India known as the land of spirituality, philosophy and the origin of civilization, was the birthplace of some great religions, which even exist today in different parts of the world. Religion being an important part of the India’s culture, religious diversity and tolerance are both established in the country by custom.
Four of the world’s major religious traditions originated from India
The most dominant and ancient religion in India today is Hinduism or the Sanatan Dharma. About 80% of Indians are Hindus. Hinduism is one of the ancient religions in the world, supposed to have been popular from about 5000 years.
Several other religions developed in India. Around 500 BC, Buddhism and Jainism flourished in India. Today about 0.5% of Indians are Jains and about 0.7% are Buddhist. In ancient times both Jainism and Buddhism were very popular in India. Indians who accepted Buddhist philosophy spread it not only within the Indian sub-continent but also to kingdoms east, south and north of India. These three ancient religions, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, are seen as the molders of the India philosophy. A new religion Sikhism was established in India around 15th century. About 2% of Indians are Sikhs.
There were other attempts to create new religions in India but they did not always succeed. For example, a Moghul emperor, Akbar, who reigned between 1556 – 1605, tried to establish a new religion, Din- E- Elahi, but it did not survive. There are other religious philosophies whose believers see themselves as a separate religion, but they do not always get this recognition.
Along with the religions that developed in India, there are followers of non- Indian religions. The largest non-Indian religion is Islam. They are about 12% of India’s population. Christians are more then 2% of India’s population. There are also Zoroastrians who even though make less then 0.01% of India’s population, are known around India. India has the largest population of Zoroastrianism and Bahá’í faith anywhere in the world. Many non Indian religions also have a relationship with Indian spirituality, like the Baha’i faith which recognizes Lord Buddha and Lord Krishna as manifestations of God Almighty.
Judaism and Christianity might have arrived in India before they arrived in Europe. India was introduced to Christianity in 1st Century by St. Thomas. St. Thomas was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. And Judiasm is one of the first foreign religions to arrive in India. It is rumoured that they first arrived during the time of the Kingdom of Judah. Also the Jewsih population are being considered by some as descendants of Israel’s mythical Ten Lost Tribes. Most of these live in Manipur, Mizoram and Mumbai. Jews have historically lived in India without any instances of antisemitism from the local majority populace, unlike the rest of the world.