Religion Diversity In India Essay Topics
This article is about the Republic of India's religious demographics. For religions originating in the Indian subcontinent, see Indian religions. For the book, see The Religion of India: The Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism.
Religion in India is characterised by a diversity of religious beliefs and practices. India is a secular state by the 42nd amendment to the Constitution in 1976, meaning that all religions are treated equally by the state. The Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of four of the world's major religions; namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Throughout India's history, religion has been an important part of the country's culture. Religious diversity and religious tolerance are both established in the country by the law and custom; the Constitution of India has declared the right to freedom of religion to be a fundamental right.
Northwest India was home to one of the world's oldest civilizations, the Indus valley civilisation. Today, India is home to around 90% of the global population of Hindus. Most Hindu shrines and temples are located in India, as are the birthplaces of most Hindu saints. Allahabad hosts the world's largest religious pilgrimage, Kumbha Mela, where Hindus from across the world come together to bathe in the confluence of three sacred rivers of India: the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the Saraswati. The Indian diaspora in the West has popularised many aspects of Hindu philosophy such as yoga, meditation, Ayurvedic medicine, divination, karma, and reincarnation. The influence of Indian religions has been significant all over the world. Several Hindu-based organisations, such as the Hare Krishna movement, the Brahma Kumaris, the Ananda Marga, and others have spread Indian spiritual beliefs and practices.
According to the 2011 census, 79.8% of the population of India practices Hinduism and 14.2% adheres to Islam, while the remaining 6% adheres to other religions (Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and various indigenous ethnically-bound faiths). Christianity is the 3rd largest religion in India. Zoroastrianism and Judaism also have an ancient history in India, and each has several thousands of Indian adherents. India has the largest population of people adhering to Zoroastrianism (i.e. Parsis and Iranis) and Bahá'í Faith in the world, even though these religions are not native to India. Many other world religions also have a relationship with Indian spirituality, such as the Baha'i faith which recognises the Buddha and Krishna as manifestations of the God Almighty.
India has the third largest Shia population in the world and being the cradle of Ahmadiyya Islam, it is one of the countries in the world with at least 2 million Ahmadi Muslims. The shrines of some of the most famous saints of Sufism, like Moinuddin Chishti and Nizamuddin Auliya, are found in India, and attract visitors from all over the world. India is also home to some of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture, such as the Taj Mahal and the Qutb Minar. Civil matters related to the community are dealt with by the Muslim Personal Law, and constitutional amendments in 1985 established its primacy in family matters.
Main article: Indian religions
See also: Religious thinkers of India and Indian philosophy
Evidence attesting to prehistoric religion in the Indian "subcontinent" derives from scattered Mesolithic rock paintings depicting dances and rituals. Neolithic pastoralists inhabiting the Indus Valley buried their dead in a manner suggestive of spiritual practices that incorporated notions of an afterlife. Other South Asian Stone Age sites, such as the Bhimbetka rock shelters in central Madhya Pradesh and the Kupgal petroglyphs of eastern Karnataka, contain rock art portraying religious rites and evidence of possible ritualised music.
Indus Valley Civilization
The Harappan people of the Indus Valley Civilisation, which lasted from 3300 to 1400 BCE and was centered on the Indus and Ghaggar-Hakra river valleys, may have worshiped an important mother goddess symbolising fertility. Excavations of Indus Valley Civilisation sites show seals with animals and "fire‑altars", indicating rituals associated with fire. A linga-yoni of a type similar to that which is now worshiped by Hindus has also been found.
Evolution of Hinduism in India
Hinduism is often regarded as the oldest religion in the world, with roots tracing back to prehistoric times, over 5,000 years ago. Hinduism spread through parts of Southeastern Asia, China, Korea, and Japan. Hindus worship a single god with different forms.
Hinduism's origins include the cultural elements of the Indus Valley Civilisation along with other Indian civilisations. The oldest surviving text of Hinduism is the Rigveda, produced during the Vedic period and dating to 1700–1100 BCE.γ[›] During the Epic and Puranic periods, the earliest versions of the epic poems, in their current form including Ramayana and Mahabharata were written roughly from 500–100 BCE, although these were orally transmitted through families for centuries prior to this period.
After 200 BCE, several schools of thought were formally codified in the Indian philosophy, including Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Purva-Mimamsa and Vedanta. Hinduism, otherwise a highly theistic religion, hosted atheistic schools and atheistic philosophies. Other Indian philosophies generally regarded as orthodox include Samkhya and Mimamsa.
Rise of Shramana Religions
Main articles: Jainism in India and Buddhism in India
Historical roots of Jainism in India is traced back to 9th-century BC with the rise of Parshvanatha and his non-violent philosophy.Mahavira the 24th Jain Tirthankara (599–527 BCE) before that 23 Tirthankaras (started from Shri Rishavdeva) for this chaubishi, ( before that infinite 24 tirthankara ) stressed five vows, including ahimsa (non-violence) and asteya (non-stealing). Gautama Buddha, who founded Buddhism, was born to the Shakya clan just before Magadha (which lasted from 546–324 BCE) rose to power. His family was native to the plains of Lumbini, in what is now southern Nepal. Indian Buddhism peaked during the reign of Ashoka the Great of the Mauryan Empire, who patronised Buddhism following his conversion and unified the Indian subcontinent in the 3rd century BCE. He sent missionaries abroad, allowing Buddhism to spread across Asia.Indian Buddhism declined following the loss of royal patronage offered by the Kushan Empire and such kingdoms as Magadha and Kosala.
The decline of Buddhism in India has been attributed to a variety of factors, which include the resurgence of an aggressive Hinduism in the 10th and 11th centuries under Sankaracharya, the later Turkish invasion, the Buddhist focus on renunciation as opposed to familial values and private property, Hinduism's own use and appropriation of Buddhist and Jain ideals of renunciation and ahimsa, etc. Although Buddhism virtually disappeared from mainstream India by the 11th century CE, its presence remained and manifested itself through other movements such as the Bhakti tradition, Vaishnavism and the Bauls of Bengal, who are influenced by the Sahajjyana form of Buddhism that was popular in Bengal during the Pala period.
During the 14–17th centuries, when North India was under Muslim rule, the Bhakti movement swept through Central and Northern India. The Bhakti movement actually started in the eighth-century Tamil south India (present day Tamil Nadu and Kerala), and gradually spread northwards. It was initiated by a loosely associated group of teachers, or saints. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Vallabhacharya, Surdas, Meera Bai, Kabir, Tulsidas, Ravidas, Namdeo, Tukaram and other mystics were some of the saints in the North. They taught that people could cast aside the heavy burdens of ritual and caste, and the subtle complexities of philosophy, and simply express their overwhelming love for God. This period was also characterised by an abundance of devotional literature in vernacular prose and poetry in the ethnic languages of the various Indian states or provinces. The Bhakti movement gave rise to several different movements throughout India.
During the Bhakti movement, many Hindu groups regarded as outside the traditional Hindu caste system followed Bhakti traditions by worshipping/following saints belonging to their respective communities. For example, Guru Ravidas was a Chamar of Uttar Pradesh; Guru Parsuram Ramnami was a Chura of Chhattisgarh; and Maharishi Ram Naval was a Bhangi of Rajasthan. In their lifetimes, several of these saints even went to the extent of fighting conversion from foreign missionaries, encouraging only Hinduism within their communities. In Assam for example, tribals were led by Gurudev Kalicharan Bramha of the Brahmo Samaj; in Nagaland by Kacha Naga; and in Central India by Birsa Munda, Hanuman Oaron, Jatra Bhagat and Budhu Bhagat.
Main article: Sikhism in India
Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469–1539) was the founder of Sikhism. The Guru Granth Sahib was first compiled by the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev, from the writings of the first five Sikh gurus and others saints who preached the concept of universal brotherhood, including those of the Hindu and Muslim faith. Before the death of Guru Gobind Singh, the Guru Granth Sahib was declared the eternal guru. Sikhism recognises all humans as equal before Waheguru, regardless of colour, caste or lineage. Sikhism strongly rejects the beliefs of fasting (vrata), superstitions, idol worship and circumcision.
Introduction of Abrahamic religions
Main article: History of the Jews in India
Jews first arrived as traders from Judea in the city of Kochi, Kerala, in 562 BCE. More Jews came as exiles from Israel in the year 70 CE, after the destruction of the Second Temple.
Main article: Christianity in India
The works of scholars and Eastern Christian writings say that Christianity was introduced to India by Thomas the Apostle, who visited Muziris in Kerala in 52 CE and baptised Kerala's Jewish settlements, who are known as Saint Thomas Christians (also known as Syrian Christians or Nasrani) today. Although the exact origins of Christianity in India remain unclear, there is a general scholarly consensus that Christianity was rooted in India by the 3rd century AD, including some communities who used Syriac liturgically, and it is a possibility that the religion's existence in India extends to as far back as the 1st century. Christianity in India has different denominations, like Roman Catholicism, Oriental Orthodox, and Protestantism.
Most Christians reside in South India, particularly in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Goa. There are also large Christian populations in the North-east Indian states. Christianity in India was expanded in the 16th Century by Catholic Portuguese expeditions and by Protestant British and American missionaries in the 18th century.
Main article: Islam in India
Though Islam came to India in the early 7th century with the advent of Arab traders in Malabar coast, Kerala, it started to become a major religion during the Muslim rule in the Indian subcontinent. Islam's spread in India mostly took place under the Delhi Sultanate (1206–1526) and the Mughal Empire (1526–1858), greatly aided by the mystic Sufi tradition.
Islam is the second largest religion in India, with 14.2% of the country's population or roughly 172 million people identifying as adherents of Islam (2011 census).
See also: Hinduism in India, Islam in India, Christianity in India, History of Buddhism in India, Sikhism in India, Jainism in India, History of the Jews in India, Parsi people, Bahá'í Faith in India, Tribal religions in India, and Irreligion in India
There are six religions in India which have been awarded "National minority" status—Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Zoroastrians.
- Population trends for major religious groups in India (1951–2011)
|Others/Religion not specified||0.43%||0.43%||0.41%||0.42%||0.44%||0.72%||0.9%|
The following is a breakdown of India's religious communities:
- Characteristics of religious groups
|Sex ratio (2011)|
|Sex ratio (2011)|
|Sex ratio (2011)|
|Sex ratio (2011)|
|Work participation (2011)|
|Others/Religion not specified||0.90%||n/a||959||947||975||974||n/a||n/a|
Hinduism is an ancient religion (although Hinduism is diverse, with monotheism, henotheism, polytheism, panentheism, pantheism, monism, atheism, agnosticism, and gnosticism being represented), and Hinduism is also the largest religious grouping in India; around 966 million adherents as of 2011; compose 79.8% of the population. The term Hindu, originally a geographical description, derives from the Sanskrit, Sindhu, (the historical appellation for the Indus River), and refers to a person from the land of the river Sindhu.
Buddhism is an Indian, transtheistic religion and philosophy. Around 8.5 million Buddhists live in India, about 0.7% of the total population, although unofficial estimates suggest up to 12 million. Buddhism as a religion is practised mainly in the foothills of the Himalayas and is a significant religion in Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, the Ladakh district in Jammu and Kashmir, Darjeeling in West Bengal and the Lahaul and Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh. Besides, a significant number of Buddhists reside in Maharashtra. They are the Neo-Buddhists or Navayana Buddhists who, under the influence of B. R. Ambedkar embraced Buddhism in order to escape the casteist practices within Hinduism. Ambedkar is a crucial figure, along with Anagarika Dharmapala of Sri Lanka and Kripasaran Mahasthavira of Chittagong behind the revival of Buddhism in India in the 19th and 20th centuries. The escape of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzing Gyatso to India fleeing Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959 and the setting up of the Tibetan Government in Exile at Dharamshala in Mcleodganj in Himachal Pradesh has also accelerated the resurgence of Buddhism in India. The effective religion in Sikkim, which joined the Indian Union in 1975 (making it India's 22nd state) remains Vajrayana Buddhism, and Padmasambhava or Guru Ugyen is a revered presence there.
Jainism is a non-theistic Indian religion and philosophical system originating in Iron Age India. Jains compose 0.4% (around 4.45 million) of India's population, and are concentrated in the states of Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan.
Sikhism began in sixteenth century North India with the teachings of Guru Nanak and nine successive human gurus. As of 2011, there were 20.8 million Sikhs in India. Punjab is the spiritual home of Sikhs, and is the only state in India where Sikhs form a majority. There are also significant populations of Sikhs in neighbouring Chandigarh, Delhi and Haryana, which were historically part of Punjab.
Islam is a monotheistic religion centered on the belief in one God and following the example of Muhammad; It is the largest minority religion in India. According to the 2011 census, India is home to 172 million Muslims, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those in Indonesia (210 million) and Pakistan (195 million). Muslims compose 14.23% of the Indian population. Muslims are a majority in states Jammu and Kashmir and Lakshadweep, and live in high concentrations in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, and Kerala. There has been no particular census conducted in India with regards to sects, but sources suggest the largest denomination is Sunni Islam with a substantial minority of Shiite Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims. Indian sources like Times of India and DNA reported the Indian Shiite population in mid-2005–2006 to be between 25% and 31% of entire Muslim population of India, which accounts them in numbers between 40 to 50 million of a total of 172 million Muslims in India.
Christianity is a monotheistic religion centred on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in the New Testament. It is the third largest religion of India, making up 2.3% of the population. St. Thomas is credited with introduction of Christianity in India. He arrived in Malabar Coast in 52 AD. Christians comprise a majority in Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya and have significant populations in Kerala and Goa.
As of the census of 2001, Parsis (followers of Zoroastrianism in India) represent approximately 0.006% of the total population of India, with relatively high concentrations in and around the city of Mumbai. Parsis number around 61,000 in India. There are several tribal religions in India, such as Donyi-Polo. Santhal is also one of the many tribal religions followed by the Santhal people who number around 4 million but only around 23,645 follow the religion. About 2.2 million people in India follow the Bahá'í Faith, thus forming the largest community of Bahá'ís in the world.
Judaism is also present in India, a monotheistic religion from the Levant. There is today a very small community of Indian Jews. There were more Jews in India historically, including the Cochin Jews of Kerala, the Bene Israel of Maharashtra, and the Baghdadi Jews near Mumbai. In addition, since independence two primarily proselyte Indian Jewish communities in India: the Bnei Menashe of Mizoram and Manipur, and the Bene Ephraim, also called Telugu Jews. Of the approximately 95,000 Jews of Indian origin, fewer than 20,000 remain in India. Some parts of India are especially popular with Israelis, swelling local Jewish populations seasonally.
Around 0.07% of the people did not state their religion in the 2001 census.
Main articles: Constitution of India; Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles and Fundamental Duties of India; Secularism in India; and Indian religion § Status in the Republic of India
See also: Jain law
The preamble to the Constitution of India proclaims India a "sovereign socialist secular democratic republic". The word secular was inserted into the Preamble by the Forty-second Amendment Act of 1976. It mandates equal treatment and tolerance of all religions. India does not have an official state religion; it enshrines the right to practise, preach, and propagate any religion. No religious instruction is imparted in government-supported schools. In S. R. Bommai vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court of India held that secularism was an integral tenet of the Constitution.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental right according to the Indian Constitution. The Constitution also suggests a uniform civil code for its citizens as a Directive Principle. This has not been implemented until now as Directive Principles are Constitutionally unenforceable. The Supreme Court has further held that the enactment of a uniform civil code all at once may be counter-productive to the unity of the nation, and only a gradual progressive change should be brought about (Pannalal Bansilal v State of Andhra Pradesh, 1996). In Maharishi Avadesh v Union of India (1994) the Supreme Court dismissed a petition seeking a writ of mandamus against the government to introduce a common civil code, and thus laid the responsibility of its introduction on the legislature.
Major religious communities not based in India continue to be governed by their own personal laws. Whilst Muslims, Christians, Zoroastrians, and Jews have personal laws exclusive to themselves; Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs are governed by a single personal law known as Hindu personal law. Article 25 (2)(b) of the Constitution of India states that references to Hindus include "persons professing the Sikh, Jain or Buddhist religion". Furthermore, the Hindu Marriage Act ,1955 defines the legal status of Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs as legal Hindus but not "Hindus by religion". Supreme Court in 2005 gave verdict that Jains, Sikhs and Buddhist are part of broader Hindu fold, as they are Indic religions and interconnected to each other, though they are distinct religions. The only Indian religion exclusively covered under the secular ("civil") law of India is Brahmoism starting from Act III of 1872.
Religion plays a major role in the Indian way of life. Rituals, worship, and other religious activities are very prominent in an individual's daily life; it is also a principal organiser of social life. The degree of religiosity varies amongst individuals; in recent decades, religious orthodoxy and observances have become less common in Indian society, particularly amongst young urban-dwellers.
The vast majority of Indians engage in religious rituals on a daily basis. Most Hindus observe religious rituals at home. Observation of rituals vary greatly amongst regions, villages, and individuals. Devout Hindus perform daily chores such as worshiping puja, fire sacrifice called Yajna at the dawn after bathing (usually at a family shrine, and typically includes lighting a lamp and offering foods before the images of deities), recitation from religious scripts like Vedas, Puranas singing hymns in praise of gods etc.
A notable feature in religious ritual is the division between purity and pollution. Religious acts presuppose some degree of impurity, or defilement for the practitioner, which must be overcome or neutralized, before or during ritual procedures. Purification, usually with water, is thus a typical feature of most religious action. Other characteristics include a belief in the efficacy of sacrifice and concept of merit, gained through the performance of charity or good works, that will accumulate over time and reduce sufferings in the next world.
Muslims offer five daily prayers at specific times of the day, indicated by adhan (call to prayer) from the local mosques. Before offering prayers, they must ritually clean themselves by performing wudu, which involves washing parts of the body that are generally exposed to dirt or dust. A recent study by the Sachar Committee found that 3–4% of Muslim children study in madrasas (Islamic schools).
See also: Vegetarianism and religion and Fasting
Dietary habits are significantly influenced by religion. Almost one-third of Indians practice lacto-vegetarianism. Vegetarianism is less common amongst Sikhs and almost uncommon amongst Muslims, Christians, Bahá'ís, Parsis, and Jews.
This write-up on Indian religions contains information on religions in India, Indian religion and major religions of India.
Cultural India : Indian Religions
Whether it's the gathering of the faithful, bowing in prayer in the courtyard of a mosque, or the gathering of lamps that light up houses at Diwali, the good cheer of Christmas or the brotherhood of Baisakhi, the religions of India are celebrations of shared emotion that bring people together. People from the different religions and cultures of India, unite in a common chord of brotherhood and amity in this fascinating and diverse land.
At present Buddhism is one of the major world religions. The philosophy of Buddhism is based on the teachings of Lord Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama (563 and 483 BC), a royal prince of Kapilvastu, India. After originating in India, Buddhism spread throughout the Central Asia, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Southeast Asia, as well as the East Asian countries of China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.
Christianity is one of the prominent religions in India. At present there are about 25 million Christians in India. It is interesting to note that the Christian population in India is more than the entire population of Australia and New Zealand or total population of a number of countries in Europe.
Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world. Hinduism is world's third largest religion after Christianity and Islam. Hinduism is the dominant religion in India, where Hindus form about 84 per cent of the total population. Hinduism is also known as "Sanatan Dharma" or the everlasting religion.
One of the prominent religions of India, Islam forms about 12 per cent of India's population. Though India's contact with Islam had begun much earlier, the real push came in the 8th century when the province of Sindh was conquered. Though the Muslims form only 12 per cent of the total population of India but the influence of Islam on Indian society is much stronger.
Jains form less than one percent of the Indian population. For centuries, Jains are famous as community of traders and merchants. The states of Gujarat and Rajasthan have the highest concentration of Jain population in India. The Jain religion is traced to Vardhamana Mahavira (The Great Hero 599-527 B.C.).
Sikhs form about 2 per cent of Indian population. In comparison to other religions, Sikhism is a younger religion. The word 'Sikh' means a disciple and thus Sikhism is essentially the path of discipleship. The true Sikh remains unattached to worldly things.
Though the total number of Zoroastrians in Indian population is very less yet they continue to be one of the important religious communities of India. According to the 2001 census, there were around 70,000 members of the Zoroastrian faith in India. Most of the Parsis (Zoroastrians) live in Maharashtra (mainly in Mumbai) and the rest in Gujarat.
Guru Nanak Dev
Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji is credited with starting the Sikh religion. He was the first Guru of the Sikhs and is worshipped next to God. His sole aim in life was to unify the Hindus and Muslims and form a universal religion of brotherhood and compassion. He believed that true salvation could be achieved only by devotion of thought and excellence of conduct.
Lord Mahavira is often credited with the advent of Jainism in India. However, Jainism existed even before Lord Mahavira was born. He is supposed to be the twenty-fourth (last) Tirthankara according to the Jain philosophy. A Tirthankara is an enlightened soul who is born as a human being and attains perfection through intense meditation.
One of the greatest philosophers of India, Adi Shankaracharya founded the Advaita Vedanta, which is one of the sub-schools of Vedanta. Adi Shankaracharya whole-heartedly believed in the concept of the Vedas but at the same time advocated against the rituals and religious practices that were over exaggerated.