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Indian society has always been impacted by religion in terms of politics, culture, and economy. Given that India gave rise to the traditions of Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, the nation is proud of its rich religious past. Furthermore, even though 79.8% of Indians identify as Hindu, the diverse range of religions practiced in the nation has a lasting influence on modern civilization.
Religion is more openly displayed in India than it is in the majority of English-speaking Western nations. This is made clear by looking at the various locations that are regarded as holy and sacred. Examples include temples (mandirs), shrines, and particular environments like the Ganges river. “Ashrams” are monasteries or congregation locations that house sizable groups of scholars or monastics. Rich religious history can be seen in the building, and it is not unusual to find several houses of worship next to one another, including a Christian church, a Muslim mosque, and a Hindu temple.
According to the 2011 Indian census, 2.3% of Indians identified as Christians, 14.2% as Muslims, and 79.8% as Hindus. One percent more people identified as Sikh, one percent as Buddhist, and three percent as Jain. Owing to India’s enormous population, religious minorities continue to number in the hundreds of thousands. For instance, even though just 0.37% of Indians identify as Jain, that still makes up more than 4 million people. The following is a summary of the main faiths practiced in India as well as several significant religions that have their origins there, even if it is not possible to discuss every religion in the nation in detail.
The most popular religion in India, Hinduism, is subject to many different interpretations. It can be challenging to define Hinduism; some argue that it is a general phrase that includes a variety of different religions and customs. However, Hinduism in all its manifestations has had a significant impact on Indian society.
In India today, Hinduism is still very much alive and well. Through the numerous festivals, artworks, and temples that are Hindu-inspired, the religion has an impact on people’s daily lives and social relationships. The ancient “epic” stories of the Mahabharata, or “The Great Epic of the Bharata Dynasty,” and the Ramayana, or “Rama’s Journey,” are also still being revived in television and cinema. Another well-known story in many communities is the Krishna Lila, often known as The Playful Activities of Krishna.
Gods and goddesses are frequently depicted in both public and private settings throughout the year. Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, is especially well-liked since it is said that he can remove impediments. Particular trees or rivers, as well as natural landscapes, are revered. Because of the numerous localized and regional incarnations of gods and goddesses, the Hindu pantheon of deities numbers in the hundreds of thousands. In addition, there are several festivals observed across the nation in honor of the numerous Hindu myths and deities.
A significant aspect of Hinduism influencing India is the extensive caste structure, also referred to as the “varna” system. The Hindu conception of the ideal society’s organization was embodied in the varna caste system. Four ideal types were identified by this type of organization: shudra (commoner or merchant caste), vaishya (warrior, royalty, or nobility caste), brahmin (priestly caste), and kshatriya (warrior, royalty, or nobility caste).
People in this system are considered to be born into a particular caste, which makes it a hereditary system. As a condition of their social standing, every caste is expected to observe certain duties, also referred to as “dharma.” For example, a Brahmin may be expected to shun tasks outside of their caste, like cleaning, and to devote their time to religious activities, such as studying holy literature and following ceremonies. Nowadays, Brahmin men with priestly training look after temples and carry out ceremonial duties on behalf of other Hindus in the community.
India’s second most popular religion, Islam has a significant impact on the nation’s society, culture, architecture, and artistic expression. Following the subcontinent’s 1947 partition, over 10 million Muslims migrated in large numbers to Pakistan, while an equal number of Hindus and Sikhs left Pakistan for India. This incident profoundly altered the demographics of both nations and is still felt today in India.
However, the Islamic population in India still contributes significantly to the nation’s progress. For instance, the development of religious buildings, institutions, and universities, as well as theological studies, have been made possible by the Muslim population in India. Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, is also well-liked; audiences congregate to see Sufi dance performances. Although Sunni Muslims make up the bulk of the population, Gujarat also has sizable Shi’ite minorities. The majority of Sunnis live in big cities like West Bengal, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, and Jammu & Kashmir.
Sikhism in India
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion with Indian roots that encourages devotion to an undefined God. The religion’s core values of equality, humility, and service inspire its adherents to work toward improving the lives of those who are less fortunate or in need. For instance, it is customary for Sikhs to feed guests who come to their gurdwara, which is their principal house of worship. A Sikh turban, sometimes referred to as a “dastar” or “dumalla,” is one of the most recognizable images of the Sikh community and is worn by many men and some women. The majority of Sikhs in India have lived in the Punjab region ever since India and Pakistan were divided.
Buddhism in India
Buddhism emerged as a reaction against early Hinduism, which based morality on caste hierarchy rather than a universal ethic. The central tenet of Buddhism, referred to as the “Four Noble Truths,” states that by following the “Noble Eightfold Path,” one might find release from the suffering that underlies the cycle of death and rebirth. In India, Buddhism has grown in popularity within the past 30 years. This is partly because more exiled Buddhist monks from Tibet are migrating abroad. But it’s also becoming more popular since a lot of people from the ‘untouchables’ caste see it as a good substitute for Hinduism in modern Indian society. The states of Maharashtra, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Jammu & Kashmir are home to a large Buddhist population.
Additionally, Jainism began as a countermovement against some of the early Hinduism’s tenets and beliefs. Lay Jains in contemporary India often adhere to the moral precept of “ahimsa,” or “non-harm” or “non-violence.” As a result, Jains frequently support animal welfare and vegetarianism. Samayika is a kind of meditation that is popular among laity Jain practitioners. Its goal is to improve one’s spiritual discipline. Samayika is frequently practiced in a house, before a monk, or in a place of worship like a temple. The majority of Jains live in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.
In India, Christianity is the third most popular faith, with the majority of its adherents living in Mumbai and the far south. Roman Catholicism is the most common Christian religion in India, although there are many smaller, regional Christian churches, such the Church of North India and the Church of South India. The majority of historically marginalized minorities, including lower castes and tribal communities, have become Christians.