In India, Hinduism is the dominant religion, while Muslims are by far the largest of a number of religious minorities. In many places tensions prevail between Hindus and Muslims and periodic violence flames up between the two groups. Violence is often fueled by extremists for political reasons.
According to the Constitution, India is a secular state. There is no state religion and religion should have no significance in political life. But religion permeates the whole of society. It plays an important role for most Indians and is a natural part of everyday life.
In a completely different way than we in the West are used to living in India old and new side by side. Religions, just like culture, are happy to accept things that come from outside. But the new one is never allowed to take over but is just redone to fit into the old. The many religions have also gained an impression from each other. Primarily, Hinduism has influenced the other beliefs.
- Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in India, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.
The country’s main economic and political problem is the population explosion. Every fifth child on earth is currently born in India.
The government is trying to curb the high growth with awareness-raising campaigns on birth control, but the success is limited. Nevertheless, it can be stated that population growth is declining slightly – currently at around 1.4% per year.
The reasons for this comparatively high population growth (Germany: 0.12%) are diverse: the main reason is the lack of a pension, for example in the form of a pension. The care of old people who can no longer provide for their own support must be taken over by their own children. Many people cannot build up their own reserves for old age because their income as day laborers, small tenants or street vendors is insufficient. About 30% of India’s population lives in poverty. In order to feed the family, the children have to help too.
In addition, there is the adherence to traditional behavior:
A woman is not respected until she has given birth to a son. Sons look after their parents in old age. The land is inherited only to them. Sons ensure the continued existence of the family. When you get married, you bring the woman’s dowry and the woman herself into the house as cheap labor.
Therefore, especially in rural areas, women are forced to have new pregnancies until the necessary sons are born. So the population continues to grow.
On the other hand, the dowry necessary for the marriage can often only be raised for the first daughter. More daughters represent a misfortune for the family. Therefore, unwanted daughters were often put aside in the past. Today, quacks are out and about with discarded ultrasound devices to determine the sex of unborn babies and to abort girls, despite the prohibition and insufficient knowledge. That led to a country without girls.
With 300 residents / Km² India is one of the most densely populated countries on earth.
However, the regional differences are extreme. Very densely populated, with z. T. more than 1000 residents / km² are z. B. the alluvial plains in the north and the coastal lowlands. Less than 30% of Indians live in cities. The total of 18 megacities in India, however, are showing high growth as a result of increasing rural exodus of poor landless farmers.
Mumbai (Bombay), Kolkata (Calcutta) and the capital Delhi are already among the world’s megacities, each with more than 5 million residents.
Data on the population of India differ in many ways from data on the population of Germany. This also applies to the composition of the population.
No other country in the world has such a diversity of peoples belonging to different races, language groups and religions. 15 regional languages are recognized by the country’s constitution. There are also around 140 other languages and more than 1500 dialects. The coexistence of these ethnic groups is not always tense. In some regions, e.g. B. in Punjab, stability is threatened by conflicts, especially between religious groups.
All of the world’s major religions are also represented in India. The main reasons for this diversity lie in the more than 5000 year old cultural history of the subcontinent.
The most common religion in India is Hinduism, to which about 80% of Indians profess. It is supported by three pillars: the caste system, the cremation and the belief in rebirth.
With its caste system, Hinduism still largely shapes the social system in India today.
Belonging to a particular caste largely determines career opportunities and social status from birth. Since only members of the same caste or a sub-caste are allowed to marry and the father’s occupation is passed on to the son, the social hierarchy is extremely rigid (Fig. 6):
At their head are the so-called Brahmins, priests and scribes. Among them are traditionally the warriors from whom the princes and landlords emerged.
Then follows the caste of merchants and wealthy farmers and artisans, who in turn have a higher status than the caste of simple farmers and artisans.
Indians standing outside the box are considered pariah, as “untouchables”. They have to make a living doing lowest jobs. Even today, they are largely denied the move to more education, more highly qualified professions and political activity.
In addition to the pariah, women usually have a completely subordinate position in Indian society. Although it was abolished by the constitution, the caste system is a major obstacle to social growth, especially in rural areas.
Above all, the caste system and the associated intolerance of Hinduism found early critics. Thus developed Buddhism, Jainism and other religions as reform efforts on Hinduism in the middle of the 1st century. V. They demanded above all to refrain from any use of force. While Buddhism is no longer widespread in India today, there are many similarities between Hinduism and Jainism.
Islam is of great importance in India .Maps showing the spread of Hinduism and the statistical indication of 14% for the proportion of Muslims could, however, give rise to a misconception. At present, however, India ranks second among the countries in the world with its number of Muslims after Indonesia, followed by Pakistan and Bangladesh. The trend is increasing, as a large part of India’s population growth takes place in Islamic families. The Islamization of India began from the northwest in the 12th and 13th centuries and culminated in the Muslim Mughal Empire in northern India, which lasted from 1526-1858. Many Islamic rulers showed great tolerance for the Hindus, but some (AURANGZEB, in the 17th century) had their temples razed in order to build mosques on them. These events, long forgotten by the people, are currently being used by both Hindu nationalists and Islamists to instigate unrest between members of both religions. The large buildings from the Mughal Empire, such as the famous Taj Mahal in Agra, have long been understood by most Indians as a cultural and historical wealth of the country as a whole and are also visited by Hindus.
Country of origin for Hinduism and Buddhism
All major world religions are represented in India. In addition, Hinduism and Buddhism can be said to have originated right there.
Nearly 80 percent of the population profess Hinduism, which is a religion with roots very far back in time. It has derived impressions from the prehistoric Harappa culture, from the religions of the Dravidians and tribes as well as from the religious conceptions of Indo-Europeans and has also received impetus from outside. There are Vedic ritualists who closely follow the precepts of ancient sacred scriptures, but also fertility worshipers, as well as Hindu modernists inspired by science and social ideals from the West.
Hinduism has evolved into a multi-faceted religion, usually characterized by great flexibility as well as great tolerance and even indifference to dissent. For example, one does not try to actively convert others to Hinduism. In part, this is because Hinduism lacks central authorities such as the Bible or the Pope in Christianity. There is also no equivalent to worship in Hindu temples.
But some basic notions unite all Hindus, for example the belief in the inherent unity of everything and that everything has its origin in a supreme being, the great world soul (Brahman). This can take three different forms: the Creation, called Brahma (not to be confused with Brahman), the Preservation, which is called Vishnu, and the Destructive but Reconstruction, which is called Shiva. Hinduism’s innumerable gods and goddesses, in turn, are just different forms of these three (and thus of Brahman).
Birth and ritual purity
Reincarnation or self-transformation / rebirth is central. It is governed by human actions (karma); he who performs good deeds can do better in the next life. The ultimate goal (moksha), however, is to completely liberate oneself from the cycle of death and rebirth (samsara) to attain in the deity or in a non-existence.
That goal can be achieved through Vedic ritualism, studies and search for wisdom, good social / religious deeds, an ascetic life or meditation. Very popular is the devotional worship of a personal god (bhakti). A common bakhti is Krishna, who is one of the god Vishnu’s ten incarnations on earth and who has also spread in the West (Hare Krishna).
The notion of ritual purity is very important to Hindus. Almost every creature and phenomenon in the world is ranked according to ritual purity. This in turn depends on how close – or far from – the being in question stands to the divine (see the Caste System).
Islam and Sikhism
Nearly 15 percent of Indians are Muslims and a majority of them are Sunnis. India has the world’s largest Muslim population after Indonesia. Already in the 7th century, Muslims began to come to India, but on a large scale they first came to the Turkish and Persian invasions from the 9th century.
When British India was divided in 1947, millions of Muslims sought refuge in the new Muslim state of Pakistan, while the Hindus chose secular India. However, many Muslims remained in India, where some of them reached high positions in society (such as the presidential office).
Sikhism emerged in the 16th century as a reform movement within Hinduism. The founder, Guru Nanak, was strongly inspired by Islam. The almost 2 percent Indians who are Sikhs are found mainly in Punjab, where they are in the majority, as well as in the big cities of Northern India. A straight-legged Sikh does not cut the hair and beard (he usually hides them in a turban) and always wears a saber (but it can be symbolic). However, it is becoming increasingly common for young Sikhs to cut their hair short.
Other religious groups
Various groups of Christians are found mainly in Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the south as well as in northern India. Together, they make up just over 2 percent of India’s population. Christianity came to India around the year 54 AD. The Syrian Orthodox Church was established early in the south and in the middle of the 16th century the Roman Catholic Church was established in India. Through the Portuguese, a large Christian community was formed in Goa.
Buddhism and strict Jainism, which have much in common with Buddhism, were both founded in India in the 5th century BC as protest movements. They now have relatively few followers in India (less than 1 percent each). Most Indian Buddhists live in Ladakh and Sikkim in the Himalayas. Jainism is best known for its distinctive view of non-violence (ahimsa). A Jainist strives hard not to harm other living beings, intentionally or unintentionally.
In particular, Bombay (Mumbai) constitutes a small but influential minority, or Zoroastrians. They immigrated to India in the 8th century from Persia, from where they were expelled by the Muslims. The Persians revered the four elements – fire, water, earth and air – and did not want to pollute them by burying or cremating their dead. Instead, they are laid out on a platform at the top of a tower (“the tower of silence,” or dakhma), where they are rotten and eaten by ash birds. The parcels attach great importance to education and have a great influence in the business world. Several of India’s most important business leaders are parsers.
Among the tribes are animism, for example the worship of the ancestors’ spirits and magic of various kinds.
Hindu nationalism is spreading
From time to time, violence flares up, especially among Hindus and Muslims. Most often they are underpowered by extremists who act for their own political gain.
The Hindu Nationalist Party BJP’s 2014 election victory aroused the concern of some Muslims. Then the disputed BJP politician Narendra Modi became prime minister. As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi had received strong criticism for not trying to prevent religiously motivated riots in 2002, when a thousand people, mostly Muslims, died in the state (see Modern History).
The BJP (which also ruled between 1998 and 2004) has its roots in a conservative, nationalist Hinduism that has become increasingly prevalent since the 1980s. Hindu nationalism links Hinduism with Indian identity, culture and with the Indian state. Its adherents are particularly skeptical of Muslims and Christians who are considered to have a “foreign” religion. One term used is Hindutva, which can be translated roughly with Hinduism. The BJP stands close to the politically influential Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is an independent NGO with a large grassroots network. There are also militant Hindu groups. The US intelligence service classifies two groups as militants: Vishya Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal.
Since 2014, attacks against religious minorities have increased. One example is the crowds that lynch butchers, leather workers and beef traders (mostly Muslims but also Dalits). For a Hindu, the cow is a sacred animal and beef is forbidden as food. The crowds are not infrequently fired on by militant Hindus. Attacks on Christians have also increased, as have advocates for secular society.
As a counterbalance to Hindu nationalists stands more reform-friendly Hindus who want to modernize religion. Sometimes conflicts also arise between these groups. One example is the violent protests that arose when the Supreme Court in 2018 granted women the right to visit a temple in southern India that was previously only available to men.
Similar prohibitions also exist within Islam. In 2016, a Bombay court suspended the ban on women visiting the Sufi mosque Haji Ali in the city, on the grounds that this ban violated the constitution.