Name : Preeti Talekar
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

INDIA, We live in one of the most sublime secular republics. This land is the birth place of five religions, Vedic religion, Hindu religion, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. This land has nurtured and cradled members of three religions of Semitic origin, Judaism, Christianity and Islam and a Persian religion, Zoroastrianism. May I say that members of these four religions are more secure in Indian soil than in the lands where the originated.

Different religions have sprung up in different ethnic or cultural or geographical or historical background and naturally there would be different shades between the religions. Then you ask any true philosopher whether there is any difference between any two religions. There can be only one answer to it, it is ‘ No’. We must now evolve measures to narrow down the difference between different religions.

The children in India are not trained on how to practice secularism. Each religion has tried to teach its children that their religion provides the correct way to God. What they further teach is that there is the only correct religion. Very often, they also teach that other religions are wrong. If our children are brought up in this way, they maintain the mental segregation that their religion is the only true religion whereas other religions are all fake.

All religions teach the same thing and it is only selfish and power hungry and mischievous people who create differences. Religious harmony has been badly impaired on account of the ambitions of those in India who created vote banks as shortcuts to reach power. People are basically happy and common without the barriers of religions, but the skill of the politicians unfortunately keeps them segregated.

Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take different roads, so long as we reach the same goal.

Let me share a very beautiful story of a professor who was very busy with his homework. His little child of five years went to him and tried to catch his attention for playing with him. The professor found out a short cut to keep the child engaged elsewhere for one hour so that the Professor could concentrate on his homework without being disturbed by the child.

He took out a world map and tore it into different pieces and gave them to his child and asked him to reunite them on the glass frame. Before the professor could spend any time on his homework, the child completed the map.

The professor found that the world map was very properly reconstructed He then asked the child ‘my dear son’ how did you make it?” The child answered, “Papa, look at the other side of the map, there was the big sketch of man. I only looked at that sketch and reunited the pieces”.

A great philosophy flashed through the mind of the professor. He realised , if you succeed in re-uniting the human being you can reconstruct the world. Religious harmony is the cement by which such a reconstruction is possible. This is the relevance of religious harmony in a secular republic.

I do not wish to lengthen the subject which is more written & talked about than practiced.

Let us make a beginning. Opening our circle of friendship to people of all faiths can be a good starting point. Everyone, all Indians, need to embrace a rational approach to civil life and try to understand each other better.
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO KNOW INDIA without understanding its religious beliefs and practices, which have a large impact on the personal lives of most Indians and influence public life on a daily basis. Indian religions have deep historical roots that are recollected by contemporary Indians. The ancient culture of South Asia, going back at least 4,500 years, has come down to India primarily in the form of religious texts. The artistic heritage, as well as intellectual and philosophical contributions, has always owed much to religious thought and symbolism. Contacts between India and other cultures have led to the spread of Indian religions throughout the world, resulting in the extensive influence of Indian thought and practice on Southeast and East Asia in ancient times and, more recently, in the diffusion of Indian religions to Europe and North America. Within India, on a day-to-day basis, the vast majority of people engage in ritual actions that are motivated by religious systems that owe much to the past but are continuously evolving. Religion, then, is one of the most important facets of Indian history and contemporary life.

A number of world religions originated in India, and others that started elsewhere found fertile ground for growth there. Devotees of Hinduism, a varied grouping of philosophical and devotional traditions, officially numbered 687.6 million people, or 82 percent of the population in the 1991 census (see table 13, Appendix). Buddhism and Jainism, ancient monastic traditions, have had a major influence on Indian art, philosophy, and society and remain important minority religions in the late twentieth century. Buddhists represented 0.8 percent of the total population while Jains represented 0.4 percent in 1991.

Islam spread from the West throughout South Asia, from the early eighth century, to become the largest minority religion in India. In fact, with 101.5 million Muslims (12.1 percent of the population), India has at least the fourth largest Muslim population in the world (after Indonesia with 174.3 million, Pakistan with 124 million, and Bangladesh with 103 million; some analysts put the number of Indian Muslims even higher–128 million in 1994, which would give India the second largest Muslim population in the world).

Sikhism, which started in Punjab in the sixteenth century, has spread throughout India and the world since the mid-nineteenth century. With nearly 16.3 million adherents, Sikhs represent 1.9 percent of India’s population.

Christianity, represented by almost all denominations, traces its history in India back to the time of the apostles and counted 19.6 million members in India in 1991. Judaism and Zoroastrianism, arriving originally with traders and exiles from the West, are represented by small populations, mostly concentrated on India’s west coast. A variety of independent tribal religious groups also are lively carriers of unique ethnic traditions.