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Religion plays an important role in the daily life of Indians. Hinduism, in particular, is extremely complex and continuously evolving. With over 330 million Hindu deities to choose from, many of whom are different aspects of the same deity, Hindus practice their religion in many individual ways.


Religion in India

Hinduism is the largest major religion in India . Approximately 80% of the population practices various forms of Hinduism.

The three major Hindu deities are SHIVA, VISHNU and BRAHMA. BRAHMA is the supreme deity because his work of creating the earth is done.

In addition to these three major deities, thousands of other deities are worshiped as part of Hinduism.GANESH (the elephant headed god) is one of the most popular. He is the remover of obstacles. HANUMAN (the monkey god) is also popular. He is renowned for his ability to perform impossible feats and students often turn to him for help at exam time. Goddesses also play important roles in Hindu religious life.

LAKSHMI, Vishnu's wife, is the goddess of fortune and is worshipped for wealth and prosperity, especially during Diwali, the Festival of Lights. PARVATI is Lord Shiva's wife and his constant companion. She discusses questions of Hindu philosophy with Shiva. DURGA and KALI are the fierce forms of PARVATI.


The Mughals brought Islam with them when they invaded India in the 12th century. Today, Islam is practiced by about 14% of the population. Muslims believe in one God--Allah, one prophet--Muhammad, and one holy book--the Qur'an. The majority of Indian Muslims belong to the Sunni sect of Islam to which people of Arabia , North Africa , and Turkey belong. Many lower caste Hindus converted to Islam in order to escape the caste constraints of Hinduism.


2.4% of the population are Christians (mostly found on the southwest coastal areas and in the northeast). Christianity arrived in India almost about the same period as it arrived in Europe , meaning about 2000 years ago. The major centers of Christianity in India are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa , Manipur and Mizoram and Mumbai. The main division of Christians in India is like in the Christian world, Protestants and Catholic.


2% are Sikhs (found principally in the Punjab , although many migrated to Delhi after partition). The Sikh religion began in the Punjab at the end of the 15th century. As a mark of devotion to Guru Nanak, his followers called themselves Sikhs, a name derived from the Sanskrit word shishya, which means disciple. Guru Nanak was the first of ten gurus who developed the religion.

It is said that Gobind Singh (the tenth Guru) wanted the Sikhs to be recognized from afar. Members of the Khalsa society of Sikhs adopt five symbols to identify themselves.

kesha - long hair wrapped in a turban

kangha - wooden or ivory comb

kachha - military knee breeches

kara - a steel bracelet

kirpan - a sword (today, a smaller version or a facsimile is used)


0.7% are Buddhists (found mainly in the Himalayan areas). Buddhism began with a prince called Siddhartha Gautama. Oncw dominant in India , today less than 1% of India 's population is Buddhist.


0.5% are Jains (strongest in Gujarat , but also prominent in Rajasthan). Mahavira, the twenty-fourth Tirthankaraor saint, founded Jainism. Mahavira was a contemporary of Buddha with a similar background; both were of noble birth and both renounced their former lives to live among ascetics. The word "Jain" is derived from the Sanskrit word jinameaning "conqueror".

An additional 0.4% of the population practices other religions such as Judaism (a small population in Goa ), Zoroastrianism (confined mainly to Bombay 's Parsi population), and The Baha'i religion.

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