Religion is a social-cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, beliefs, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, and spiritual elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.
Going by the actual definition by Merriam Webster a Religion is the service and worship of God or the supernatural/commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance. India is a home for many religions that includes Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism that forms the major religions to be followed in India.
Religion comes from Old French and Anglo Norman (1200s AD) and means respect for sense of right, moral obligation, sanctity, what is sacred, reverence for the gods. It is ultimately derived from the Latin word religiō.
Scholars have failed to agree on a definition of religion. There are, however, two general definition systems: the sociological/functional and the phenomenological/philosophical. However, many scholarly and academic attempts to define or describe religion can be classified into one of two types: functional or substantive. Each represents a very distinct perspective on the nature of the function of religion. Although it is possible for a person to accept both types as valid most people will tend to focus on one type to the exclusion of the other.
Every religion in this world carries a meaning and direction. In the purest form a religion is a term that extracts a beautified image of life that can be led for the purification of soul and develop an environment of peace and right path. India is home to at least nine recognized religions. The major religions practiced in India are Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism. Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and the Baha’i Faith are also practiced in India and each religion carries a meaning which is interrelated to each other. For example, Hinduism teaches about a healthy lifestyle by way of vegetarianism, nonviolence, belief in rebirth, even caste and Hinduism stresses on Unity peace and right path. Similarly, Islam, the second most followed religion in India teaches the meaning of it in a way that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique, and has guided humanity through prophets, revealed scriptures, and natural signs. Furthermore, Sikhism as per its founder Guru Nanak summarized this perspective as: “Truth is the highest virtue, but higher still is truthful living. Lastly, Christianity is a religion that is followed on the teachings of Jesus Christ and is again teaches truth and peace. Judaism and Zoroastrianism are also practiced by minority population in the country. According to Judaism, there exists a covenant relationship between God and Jewish people. One of the minority groups in the country, Zoroastrianism considers that humans are the helpers of God. The people who follow Zoroastrianism are known as Parsis and those who follow Judaism are Jews. Although, different religions are practiced in India, the secular and sovereign nature of the country remains intact. In fact, all religions collectively play an important role in maintaining the harmony, culture, history, and peace in the country.
As it is mentioned above, religion is something that gives meaning to life and every religion has hidden meaning of peace, prosperity, brotherhood, and right path and as per the meanings of every religion mentioned above the interrelated meaning comes out to be peace.
INDIA ON RELIGION
India is a land of different religions which are characterized by various religious practices and beliefs. The spiritual land of India has given birth to many religions such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism. These religions together form a subgroup and are known as Eastern religions. The people of India have a strong belief in religion as they believe that they add meaning and purpose to their lives. The religions here are not only confined to beliefs but also include ethics, rituals, ceremonies, life philosophies and many more. Today, a wide range of religions are practiced in India. However, India happens to be a country which is free from any religious affiliation and label itself a secular republic. however, the Constitution of India by way of Fundamental Rights akua Magna Carta of the Indian constitution provides for the provision of freedom to religion in Article 25 that reads as.
 Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion
(1) Subject to public order, morality, and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice, and propagate religion
(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law
(a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political, or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice.
(b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus Explanation I The wearing and carrying of kirpans shall be deemed to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion Explanation II In sub clause (b) of clause reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.
Constitution lays down the provision for practicing any religion of any choice, but it doesn’t adopt any official religion despite of having such a huge Hindu practicing population of about 79%.
Following are the data which shows the population of India in terms of religion.
DISTRIBUTION OF POPULATION BY RELIGION
|All religious communities||1,028,610,328||100.0|
|Religion not stated||727,588||0.1|
|Source: Religion, Census of India 2001|
At the census 2001, out of 1028 million population, little over 827 million (80.5%) have returned themselves as followers of Hindu religion, 138 million (13.4%) as Muslims or the followers of Islam, 24 million (2.3%) as Christians, 19 million (1.9%) as Sikh, 8 million (0.80%) as Buddhists and 4 million (0.4%) are Jain. In addition, over 6 million have reported professing other religions and faiths including tribal religions, different from six main religions.
Hinduism is professed by the majority of population in India. The Hindus are most numerous in 27 states/Ut’s except in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Jammu & Kashmir, and Punjab.
The Muslims professing Islam are in majority in Lakshadweep and Jammu & Kashmir. The percentage of Muslims is sizeable in Assam (30.9%), West Bengal (25.2%), Kerala (24.7%), Uttar Pradesh (18.5%) and Bihar (16.5%).
Christianity has emerged as the major religion in three North-eastern states, namely, Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya. Among other states/UT’s, Manipur (34.0%), Goa (26.7%), Andaman & Nicobar Islands (21.7%), Kerala (19.0%), and Arunachal Pradesh (18.7%) have considerable percentage of Christian population to the total population of the State/UT.
Punjab is the stronghold of Sikhism. The Sikh population of Punjab accounts for more than 75 % of the total Sikh population in the country. Chandigarh (16.1%), Haryana (5.5%), Delhi (4.0%), Uttaranchal (2.5%) and Jammu & Kashmir (2.0%) are other important States/UT’s having Sikh population. These six states/UT’s together account for nearly 90 percent Sikh population in the country.
The largest concentration of Buddhism is in Maharashtra (58.3%), where (73.4%) of the total Buddhists in India reside. Karnataka (3.9 lakh), Uttar Pradesh (3.0 lakh), west Bengal (2.4 lakh) and Madhya Pradesh (2.0 lakh) are other states having large Buddhist population. Sikkim (28.1%), Arunachal Pradesh (13.0%) and Mizoram (7.9 %) have emerged as top three states in terms of having maximum percentage of Buddhist population.
Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi have reported major Jain population. These states/UT’s together account for nearly 90 percent of the total Jain population in the country. The percentage of Jain population to the total population is maximum in Maharashtra (1.3%), Rajasthan (1.2%), Delhi (1.1%) and Gujrat (1.0%). Elsewhere in the country their proportion in negligible.
When the Constitution of India was in making, the makers had all the reasons to label India a Hindu Republic, but they opted to rule out religion from the Nation and chose to have a secular republic where either every religion would be preferred, or no religion would prefer over the other. This was the mind of our forefathers that they preserved the sanctity of this country and made the citizens supreme and not the religion. It not only portrayed the secular environment but also the tolerance of our soil that no matter what the religious population of this country would be, taking everybody together forward would be of utmost strength of this country. The forefathers ensured that no further exploitation can be permitted to take place in future.
The constitutional amendments by the government made the preamble of the constitution that consists of 144 words reading as.
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic, and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship.
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity.
and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation.
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION
a part of basic structure that can never be amended and will remain intact till eternity. The Preamble clearly states that India is secular, and no religion can come in account when the matter is of Nation and national importance.
RELIGION AS A SENTIMENT
Nowadays, religion acts as something which is beyond sentiments and people following it have been made to follow blind perspectives of people at apex positions that result in developing an orthodox and intolerant behavior which is contrary to what religion teaches. Since, the past decade, cases of accusation of hurting religious sentiments are on rise. Following are some of the cases reported.
- Selling chicken, milk from same parlor will hurt religious sentiments: BJP MLA
Madhya Pradesh government’s project of selling chicken and milk at one outlet has drawn criticism from the Opposition BJP which has stated that these outlets would hurt the religious sentiments of the people.” We are objecting since cow milk is being sold alongside the chicken. This is hurting the religious sentiment of people. We request the government to investigate it. Milk parlors and chicken parlors should be given to two different traders and shops should be opened at some distance from each other,” BJP MLA Rameshwar Sharma told ANI. The state government has started the project to increase the earnings of women from tribal society. The pilot project has been opened in Bhopal’s Vaishali Nagar.
- The demolition of a Hindu temple in Karnataka’s Mysuru has sparked a row with senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah saying that the BJP should have consulted the residents before taking such an action.
Demolition of the temple has hurt the religious sentiments of the people, he added.
“The destruction of an ancient temple in Nanjangud is condemnable. Since it was a sensitive issue, the @BJP4Karnataka should have spoken to the residents, The demolition is done without the consultation of the people in the region & has hurt the religious sentiments,” he said in a series of tweets.
- Indian Muslim minority targeted during COVID-19 pandemic
A Muslim call center operator at a COVID-19 ‘war room’, who once saw himself a COVID-warrior, is now unemployed after being falsely branded by a top politician as a key member of a bed-for-bribe scam. He is a victim of the rise in Islamophobia in India as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic – with scant evidence of condemnation from the authorities, say activists.
Early in May, a member of Parliament for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Tejasvi Surya, stormed into a COVID-19 ‘war room’ ostensibly to expose an alleged bed-for-bribe scam.
The past year saw Muslims labelled as ‘corona spreaders’, and this trend has not stopped.
Dr Zafarul Islam Khan, Delhi Minorities Commission former chairperson, in an exclusive interview to IPS, said when the national lockdown was declared in India last year, the Tablighi Jamaat people were removed from their center by the police “like they were criminals”.
The Tablighi Jamaat are an international group of Muslims who gather in Delhi each year for a religious congregation.
The eviction and arrests received significant live media coverage. The group had already started its annual conference at its center in the Nizamuddin area in Delhi before the official lockdown was announced.
“They were taken to various ‘quarantine centers’ across Delhi. But these ‘quarantine centers’ were like jails where they were locked up with little care, untimely food, no medicine or doctors,” Khan said.
As the Delhi Minorities Commission chairperson at the time, he relentlessly lobbied authorities in the Delhi government until the conditions of the inmates improved.
Reports indicate that the center continued to be targeted by police after the COVID-19 emergency was declared.
- Covid-19 is already starting to expose fractures, prejudices, and weaknesses among many marginal or conflict-affected populations. Existing discrimination against minority ethnic or religious groups is intensifying as they are perceived to be spreading the virus. In Pakistan, minority Shia Muslims have been blamed for importing the virus from Iran, creating potentially serious implications for communal tensions and a challenge for those organizing a comprehensive response.
- In the Philippines, prejudices between villages and along religious lines are being amplified, and hate speech is spreading online. Where relationships between local communities and authorities are already strained—from urban neighborhoods in India to rural parts of Southeast Asia—official health advice on Covid-19 has been rejected.
- Political activist Arundhati Roy accused the Indian government on Friday of exploiting the coronavirus outbreak to inflame tensions between Hindus and Muslims.
she told DW that this alleged strategy on the part of the Hindu nationalist government would “dovetail with this illness to create something which the world should really keep its eyes on,” adding that “the situation is approaching genocidal.”
Roy claimed the government was exploiting the virus in a tactic reminiscent of one used by the Nazis during the Holocaust. “The whole of the organization, the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist group — Editor’s note] to which Modi belongs, which is the mother ship of the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party], has long said that India should be a Hindu nation. Its ideologues have likened the Muslims of India to the Jews of Germany. And if you look at the way in which they are using COVID, it was very much like typhus was used against the Jews to ghettoize them, to stigmatize them.”
Religion in every aspect should be treated a way to find ways in life to prosper and have peace rather than having conflicting thoughts against each other. As per the recent trends and facts religion and faith are taking turns to build an intolerant and unsophisticated environment and people are acting contrary to what religion teaches. Every religion has different cultures and ideas, but they all have one thing in common that is tolerance. People nowadays, are blindfolded in the name of religion and they negate the core values and become so intolerant when somebody comments or portrays their disbelief. Violence in the name of religion is prevalent since the last decade and factual data shows that people have been twisted the true meaning of it for their political and religious gains and ultimately led to radicalization. Therefore, before forming an opinion against each other one must dig into the core values of the religion that whether it permits us to do so or not.
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