is a birth place of four religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism
and Sikhism. Brahmanism (Hinduism), with its accompanying social
caste system, evolved from the Vedic religion of Aryan invaders.
is "A Way Of Life". There is no founder of Hinduism. The word
is derived from the name of river Indus, which flows through northern
India. In ancient times the river was called the 'Sindhu', but the
Persians who migrated to India called the river 'Hindu', the land
'Hindustan' and its inhabitants 'Hindus'. Thus the religion followed by
the Hindus came to be known as 'Hinduism'. The seeds of Hinduism was
brought to India by the Aryans who settled along the banks of the
Indus river about 2000 B. C. The Aryans first worshipped the
forces of nature e.g., Surya, the Sun; Vayu, the Wind; Agni, the
pray to and worship different gods and goddesses or deities. The most
fundamental of Hindu deities, is the trinity of Brahma,
Creator, Preserver and Destroyer respectively. They celebrate the
festivals and perform "Pujas" or ceremonies and rituals to the
particular god or deity. Hindus have many beliefs and practices that
have been handed down by word of mouth and daily practice. Many of these
deities are housed within ornate temples of unparalleled beauty and
The temple situated at Prabhadevi attracts many devotees from all over
the city. Tuesday is the most auspicious day for the temple when
devotees stand for long hours to seek blessings of Lord Ganesha. It is
the most prominent place of Dadar, Mumbai.
Hindus believe in "Karma"
- law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds and in "Reincarnation"
- rebirth of the soul in a new body. Hindus also believe in "Moksha"
or Salvation - a belief that one can get free from the bondage of
life through spiritual knowledge like meditation and yoga,
devotion to God, making sacrifices, and serving the society
primary books of Hinduism are
: The 4 Vedas are
Rig Veda -"Royal Knowledge"
Sama Veda - "Knowledge of Chants"
Yajur Veda - "Knowledge of Sacrificial Rituals"
Atharva Veda - "Knowledge of Incarnations"
are the earliest Hindu scripts and are a collection of poetic
hymns in praise of the Supreme power (God).
Upanishads define the basic philosophy of the religion, such as
Karma, Dharma, and the Caste System. There are 108 extant
Upanishads, of which 10 are most important: Isa, Kena, Katha, Prashna,
Mundaka, Mandukya, Taitiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya, Brihadaranyaka.
The Bhagavad-Gita describes Hindu ideals and tells about the path
to become a saint or yogi.It contains some of the most brilliant
theological lessons about the nature of God and of life ever written.
Lord Krishna explains the details of life to his friend Arjuna who
was discouraged to fight a war, known as the "The War of
Kurushetra" that involved relatives and friends. The Bhgvad
Gita is part of the great Hindu Epic the Mahabharata.
: The world's longest epic poem and one of the greatest Hindu epic was
composed by Vyas Deva It was written in about 9th century BC, and deals
with the power struggle between the Pandava and the Kaurava families,
with an intertwining of numerous episodes that make up life and also
describes the story of Vedic era.
The other great composition is the epic called Ramayana written by
Valmeeki. It describes the story of Rama (a representative of God
Vishnu), the king of Ayodhya. Rama's wife Sita was abducted by
Ravana, the demon king of Sri Lanka. Rama fought a war against
Ravana and defeated him. Ramayana presents the ideology of king
Rama and his love for his country. Top
of the popular Hindu festivals are Deepawali, Holi, Pongal, Dussehra,
Ganesh Chaturthi, Pongal, Janamasthmi and Shiva Ratri. These
innumerable festive occasions lend Hinduism its amazing popular appeal
and make the Indian tradition rich and colorful.
Jains believe that God did not create the universe they do believe in
God. Our God is Jina. The word Jina literally means "the
Victor" or "the Liberator". The followers of Jina are
called Jains. Histoians believe that the Jain religion has existed in
paralell with Hinduism for about five thousand
was made popular and propagated by Mahavira
in the sixth century B.C.Mahavir was a prince and his childhood name was
Vardhaman. Being the son of a king, he had many worldly pleasures,
comforts, and services at his command, but at the age of thirty he left
his family and royal household, gave up his worldly possessions, and
become a monk in search of a solution to eliminate pain, sorrow, and
suffering from life. Mahavir spent the next twelve and one half years in
deep silence and meditation to conquer his desires, feelings, and
Mahavira established a monastic community of both nuns and
monks. He was the last of the spiritual lineage of the twenty-four
teachers of Jainism who taught a path to religious awakening based
on renouncing the world by practice of strict religious austerity. At
the age of 72 (527 BC), Lord Mahavir attained nirvana (death) and his
purified soul left his body and achieved complete
doctrine of karma occupies a significant position in the Jain
philosophy. At the heart of right conduct for Jains lie the five great
vows: Jainism places a special emphasis on "ahimsa"
or non-injury to all living beings. This concern for life is extended to
all creatures, even minute microbes that are not visible. Some rigid
Jains are seen with white muslin cloths over their mouths to keep out
flying insects, and they are encouraged to use small brooms to gently
sweep away living creatures from their path, so as to not accidentally
crush them. Top
celebrate their religious holidays by fasting, worshipping, reciting
sacred texts, holding religious discourses, giving alms, taking certain
vows and other such acts of piety.
Annual holidays are observed based on
the lunar calendar. The two are most important religious holidays are
the birthday of Lord Mahavir, the last Tirthankar (April).Paryushan (Swetambar)
prayers, meditation, fasting, penance, introspection, confession, and
forgiveness (August or September) mark eight or ten days in a year.
& Parsis IN INDIA
is an ancient religion founded by Zarathustra. Zarathustra
was the first prophet to preach a monotheistic religion, and He was born
in Iran about 8000 years ago. He revealed that there was only one God,
Ahura Mazda and that life in the physical world was a battle between
good and evil.
As a young lad, Zarathustra turned away from
worldly pleasures and indulged in worshiping the Ahura
Mazda. At the
ripe age of twenty, he chose to be a recluse, bidding farewell to family
life and stayed in a cave on Mount Ushidaren all alone, where he spent
ten years in total isolation. He survived on berries and roots and
acquired enlightenment when he had vision of Ahura Mazda.
he had followers like King Vishtaspa of Bactria in eastern Iran and his
wife and son, while Zarathusthra continued his preachings, travelling
extensively as far as Tibet and China. He died at the age of 77 in the
'fire temple', while praying but left a legacy which was to continue and
contribute in a big way to human kind. Top
PARSI community in India : Parsees
practice Zoroastrianism. The Parsees are concentrated in Maharashtra and
Gujarat states, especially in Bombay. Their ancestors migrated from Iran
in the 8th century to avoid Muslim persecution.
The Parsis worship fire
and treat it as manifestations of the divinity of Ahura Mazdah. They go
to the "fire
The Sanjan Atash Behram was the first "sacred fire" of the
Parsees in India although it was destroyed and taken to Navsari. Today
the fire rests in the new temple at the village of Udwada.
is a very close knit community. There are many private schools
established by the wealthier members of the Parsis. Parsis are known to
be very lovable people. The huge Tata industrial empire bears the name
of one of India’s most famous Parsi families. Other famous Parsis are
Dadabhai Nawroji, Jamshedji Tata, Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha, Sir
Phirojshah Mehta, Sir Dinshaw Wacha and J R D Tata. Top
Parsis have several festivals and holidays. The festivals are not marked
by grand processions and music, but are meant for introspection and
religious discourses. According to the Parsis there are six seasons in a
year and a significant festival occurs in each.
as the festivities are called were originally agricultural in nature,
but as Zoroastrianism spread far and wide, they took on a religious
significance. Some holidays are happy and some are somber in
celebrated : Khordad Saal (August / September) , Nauroze or Parsi
New Year (March) , Jashans, Jamshedi Navroz day, Zarthost Na Deeso
Faith is the
youngest of the world's independent religions. Its central theme is that
humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its
unification in one global society. Bahá'u'lláh
(1817-1892) taught that there is one God Who progressively reveals His
will to humanity.
Each of the great religions brought by the Messengers
of God - Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus, Muhammad - represents
a successive stage in the spiritual development of civilization.
Lotus of Bahapur is the Bahá'í House of Worship in New Delhi built in
1986. It has a distinct shape of a lotus. To the people of India the
lotus flower signifies purity and peace, a representation of the
Manifestation of God. It is fondly referred to as the "lotus
is one of the youngest of the World Religions, barely 500 years old. It
was founded by Shri
Guru Nanak Dev
in 1469 who laid the basic principles of Sikhism. It offered the people
a simple Sikh religion teaching "Oneness of God", whose name
is TRUTH. Nine Gurus followed him who all reinforced and added to what
was taught by the first Guru. In 1708, the holy book of the Sikhs, The
GRANTH SAHIB JI
was Proclaimed to be the only Guru by the last Guru, Shri Guru Gobind
Singh Ji. This holy book embodies the philosophy and fundamentals of
Sikhism. It is the only holy book of a major religion which was written
and authenticated by its founders. Top
the fundamentals of Sikhism emanate from the concept of love for God
which follows the love of man. For a Sikh, all human beings are
creatures of God and must be treated equally. One must work hard and
share one's earnings with the less fortunate which had to be earned by
righteous means. One must be always active in mind and body. Top
Guru Gobind Singh, the last Guru gave the Sikhs a distinct Uniform and
appearance so that they were easily recognized. So, in 1699 on the day
of Vasakhi April 13, he assembled his Sikhs and baptized five beloved
who were brave and obedient to his orders and called this brotherhood -
The Khalsa. Also he gave them a new surname "SINGH"
(Lion) to be
added to their first names.
He gave them the
five symbols and five basic
prayers. These saint - soldiers were devoted to mankind. The women were
given equal status with men as the new brotherhood had no distinctions
of caste, creed, color or sex. The women were to add "KAUR"
their names and were to be always protected. Top
are necessary for the strength and unity of the religion and also for
the value each had. All Sikhs were to have Kesh
or uncut hair, a Kanga
or the comb to keep this hair neat and clean, Kaccha
or the underwear worn as a symbol of agility and readiness for action, Kirpan
or sword which is an emblem of courage and adventure to be used for
defensive purposes and lastly, Kada
or the Steel bracelet to remind the sikh of his bond to the
Sikh is easily recognized by his beard (Uncut and untrimmed ) and uncut
hair which he protects with a turban on his head. Sikhs are not allowed
to wear caps and have to grow their hair to its natural lengths as it be
going against the law of God and nature to cut them. Top
had its genesis outside India, in what is now Saudi Arabia. Followers of
this faith are called Muslims. Islam was basically propounded by the
prophet Mohammed. The 2 main sects of this religion are Sunni
muslims with many other minor sects. The 5 pillars of Islam are - Faith
in Allah, Praying -five times a day, Almsgiving, Keeping the Fast and
the Pilgrimage to Mecca. The
which means "to recite"
in Arabic is the one sacred
scriptures of the Islamic faith. Top
the prophet, was born in Mecca in 570 A.D. in a tribe that acted as
custodians of the Kaaba with the family business of supplying drinking
water to the pilgrims. As Mohammed spoke against the worship of idols,
the priests of Kaaba and the merchants of Mecca who depended on Pilgrim
trade were angry and plotted against his life and so, he fled to the
north to Yathrib, later known as Medina.
In 630 A.D., Mohammed
entered Mecca and destroyed the idols in Kaaba, leaving only the Black
stone. This shrine was announced
as Sactuary of Allah, the holy spot in Islam. Since then, Moslems at
Prayer, wherever in the world they may be, face towards Mecca as they
kneel. Prophet Mohammad gave the final form to an already existing
religion. Muslims are also referred to as Mohammedans. Top
which means "to recite"
in Arabic is the one sacred
scriptures of the Islamic faith. Muslims believe that all 114 of its
chapters, called suras, came to Mohammed as revelations from God. It is
said Archangel Gabriel inspired Mohammed to recite the earliest verses
of Koran. Many of the Koran stories are those of Jewish Christian Bible
or tales of old Arabia. Top
is a noble yet simple religion based on 5
pillars of principal acts of faith as
Faith in Allah - One who says from
heart "La ilaha illa llah; Muhammad rasulu"llah", means
that there is no God but Allah with Muhammad as messenger, is a muslim.
times a day - Earth belongs to Allah, God and so prayers should be
offered whenever the hours are free for prayers. On Friday noon Prayers,
Men and boys are expected to go to mosque if possible where the Imam,
officer of the mosque leads the worship and delivers a sermon. Worship
is also individual.
A part of the income or as desired, the believer of muslim faith gives
away charity to the poor and needy or for the support of the mosque.
Keeping the fast of Ramazan
- During the ninth month of Muslim year Ramzan, Mohammad
received his first revelations and so there is a faith that the Paradise
doors open this time when Gabriel came to Mohammad and made him the
messenger. The doors of hell are shut and the devils are in chains.
Hence, fasting is held from sunrise until sunset during the
Pilgrimage to Mecca -
Religious muslims believe in making a haj or pilgrimage to Mecca once in
a lifetime. Only muslims can enter Mecca in common brotherhood as one
and follow the rules. Top
pilgrimage ritual is as follows :
they turn seven times around the Kaaba starting at Blackstone, three
times quickly and four times slowly. Every time they pause to kiss or
touch it with a hand or stick. Second they go seven times across the
valley between the low hills Safa and Marwa. This is for search of water
as per religious tales. Finally, they do the greater pilgrimage to the
Mount of Mercy, Mount Arafat. From Noon to sunset, pilgrims stand before
God and the one who misses it has missed the haj, it is said.
Afterwards, the pilgrims spend the night in outside and then have three
day feast with a final round of the Kaaba completing the pilgrimage-the
greatest joy on earth and a most difficult pilgrimage according to many
devout muslims. Top
the world's biggest religion, with about 2.1 billion followers
worldwide. It is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ who lived in
Isreal. About 2.5% of India’s population are Christians. Christianity
arrived in India almost about the same period as it arrived in Europe,
meaning about 2000 years ago. Christianity originates in Israel. The
first Christians were Jews and in the beginning Christianity was seen as
a Jewish cult. Most of the Apostles of Christians acted in Europe to
convert the Europeans to Christianity. But one of the Apostles, St.
Judas Thomas, arrived in India and converted Indians to Christianity.
St. Thomas was a carpenter and a disciple of Jesus. He was brought to
India by a merchant to build a temple. St. Thomas arrived in Kerala, in
south India in 52 AD. He succeeded in converting local Indians to
were the first European power to arrive in India. Their first ship,
under the leadership of Vasco DaGama, arrived in south India in 1498
after it had circled the whole continent of Africa. The Portuguese
inspired by the Pope’s order to baptize people around the world not
only fought wars against the local Indian rulers, but they even tried to
enforced their Roman Catholic prayers on Syrian Christians.
The major centers
of Christianity in India are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Manipur and
Mizoram. There is also a big community of Christians in Mumbai. The main
division of Christians in India is like in the Christian world,
Protestants and Catholic. There are also different denomination among
them, Syrian Church, Armenian Church, Anglican Church and others. Most
of the India Christians were converted by the Portuguese. There is also
an Anglo-Indian community in India.
Pilgrimage Centers in India
Bom Jesus - Goa
The church of Bom Jesus, "Good" or "Infant"
Jesus, is known principally for the tomb of St. Francis Xavier. In 1946,
it became the first church of India to be elevated to the status of
Minor Basilica. One of the richest churches in Goa, it is covered with
marble and inlaid with precious stones and paintings depicting the life
of St. Francis Xavier. The basilica, where the mortal remains of St.
Francis Xavier are kept, is the best specimen of baroque architecture in
India. St. Francis's body was brought to Goa almost 150 years after his
death. It was a gift from Medici, Cosimo III, the Grand Duke of Tuscany.
It now lies in an airtight glass coffin, placed inside a silver casket
fashioned by a 17th century Florentine jeweler. The chapel attracts
large numbers of visitors every year.
churches are :
The Church of St.
Christ Church & St. Michael's Cathedral, H.P.
Church of St Francis of Assisi, Goa
Church of the Sacred Heart, New Delhi
Santa Cruz Basilica, Kerala
Cathedral Church of St. Thomas, Mumbai
Little Mount, Chennai (Madras)
Buddhism in India
began with the life of Siddhartha
Gautama (ca. 563-483 B.C.),
a prince from the small Shakya Kingdom located in the foothills of the
Himalayas in Nepal. Brought up in luxury, the prince abandoned his home
and wandered forth as a religious beggar, searching for the meaning of
a tree in the forests of Gaya (in modern Bihar), he resolved to stir no
farther until he had solved the mystery of existence.
the final barriers, he achieved the knowledge that he later expressed as
- All of life is
- The cause of
suffering is desire
- The end of
desire leads to the end of suffering
- The means to
end desire is a path of discipline and meditation.
Gautama was now
the Buddha, or the awakened one, and he spent the remainder of his life
traveling about northeast India converting large numbers of disciples.
At the age of eighty, the Buddha achieved his final passing away (parinirvana
) and died, leaving a thriving monastic order and a dedicated lay
community to continue his work.
By the third
century B.C., the still-young religion based on the Buddha's teachings
was being spread throughout South Asia through the agency of the Mauryan
Empire (ca. 326-184 B.C.; see The Mauryan Empire, ch. 1). By the seventh
century A.D., having spread throughout East Asia and Southeast Asia,
Buddhism probably had the largest religious following in the world.
There was a
decline in the following of Buddhism due to the lack of followers, but Buddhist revival began in India in 1891, when the Sri Lankan Buddhist leader Anagarika Dharmapala founded the Maha Bodhi Society. Its activities expanded to involve the promotion of Buddhism in India. In June 1892, a meeting of Buddhists was organized at Darjeeling. Dharmapala spoke to the Tibetian Buddhists and presented a relic of the Buddha to be sent to the Dalai Lama.
The forms of Buddhism practiced by Himalayan communities and Tibetan
refugees are part of the Vajrayana, or "Way of the Lightning
Bolt," that developed after the seventh century A.D. as part of
Mahayana (Great Path) Buddhism. Although retaining the fundamental
importance of individual spiritual advancement, the Vajrayana stresses
the intercession of bodhisattvas, or enlightened beings, who remain in
this world to aid others on the path. Until the twentieth century, the
Himalayan kingdoms supported a hierarchy in which Buddhist monks, some
identified from birth as bodhisattvas, occupied the highest positions in
Buddhism in India
Buddhists in India follow Theravada Buddhism, the "Doctrine of the
Elders," which traces its origin through Sri Lankan and Burmese
traditions to scriptures in the Pali language, a Sanskritic dialect in
eastern India. Although replete with miraculous events and legends,
these scriptures stress a more human Buddha and a democratic path toward
enlightenment for everyone.
for the expanding Buddhist congregation in India visualized Buddhist
monks and nuns developing themselves through service to others. Convert
communities, by embracing Buddhism, have embarked on social
transformations, including a decline in alcoholism, a simplification of
marriage ceremonies and abolition of ruinous marriage expenses, a
greater emphasis on education, and a heightened sense of identity and