The word Hindu comes from the river Indus, and it just means the
people who live near the Indus river. The Harappa people who lived near that river about 2500 BC carved images of several different gods on their clay seals. We can't read Harappan
writing, so we don’t know what the Harappan people called their gods. But some of these gods
look a lot like the later Hindu gods Shive and Vishnu, so
this may be the earliest part of Hinduism.
About 1500 BC, when the Aryans invaded India,
they brought with them their Indo-European sky gods. As the two cultures mixed, it seems that their
gods mixed too. So Hinduism got some new gods, and also some new ideas. Around 300 BC, people began
to worship new gods. These new gods were Vishnu and Shiva. Generally people gave
Vishnu and Shiva flowers, incense, prayers, food, or music.
Much later, between 400
and 650 AD, at the end of the Gaupta period, another new god came into
Hinduism. This new god was a Mother Goddess. Like Vishnu and Shiva,
the Mother Goddess had many incarnations and many names. Parvati, Uma, and Annapurna were beautiful goddesses, who brought
blessings to people. But other incarnations were called Kali, Chandi, Durga or Chamunda, and these goddesses were terrible
giants with black skin, huge red tongues that stick out, and fierce tusks. These had many arms and each arm held a weapon,
and they wore necklaces of skulls or human heads.