Religions of India


History of the Religions of India


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Perspective


The history of the religions of India includes four of the world’s greatest religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Religious diversity and religious tolerance are guaranteed by law and by the Constitution of India, which posits freedom of religion as a basic right and defines India as a secular state.

About four out of five Indians practice Hinduism. One in seven adheres to Islam, and the remainder variously adhere to Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism. In addition, Zoroastrianism, Bahai, and Judaism each have at least several thousand adherents in India. But Hinduism is India’s most prominent religion, as seen in the abundance of shrines and temples everywhere. Indeed, India hosts the world’s largest religious pilgrimage, in which Hindus worldwide come together to immerse themselves in the confluence of India’s three sacred rivers: the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the Saraswati. The Indian diaspora has introduced many aspects of Hindu philosophy to the world. These include yoga, meditation, Ayurvedic medicine, and the concepts of karma and reincarnation. India also has the largest population of Muslims in the world, and India is the cradle of Ahmadiyya Islam. Sufi shrines are found throughout India, and attract Sufi adherents from around the world.

Prior to the advent of the Mughal Empire and Delhi Sultanate, as much as 90% of the population had become Hindu. The leaders of those Muslim domains, most notably Akbar the Great, sought to synthesize Islam with the Hinduism of their subjects. But a backlash arose during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries that hardened traditional religious boundaries.

Still, India has been safe haven to followers of persecuted religions for thousands of years. For example, Hebrew Jews fled captivity in Babylonia for refuge in India, as did Aramaic Christians who came in the wake of the Islamic invasion of Syria in the 7th century. Similarly, Zoroastrians fled persecution in Persia in the 9th century after the Muslim conquest of Persia. And when the Dalai Lama fled Tibet and took refuge in India after it was invaded by China, many Tibetans followed him to India.


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Index

Buddhism: Siddhartha GautamaRiseSpreadMiddle WayFour Noble TruthsThree Precious JewelsBuddhism in Han Dynasty ChinaBuddhism in T’ang Dynasty ChinaBuddhism in Ming Dynasty China | Hinduism: BeliefsDeitiesWritings: EpicsUpanishads | Hindu-Muslim Synthesis| Jainism: Mahavira | Sikhism


Buddhism


Buddhism in India

Buddhism

history of the religions of India | Siddhartha Gautama

Siddhartha Gautama

history of the religions of India | rise of Buddhism

Buddhism: Rise

spread of Indian Buddhism

Buddhism: Spread

Buddhism: Middle Way

Middle Way

Buddhism | Four Noble Truths

Four Noble Truths

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Buddhism | Three Precious Jewels

Three Precious Jewels

history of the religions of India |  Buddhism in the Han dynasty

Buddhism in Han Dynasty China

history of the religions of India | Buddhism in the Tang dynasty

Buddhism in T’ang Dynasty China

digital history of China | religion in the Ming dynasty

Buddhism in Ming Dynasty China


Hinduism


history of the religions of India | Hinduism

Hinduism

Hinduism | beliefs

Beliefs

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Hinduism: deities

Deities

Hinduism | writings

Writings

Hinduism | epics

Epics

Upanishads

Upanishads

Hindu-Muslim Synthesis


Jainism and Sikhism


history of the religions of India | Jainism

Jainism

Mahavira

Mahavira

history of the religions of India | Sikhism

Sikhism

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