Origins of Hinduism
Hinduism with its complex and diverse mythology represents a way of life rather than a specific creed. Its numerous roots can be traced, through archaeological remains, to the Indus civilization, the first known to inhabit northern India, in the period of 2500 to 1800 B.C.
Literary evidence of Hinduism from the second millennium B.C. includes the four Vedas, and especially the Rig Veda, the sacred scriptures that constitute Shruti, "that which is heard." The people of the Indus valley are thought to have venerated natural forms such as the pipal tree and the linga (shaft). They also revered prototypes of Shiva and the Great Goddess Devi, the male and female manifestations of the Brahman, the supreme being. The many bathing sites throughout the valley also suggest early purification rituals, still practiced today.
Between 1500 and 1000 B.C., the Indus civilization mysteriously collapsed. The Aryans later arrived from the west and absorbed elements of early Vedic religion into their own culture. The Aryans instigated the hierarchical organization of society into four castes, or Varnas, which still exist today. These are:
Brahmins, the priests and scholars
Shudras, laborers or servants