India is a vast peninsula with a total land area of about 33 million square kilometres, a population exceeding 122 crores. India’s social structure is a unique blend of religions, cultures and racial groups. The history of India is a long long history. India was known as Bharatavasha which stretched from Hemalayan to sea. With the gradual march of time India bore the brunt of foreign invasions. The Persian, Greeks, Kushans, Indo-Greeks, Hunas, Muslims and the British occupied this land.The left the foot-prints of their culture on the sands of time.Indian culture absorbed all the influences and reflected its own uniqueness.
Origin of Indian Society
Our land, which is known today as ‘Bharat’ or ‘India’ was regarded as Bharatavarsha in the past. It was named after ‘Bharata’ the mighty legendaryhero and son of king Yushmanta and queen Shakuntala.
The persians and the Greeks extended their sway upto river Indus or Sindhu. Since persians pronounced the letter ‘S’ as ‘H’ they pronounced the word ‘Sindhu’ as ‘Hindu’. In old persian epigraphs India was depicted as ‘Hindus’ or people of the India.
India was known as ‘Hindustan’ in medieval time. Sultans of Delhi and the Mughal emperor called this land as ‘Hindustan’. A new change came to this land when the British conquest India. The British officers called this land as ‘India’. From that time ‘Bharat’ or ‘Hindustan’ became India.
Composition of Indian Society
India’s social structure is a unique blend of religions, cultures and racial groups. Historically, India has been a hospitable land to numerous immigrants and invaders from distant parts of Asia and Europe. The cultural patterns of these alien settlers have over the past many centuries been interwoven with the native culture to produce India’s glorious cultural heritage.
India is a country where all the world’s major religions are found. Among the major religions in India are: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddism, Zoroastrianism and Animism. Each of these main religions has a number of sects of its own.
1. Hinduism: Majority of the people of India are Hindus. Hinduism is an amalgamation of Indo-Aryan, Dravidian and Pre-Dravidian religious elements. According to 2011 census, nearly 89.6% of Indian population are Hindus.
Hinduism contains a number of sects such as the Lingayat, the Kabirpanthi, the Sakta, the Radhaswamy, the Satnami, the Brahmo Samaj, the Arya Samaj and many others. Hinduism provides a solid base for national unity through common beliefs, festivals, customs and traditions. The followers of Hinduism, believe in the doctrine of ‘Karma’, ‘Dharma’, rebirth, immortality of soul, renunciation and salvation.
2. Islam: Islam, the religion of the Muslims, originated in Arabia. It entered India towards the end of the 12th century A.D. The Muslim rulers in India patronised it. Most of the Indian Muslims are converts from Hinduism or Buddhism.
Muslims in India constitute nearly 10% of total population. In 1941, in the undivided India, Muslim constituted nearly 24% of the total population. But, even now, India continues to have a large Muslim population.
Islam doesn’t believe in idol worship. It professes the fatalistic acceptance of Allah’s will and considers Prophet Mohammad as the greatest prophet. The ‘Quran’ sacred book of Islam, ordains five primary duties of a true and devout Muslim, such as belief in God (Allah), prayers of five times a day, the giving of alms, a month’s fast every year and a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in the life time of Muslim.
3. Christianity: Christians in India are scattered all over the country, but they are mostly found in Kerala where they constitute nearly one-fourth of the State’s population. At present 20.5 million people or 2.43% of the total population practise Christianity in India.
There are mainly three sects in India. They are (i) Romo-Syrians, (ii) Roman Catholics, (iii) Protestants.
4. Sikhism: Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak in the 16th century A.D.. The Sikhs were a part of Vaishnava sect of the Hinduism before they converted their religion. Sikhs are nearer to Hindus than the Muslims in their religious beliefs. Sikhs are mainly found in Punjab and the adjoining states. They form about 2% of our population.
5. Buddhism: Buddhism originated in India during the 6th century B.C. Gautam, the Buddha was the founder of Buddhism. Buddists are found in Sikkim and the adjoining hills. They are also found in Maharastra. The number of Buddhists in India is very meagre and it represents only less than 1% of the total population.
6. Jainism: Lord Mahavir established Jainism in India in the 6th century B.C. It is very close to Hinduism in its religious doctrines. They represent only small portion i.e. 0.45% of our total population. Jains are mainly urban people. They are found in town and cities of Punjab, U.P., Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharastra.
Jains are divided into three sects, namely; (1) The Digambaras, (2) The Swetambara, (3) The Dhundias.
7. Zoroastrianism or Parsi Religion: Zoroastrians are the follower of Zoroster. They came to India from Persia in the 7th century A.D. in order to escape from the forcible conversions to Islam. Their number in India is neglible. They are about one lakh in total, half of which live in the city of Bombay (Mumbai) alone. They are mainly urban. They are the most literate and are on the top of the economic ladder of India.
8. Animism: Animism is mainly a tribal faith. In India, there are about 30 million people who believe in Animism. It is a very primitive religion, according to which man is believed to be surrounded by a number of impersonal ghostly powers. These powers are said to reside in rocks, rivers, trees stones etc.. By propiating these powers the tribals think themselves make free from diseases and difficulties.
Thus, from the above discussion it is found that India is a land of numerous religions. Today, India strives to integrate its people into a great nation on secular lines.
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