The term "Hinduism" was coined by Greek and Persian travelers to the Indus Valley in the 16th century. Though many Hindus have adopted the name for themselves, they also use the terms "Veda," or "Vedic religion," which refer to the ancient texts at the core of the tradition, or Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Law).
Hinduism originated in the Indus Valley in modern Pakistan. The Vedic texts were not written by any single person, but "heard" by rishis, or seers, and passed down orally until they were recorded in writing. The oldest of the texts is the Rigveda (Wisdom of the Verses), a collection of 1028 hymns thought to have been recorded around 1500-1200 BCE. Other important Vedic texts include the Yajurveda (Wisdom of Sacrificial Formulas), Samaveda (Wisdom of Chants), and Ataravaveda (Wisdom of Atharvan Priests) were also recorded. The Upanisads, secret teachings concerning cosmic equations, were recorded from 1000-600 BCE. From the 2nd century BCE to the 4th century CE two great Hindu epics were recorded: the Ramayana and the Mahabarata. The Mahabarata contains the Bhagavad Gita ("Song of the Lord") that describes three paths to salvation: the path of duties (karma-marga), the path of knowledge (jnana-marga), and the path of devotion (bhakti-marga). Though the Upanisads emphasized renunciation and asceticism, these later dharma texts emphasize that these three paths can be used simultaneously for the maintenance of the world order (dharma) and release from the the world (moksha). Thus the goal for many Hindus is an equilibrium between social and ritual duties and maintenance of the stability of the cosmos.
For a long time it was popularly believed that the Vedas originated from an Aryan people who invaded the the ancient Harappan civilization of India around 1500 B.C. However, there is no literary or archeological support for the theory, which has become associated with the racist ideology of colonialism.