The earliest writings of Hinduism are the Vedas. These collections of hymns are considered authoritative. Parts of the Vedas are quoted in Hindu rituals. However, Buddhists and Jains, who come from the Hindu tradition, reject the authority of the Vedas.
The priestly caste of Brahmans is regarded as spiritually highest, either by birth or training. There is also a divine principle called Brahman which is a series of metaphysical concepts. Man is limited, but the Supreme Being isn't. Some Hindus look to a personal god, although some would say Hinduism worships multiple forms of the one God.
Hindus generally believe in transmigration of the soul, reincarnation and karma. Salvation or release (moksha) takes 3 paths, according to the important Hindu text, the Bhagavadgita:
- karma-marga ('path of duties')
- yoga, and
- bhakti-marga ('path of devotion').
Source: Hinduism. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 17, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.search.eb.com/eb/article-261618.
For more on Hinduism, see About.com's site on Hinduism.
Hinduism is most common today in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.