Religion in India
A painting of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
A statue of the Gautama Buddha in Tawang.
A painting of Guru Ravidass Ji.
A statue of Shiva in Bangalore.
A statue of Jain prophet (or Jina) Bahubali in Karnataka.

India is the birth place of four of the world's major religious traditions; namely Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. [1] Throughout its history, religion has been an important part of the country's culture. Religious diversity and religious tolerance are both established in the country by law and custom. A vast majority of Indians associate themselves with a religion.

According to the 2001 census,[2] Hinduism accounted for 80.5% of the population of India. Islam (13.4%), Christianity (2.3%) and Sikhism (1.9%) are the other major religions followed by the people of India. This diversity of religious belief systems existing in India today is a result of, besides existence and birth of native religions, assimilation and social integration of religions brought to the region by traders, travelers, immigrants, and even invaders and conquerors.

Zoroastrianism and Judaism also have an ancient history in India and each has several thousand Indian adherents. India has the largest population of people adhering to Zoroastrianism and Bahá'í Faith anywhere in the world. [3] [4] Many other world religions also have a relationship with Indian spirituality, like the Baha'i faith which recognizes Lord Buddha and Lord Krishna as manifestations of God Almighty.[citation needed]

Indian diaspora in the West have popularized many aspects of Hindu philosophy like yoga (meditation), Ayurvedic medicine, divination, vegetarianism, karma and reincarnation to a great extent.[5] The influence of Indians abroad in spiritual matters has been significant as several organizations such as the Hare Krishna movement, the Brahma Kumaris, the Ananda Marga and others spread by Indian spiritual figures.

The Muslim population in India is the third largest in the world. The shrines of some of the most famous saints of Sufism like Moinuddin Chishti and Nizamuddin Auliya are in India and attract visitors from all over the world.[6] India is also home to some of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture like 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.[7]

The Constitution of India declares the nation to be a secular republic that must uphold the right of citizens to freely worship and propagate any religion or faith (with activities subject to reasonable restrictions for the sake of morality, law and order, etc.).[8][9] The Constitution of India also declares the right to freedom of religion as a fundamental right.

Citizens of India are generally tolerant of each other's religions and retain a secular outlook, although inter-religious marriage is not widely practiced. Inter-community clashes have found little support in the social mainstream, and it is generally perceived that the causes of religious conflicts are political rather than ideological in nature.[10]

Contents

History

Evolution of Hinduism

"Priest King" of Indus Valley Civilization

Hinduism is often regarded as the oldest religion in the world,[11] with roots tracing back to prehistoric times,[12] or 5000 years. Over time, Brahmanism gradually became Hinduism. Hinduism was spread through parts of Southeastern Asia, China, Korea, and Japan. Hindus worship a god with different forms. (Vishnu the preserver is an important Hindu deity.)[13] Evidence attesting to prehistoric religion in the Indian "subcontinent" derives from scattered Mesolithic rock paintings depicting dances and rituals. Neolithic pastoralists inhabiting the Indus River Valley buried their dead in a manner suggestive of spiritual practices that incorporated notions of an afterlife and belief in magic.[14] 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.[15]

The Harappan people of the Indus Valley Civilization, which lasted from 3300 to 1700 BCE and was centered around the Indus and Ghaggar-Hakra river valleys, may have worshiped an important mother goddess symbolising fertility.[16] Excavations of Indus Valley Civilization 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.

Akshardham largest Hindu temple in the world.[citation needed]

Hinduism's origins include cultural elements of the Indus Valley Civilization, the Vedic religion of the Indo-Aryans, and other Indian civilizations. The oldest surviving text of Hinduism is the Rigveda, produced during the Vedic period and dated to 1700–1100 BCE.γ[›][17] During the Epic and Puranic periods, the earliest versions of the epic poems Ramayana and Mahabharata were written roughly from 500–100 BCE,[18] although these were orally transmitted for centuries prior to this period.[19]

After 200 CE, several schools of thought were formally codified in Indian philosophy, including Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Purva-Mimamsa and Vedanta.[20] Hinduism, otherwise a highly theistic religion, hosted atheistic schools; the thoroughly materialistic and anti-religious philosophical Cārvāka school that originated in India around the 6th century BCE is probably the most explicitly atheistic school of Indian philosophy. Cārvāka is classified as a nastika ("heterodox") system; it is not included among the six schools of Hinduism generally regarded as orthodox. It is noteworthy as evidence of a materialistic movement within Hinduism.[21] Our understanding of Cārvāka philosophy is fragmentary, based largely on criticism of the ideas by other schools, and it is no longer a living tradition.[22] Other Indian philosophies generally regarded as orthodox include Classical Samkhya and Purva Mimamsa.

Rise of Shramana Religions

Mahavira the 24th Jain Tirthankara (599–527 BC, though possibly 549–477 BC), 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. Buddha is said to be a descendant of Brahmin Sage Angirasa in many Buddhist texts.[23] His surname was 'Gautama', some scholars like Dr. Eitel connect it to the Brahmin Rishi Gautama.[24] His family was native to the plains of Lumbini, in what is now southern Nepal. Indian Buddhism peaked during the reign of Asoka the Great of the Mauryan Empire, who patronized Buddhism following his conversion and unified the Indian subcontinent in the 3rd century BCE. He sent missionaries abroad, allowing Buddhism to spread across Asia.[25] Indian Buddhism declined following the loss of royal patronage offered by the Kushan Empire and such kingdoms as Magadha and Kosala.

The Jama Masjid in Delhi is one of the world's largest mosques.

Some scholars think between 400 BCE and 1000 CE, Hinduism expanded as the decline of Buddhism in India continued.[26] Buddhism subsequently became effectively extinct in India.

Advent of Islam

Though Islam came to India in the early 7th century with the advent of Arab traders, it started to become a major religion during the Muslim conquest 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.[27]

Bhakti Movement

During the 14-17th centuries, when North India was under Muslim rule, The bhakti movement swept through Central and Northern India, initiated by a loosely associated group of teachers or sants. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Vallabhacharya, Surdas, Meera Bai, Kabir, Tulsidas, Ravidas, Namdeo, Tukaram and other mystics spearheaded the Bhakti movement 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 characterized by a spate of devotional literature in vernacular prose and poetry in the ethnic languages of the various Indian states or provinces. Bhakti movement spawned into several different movements all across North and South 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 Chura of Uttar Pradesh, Guru Parsuram Ramnami was a Chamar of Chhatisgarh, Maharishi Ram Naval was a Bhangi of Rajasthan. Several of these saints in their lifetime, even went to the extent of fighting conversion from foreign missionaries and only encouraging Hinduism within their communities. For example, in Assam tribals were led by Gurudev Kalicharan Bramha of the Brahmo Samaj, in Nagaland by Kacha Naga, in Tamil Nadu by Ayya Vaikundar, in Central India by Birsa Munda, Hanuman Oaron, Jatra Bhagat and Budhu Bhagat.

In North India, Bhakti movement is not differentiable from the Sufi movement of Shia Muslims of the Chisti fame. People of Muslim faith adopted it as a Sufism while Hindus as a stronger force within Vaishnava bhakti.

Sikhism

The Harmandir Sahib, the cultural and spiritual centre of Sikhs in the city of Amritsar

Guru Nanak (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 recognizes all humans as equal before Waheguru,[28] regardless of colour, caste or lineage.[29] Sikhism rejects the beliefs of idol worship and circumcision.

Guru Nanak's preachings were directed with equal force to all humans regardless of their religion. Guru Nanak defines the transformation of man to a permanent union with God as part of his preaching against communalism summarized by the famous phrase, "There is no Hindu and no Muslim".

Introduction of Christianity

Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, Estd. in AD. 1550

Christianity was introduced in India in 1st Century by St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. Christianity is the first foreign religion in India which was introduced to natives after been initially introduced to the Jewish diaspora in Kerala. Christianity in India has different denominations, like Roman Catholicism, oriental Orthodox Christianity and Protestantism.

Roman Catholic is a denomination practiced by over 17.3 million people in India which represents less than 2% of the total population. Most Catholics reside in South India. Goa is home to Roman Catholics. The state known for its Christian population. [30][31][32] Christianity was introduced to Indians twice. Possibly in the 1st century by St. Thomas, and by Europeans. Europeans brought Catholicism in the 13. Century (Portuguese) and Protestantism in the 18. Century (British and American missionaries). It became popular following European colonisation and Protestant missionary efforts. [33]

Relationship of the Nasrani groups

Communalism

Communalism has played a key role in shaping the religious history of modern India. As an adverse result of the British Raj's divide and rule policy, British India was partitioned along religious lines into two states—the Muslim-majority Dominion of Pakistan (comprising what is now the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People's Republic of Bangladesh) and the Hindu-majority Union of India (later the Republic of India). The 1947 Partition of India instigated rioting among Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs in Punjab, Bengal, Delhi, and other parts of India; 500,000 died as a result of the violence. The twelve million refugees that moved between the newly founded nations of India and Pakistan composed one of the largest mass migrations in modern history.Δ[›][34] Since its independence, India has periodically witnessed large-scale violence sparked by underlying tensions between sections of its majority Hindu and minority Muslim communities. The Republic of India is secular; its government recognizes no official religion.

Demographics

Religion in India

Hinduism is an ancient religion (although Hinduism is diverse, with monotheism, henotheism, polytheism, panentheism, pantheism, monism, atheism, agnosticism, and gnosticism being represented[35][36][37][38]), and Hinduism is also the largest religious grouping in India; its 828 million adherents (2001) compose 80.5%[2] 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[citation needed].

Muslims praying in a mosque in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.

Islam is a monotheistic religion centred around the belief in one God and following the example of Muhammad. It is the largest minority religion in India. According to the 2001 census, India is home to 138 million Muslims,[39] the world's third-largest Muslim population after those in Indonesia (210 million)[40] and Pakistan (166 million); they compose 13.4% of the population.[41] Muslims represent the majority in Jammu and Kashmir and Lakshadweep,[42] and high concentrations in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, and Kerala.,[42][43] There has been no particular census conducted in India with regards to sects, but sources suggest the largest denomination is Sunni Islam[44] with a substantial minority of Shiite Muslims. Indian sources like Times of India and DNA reported Indian Shiite population in mid 2005-2006 between 25% to 31% of entire Muslim population of India which accounts them in numbers between 40[45] to 50 million[46] of a total of 157 million.[44][47]

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 in AD 52.[48][49][50] Christians comprise a majority in Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya and have significant populations in North-East India, Goa and Kerala.

Prayer flags above the buddhist monastery (gompa) of Tanze, in the Kurgiakh Valley. The wind is believed to propagate prayers printed on the flags.

Buddhism is a dharmic, nontheistic religion and philosophy. Buddhists form majority populations in the Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, and the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir and a large minority (40%) in Sikkim. Around 8 million Buddhists live in India, about 0.8% of the population.[39]

Jainism is a non-theistic Dharmic religion and philosophical system originating in Iron Age India. Jains compose 0.4% (around 4.2 million) of India's population, and are concentrated in the states of Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan.[42] Although Jainism is usually believed to be atheistic/non-theistic, Paul Dundas writes, "While Jainism is, as we have seen, atheist in the limited sense of rejection of a creator god and the possibility of the intervention of such a being in human affairs, it nonetheless must be regarded as a theist religion in the more profound sense that it accepts the existence of a divine principle, the parmatman, often in fact referred to as 'God' (e.g. ParPr 114-16), existing in potential state within all beings".[51]

Paul Dundas writes that most British judges of the 19th century "had no doubts about the independent nature and origin of Jainism".[52] In 1847, one judge wrote that religious minorities like Jains, Parsis, and Sikhs "Had nothing or next to nothing in common with brahmanical worship".[52] Another judge noted in 1874 that Jains could not be subject to Hindu law because "the term Hindoos means persons within the purview of the shastras, which shastras are at the bottom of Hindu law. If a person is out of that purview, Hindoo law cannot be applied to him"[52] He does note, "the earliest censuses of India suggest that many Jains and members of other religious groups saw themselves as in fact constituting varieties of Hinduism and, according to the Census Report for the Punjab of 1921, 'in view of the unwillingness of large number of Jains and Sikhs to be classed separately from Hindus, permission was given to record such persons as Jain-Hindus and Sikh-Hindus".[52] He does recognize the "preconceptions of the census enumerators" influenced the census. Furthermore he adds the term "Jain-hindu" was an 'unhappy and artificial compromise".[52]

Sikhism began in sixteenth century North India with the teachings of Nanak and nine successive human gurus. As of 2001, there were 19.2 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 neighboring New Delhi and Haryana.

A popular Bahá'í House of Worship in Delhi, India, located at 28°33′11.46″N 77°15′35.10″E / 28.5531833°N 77.25975°E / 28.5531833; 77.25975

As of the census of 2001, Parsis (followers of Zoroastrianism in India) represent approximately 0.006% of the total population of India,[53] with relatively high concentrations in and around the city of Mumbai. Parsis number around 61,000 in India with high concentrations in Mumbai according to 2001 census. 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.[54]

The interior of the Paradesi Synagogue in Cochin.

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.

Ravidassia, a religion started by a saint of 15th century Guru Ravidass has grown by his spiritual belief and lessons of universal brotherhood, tolerance, message of love your neighbour. He is by far the most revered among the scheduled castes, especially dalits of Northwest and Central India. Today their population stood at around 16.2% of India's total population. Most of them are found in Norther Indian states and among them in Punjab. Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh has been treated as religious home to the lakhs of devotees of Ravidassia Religion and deserves to be one of the place visited by Ravidassias during the Guru Ravidas Jayanti in February from all over the world.

Statistics

Map of the British Indian Empire in 1909, shaded by prevailing religion.
Population trends for major religious groups (1961-2001)
Religious
group
Population %
1961
Population %
1971
Population %
1981
Population %
1991
Population %
2001
Hindu 83.45% 82.73% 82.30% 81.53% 80.46%
Muslim 10.69% 11.21% 11.75% 12.61% 13.43%
Christian 2.44% 2.60% 2.44% 2.32% 2.34%
Sikh 1.79% 1.89% 1.92% 1.94% 1.87%
Buddhist 0.74% 0.70% 0.70% 0.77% 0.77%
Animist, others 0.43% 0.41% 0.42% 0.44% 0.72%
Jain 0.46% 0.48% 0.47% 0.40% 0.41%


The following is a breakdown of India's religious communities:

Characteristics of religious groups (2001 census)
Religious
group
Population
%
Growth
(1991–2001)
Sex ratio
(total)
Literacy
(%)
Work participation
(%)
Sex ratio
(rural)
Sex ratio
(urban)
Sex ratio
(child)ε[›]
Hindu 80.46% 20.3% 931 65.1% 40.4% 944 894 925
Muslim 13.43% 29.3% 936 59.1% 31.3% 953 907 950
Christian 2.34% 22.6% 1009 80.3% 39.7% 1001 1026 964
Sikh 1.87% 18.2% 893 69.4% 37.7% 895 886 786
Buddhist 0.77% 18.2% 953 72.7% 40.6% 958 944 942
Animist, others 0.72% 103.1% 992 47.0% 48.4% 995 966 976
Jain 0.41% 26.0% 940 94.1% 32.9% 937 941 870

Irreligion

Though followed by a minor portion of the Indian population, irreligion (including atheists, agnostics, and humanists) has a strong tradition in India.[56]

According to the Dentsu Communication Institute Inc, Japan Research Center (2006), 6.6 % of Indians stated that they had no religion.[57]

Law

The preamble to the Constitution of India proclaimed 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 practice, 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.[58]

The right to 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.[59] 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 counterproductive to the unity of the nation, and only a gradual progressive change should be brought about (Pannalal Bansilal v State of Andhra Pradesh, 1996).[60] 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.[61]

Major religious communities not based in India continue to be governed by their own personal laws. While 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".[62] Furthermore the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 defines the legal status of Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs as legal Hindus but not "Hindus by religion".[63] The only Indian religion exclusively covered under the secular ("civil") law of India is Brahmoism starting from Act III of 1872.

Aspects

Religion plays a major role in the Indian way of life.[64] 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 among individuals; in recent decades, religious orthodoxy and observances have become less common in Indian society, particularly among young urban-dwellers.

Rituals

A puja performed on the banks of the overflowing Shipra River in Ujjain during the summer monsoon.

The vast majority of Indians engage in religious rituals on a daily basis.[65] Most Hindus observe religious rituals at home.[66] Observation of rituals greatly vary among regions, villages, and individuals. Devout Hindus perform daily chores such as worshiping puja, fire scrifice called Yajna at the dawn after bathing (usually at a family shrine, and typically includes lighting a lamp and offering foodstuffs before the images of deities), recitation from religious scripts like Vedas, Puranas singing hymns in praise of gods etc.[66]

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 neutralised before or during ritual procedures. Purification, usually with water, is thus a typical feature of most religious action.[66] 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.[66]

Devout 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).[67]

Diet

Dietary habits are significantly influenced by religion. Almost one-third of Indians practise vegetarianism;[68] it came to prominence during the rule of Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya Empire, a promoter of Buddhism.[69][70] Vegetarianism is much less common among Sikhs and almost uncommon among Muslims, Christians, Bahá'ís, Parsis and Jews.[71] Jainism requires monks and laity, from all its sects and traditions, to be vegetarian. Hinduism bars beef consumption, while Islam bars pork.

Ceremonies

A Hindu marriage.

Occasions like birth, marriage, and death involve what are often elaborate sets of religious customs. In Hinduism, major life-cycle rituals include annaprashan (a baby's first intake of solid food), upanayanam ("sacred thread ceremony" undergone by upper-caste youths), and shraadh (paying homage to a deceased individual).[72][73] For most people in India, the betrothal of the young couple and the exact date and time of the wedding are matters decided by the parents in consultation with astrologers.[72]

Muslims practice a series of life-cycle rituals that differ from those of Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists.[74] Several rituals mark the first days of life—including whispering call to prayer, first bath, and shaving of the head. Religious instruction begins early. Male circumcision usually takes place after birth; in some families, it may be delayed until after the onset of puberty.[74]

Marriage requires a payment by the husband to the wife and the solemnisation of a marital contract in a social gathering.[74] On the third day after burial of the dead, friends and relatives gather to console the bereaved, read and recite the Quran, and pray for the soul of the deceased.[74] Indian Islam is distinguished by the emphasis it places on shrines commemorating great Sufi saints.[74]

Pilgrimages

The largest religious gathering ever held on Earth, the 2001 Maha Kumbh Mela held in Prayag attracted around 70 million Hindus from around the world.
Maramon Convention is the largest annual Christian gathering in Asia, organized by the Mar thoma Church

India hosts numerous pilgrimage sites belonging to many religions. Hindus worldwide recognise several Indian holy cities, including Allahabad, Haridwar, Varanasi, Ujjain, Rameshwaram and Vrindavan. Notable temple cities include Puri, which hosts a major Jagannath temple and Rath Yatra celebration; Tirumala - Tirupati, home to the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple; and Katra, home to the Vaishno Devi temple.

The Himalayan towns of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri compose the Char Dham (four abodes) pilgrimage circuit. The Kumbh Mela (the "pitcher festival") is one of the holiest of Hindu pilgrimages that is held every four years; the location is rotated among Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain.

Among the Eight Great Places of Buddhism, seven are in India. Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar are the places where important events in the life of Gautama Buddha took place. Sanchi hosts a Buddhist stupa erected by the emperor Ashoka. Several Tibetan Buddhist sites in the Himalayan foothills of India have been built, such as Rumtek Monastery and Dharamsala.

For Muslims, the Dargah Shareef of Khwaza Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer is a major pilgrimage site. Other Islamic pilgrimages include those to the Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti in Fatehpur Sikri, Jama Masjid in Delhi, and to Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai. Dilwara Temples in Mount Abu, Palitana, Pavapuri, Girnar and Shravanabelagola are notable pilgrimage sites (tirtha) in Jainism.

The Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar is the most sacred gurdwara of Sikhism, while the Thalaimaippathi at Swamithope is the leading pilgrim center for Ayyavazhi sect members. The Lotus Temple in Delhi is a prominent house of worship of the Bahá'í faith. A relatively new pilgrimage site is the samadhi of Meher Baba in Meherabad, which is visited by his followers from around the world.[75]

Religion and politics

Politics

Religious ideology, particularly that expressed by the Hindutva movement, has strongly influenced Indian politics in the last quarter of the 20th century. Many of the elements underlying India's casteism and communalism originated during the rule of the British Raj, particularly after the late 19th century; the authorities and others often politicised religion.[76] The Indian Councils Act 1909 (widely known as the Morley-Minto Reforms Act), which established separate Hindu and Muslim electorates for the Imperial Legislature and provincial councils, was particularly divisive. It was blamed for increasing tensions between the two communities.[77]

Due to the high degree of oppression faced by the lower castes, the Constitution of India included provisions for affirmative action for certain sections of Indian society. Growing disenchantment with the Hindu caste system has led thousands of Dalits (also referred to as "Untouchables") to embrace Buddhism and Christianity in recent decades.[78] In response, many states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) introduced laws that made them more difficult; they assert that such conversions are often forced or allured.[79] The BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, also gained widespread media attention after its leaders associated themselves with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and other prominent religious issues.[80]

A well known accusation that Indian political parties make for their rivals is that they play vote bank politics, meaning give political support to issues for the sole purpose of gaining the votes of members of a particular community. Both the Congress Party and the BJP have been accused of exploiting the people by indulging in vote bank politics. The Shah Bano case, a divorce lawsuit, generated much controversy when the Congress was accused of appeasing the Muslim orthodoxy by bringing in a parliamentary amendment to negate the Supreme Court's decision. After the 2002 Gujarat violence, there were allegations of political parties indulging in vote bank politics.[81]

During an election campaign in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP released an inflammatory CD targeting Muslims.[82] This was condemned by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) as playing the worst kind of vote bank politics.[83] Caste-based politics is also important in India; caste-based discrimination and the reservation system continue to be major issues that are hotly debated.[84][85]

Education

Several political parties have been accused of using their political power to manipulate educational content in a revisionist manner. During the Janata Party government (1977–1979), the government was accused of being too sympathetic to the Muslim viewpoint. In 2002, the BJP-led NDA government tried to change the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) school textbooks through a new National Curriculum Framework.[86]

Some media referred to it as the "saffronisation" of textbooks, saffron being the colour of BJP flag.[86] The next government, formed by the UPA and led by the Congress Party, pledged to de-saffronise textbooks.[87] Hindu groups alleged that the UPA promoted Marxist and pro-Muslim biases in school curricula.[88][89]

Conflicts

Aftermath of Hindu-Muslim clashes in Calcutta following the 1946 Direct Action Day.

Communal conflicts have periodically plagued India since it became independent in 1947. The roots of such strife lie largely in the underlying tensions between sections of its majority Hindu and minority Muslim communities, which emerged under the Raj and during the bloody Partition of India. Such conflict also stems from the competing ideologies of Hindu nationalism versus Islamic fundamentalism and Islamism; both are prevalent in parts of the Hindu and Muslim populations.

Alongside other major Indian independence leaders, Mahatma Gandhi and his shanti sainiks ("peace soldiers") worked to quell early outbreaks of religious conflict in Bengal, including riots in Calcutta (now in West Bengal) and Noakhali District (in modern-day Bangladesh) that accompanied Muhammad Ali Jinnah's Direct Action Day, which was launched on 16 August 1946. These conflicts, waged largely with rocks and knives and accompanied by widespread looting and arson, were crude affairs. Explosives and firearms, which are rarely found in India, were far less likely to be used.[90]

Many of Ahmedabad's buildings were set on fire during the 2002 Gujarat violence.

Major post-independence communal conflicts include the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots, which followed Operation Blue Star by the Indian Army; heavy artillery, tanks, and helicopters were employed against the Sikh partisans inside the Harmandir Sahib, causing heavy damage to Sikhism's holiest Gurdwara. According to the Indian government estimations, the assault caused the deaths of up to 100 soldiers, 250 militants, and hundreds of civilians.[91]

This triggered Indira Gandhi's assassination by her outraged Sikh bodyguards on 31 October 1984, which set off a four-day period during which Sikhs were massacred; The Government of India reported 2,700 Sikh deaths however human rights organizations and newspapers report the death toll to be 10,000-17,000. In the aftermath of the riot, the Government of India reported 20,000 had fled the city, however the PUCL reported "at least" 50,000 displaced persons. [92]

The most affected regions were neighborhoods in Delhi. Human rights organizations and the newspapers believe the massacre was organized.[93] The collusion of political officials in the massacres and the failure to prosecute any killers alienated normal Sikhs and increased support for the Khalistan movement. The Akal Takht, the governing religious body of Sikhism, most definitely considers the killings to be a genocide.[94]

Other incidents include the 1992 Bombay Riots that followed the demolition of the Babri Mosque as a result of the Ayodhya debate, and the 2002 Gujarat violence that followed the Godhra Train Burning—in the latter, more than 2,000 Muslims were killed.[95] Terrorist activities such as the 2005 Ram Janmabhoomi attack in Ayodhya, the 2006 Varanasi bombings, the 2006 Jama Masjid explosions, and the 11 July 2006 Mumbai Train Bombings are often blamed on communalism. Lesser incidents plague many towns and villages; representative was the killing of five people in Mau, Uttar Pradesh during Hindu-Muslim rioting, which was triggered by the proposed celebration of a Hindu festival.[95]

Major religious riots, since Independence
Year Riot State / Region Cause Aftermath
1984
Anti Sikh riots Delhi Assassination of Indira Gandhi Government of India reported 2,700 Sikh deaths and 20,000 displaced. PUCL and newspapers report death toll to be 10,000-17,000 and "at least" 50,000 displaced.[92]
1992-1993
Bombay Riots Mumbai Demolition of Babri Masjid 900 people dead
2002
Gujarat Riots Gujarat Godhra train burning 1,044 people killed; 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus (including those killed in the Godhra train fire) 
2008
Kandhamal riots Kandhamal district, Orissa Murder of Swami Lakshmanananda Over 20 killed and over 12,000 displaced

Notes

Citations

  1. ^ Excludes figures of Paomata, Mao Maram and Purul sub-districts of Senapati district of Manipur state
  2. ^ The data are "unadjusted" (without excluding Assam and Jammu and Kashmir); the 1981 census was not conducted in Assam and the 1991 census was not conducted in Jammu and Kashmir.

Footnotes

  • ^ α: The data exclude the Mao-Maram, Paomata, and Purul subdivisions of Manipur's Senapati district.
  • ^ β: The data are "unadjusted" (without excluding Assam and Jammu and Kashmir); the 1981 census was not conducted in Assam and the 1991 census was not conducted in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • ^ γ: Oberlies (1998, p. 155) gives an estimate of 1100 BCE for the youngest hymns in book ten. Estimates for a terminus post quem of the earliest hymns are far more uncertain. Oberlies (p. 158), based on "cumulative evidence", sets a wide range of 1700–1100 BCE. The EIEC (s.v. Indo-Iranian languages, p. 306) gives a range of 1500–1000 BCE. It is certain that the hymns post-date Indo-Iranian separation of ca. 2000 BCE. It cannot be ruled out that archaic elements of the Rigveda go back to only a few generations after this time, but philological estimates tend to date the bulk of the text to the latter half of the second millennium.
  • ^ Δ: According to the most conservative estimates given by Symonds (1950, p. 74), half a million people perished and twelve million became homeless.
  • ^ ε: Statistic describes resident Indian nationals up to six years in age.

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