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Before the British began to categorise communities strictly by religion, Indians generally did not define themselves exclusively through their religious beliefs; identities were segmented on the basis of locality, language, caste, occupation and sect. By the 13th century, Hindustan emerged as a popular alternative name of India , meaning the "land of Hindus".
These texts used it to distinguish Hindus from Muslims who are called Yavanas foreigners or Mlecchas barbarians , with the 16th-century Chaitanya Charitamrita text and the 17th-century Bhakta Mala text using the phrase "Hindu dharma". The term Hinduism, then spelled Hindooism, was introduced into the English language in the 18th century to denote the religious, philosophical, and cultural traditions native to India.
In India the term dharma is preferred, which is broader than the Western term religion. The study of India and its cultures and religions, and the definition of "Hinduism", has been shaped by the interests of colonialism and by Western notions of religion. Of the historical division into six darsanas philosophies , two schools, Vedanta and Yoga , are currently the most prominent. McDaniel classifies Hinduism into six major kinds and numerous minor kinds, in order to understand expression of emotions among the Hindus.
He classifies most Hindus as belonging by choice to one of the "founded religions" such as Vaishnavism and Shaivism that are salvation-focussed and often de-emphasize Brahman priestly authority yet incorporate ritual grammar of Brahmanic-Sanskritic Hinduism. This stereotype followed and fit, states Inden, with the imperial imperatives of the era, providing the moral justification for the colonial project.
The early reports set the tradition and scholarly premises for typology of Hinduism, as well as the major assumptions and flawed presuppositions that has been at the foundation of Indology.
Hinduism, according to Inden, has been neither what imperial religionists stereotyped it to be, nor is it appropriate to equate Hinduism to be merely monist pantheism and philosophical idealism of Advaita Vedanta. All aspects of a Hindu life, namely acquiring wealth artha , fulfillment of desires kama , and attaining liberation moksha , are part of dharma, which encapsulates the "right way of living" and eternal harmonious principles in their fulfillment.
Sanatana dharma has become a synonym for the "eternal" truth and teachings of Hinduism, that transcend history and are "unchanging, indivisible and ultimately nonsectarian". Hinduism, to them, is a tradition that can be traced at least to the ancient Vedic era. According to Klaus Klostermaier, the term Vaidika dharma is the earliest self-designation of Hinduism.
However, the late 1st-millennium CE Indic consensus had "indeed come to conceptualize a complex entity corresponding to Hinduism as opposed to Buddhism and Jainism excluding only certain forms of antinomian Shakta-Shaiva" from its fold. Some Kashmiri scholars rejected the esoteric tantric traditions to be a part of Vaidika dharma. Many Hindus do not have a copy of the Vedas nor have they ever seen or personally read parts of a Veda, like a Christian might relate to the Bible or a Muslim might to the Quran.
Western stereotypes were reversed, emphasizing the universal aspects, and introducing modern approaches of social problems.
Hinduism: A Beginner's Guide
KLOSTERMAIER HINDUISM PDF