Books about Hinduism often begin by noting the immense size and complexity of the subject. Hinduism is vast and diverse, they say. Or it doesnt exist at all -- Hinduism is merely a convenient (and foreign) term that masks a plurality of traditions. In either case, readers are discouraged by the thought that they are getting only a tiny sample or a shallow overview of something huge and uniquely difficult. This book is designed to be accessible and sophisticated, holding the readers interest in the dynamic sequence of ideas through time and place. Each of the 12 chapters combines historical material with key religious, scientific and philosophical ideas, supported by substantial quotations from scriptures and other texts. Historic places and persons are fleshed out as actors in a narrative about the relation of the sacred to ordinary existence as it is mediated through arts, sciences, rituals, and philosophical ideas. Although many books introduce the Hindu tradition, this is the first with a broad historical and cultural focus that emphasizes archaeological as well as textual evidence.