The origins of Hinduism are debated by modern scholars. It is believed to be a mix of numerous traditions and faiths. Elements of Hinduism can be traced back to modern-day Pakistan at around 3000 BC. During the second millennium BC the nomadic Aryan people arrived in northwest India from regions around southern Russia. They brought religious customs with them and borrowed religious customs from the people in India. At around 800 BC to 600 BC, the still-developing Hinduism was affected by the rise of Buddhism and Jainism in India. Hinduism eventually incorporated songs and poems, making it more substantial as a religion. The subsequent arrival of Islam to the region threatened Hinduism. However, the arrival of Christianity in the 18th and 19th centuries had a different affect. Many Hindus responded by reviving original Hindu practices. The result is the period of Hindu Revivalism. Eventually, Hinduism spread and separated into different schools.
Hindus believe that karma determines the cycle of life, or samsara, which is composed of birth, death, and rebirth that the soul goes through repetitively. The oldest religious texts of Hinduism are the Vedas, or Books of Knowledge. According to Hinduism, Brahman created everything. Different types of Hinduism worship other deities, believing that they contain attributes of Brahman. Hindus are usually divided into three groups according to the form of Brahman revered: worshippers of Vishnu the preserver, Shiva the destroyer, and the Mother Goddess. Vishnu, also called Narayana, protects the universe and saves humans from disasters and oppression. He makes appearances on Earth through his incarnations. Shiva is the destroyer, creator, and preserver, according to his avid followers. In the Hindu Trinity, he is the destroyer that possesses elements of good and evil. He is also connected to fertility. The Mother Goddess is associated with fertility and feminine energy in Hinduism.
The most popular holy day of Hinduism is Divali or the Festival of Lights. Worship, in Hinduism, is called puja and includes prayers or mantras, images or murtis, and diagrams of the universe or yantras. Worship is usually a personal act that can take place at the temple or at home before a set-up shrine, which can be a room, altar, or image. The focus of the worship is the image. Hindu worshippers repeat names of a god and offer water, flowers, incense, and fruit. According to Hinduism, worship should take place three times a day. A Hindu temple has significant meaning. The central shrine represents the worshipper’s heart. The tower stands for the spirits ascent to heaven. Pilgrimage plays a significant role in Hinduism, because the goal is to encounter a deity. Varanasi, also called Benares, located near the holy River Ganges is a prime pilgrimage location because of its associations with Shiva.