Hinduism, the world's most eclectic religion, does not have a single founder or God and the only one which does not have a holy book as the one and only one scriptural authority. The word "Hinduism" was coined by European travellers and traders in the 16th century.
Although around 80 percent of India's population calls itself Hindu, Hinduism is not a religion in the same way as Christianity or Islam. The latter two denote a precise faith in Jesus, the Son of God and in Mohammed, the Prophet of Allah. In Hinduism, there is no divine authority, no absolutes in terms of good, evil and sin, no canonical laws or commandments, no final retribution or reward, no congregational worship, no day of rest nor specific day set aside for God. One may regard the Rig Veda as one's personal bible, or one may turn to the Upanishads, or the Bhagvad Gita; or one may dispense with all the sacred texts and still claim to be a good Hindu. One may worship Vishnu or Shiva or some other gods or goddesses; or one may not worship any deity and meditate on the Supreme Spirit dwelling within one's own heart.
Kandariya Mahadev Temple, KhajurahoEven though belief or faith are a matter of personal conviction, temples, rituals and priests exist as the Hindu goes to the temple whenever he wishes to offer prayer, make an offering in fulfillment of a vow, listen to a discourse or just to meet friends. Temples, ostensibly built to glorify the gods, were also at the hub of affairs at a time when modern day meeting places did not exist. The silence of "piety" is in fact quite alien to a Hindu temple where the continuous cacophony of music, chanting, mothers calling for their children, flower sellers and incense vendors announcing their wares predominates. In fact the Hindus visit their gods rather like they visit friends! Priests have officiate at births, deaths, marriages and special ritual ceremonies for they alone are versed in the religious texts. However, most religious ceremonies are family affairs and take place at home. The Hindus are not idol worshippers, but a profusion of god-figures proliferate temple walls.