Most people around the globe consider Hinduism as a religion. It is not. It has no hard and fast rules. It was not found by anyone. It is a way of life. The name Hinduism originated from the Indus valley civilization. Those living near the Indus River were referred to as such. India was named Hindustan by the Afghan invaders.
India before partition was influenced by the Aryan invasion centuries before the Mughal Empire. Their way of life influenced the local tribes. Over the centuries, the people were classified into castes. The rulers were referred to as kshatriyas, the priests as Brahmins, the merchants as vaishyas and servants as shudras. The predominant patriarchal society laid down rules for each caste. However, a true student of Hindu sacred texts will know fully that there are no hard and fast rules. Each being is considered an amsha(bit)- avatarof God.
A hindu does not have to compulsorily attend religious functions as opposed to other religions. He/she does not have to recite long verses. There are no punishments. Importance is given to direct contact with God through meditation. What makes the people stick on without leaving is the freedom that is given to the young and the bold. Anybody is free to ask questions. Another point to note is that Hinduism does not have a single strong leader. So, one person cannot rule others according to his/her interests. There are Gurus but they do not impose restrictions.
There are religious based political parties. However, they also do not interfere with the belief of the devotees. As all might know, Hinduism has a lot of Gods. One might be familiar with Shiva, Krishna and Brahma. The mother AdiShakthi or powerful Goddess is above them and she is the backbone of the universe.
Why the idol worship then? The ordinary man will not be able to comprehend the divine unless he can identify himself with the supreme power. Hence the temples and idol worship. The Ochira Parabrahma temple in south Kerala is maybe the only temple where one worships God in the omnipresent form.
Mantra is the medium through which a Hindu propitiates the divine. Earlier, it was restricted by the patriarchal leaders. Now, studies of the Vedic texts have revealed that all can recite mantras. There is no restriction. The Gayatri mantra is the most powerful mantra. It has to be recited with proper pronunciation and reverence. When recited with devotion, it helps cleanse the soul and benefits the surroundings too.
Another misconception is that one should learn long mantras and spend long hours in meditation. Such parrot exercises do not do much good. The true Hindu will engage more in service than preach. Serving food to the hungry is considered the most divine act. So, poor feeding is done in most temples each day, every year. The funds are donated by pilgrims throughout the country.
Hinduism is not dominated by or ruled over by a single authority. People are bonded by the belief in their heritage and culture. Even when there have been numerous invasions and cultural influences, Hinduism remains strong and unpolluted.