Name: Gupta Nitin K.
Education: B.Com. , pursuing MBA at AMSIMR – Aruna Manharlal Shah Institute Of Management and Research, Ghatkopar West, Mumbai , INDIA

India – The Land of Religious Harmony

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’is 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.

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.

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 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 “Santa Dharma” or the everlasting religion.
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.

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.).

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.

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 (Zoroastrians) lives 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.
Religion is an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. It is, in general sense, the basis on which a person connects to his/her God.
India is the birthplace of four of the world’s major religious traditions; namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. India is a land of various religions and their sub – castes. India has been home for centuries to all great religions of the world. 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.
Sarva Dharma Sambhava, the notion given by Swami Vivekananda, can be used aptly describe the Indian Civilization. The Constitution recognizes all the religions as true.
Around the world as well there are more than 50 religions to which more than 80% of the world population can associate with. Thus, religion forms a large part of our lives, especially we Indians, where more than 93% of the population associates with a particular religion.

Religious Harmony relates to the peaceful coexistence of religions in the world. India as a country has been proclaimed as model for religious harmony by none other His Holiness Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of Tibetans currently taking shelter in Dharamshala, India.
Religion should act as a catalyst for harmonious and peaceful co-existence of people in the world. But, that does not seem to be the case. People are fighting over religion in all parts of the world. Whether it be India or the Israel v/s Palestine war and others.
In this the importance of the roles played by leaders and religious figures in solving various conflicts taking place across the country.
Religious harmony is a must. Religious harmony comes about where there is understanding between followers of various faiths. For a country like a India, as well as to the World, religious harmony is important as religious harmony is the need of the hour to make this world a happy place to live.

Conflicts over religion related issues have bogged the country as well as the world since the start of the 21st century. This could be thoroughly seen in the Godhra Riots in Gujarat or the bombings of the WTC in United States. For India especially, religious harmony plays an important part. Various countries in the world use law as tool for prevailing religious harmony in India. The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act of Singapore is one of them. The statutean important part of the Singapore government’s large and extensive arsenal of legal instruments to regulate inter-ethnic-religious relations in the country.
According to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, most conflicts in the name of religion are actually not based on religious faith but because of power and money. All religions promoted the same practice of love, forgiveness, tolerance, selfdiscipline, moral principle, truth and justice. The very purpose of religion was to create inner peace. His Holiness said there was a close connection between people’s mental wellbeing with their physical health. He said that too much fear and anger were bad for people’s health. He said researches have shown that patients who are mentally happy recover faster. Thus, religion plays an important role.

In this ever-shrinking global village called the world, there is increasing interaction between adherents of various faiths. The most common problem in inter-religious dialogue is disagreement on perspectives of Truth. There is a diversity of religious beliefs in our world simply because there is a corresponding diversity of mindsets. Religious harmony is important in respect to the growth of the country. Any issue, including political, economic and religious activities human beings pursue in this world, should be fully understood before we pass our judgment. Therefore, it is very important to know the causes.

However, in today’s close and inter-connected world there are so many differences amongst various religions. We must obviously resolve these problems. For example, there have been a lot of religions in India for the past thousand years. Some of them were imported from outside whereas some have grown in India itself. Despite this, the fact is that these religions have been able to coexist with each other, and the principle of Ahimsa has really flourished in this country. Even today, this principle has a strong bearing on every religion. This is very precious and India should really take pride in it.
If a harmonious relationship is established amongst societies and religious beliefs in today’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural world, then it will surely set a very good example for others. In order to sustain this harmony, both sides should not take lightly the sensitive issues between themselves.

Religious harmony is important because if there is no religious tolerance it leads to series of conflict and in varying severity. There is growing disparity between different castes and creed in the world. This is mainly because of economic challenges in the country as well as world. There are great challenges which India as a country needs to tackle to become a superpower. These cannot be tackled when the whole country is divided and fighting each other. There is a need for being a single, undivided population that can take on the challenges for a better tomorrow. Thus, Religious Tolerance is important not only for economic stability as well as for social life stability because neither can exist without each other. They are all dependent on religion as such to take the country forward.

In UN Documents Cooperation Circles – Gathering a Body of Global Agreements a public education initiative ‘Foundations for a Sustainable Common Future’ it is mentioned about Our Planet & Our Common Future that “Until recently, the planet was a large world in which human activities and their effects were neatly compartmentalized within nations, within sectors (energy, agriculture, trade) and within broad areas of concern (environmental, economic, social). These compartments have begun to dissolve. This applies particularly to the various global crises that have seized public concern, particularly over the past decade. These are not separate crises: an environmental crisis, a development crisis, an energy crisis. They are all one.”