By Moni Basu, CNN
Suhag Shukla knows that’s how some people outside Hinduism see her religion. As the co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation, Shukla clarifies misconceptions all the time.
Hinduism is ancient, though there is no specific date for when it was formed. The name is a Sanskrit word; Hinduism and Hindu were coined by invaders who used the terms to refer to the people they encountered when they crossed the Hindu Kush mountains and arrived at the Indus River.
In America, Hinduism’s profile was elevated by Indian immigrants who brought their customs and rituals with them and perhaps most recently, by the growing popularity of Hindu teachings like yoga and meditation.
Hinduism is the world’s oldest living religion and the third largest — behind Christianity and Islam — with more than 1 billion followers. Some argue that Hinduism is more a way of life than religion. It has no common creed or church. Nor is it based on the teachings of a founder or holy book.
And it remains a mystery for many.
Hindus are encouraged to relate to God in the way that suits them best, like worshipping many deities who are believed to be manifestations of God. The trimurti or three main deities are Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; and Shiva, the destroyer. That’s why Hinduism is often thought of as polytheistic. It is not.