India is a land of different religions which are characterised by various religious practices and beliefs. The spiritual land of India has given birth to many religions such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism. These religions together form a subgroup and are known as Eastern religions. The people of India have a strong belief in religion as they believe that they add meaning and purpose to their lives. The religions here are not only confined to beliefs but also include ethics, rituals, ceremonies, life philosophies and many more. Today, a wide range of religions are practiced in India:
The majority of the population in India practice Hinduism which is the most ancient religion in the country. As per Census 2011, about 80% Indian practice Hinduism. Some practitioners of this religion call it Sanatan Dharam, a term popularised by Mahatma Gandhi. Ramayana and the Bhagavad Geeta are the holy books of the Hindus. The Hindus believe and practice the principles of the Vedas and the Upanishads. Their place of worship is known as Temple (Devasthanam or Mandir in Hindi). They worship the icon or murtis which is considered as a reflection of God. But, the Hindus who belong to the Arya Samaj do not practice idol-worship. There is a system of symbolism in Hinduism; the swastika sign symbolises auspiciousness and the syllable Om represents Param Brahaman. With reference to the Hindu mythology, there are many Hindu festivals like Diwali, Holi, Bihu, Ganesh Chaturthi, Durga Puja and many more which are celebrated in the country.
The Muslims forms around 13% of the population of India, as per Census 2001. It is the second largest religion in the country and its followers are known as Muslims. They are divided into sub sections, most famous being Sunnis and Shias. The holy book of the Muslims is the Quran; they believe and follow the teachings of Prophet Muhammad. In Islam, Hajj is an annual pilgrimage in Mecca which has to be carried out at least once by every physically and financially capable Muslim in his lifetime. Some of the major Islamic festivals celebrated in India are Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Zuha and Muharram.
Guru Nanak founded Sikhism in India during the 15th century in the Punjab region. Guru Granth Sahib is the holy book of the Sikhs which is a collection of the writings of the Guru. The Sikhs constitute about 2% of the people of India as per the census 2001. There are no festivals in Sikhism in particular, but some festivities are generally celebrated on birthdays or martyrdom of Sikh Gurus. Gurupurabs, Baisakhi, Nagar Kirtan, Hola Mohalla are some of the festivals and events celebrated by the Sikhs. The religious beliefs of the Sikhs do not favour fasting or going to the pilgrimages. In India, majority of the Sikhs reside in Punjab and their large community lives in the neighbouring states.
Buddhism was founded in India by Siddhartha Gautama also known as 'Buddha'. The Buddhists constitute only about 1% of the total population of the country. They believe in the concepts of Samsara, Karma and Rebirth, and practice the teachings of Buddha. Buddhism believes in attaining enlightenment through love, kindness and wisdom. The Buddhists believe in devotion which is also an important part of their practice of this religion. Pilgrimage, bowing, chanting and offerings are some of the devotional practices followed by the Buddhists. Birthday of Buddha (also known as Vesak), Asalha Puja Day, Magha Puja Day and Loy Krathong are some of the festivals celebrated by the Buddhists.
Jainism is believed to have originated in India in the 7th-5th century BCE and was founded by Mahavira. This religion believes in the theology of self rather than God. It follows the principles of ahimsa (nonviolence), aparigraha (non-possessiveness) and anekantavad (non-absolutism). A minority of Indian population (about 0.5%) practice Jainism, as per census 2001. As per the history of Jains, there were twenty-four propagators of the religion who were known as tirthankaras, Rishabh was the first while Mahavira was the last. The followers of this religion undertake five vows of ahimsa, satya, asteya, bramcharya and aparigraha. Mahavira Jayanti, Paryushana Parva, Diwali and Maun-agiyara are some of the festivals celebrated by the Jains.
As per historical beliefs, Christianity came to India about 2000 years ago. It constitutes about 2.3% of the total population of the country, according to census 2001. Christian population can be found all over the country but majority of the people who belong to this religious section lives in the parts of South India, North-East and the Konkon Coast. The Christians worship and believe in Jesus Christ, whom they consider as the saviour of humanity and the son of God. Christmas is the major festival of Christians. Good Friday, All Souls Day and Easter are some other festivals celebrated by the people of this religion in the country.
Judaism and Zoroastrianism are also practiced by minority population in the country. According to Judaism, there exists a covenant relationship between God and Jewish people. One of the minority groups in the country, Zoroastrianism considers that humans are the helpers of God. The people who follow Zoroastrianism are known as Parsis and those who follow Judaism are called Jews.
Although, different religions are practiced in India, the secular and sovereign nature of the country remains intact. In fact, all religions collectively play an important role in maintaining the harmony, culture, history and peace in the country.
Last Updated on : January 7, 2015