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INTRODUCTION

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Hinduism is perhaps the most complicated religious phenomenon in the world. Indeed, views have been expressed that it is not one religion, but many, a kind of coalition of religions. On the other hand, there are some features within Hinduism which bind together the apparently bewildering variety of its deities, cults, customs, spiritual practices, beliefs, sectarian teachings and philosophical schools and which have provided a strong sense of religious belonging as well as of social and cultural togetherness for the peoples of India across linguistic and racial barriers throughout their long history, despite many changes in the political scene.