Hinduism is a diverse religion based in India but practiced by communities worldwide. Its beginnings and history are longstanding and varied, and it is difficult to say when Hinduism officially started. While there are texts and concepts that are used by the majority of Hindus, there is no set way of practicing that all Hindus can point to as a main structure. The religion does have rituals, texts, common concepts, and other basic features that most traditions follow, but individual practices and beliefs can vary widely.
Practices relating to Hinduism may go back as far as 2000 B.C., starting in the Indus Valley in the northwest of modern India, but this is unclear. Some texts are common to most traditions and date back to nearly 1200 B.C., such as the books known as the Vedas. The Vedas, which include the Upanishads, which are commonly found in Western bookstores, teach basic concepts, spiritual truths and rites. There are also many stories and legends that many traditions use, such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
The concept of God or deities in Hinduism is different for all. An overall concept named Brahman is seen as a force that is everywhere and in everything, with other names used to describe another level of deity that some see as a force and others see as a personlike being. Hinduism is popularly known in the West for having many gods, but these are seen in the religion as all part of the main god or force instead of as separate beings. This is why many non-Hindus think of the religion as polytheistic while Hindus call it monotheistic.
Hinduism is the source of the concept of karma. Contrary to what many non-Hindus think, karma is not good or bad but just there, though it leads to good or bad results. Reincarnation, called samsara, is another key concept. Souls go from life to life, either as humans or animals, or to other planes that are good or bad depending on the soul’s karma. Eventual freedom from reincarnation, called moksha, is the goal of all.