India is a cradle of world religions. Its ancestors have preached and practiced almost all major religions of the world giving rise to worldly beliefs, practices, rites, rituals, ceremonies and institutions. The co existence of all the religions and variety of faiths has been a shining example of religious pluralism and tolerance. The principle of secularism in spite of several conflicts and riots has been upheld by our citizens time and again.
Indian Constitution has rightly reflected the idea of multi religionism. It states that “every citizen has a right to freely practice, preach, profess and propagate any religion or faith”. Secular state has been defined as a “state in which all religions and citizens irrespective of their faith would be treated impartially”. Unlike its neighboring nations India does not uphold any one religion as the state religion. Apart from the major religions there are several tribal religions co-existing in Indian society.
Following are the major six religions of India:
Hinduism is one of the most ancient religions of India. Although followed by majority of population, its origin is not owed to any prophet or founder. Major Hindu scriptures include Vedas and the holy book is Bhagwad -Gita, Ramayan, Puranas etc. Idol-worship, theory of Purushartha, theory of Karma, doctrine of rebirth are some of the major principle of Hinduism. They believe in trinity of Brahma (creator), Vishnu (sustainer) and Mahesh or Shiva (destroyer). The theory of Purushartha includes four principle of Dharma (Duty), Artha (material gain), Kama (physical pleasure) and Moksha (Salvation). Hindus are further divided in to two sects i.e. shaivism and vaishism and four castes i.e. Brahmin, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras which are discussed later in the section on caste system in India.
Islam originated in Arabia in around 7th century A.D. The term Islam in Arabic means surrender to God. Prophet Mohammad is the founder of this religion. It is a monotheistic religion meaning believes only in one god and that is Allah. Quran is the holy book of Islam. The religion is based on five pillars, they are Allah (believe in only one god), Ramzan (fast in the auspicious month), Hajj (Pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime), Namaz (praying five times a day) and Zakkat (Charity). The major two sects of Islam are Shiyahs and Sunnis.
Christianity is also a monotheistic religion. Bible is the holy book of Christianity. They are further divided into Roman Catholics and Protestants. The major principles of the religion are described in the Ten Commandments. Bible includes the values of humanity, charity, mercy, repentance etc.
Guru Nanak is the founder of Sikhism. Guru Granth sahib is the holy book of Sikhs which includes all the hymns and the songs composed by all the ten Gurus of Sikhism. Sikhs believe in Satnaam, God as the almighty. A Sect in Sikhs who follow Khalsa Panth are known as Singh meaning lion or the protector of religion. They are expected to follow the 5 K’s. i.e. Kesh, Kara, Kanga, Kachha and Kirpaan.
Jainism is a religion based on ethical conduct alone. The twenty-fourth tirthankara was Vardhaman Mahavira who is said to be the founder of Jainism. It is further divided in to two sects, Shwetambara and Digambara. Jainism believes in Karma but do not believe in Caste inequalities. Ahimsa (Non- violence), non stealing, truth, non-possessiveness are some of the values preached by Jainism. Majority of the followers of this relgion are found in India.
Buddhism is termed as a universal religion. Though found in India, its followers are found all over the world. Gautam Buddha is the founder of Buddhism. They are further divided into Hinayanas and Mahayanas. They believe in eight fold path as the solution to sorrow in life.