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Although some sort of ancient religion most likely existed within the Indus Valley Civilization, there is little

to no evidence of it. It was not until the Aryans arrived during the Vedic period that traceable religious movements began. After conquering Indian, the Aryans introduced the Vedas (hence the Vedic period), which were written in Sanskrit. As Hinduism formed and grew, the Vedas became the central texts to the religion. Believed to be from the Hindu god, Brahman, The Vedas are made up of four compositions, and each Veda in turn has four parts which are arranged chronologically (Scripture) for a total of 16 sections of sacred text. Besides the Vedas, three other important texts came to be the Upanishads, the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana. The Upanishads are parables, told by teachers to students, while the Mahabharata retells a war of two royal families. The Ramayana is the story of Prince Rama, who rescued his wife, Sita, after she was tricked and captured by the demon king Ravana. As civilizations within India grew and spread, so did Hinduism. An excellent map showing the spread of Hinduism in India and other religions across the world can be found at: One of the biggest ways religion influences society is through the caste system. Hinduism states that there are four separate castes the Brahmins (priests and teachers), Kshatriyas (rulers/soldiers), Vaishyas (merchants), and Shudras (workers). These positions translate into todays caste system in India, which has been expanded to include the well-educated into the Brahmans, property owners into the Kshatriyas, traders and commercial livelihoods into the Vaishyas, with the laborers remaining into the Shudras. However, not included in the caste system is a group known as the Dalits, or commonly called, the Untouchables. This group is considered the lowest of the low, as their jobs (such as toilet cleaning and garbage removal) cause them to be considered impure (History of the). They are not allowed to interact with people outside of the Dalits and face dire consequences for doing so. However, within the realm of how religion influences society, an important thing to note is that the Vedas do NOT mention a concept such as Untouchability (History of the). Besides their temples, one of the most sacred places for Hindus within India is the Ganges River. The water of the Ganges is considered sacred and Hindus travel from all over India and the world to bathe in it. Every twelve years, India has what is called the Kumbha Mela a huge bathing affair. Millions of Hindu pilgrims go to theGanges at Allahabad for this festival (URI). In addition to the Ganges, there are seven towns, four sites, and four homes (they are more like temples) that are considered holy to the Hindus. The seven towns Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Varanasi, Kanchipuram, Dvaraka, and Ujjain are considered sacred because they hold temples and/or because important gods or goddesses were born there, married, or completed some great feat. The four sites Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik are sacred because they are near which the great teacher Shankaraestablished his four main centres (Holy). The last four homes Puri, Rameshwaram, Dvaraka, and Badrinath are each home to a god or goddess and among the most sacred of places. The government of India claims that, since independence, [it] has officially remained separate from any one religion (India). However, this is not necessarily the case. Religion in India seems to permeate every area of life and government is no exception. In 2005, nearly 1000 volunteers from different states of India participated in a demonstrationin support of secularism (Fighting). At the time of the demonstration, it was recognized that, in a very religious country, it would be difficult for members of the government to keep that area of their life separate. The bill also stated that secularism is not antireligious; but only non-religious (Fighting.). It seems to be difficult, though, to demand such separation in a country where temples are managed by state governments and where people expect the government to conform to religious beliefs and standards.