NAME: – Deepali Mahadev Sutar
QUALIFICATION: – B.Com. , pursuing MBA at AMSIMR – Aruna Manharlal Shah Institute Of Management and Research, Ghatkopar West, Mumbai , INDIA

India- The Land of Religious Harmony

Religions in India – India are a land of diverse religions that exist in harmony and peace. The secularism is one of the most important aspects of the country. The largest section of the population is Hindu that has an established majority in the Nation but this does not deprive followers of other religions from influencing the society. Most of thereligions are divided into different sects. Hindus are divided into four castes – Brahmins or the scholars, Kshatriyas or the warriors and kings, Vishay’s or the businessmen and the clergy class and the Shudras or the servant class. There are untouchables or the casteless too. All these castes are further sub-divided into number of other sub-castes. However, the rigid ness of this system has decreased to a much greater level, with the Herculean efforts of various social reformers.

The next religion that has largest number of followers in India is Islam and its followers are known as Muslims. They are further sub-divided into various sects, the most prominent being Shias and Sunnis. Sikhs were originally Hindus who became followers and disciples of Guru Nanak. Guru Gobind Singh, their tenth Guru gave them their present identity and introduced community service and martial tendencies as their distinctive features so that they can withstand oppression. Christians in India are mainly Catholics and Protestants and follow different Churches as their denominations. The other significant religions of India are Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism. Buddhists are divided into Digambaras and Shwetambaras, Jains into Mahayana and Hinayana sects and Jews in various communities. The followers of Zoroastrianism are known as Paris’s and have distinctive style and Jews are the followers of Judaism.

India is a land of diversities. This diversity is also visible in the spheres of religion. The major religions of India are Hinduism (majority religion), Islam (largest minority religion), Sikhism, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and the Baha’i Faith. India is a land where people of different religions and cultures live in harmony. This harmony is seen in the celebration of festivals. The message of love and brotherhood is expressed by all the religions and cultures of India.

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.

Buddhism
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.

Christians
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
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.

Islam
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.

Jainism
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.).

Sikhism
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.

Zoroastrian
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 Paris’s (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
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.

Adi Shankaracharya
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.
India has great heritage. There is harmony among different religious traditions. India is a land where people of different religious faiths can live peacefully and harmoniously here. India’s tradition is very relevant in today’s world,” he said.

For thousands of years, India carried the message of ‘Ahimsa’ which was relevant even today, he said, adding, “We should ourselves create inner peace by practising love and compassion in daily life.”
In the 21st century, people everywhere talk about money and material value. That is also important. Material wealth provides physical comfort. Mental comfort is possible only by faith, he said.