Religion – Refuge for the Soul

January 14, 2013 6:47 am 0 comments

Indian ReligionsIndia is a strange nation in its embracing of every religion beneath the sun. Its principal religion is humanity and it has offered a nestling ground to religions of all hue. From Hinduism to Judaism, Islam to Christianity, Synagogue to temples and Gurudwaras, the country has ensured the flourishing of all religions. Buddha, Guru Nanak and Mahavir, the apostles of Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism respectively had India as their birthplace. Islam and Christianity came to India and made it a home for themselves. Majority of the people in the country practice Hinduism, the Sanatana Dharma or the basic religion but the country has no official religion. It has the second highest Muslim population in the world. Christians, Jews, Muslim, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Hindus peacefully have been co-existing in this religious confluence for centuries. 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.

Religion plays a major role in the life of an Indian. His day begins with a prayer and ends with a prayer. Community prayers or yajnas play a major role in the society. Since ancient times, priests and other holy men has had an important role to play in the society. However, present India has seen a transformation in the society but certain basic criterions about religion remains the same. Rituals are still performed with same devotion and utmost care is taken about traditions.

India is a land of diverse religions that exist in harmony and peace. 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. Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world. In Hinduism many gods and goddesses are worshiped at home and by the numerous sects. Hindu’s are expected to make an annual pilgrimage to a holy center such as the Ganges, for cleansing. The main Indian religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism are linked by a belief in karma. Life is regarded as a continual cycle of birth, life and re-births (samasara) and that the deeds or a desire of past lives determines ones fate in this and future lives (karma). The karmic cycle can be broken by adherence to the doctrine preached by each religion. Most of the religions are divided into different sects. Hindus are divided into four castes – Brahmins or the scholars, Kshatriyas or the warriors and kings, Vaishyas or the businesspersons 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 rigidness of this system has decreased to a much greater level, with the Herculean efforts of various social reformers. Caste system was one of the major drawbacks of the nation but the new India is largely out from the clutches of caste system now.

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, the followers of Judaism, are divided into various communities. The followers of Zoroastrianism are known as Parsis and have distinctive style.

Whether it is 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 emotions 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.

No matter what the religion is or whoever is being worshipped, each religion teaches us that kindness and humanity are the prime duties of all devotees, and this cannot be observed any better than in India where people of various religions enjoy communal harmony and respect for each other.

Leave a Reply