Religion in India - Statistics and Facts

India is a south Asian country known to be the largest democracy in the world. It is home to the second largest number of people after China. With over a billion residents, India boasts of diversity - in culture, lifestyle, languages and religions.

The Indian constitution guarantees secularism in religion, which means the freedom of religion is recognized as a fundamental right. Even though the north west portion of the country hosted the Indus Valley civilization and has the highest number of Hindus in the world, India is not only the birthplace of other religions but is also home to followers of other faiths from around the world.

Jainism is believed to have roots in the Indus Valley civilization. Some historians believe that the faith reflects native spirituality of the Indo-Aryan migration, while others suggest a connection with the Shramana traditions. In 2014, the government awarded a minority status to Jains. As per the 2011 census, there are about 4.5 million people in the country who identity with this faith.

Buddhism, on the other hand is traced back to the 9th century BC. Buddhism, founded by Gautama Buddha was a native of Lumbini - plains that are now part of Nepal. Buddhism was popular during the reign of the Mauryan empire, but later declined due to the rise of other kingdoms and the aggressive resurgence of Hinduism. The share of the population that identifies with Buddhism as their faith makes up less than one percent of the current population in the country.

Sikhism originated in the Punjab region towards the end of the 15th century. It continues to be the prominent faith among Punjabis in the northern part of the country, with under two percent of the population identifying Sikhism as their religion.

Islam became a dominant religion when the Arab traders came through the Malabar coast in the early 7th century. The Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal empire greatly influenced the acceptance of the faith. As per the latest census, Muslims account for the second largest population in India with about 172 million people.
Earlier influences followed by sea traders from the west and later English colonization led to the adoption and growth of Christianity. Today, most Christians reside in the south and north-east parts, accounting for over two percent of the total population and the third largest religion.

Although largely at peace, the population experiences communal disturbances from time to time.In spite of being home to different faiths, India has witnessed religious and communal violence. Some sensitive issues include the debate on nationalism with a Hindu identity, beef consumption, influence of western practices and their threat to tradition, negative and violent attitudes towards other faiths (Islam and Christianity) and a general lack of tolerance.

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