Hinduism is a religion that is predominant in India. It is a religion that comprises of many beliefs, customs, and values that is distinguished by the worship of numerous deities. The Indus Valley and Aryan civilizations vastly contributed to Hinduism because these two cultures initially laid out the foundation for this religion. The Indus Valley had influenced the rise of Hinduism because they originally emphasized about the importance of venerating water. On the other hand, the Aryans had impacted Hinduism because they were the ones that introduced the Vedas. As a result, the impact that the Indus Valley and Aryan civilizations had on the creation of Hinduism immensely influenced different parts of the world and many religious groups that were developed in India afterwards, such as the Arya Samaj. Hence, Hinduism is considered by many as a unique religion since it doesn't have just one primary founder like other religions, such as Christianity or any other monolithic religion.
The Indus Valley was a civilization that was located in an area near the Indus River. This particular culture was fully developed around 2700-2400 BCE, although its origins may date back to the Neolithic period. The religion that was practiced and emphasized in this culture has been difficult to decipher because the language that was used during this period has been hard to understand. However, archaeologists have constantly studied the remains from this civilization that they had found; thus, they were able to discover vital clues as to how the Indus Valley's religious beliefs and practices prompted the rise of Hinduism. As a case in point, the Indus Valley's heavy regards for water could be explained by their dependence on the yearly inundations of the Indus River. To further specify, the Indus Valley civilization had thrived from the constant rainfalls because it had allowed them to grow more food, which resulted in helping their population grow. Therefore, the Indus Valley people had built water pathways that were carefully dispatched around the cities, such as, Harrapa and Mohenjo-Daro in order for them to continue to prosper as a society (Forman 26). These water routes channeled to well-constructed wells and tanks that were able to withstand damages due to floods. In addition, their respect for water can also be justified by the ritual bathing pools that they built. Since all the important areas were located on the higher ground, public bathing pools were built in the higher grounds of each city; in other words, the main administrative areas. The public bathing pools was a way for the Indus Valley people to cleanse themselves from negative forces that might restrain them in life. The most well-known ritual bathing pool that the Indus Valley developed was the Mohenjo-Daro bathing pool, which was also known as the "great bath". It was located in one of the largest cities that the Indus built and was approximately 18,298 feet wide (Jansen 182). The obeisant regard that the Indus Valley culture had for water, therefore, indicates why water was considered scared to them and how the emphasis on water essentially became important in later Hindu religious practices.
Although the Indus Valley civilization played a pivotal role in shaping Hinduism, another culture known as the Aryans also had a major impact on the creation of this religion. The Aryans eventually took control of the land that the Indus Valley civilization once roamed by about 1600 BCE, since they could not withstand the massive attacks that the Aryans had conducted (Forman 27). Even though they were less advanced than the Indus Valley civilization, the Aryans were able to become exposed to oral poetry that originated from Iran. Fascinated by the poetry that was given to them; the Aryan priests memorized it and around 800 BCE they compiled it into four collections that was part of what is known as the Vedas (Forman 27). The Vedas, the oldest and most authoritative Hindu text, contains four compositions composed in Sanskrit that instructs the Vedic Hindus of important practices and teachings that will help each of them strive towards having a better future. To further explain, the first composition in the Vedas called the Samhitas, contains ancient texts, such as the Rigveda, which are the 1,028 hymns praising to the gods. The second composition found in the Vedas is called the Brahmanas. This particular composition contains the rituals and prayers that help guide the priests, or Brahmans, in their caste duties. The third composition also known as the Aranyakas and it was composed by people who meditated in the woods; also called "forest dwellers". This composition contains discussions and interpretations of certain rituals that were deemed to be dangerous; for this reason, these rituals were to be learned in the wilderness. The fourth and final composition that is part of the Vedas was known as the Upanishads. The Upanishads were also referred to as the "end of the Vedas" because it consists more of the philosophical teachings of Hinduism. For example, the Upanishads explained about humanity and the universe. To further elaborate, the Upanishads elucidated about the notion of Brahman and Atman and how Brahman is the "unforeseen ultimate reality" that Atman, the individual soul, is a part of. The creation of this scared scripture, therefore, paved the way for later Hindus to follow in order to attain the holy truth.
The contributions that the Indus Valley and Aryan civilizations were responsible for in shaping Hinduism greatly influenced later Hindus. For instances, the Indus Valley's accentuation of water motivated Hindus that lived in Krishnapur, an Indian town that is located in West Bengel. The Hindus that reside in Krishnapur practiced a Hindu ritual called Sandhyas, which means "Meditations of the Twilight." This specific practice is a personal meditation that is to be done during sunrise, the afternoon, and sunset. The purpose of this meditative ritual is to ask god to forgive oneself of the sins that they have committed. For that reason, Hindus who practice this offer the sun water during the meditation as a sign for purification. On the contrary, the Vedas, which was initiated by the Aryans, was greatly accepted by a reformist society called the Arya Samaj. The Arya Samaj was a society that was created by Svami Dayananda in 1875 and the influences that this particular society had spread rapidly throughout northern India. This religious society was active in spreading its teachings of how the Vedas were the word of god, the source of all truths, and the basis of Hinduism (Forman 83). Thus, the Arya Samaj denounced how any other scriptures that were created had no position in Hinduism. From the actions that the Arya Samaj had taken, this society not only disseminated about the teachings of the Vedas, but they were also able to glorify the Hindu past.
In conclusion, the development of Hinduism originally was started by the Indus Valley and Aryan civilizations. These two ancient civilizations helped pave the way for the rise of this religion because they had established the basic practices, customs, and rituals of Hinduism. For instances, the deep appreciation for water and the creation of the Vedas both initiated the Hindu religion. Henceforth, the contributions that the Indus Valley and Aryans had in shaping Hinduism exceedingly influenced others and Hindus that later emerged because it allowed them to expand on what they had learn from these two ancient cultures. As a result, Hinduism is considered as the world's largest pluralistic tradition (Goel 1).
- Fenton, John Y., Norvin Hein, Frank E. Reynolds, Alan L. Miller, Niels C. Nielsen Jr., Grace G. Burford, and Robert K.C. Forman. Religions of Asia. 3rd ed. New York: St. Martin's, 1993. 21-80.
- Goel, Dr. Madan Lal. Religious Tolerance and Hinduism (2002): 1-6. Google Scholar. Web. 27 Feb. 2010. <http://https://secure.uwf.edu/govt/pdf/facforum/goel-religioustolerancehinduism.pdf>.
- Jansen, M. "Water Supply and Sewage Disposal at Monhenjo-Daro." World Archaeology 21.2 (1989): 177-92. JSTOR. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Web. 27 Feb. 2010. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/124907>.