Introduction to Religions of India
India is a land of culture and tradition. All this is bounded by religion and spirituality. This unit gives a glimpse of the major religions of India. Hinduism is one of the oldest religions of the world. The belief in this religion is soul of the religion. The deity and their important instance are well explained in the religious text of this religion.
Table of Content
- 1 Introduction to Religions of India
- 2 Major Religions of India
- 2.1 Hinduism
- 2.2 Buddhism
- 2.3 Jainism
- 2.4 Islam
- 2.5 Christianity
The next religion explained in this unit is Buddhism and Jainism both these religions were contemporary. Both religions were the need of that time. It includes the teachings of Gautam Buddha and Lord Mahavir. Buddhism is a relatively liberal religion to follow in comparison to Jainism.
Islam and Christianity are the religion came with time to this land and people of this land have embraced these religions with open arms. These religions flourish and now they become part of Indian culture.
Major Religions of India
Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world. The rules and customs of Hinduism can be derived back to more than 4000 years. Hinduism has almost 900 million followers. It is the third–largest religion in the world after Christianity and Islam. Hinduism has no specific founders. As for some theories, it was derived from the Sanatan Dharm. Most of the Hindus, around 95% of the Hindus live in India.
Hinduism was started in between 2300 BC and 1500 BC. There is no specific founder. At that point in time, sacrifices and mantras were common. After the Vedic period, the Gods were involved. At first, there were three major Gods named, Vishnu, Shiva, and Devi.
Belief System of Hinduism
Hinduism is not a single organized religion. Hinduism embraces many religious ideas. The first one is Sansar. Sansar means the continuous cycle of life and death. The Hindus believe when someone is born on earth, he has to go through the cycle of birth, life, and death. The cycle continues until the living being achieves Moksh.
The next one is karma. The Hindus believe in Karma which means what you do, it will come back to you someday. Karma is the universal law of cause and effect. Then the Hindus believe in Atman. It means every living being in this world has an atman. The atman is a part of the supreme soul or you can say Paramatma. Another belief system is Moksha. Moksha means salvation.
Every living creature in this world has a soul. And the soul will meet with the supreme soul and achieve Moksha. There the cycle of rebirth will end. The fundamental belief system in Hinduism is, your actions will determine your current life and your future life. Dharma is the code of conduct of life. A Hindu should follow Dharma. Dharma means good conduct and morality.
There are two major symbols in Hinduism. One is Om. Om is considered as the first sound of the universe when the big bang happened. Another one is Swastik. Swastik means good luck.
The cow is the most sacred animal in Hinduism. So the Hindus don’t eat beef. The Hindus believe the cow as their mother. They worship the cow.
Primary Hindu texts are known as Vedas. Vedas were composed during the Vedic period around 1500 BC. There are four Vedas. The Rig Veda, the Sama Veda, the Yajur Veda, and the Atharva Veda. The Rig Veda is associated with the rituals.
The Sama Veda is associated with melodies. The Yajur Veda is associated with mantras. The Atharva Veda is associated with the procedure for everyday life which a Hindu should follow. Other religious texts are Ramayan, Mahabharat, Upanishads, Puranas and Bhagavad Gita.
Brahma is the God who is responsible for the creation of the world. Vishnu is the God who protects the universe. Shiva is the God who destroys the universe so that Brahma can recreate it. Devi is the Goddess who has to fight evil and restore dharma. Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth and purity. Saraswati is the Goddess of wisdom.
Hindu worship is known as Puja. Puja is giving offerings like flowers, ghee, fruits to the gods.
Sects of Hinduism
The followers of God Shiva are called Shaiva. The followers of Vishnu are called Vaishnava. The followers of Devi are called Sakta.
Festivals in Hinduism
Some major festivals are Diwali, the festival of lights. Navratri is the festival of Shakti. Holi is the festival of colours, Janmashtami, Raksha Bandhan.
Buddhism was founded by Siddharth Gautam, the Buddha. Siddharth Gautam initially was a prince who was born in Lumbini, Nepal. When Buddha preached his knowledge to his disciples, they followed that and called the teachings, Buddhism. This is just not a religion, it’s a way of life. Buddhism was started in India more than 2500 years ago. Buddhism has about 470 million followers in the world. Most of the followers are from China and Southeast Asia.
The followers of Buddhism don’t worship the Supreme God. They also don’t worship Buddha himself. The followers of Buddhism or the Buddhists focus on achieving enlightenment. Enlightenment is a state of inner peace and wisdom. When a Buddhist reaches the spiritual echelon, achieve Nirvana.
Buddha was never considered as a God. Buddha is considered as an extraordinary man who achieved Nirvana. The word Buddha means enlightened. Wisdom, morality, and meditation are the path through which enlightenment can be achieved. The most important teachings of Buddha are known as the four noble truths. Buddhists also believe in Karma. Karma is a universal law of cause and effect. Buddhists also believe in rebirth.
The Buddha was born in Lumbini Nepal in the fifth century BC. The real name of the Buddha was Siddharth Gautam. Siddharth Gautam left his family and meditated under a Bodhi tree and achieved enlightenment.
The Beginning of Buddhism
Buddha passed away around 483 BC. He had some followers who followed his teachings and began to organize the religious movement of Buddhism. The teachings of Buddha became the foundation of Buddhism. In 3rd Century BC, the Indian Emperor Ashoka, the great spread Buddhism and built many monasteries and stupas.
Buddha’s teachings are known as Dharma. The Buddhists believe the one who follows Dharma can achieve enlightenment. The teachings of Buddha are based on wisdom, kindness, patience, generosity, and compassion. There are two sets of Buddhism. One is Mahayana and the other is Hinayana.
Teachings of Buddha
Meditation can bring someone wisdom. Lack of meditation can make someone ignorant. Buddhism emphasizes the root cause of suffering is attachment. There are four noble truths in Buddhism. The first truth is suffering or dukkha.
The second truth is samuday. Samuday means the cause of suffering. The third truth is nirodha. It is the end of suffering. The last truth is Magga. It is the truth of the path which free us from suffering.
Buddhist Holy Books
The first book is the Tripitaka. It is known as the three baskets. Other books are sutras. There are more than 2000 sutras in Buddhism. Another book describes the stages of death in detail. It is called the book of the Dead. The leading Monk in Buddhism is called the Dalai Lama.
There have been 14 Dalai Lama till now. The Buddhist festivals include Vaishakh. In this festival the celebrate Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death. Another festival is the Uposatha. It happens in a quarter of the Moon. In this festival, the Buddhists show their commitment to Buddha’s teachings.
Jainism was founded in India. The essence of Jainism is to respect every creature in this universe. Jainism is concerned about the welfare of everything in the universe. Jains believe, every living being has a soul whether it is a plant or an animal or a human being. The followers of Jainism believe that every soul in this universe has equal value.
Each and every soul in this universe should be treated with respect and compassion. The followers of Jainism believe in three principles. The principle of right belief, the principle of right knowledge, and the principle of right conduct. The supreme principle is ahimsa which means nonviolence. The gurus of Jainism are called the Tirthankar. Rishabhanatha was the first Tirthankar and Mahaveer Jain 24th Tirthankar. The textbook which contains the teachings of Mahavira is called Agamas.
The Jains has two major sects. Digambar and shwetambar. Jainism doesn’t believe in God and it also doesn’t believe in priests. Jains have only monks and nuns in Jainism.
Beliefs of Jainism
Right conduct, right knowledge, and right belief are known as the Dharma. The Panch mahavrat of Jainism are ahimsa, satya, asteya, aparigraha, and brahmacharya. Ahimsa means nonviolence. Satya means truth. Asteya means nonstealing. Aparigraha means nonacquisition. In Jainism Karma is the mechanism that ensures the quality of life. The soul exists forever. It is always independent. It is responsible for what does. Nothing in this universe can be created or destroyed they can simply change from one to another.
Customs of Jainism
The daily spiritual practices of Jainism include prayer, honoring the Tirthankaras, paying respect to the monks, and meditating for at least 48 minutes. Jains follow an eightfold path that has eight offerings like water, flower, sandalwood, incense, light, rice, sweet, and fruit.
Islam is the second-largest religion in the world. Islam has 1.8 billion followers. Islam was created by Prophet Muhammad during the 7th–century AD. If we talk about the major religions of the world like Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, then we can consider Islam is the youngest of them. Islam started in Mecca Saudi Arabia during the time of Prophet Muhammad’s life.
Islam believes in full submission to the will of God. Muslims are the people who follow Islam. The followers of Islam believe to live a life with complete submission to Allah. the followers of Islam believe, nothing can happen without the permission of Allah. Islam was revealed to Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Jibril. The Quran is based on the words of Allah which was told to Prophet Muhammad through Jibrill.
Their religious places where the followers of Islam worship, are called the mosques. the holy and major text in Islam is the Quran which is believed to be e written all the words of the god. Jihad is the central idea of Islam. Jihad means struggle. it is the struggle of internal and external efforts to defend the faith in Islam.
In 578 in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Muhammad was born. The followers of Islam believe that Muhammad was the final Prophet who was sent by God to reveal Islam or you can say the faith of mankind. In 610, there was an angel who visited Muhammad in a cave and revealed the words of Allah. from 630 AD, Muhammad started preaching Islam throughout Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
The journey of Prophet Muhammad is known as Hijrat. In 622 AD, Prophet Muhammad traveled from Mecca to Madina with his supporters. It marked the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Prophet Muhammad returned after 7 years with his followers to Mecca and conquered the place. He continued to preach Islam until his death in 632 AD.
Quran is the most important holy book in Islam. The message of Allah which was given to Prophet Muhammad to Jibril is recorded in the Quran. There are 114 chapters in the Quran and the chapters are called Surah.
Five pillars of Islam
The first pillar is the Shahada. It means one’s faith in God and Allah and Prophet Muhammad. The second pillar is the Salat. It means to pray five times a day. The third pillar is Zakat. It means to give someone who is in need or charity. The fourth pillar is the Swam. Swarm means to fast during Ramadan. The last pillar is the Hajj. This means to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime.
Festivals in Islam
The major festivals are Eid ul Adha and Eid ul Fitr. Eid ul Adha is celebrated the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son for Allah. Eid ul Fitr is celebrated to mark the end of Ramadan.
Christianity is the most widely practiced religion in the world. It has around two billion followers. The belief and faith of Christianity on the birth life and death of Jesus Christ. Christians believe, there is only one God so they are called monotheistic.
Christians also believe heaven and earth were created by God. The followers of Christianity believe, there are three elements of God. The first element is God himself, the second element is God’s son Jesus Christ, and the third element is the Holy Spirit. Christians believe God sent his son Jesus Christ to save the world. They also believe that Jesus Christ will return again. The teachings of Jesus are recorded in their holy book which is called the Bible. The cross is the holy symbol of Christianity.
Festivals in Christianity
The followers of Christianity celebrate Christmas. Christmas is celebrated as the birth of Jesus Christ. The other festival is Easter. Easter is celebrated as the resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus was born to a Jewish family. He was born to a young virgin Mary. That is why we called his mother, mother Mary. She is also worshipped. Jesus got baptized by the prophet John in the Jordan River. Jesus travelled for three years with his twelve disciples and taught a large group of people in Christianity.
The teachings of Jesus:
- Love God.
- Love your neighbor.
- You should forgive others.
- You should love your enemies.
- You should ask God for forgiveness for your sins.
- You should not judge others.
The Bible is a collection of sixty–six books which was written by various authors. It is called the Christian Bible. In the Bible, there are two parts of the Old Testament and the New Testament. One part had come before Jesus and one part had come after Jesus. The Old Testament is recognised by the followers of Judaism. The history of Jewish people was recorded in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, there are specific laws that should be followed by the followers of Judaism.
Old Testament predicts that Jesus would come and save the world. The New Testament accounts for the life and death of Jesus and his teachings. The early Church was organized fifty days after Jesus’s death. Most of the first Christians were converted ones from the Jewish people. The first Church was built in Jerusalem.