Hinduism is the oldest living religion. There are more than a billion Hindus on the planet. We have already seen (here), how tricky it is to define Hinduism and a Hindu. Now, we will try to explore the subject further.
Allan Menzies in his book, History of religion wrote: The absorbing interest Hinduism offers is due to the fact that it presents an unbroken sequence of growth of religious thought, which, beginning with simple conceptions and advancing to a great priestly ritual can be seen to pass into mysticism and asceticism and thence to the rejection of all gods and rites, and a system of salvation by individual good conduct.
Starting with the history, the roots of Hinduism remain unclear. However, it is certain that it was a cultural phenomenon which emerged over many centuries. Rigveda, the oldest text attributed to Hinduism, is supposed to be written around 1500 BC. Who wrote it? That remains disputed. Some historians believe in the Aryan Invasion/Migration Theory (which was the popular belief until 20th century), while there is a growing consensus now that Aryans never invaded/migrated to India and it was in fact practiced by aboriginal peoples.
In any case, Vedas were too abstract (they mostly praised nature and celestial phenomenon) and perhaps beyond the comprehension of common people. Therefore, their interpretation was required. Brahmans, the priest community, did that job in the following centuries. During these times, Upanishads were written which told the stories of gods. And then came Indian mythology, in which you’d find the story of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Since then, Hinduism has grown and flourished across India and even gave rise to many religions and sects.
Books on Hinduism:
For Common Readers: