India – religion
India is a vast country steeped in spirituality and philosophy; it has a diverse culture hosting several different religions, which by and large, live side by side with each other in peace. Hinduism is the most prevalent with at least 80% of the country’s followers, Buddhism and Jainism follow, both of which were popular as far back as 500BC. Buddhism still continues to be the second most popular religion in India and is split into Diagambaras and Shwetambaras with Jainism also split into two groups; Mahayana and Hinayana. In the 15th century Sikhism was introduced, but today, only a small percentage of Indians are Sikh. The other religions which flourish in smaller concentrations are Zoroastrianism (known as Parsis), Islam and Judaism.
Below is a little more about three of the most popular religions in India today.
Hinduism can be quite complex, but it is mainly the belief in one supreme power that is in all living creatures, plants and animals. The gods and goddesses that are part of the Hindu religion are forms of the same supreme power. All the gods work in tandem to bring balance to the world and to establish peace and happiness.This is a religion that is prevalent in both India and Nepal. It is one of the oldest religions in the world going back thousands of years.
Hinduism is in some respects quite different from other religions in that it has no founder, no bible or scripture and no agreed set of principles to live by. There have been many famous teachers of Hinduism that have gone on to write many books teaching different philosophies. It is therefore seen more as a way of life, or several religions each with its own philosophy, than as a single religion.
Buddhism started back in 563 BC with the birth of Siddhartha Gotama who was born into royalty. As he became more and more disillusioned with the trappings of wealth he explored various religions and philosophies to find the true answer to happiness. After many years of study he finally found enlightenment in the form of “the middle path.” Following this he spent the rest of his life teaching his principle ideas on Buddhism until he died at the age of 80.
For some, Buddhism is more philosophy than religion, its core elements teach Buddhists to lead a more moral life, to take responsibility and to be aware of both their thoughts and actions and to work towards becoming wiser over time.
Jainism started in the sixth century BC around the same time as Buddhism. The word Jainism comes from the jinas spiritual soldiers, or conquerors who achieved perfection and freedom. There are 24 spiritual leaders amongst the jinas which are known as tirthankaras which means ford makers. They worship sacred images andspeak mantras, which are groups of words meant to have spiritual power; similar mantras are said in both Buddhism and Zoroastrianism.
Jainsfollow a strict diet, they don’t eat meat, root vegetables, garlic or onions, they also don’t believe in harming any living creature including insects. They believe in cultivating knowledge and learning, and the control of bodily passions. The life of a Jains is a mostly peaceful and disciplined life.
These three most popular religions in India all have something in common; something that links them all, and that is an emphasis on self-improvement, empowerment and self-discipline. There is also great emphasis placed on living in peace and harmony. There is something we can all learn from India’s religions, not just from the religions themselves, but the very fact that all these faiths manage to leave in peace and harmony with each other too.
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