Ancient Indian Religions Hinduism Jainism Buddhism
India is home of many religions. Followers of different religions are present among her people. A distinctive feature of the religion in India is its influence in all aspects of society. It has taken numerous forms and nomenclature in relation to different groups of people associated with it.
There has been great degree of religious tolerance among the different religious communities in India. There is an undercurrent of religious unity among the various religions. Major ancient religions of this country are Hinduism, Jainism, Budhism and Islam.
Hinduism is the oldest religions of the country. The word Hindu appears to have been coined by the invading Arabs around the 8th century AD for people living beyong the Indus. Hinduism derives from diverse literary sources including the Vedas, Aryankas, the Srauta, Grahya and Dharma sutras. The Rigveda is the oldest among the Vedas.
The life of a genuine Hindu has to pass through the fourfold scheme of practical endeavour. It comprises the concepts of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Related to these aspects are the aspects of Karma and Samsara. Depending upon one's deeds (Karma),one is able to reach the stages of Moksha or liberation.
The cycle of birth and rebirth is known as Samsara. The Hindus believe that each human being has a soul which is immortal. The process of birth and rebirth goes on until Moksha is attained. One's birth and rebirth in a particular state of existence is believed by the Hindus to be dependnant on the quality of one's deeds or Karma.
Budhism and Jainism were the two religions born after the birth of Hinduism in India. From the traditional point of view, Budhism begins with the believer going for refugee to the three jewels or triratna; the Budha, the doctrine or dharma and the community of monks or sangha. Budhism was spread widely in India once. However, with the revival of Vedic Hinduism, it lost its hold in the country. Gautama Budha is the founder of Budhism. This religion is divided into two sects; Hinayana and Mahayana.
Jainism originated in the Vedic times itself. This religion gives supreme importance to non violence and spiritual purification. They believe that there were 24 Tirthankaras who achieved moksha. Vardhanamana Mahavira, the last tirthankara is believed to be the founder of Jainism. They are a numerically lesser community. They have two divisions; Digambar and Shwetambar. The custom of santhara or fasting unto death is a unique custom in Jain religion.
Islam came into being in the early 7th century in west central Arabia. The religion was introduced in India by the Arab traders. These traders gradually established settlements on the Western and Eastern coasts of south India. Sind was conquered by the Arabs early in the 8th century and North West Punjab by the Turks in the 11th century. The Delhi sultanate was established by 1206 AD. Mughals later built an extensive empire.
Christianity is also a major religion. But it was popularized with the advent of British. Hence, it cannot be counted as an ancient religion of India.