Religious composition of India


Indian population has a very complex structure of religion. It is one of the important characteristics of its masses. Religion is a way of life in India and it affects the social, economic, and political structure of society. The introduction of different religions in different pre-historic times, to Indian land, has created a diversity of culture and brought about changes in the lifestyle of the masses, somewhere a fusion of different religions could be seen, evolving as a new culture.

India is the motherland of four major religions- Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Hinduism, a religion thousands of years old and whose origin is difficult to trace, evolved out of varied Indian ways of life, so different and yet in some intangible way unified. The most dominant religion, however, is Hinduism, while the other three religions were founded by a different person in the post-Vedic period. In addition to being the birthplace of four major religions of the world, India has embraced other world religions also. Christianity and Islam came to India from other lands. The entry of these two religions in India goes back to almost the first days of their prophets. Syrian Christians appeared on the west coast of India in the very first century of the Christian era. The Arab traders brought Islam to the west coast of India much before the Muslim conquest of this country. The prosecuted Jews and Zoroastrians (Parsis) found sanctuary on Indian soil. Sikhism appeared on the religious scene of India only about five centuries ago.

There have been large-scale changes in the religious composition of the population due to various factors two of which are as follows:

•Conversion from one faith to another.
•Partition of India in 1947 resulted in the large-scale migration of religious groups due to political pressure.

Before partition-Hindu accounted for 66.5% of the population and Muslim 23.7% (census 1941).
After a partition-Large number of Muslims migrated from India to Pakistan and vice versa. Consequently, the proportion of these two religious communities changed. Hindus rose to 84.1% and Muslims fell to 9.8% (census 1951).

One heartening fact about the religious composition of India is that different religious groups have coexisted for the last several centuries even during troubled times when there have been clashes based on religion. India is one of the countries in the world where people belonging to different religious faiths are coexisting in peace and harmony.

Religion           Population         (%)
Hindus            827,578,868     80.5
Muslims         138,188,240     13.4
Christians        24,080,016       2.3
Sikhs               19,215,730      1.9
Buddhists         7,955,207        0.8
Jains                 4,225,053        0.4
Religions         6,639,626         0.6
not Stated       727,588             0.1
  Total             1,028,610,328 100.0
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