three main deities: Brahma, the creator of the cosmos; Vishnu, preserver of the cosmos; and Shiva, destroyer of the cosmos.

In Hinduism, the nature of the universe and the structure of society are closely linked. Brahman is the ultimate reality and also the name given to the highest (priestly) caste. The concept of dharma describes both cosmic law and the conduct of individuals in society, including adherence to the social order. Castes in orthodox Hindu society distinguished among people of priestly, military, merchant, peasant, and untouchable (individuals with no social standing) castes—now known as dalits and the focus of positive discrimination legislation and job quotas in today's democratic India.

Taken from The story of India, PBSOnline, accessed 16/04/2016, <>

To learn more about the theology of Hinduism go to World History in Context database [email a Librarian for the login details].


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