In this blog post, we will discuss Religion in India list. Especially, we will focus on Religious Conversion and Freedom of Religion in India.
Religion in India list
The religious conversion started In India, from the beginning of Aryan arrival in Indus valley area; i.e from the beginning of so called-Hinduism itself.
Indus Valley Civilization & Religion and Aryan arrival & Hindu religion
Indus Valley Civilization was dated about 3500 BCE; flourishing in 2 major cities- Mohenjo Daro in lower Sind and Harappa in Punjab. Worship of Mother Goddess and male deity, proto-Siva or forerunner of Siva has practiced already.
Moreover, Aryan language-speaking people settled in northwest India in 1500 BCE by causing the Indus Valley Religion decline. “The new settlers probably adopted some religious ideas from the earlier inhabitants and incorporated them into their rituals”.
Even though, the conversion took place by converting some original religious practitioners to embrace the Aryan religion. But later the mixture of their original belief and rituals with their adopted religious ideas became to be called the Hindu religion.
Brahmanical Religion (Religion in India list)
Indus Valley Civilization and its religion were put to decline by the newcomers; Aryans who occupied and settled in the part of India called Sapta-Sindhu; or the land of seven rivers (present-day Punjab).
It is said, “The religion of the Aryans has been known as Vedic or Brahmanical religion. Only very recently, it has been called Hindu religion; first by the foreigners than by the new reformists”.
Their religious texts are four Vedas; Rig Veda-c.1500 BCE and the other 3 Vedas were dated during the following 700 years. Since the Vedas from the basis of Brahmanical religion; and philosophy the Brahmanical religion was popularly known as Vedic religion.
Early Vedic society had three classes-priests, warriors, and commoners. But the division of the society into 3 classes and finally Sudras took a long time to develop; but extremely difficult to wipe out because it was upheld by the moral force of the religious concept of varna ashrama dharma.
Since the Aryans called the original Indus people Dasa or Dasya, black-skinned people; and fought with them several times this statement may be right: “It is possible that the lowly sudra caste was the enslaved members of the Dasa”.
Now it came to the period of epic sagas (Itihasas), Ramayana & Mahabharata showing the bravery of war-liking Aryans. In this period “the center of the Aryan-Sanskrit civilization had shifted from Punjab in the northwest to the Ganges valley, further east.
It was also beginning to extend southward. Thus the Brahmanical religion also extended first to the Gangetic valley than to the South converting many natives from their original religion to the Vedic one”. During this long period, the conversion took place severely although slowly.
In the Vedic religion worship of spirits of nature was popular as Vedic hymns praised the spirits-controlling natural forces. Vedic deities were males and Mother Goddess perhaps adopted from Indus valley people.
There were three popular Vedic deities named Indra, Mitra and Varuna along eith Adityas, Rudra and Prajapati. Later Prajapati became Brahmna, Rudra became Siva and one of the Adityas became Visnu. These gods came to be represented as a Trinity.
The Upanisads, earliest books of Brahmanical philosophy begun to appear in 2700 BCE; and Itihasa in 2500 BCE. These texts firmly established Brahmanical religion in India.
There arose a number of formations, denominations and movements within Brahmanical religion indicating conversions and reconversions; such as movements of Saivists, Vaisnavists, and movements of Nayammars and of Alvars; Bhakti movements, Philosophical schools, Sankara philosophy had their respective movements affecting conversions.
The Portuguese appeared in India after 1498. And European Christian missionaries too appeared. From the 1700’s British East India Company (BEIC) employed Indians for clerks, minor revenue officials, and common soldiers.
This contact between British East India Company members and Indians resulted from the starting of Hindu Reform Movements in the 1800s. The reform movement of Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833) through his Brahmo Samaj-Society of Brahma (founded in 1828); considered as one of the strongest conversion movements of Brahmanical religion from within.
There also, another conversion movement, initiated by Dayananda (1824-1883) through his Arya Samaj-society of Aryans (founded in 1875); who introduced ‘purification rites’ to reconvert, those Hindus who had converted to Christianity and Islam.
Buddhism (Religion in India list)
The Buddhist movement initiated by Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 BCE or 448-368 BCE). He has known as Buddha who lived in northeast India. Buddhism spread all over India and outside. The world Buddhist population seems to be over 300 million.
Emperor Asoka converted to Buddhism. And his conversion affected him to give up wars of conquest. As well as to spread Buddhism all over India. But the decline of Buddhism in India has resulted in the conversion movement of other religious followers.
Jainism (Religion in India list)
The Jainist conversion movement initiated by Mahavira-Great Hero (599-527 BCE. The last of 24 great teachers called Tirthankaras (ford-makers).
There are more than 3 million Jains in India, and also found in other countries.
The Christian conversion took place in the 1st century, CE by St. Thomas Christians. According to Dr. Farquhar St. Thoma arrived Indus area (Punjab about CE.48-49); and reached Malabar Coast in CE 51-52.
With Thomas conversion to Christianity happened. After, Thomas Apostle Bartholomew too came to the Kalyan area of Westcoast around CE 55. These indicated the Christian movement and conversion started in India in the 1st century, CE.
Islam (Religion in India list)
Islam, although founded in the early 7th century, CE. Especially, they appeared in India in CE 712 with an overland expedition to Sind. This is the first expedition, which sent by Umayyad Khalifa in Damascus. And this affected the founding of the Islamic kingdom in the part of north India.
Commercial ties between the Mediterranean and India played an important role in Islamic conversion. The serious Islamic invasion of the Indian sub-continent happened between the 800’s and 1000’s; under the leadership of Turkish warrior princes of Afghanistan.
Popular raiders and rulers were Mahmud of Ghazni (died in 1030); Muhammad of Ghor who appointed a Turkish slave leader; Qutub al-Din Aybak in Delhi who founded the Slave Dynasty by founding an empire known as Delhi Sultanate.
The Muslim rulers reigned in various places. During the Muslim period, Islamic conversion took place in various ways with the destruction. And the demolition of many Hindu temples and shrines.
The Mughal Empire, initiated by the Mongol conqueror Tamerlane. And it founded by his descendant Babar. Who invaded India in 1526. And, he conquered most of northern India. A man of the same quality as that of Babar was Akbar the greatest of the Mughal Empire.
He succeeded by Jahangir (1605-1627) and then Shah Jahan (1628-1658) and Aurangzeb (1658-1707). During those days the Mughal Empire was at the height of its power. Aurangzeb was a strict Muslim.
Moreover, he strongly troubled by Shivaji and his followers, Marathas. Who tried to reestablish their independence. During the Muslim period, the forced conversion took place here; and therewith jizya tax and other means.
Sikhism started with Guru Nanak, who born in CE 1469. He had his vision when he was 30 years old. Even though, His visionary experience caused his tries to convert people into Sikhism by calling his followers Sikhs disciples.
Their holy book calls Granth Sahib (Revered Book); or Adi Granth (First Book). There are about 16 million Sikhs who live in India. And some have found outside India-UK; in the USA, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, and East Africa.
When the Muslims founded Mughal Empire in India; and tried to persecute the Sikhs Guru Gobind Singh organized his followers into a military order called the Khalsa (Pure). Those who initiated the Khalsa took the drink called Amrit (nectar); a symbol of loyalty to the guru and hoped for a higher spiritual existence.
But, Men took the name Singh (lion) and women took the name Kaur (princess). Initiates wore the five K’s –Kesh (uncut hair), Kangha (comb), Kirpan (dagger or short sword), Kara (steel wrist band), and Kachh (breeches worn by soldiers).
In the early 1800s, the Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh established a Sikh kingdom in northern India; but conquered by the British who controlled much of India. In 1947 at the time of independence almost half of the Sikhs lived in the area that became Pakistan.
Missionary History of Hinduism and Conversion Process
All the religions are missionary religions; including Indian originated religions. According to renowned historians and writers like Dr. Majumdar, Dr.Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru; A.L. Basham, and Amaury De Riencourt; Hinduism is a missionary religion doing conversion and reconversion.
Moreover, several missionaries and reformative societies had formed; such as Ramakrishna Mission, Assam Hindu Mission, Arya Samaj, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and others.
In addition, Gurus have been doing the conversion at their level best. Moreover, Acharya Rajneesh said that he converted a quarter million whites as Sanyasis and Sannyasins. But, today many white Hindus are running missionary work by doing the conversion.