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Religion in India


Religions of Religion in IndiaIndia is the world's second after China's most populous country. The difference between them decreases, as the increase in population is much slower in China. Population experts expect that by 2030 India will have more residents than China.

According to Countryaah data, India has so far lacked a continuous population register and the demographic data has been collected from the total census, carried out every ten years since 1901. The 2011 census was preceded by a survey of all housing, after which these were visited by census (about 2.5 million), which collected information on all the residents. All the homeless were also registered. This data now also forms the basis for the population register with unique social security numbers that is being built up.

Religions of India

At the turn of the year 2000, India had one billion residents, and during the period 2001-11 the population increased by 181 million people. The country comprises 2.4 percent of the Earth's land area but has 18 percent of the world's population. Large parts of India's densely populated and most is population density in the lower Ganges Valley, where the state of Bihar has over 1100 residents per km2 and West Bengal 1 030. Sparsely populated the states in the mountainous northeast and northwest, sparsely Arunachal Pradesh with only 17 residents per km2. Crowds and population growth also differ greatly between the states. Uttar Pradesh has the largest population with about 200 million residents. Next comes Maharashtra and Bihar, which has just over 100 million each. Five states and six territories have less than two million residents.

Population growth in the country was the fastest during the 1960s-1980s, when it was 2.5 per cent per year. During the 1990s, the pace began to slow somewhat, and that trend continued during the 1990s. In the years 2009-14, the population increased by 1.5 per cent annually. The population of some of the small states in the northeast and in Bihar is growing fastest. Birth rates had their maximum, just over 43 per thousand, in the early 1950s. They then gradually declined and stood at 21 per thousand in 2017. The same goes for the death toll, which has dropped from 25.5 to 6 per thousand.

Already more than a hundred years ago there was a significant emigration from India to mainly the United Kingdom and North America. Since the 1970s, the influx of migrant workers to the oil countries of the Persian Gulf has been increasing, and labor market movements are moving to more and more countries. In 2010, 11.4 million moved out of India while 5.4 moved in, most of them probably returning migrant workers. Of India's population, 0.3 are born abroad.

The average life expectancy is considerably lower in India than in other major countries with significant economic growth. In 2019, the country as a whole was 67 years for men and 70 for women. Highest was the median age in the state of Kerala, lowest in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. The previously large number of children and the still short life expectancy mean that India has a young population. In 2019, 6 percent of the population was 65 years and older, while 27 percent were under 15 years. Half the population is 25 years and younger. Since independence and until the early 2000s, the gender imbalance gradually increased, and in 2001 there were only 933 women per 1,000 men in India. In 2011, the sex ratio had improved slightly to 940, but it is still the lowest among all the world's countries.

In 2019, slightly less than 1/3 of the population lived in larger towns and cities, while just over 2/3 lived in villages and rural areas. India then had 46 million cities. The largest were Mumbai (Bombay, 12.5 million), Delhi (11.0), Bengaluru (8.4), Hyderabad (6.8), Ahmadabad (5.6), Chennai (4.7) and Kolkata (Calcutta), 4.5 million).

Largest cities

Residents 2011
Residents 2001
Mumbai 12.5 12.0
Delhi 11.0 9.9
Bengaluru 8.4 5.4
Hyderabad 6.8 3.6
Ahmadabad 5.6 3.5
Chennai 4.7 4.3
Kolkata 4.5 4.6
Surat 4.5 2.4
Pune 3.1 2.5
Jaipur 3.1 2.3
Lucknow 2.8 2.2
Kanpur 2.7 2.6
Nagpur 2.4 2.1
Indore 2.0 1.5
Thane 1.8 1.3
Bhopal 1.8 1.4
Visakhapatnam 1.7 1.0
Patna 1.7 1.4
Vadodara 1.7 1.3
Ghaziabad 1.6 1.0

. The largest metropolitan areas were Mumbai (Bombay, 18.4 million), Delhi (16.3), Calcutta (Kolkata, 14.1) and Chennai (8.7 million).

Largest urban areas

Residents 2011
Residents 2001
Delhi 16.3 12.9
Mumbai 18.4 16.4
Kolkata 14.1 13.2
Chennai 8.7 6.6
Bengaluru 8.5 5.7
Hyderabad 7.7 5.7
Ahmadabad 6.2 4.5
Pune 5.0 3.8
Surat 4.6 2.8
Jaipur 3.1 2.3
Kanpur 2.9 2.7
Lucknow 2.9 2.2
Nagpur 2.5 2.1
Ghaziabad 2.3 1.0
Indore 2.2 1.5
Coimbatore 2.2 1.5
Kochi 2.1 1.4
Patna 2.0 1.7
Kozhikode 2.0 0.9
Bhopal 1.9 1.4


Throughout history, waves of immigrant peoples have settled on the Indian subcontinent, giving rise to the vast ethnic melting pot of India. Despite some significant differences in appearance between different ethnic groups, previous attempts at racial categorization are regarded as not meaningful. However, the division into different language families is useful. The most important boundary is between the Indo-native languages, which dominate in the north, and the Dravidian languages in the south. The language is of great importance for the cultural identity of groups and regions. India has also been divided into linguistic states since 1956, where the absolute majority of the respective states speak the same language (see also India: language). The language issue is often a source of conflicts and political contradictions. ethnic minorities are reacting to their languages being suppressed by the dominant state languages.

However, religion occupies a more important and more general position (see India: religion). The last decades of research and discussion of India's society and culture, however, has largely come to revolve around the notion of caste and caste. Caste (or jati) refers to hierarchically arranged social groups, which the individual is born into and which have traditionally been crucial to the individual's entire life situation, e.g. in choosing a marriage partner, profession, socializing, status. Although the caste system has gradually become less important, especially in the cities, a person's caste belonging is still of great social importance. The higher positions in society are dominated by the higher castes, while landless, uneducated and poor people are mostly low castes. Particularly vulnerable are the so-called untouchable castes, the Dalits, often incorrectly referred to as castless, at the bottom of the caste hierarchy. The controversial system of reserved quotas in higher education and government services for individuals from these groups (scheduled castes) and for individuals belonging to one of the "tribes", however, some have succeeded in reaching the materially prosperous Indian middle class.

About a tenth of India's population belongs to one of the more than 600 people designated as tribal people (scheduled tribes). The vast majority of them live in the countryside and in several of the mountain states in the northeast they make up almost the entire population. They live in remote parts of many states and this isolation has led them both to poor literacy and poorer health than other Indians and partly to maintaining much of their traditional way of life. They constitute a heterogeneous collection, from agricultural peoples, such as gondolas and bhils, amounting to millions, to smaller, nomadic peoples who feed on burning, hunting and gathering. Common to all of them is that they live in a close relationship with nature. The industrial development of hydropower development, forest harvesting, mining and other large-scale exploitation has meant for these people that in many cases they have lost control of their land and natural resources. In such areas, they are today forced to live in very difficult conditions. This is especially true in the states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, mineral-rich states where tribes constitute about one-third of the population.

Regional differences

India is not only the scene of cultural heterogeneity, but regionally there is also a great cultural homogeneity. Apart from the linguistic difference, there are other important differences between southern and northern India. In the south, there is a strong regional, "Dravidian" identity that, among other things. has previously expressed itself in demands for political self-government and in emphasizing an autonomous South Indian cultural tradition. The Muslim influence is less noticeable in the south than in the north: the lifestyle is more open and the women have greater freedom of movement in the south. Marriage systems also differ to some extent. All over India, arranged marriages prevail, while love marriages('love marriage'), where a couple marries without family involvement and consent, are still exceptions. In southern India, a close relative, so-called cross-cousin marriage, is often preferred, while in the north, there are usually further marriage circles. In both cases, however, the marriage is usually entered into within one's own caste or subjugation.

Ganges plain in northern India is often described as the nation's cultural core. Here are several of the sacred Hindu sites, the historic capital Delhi and the architectural wonders of the mogul emperors. Wheat is the most important crop, and chapati, unleavened bread, has a central place in eating. The area is very densely populated. The villages are dominated by influential land-owning castes. In the cities, the Muslim minority still has a fairly strong position. Hindi is the dominant language. East of the Bengal plain and the valleys of Assam, the landscape is characterized by intensive rice farming. The Bengali culture, shaped by both Hindu and Muslim traditions and based on the language of Bengali, has historically had great influence in the region. During colonial times, Kolkata (Calcutta) emerged as India's economic and cultural center. In addition to the Hindu-dominated plain in the state of Assam, northeastern India is characterized by the Tibetan Burman-speaking mountain peoples. Sweat use is traditionally the most important supply, but today, permanent agriculture has become increasingly important. Several of the peoples, e.g. garo, mizo and naga, converted to Christianity already in the 19th century and now have a large proportion of Christians. Since the 1950s, the Naga people have fought a bloody struggle to become independent. The whole of northeastern India can be said to contain such a separatist endeavor and has remained very unstable politically. In the mountain areas further west, on the border with Nepal and China, there are also a number of people who are culturally distinct from the population of the plain, partly a Tibetan culture with its special form of Lamaism and a Nepali Hindu culture.

In northwestern India, a large proportion of the population is Muslim. In Kashmir, political demands for an independent Muslim state have developed into a widespread armed conflict. The same is true for the Sikh population of Punjab state. The Sikh men are recognized by their special headgear (a form of turban). They are also known for their military organization, and the Sikhs have held a strong position in the army since the colonial period. Punjab has a highly mechanized agriculture with high returns. In the state of Rajasthan and parts of Madhya Pradesh, the rajput caste dominates, which is considered India's foremost aristocracy and warrior cast. Western India, the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, with their important coastal areas, have through time been the center of trade and business. The population is mainly Hindus, but there are also important religious minorities such as Jainists, Parsis and Muslim sects. Maharashtra is the outermost outpost of the Indo-native languages, a kind of cultural boundary with the Dravid speaking peoples of the south.


It is usually expected that between 300 and 400 different languages are spoken in India, although some of them may as well be classified as dialects. The national or official languages are Hindi and English. Despite constant discussions, the English have retained their official status. Since the various states have largely reached their borders precisely through the languages belonging to the regions, there are an additional 20 languages ​​with official status languages (official scheduled languages)). Major state languages are Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Marathi, Oriya, Panjabi, Sindhi and Urdu (all belonging to the Native American group) and Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu (all belonging to the Dravidian language group); In addition, the classical language Sanskrit also has official status. All of these are languages with rich literature, and some of them have a multi-millennial tradition. In both language groups there are a variety of other languages and dialects, many of them literary, and in India there are also representatives of quite different groups, such as the oral languages in eastern parts of central India which are considered to belong to the Austro-Asian family. In mountainous regions, especially in the north and northeast, a number of Tibetan Burmese languages are spoken.

See Dravidian languages, Indo- native languages, oral languages and Tibetan Burmese languages. For the writing systems see brahmi and devanagari.


The diversity of religions and different peculiarities of India is the result of a multi-millennial historical process involving the entire Indian subcontinent. The current political boundaries have been drawn with religion being the primary criterion. While Pakistan was constituted as an Islamic state, India gained a secular constitution. The state is thus confessionally unbound and neutral. However, the so-called "communalist" tendency to allow the followers of the various religions to appear as antagonistic interest groups has played an important role in the political history of modern India. Foreign relations have been characterized by the conflict with Pakistan. over Kashmir with its predominantly Muslim population.

Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism and the so-called tribal religions of the various indigenous minority peoples originate in India. In the course of history, a number of religions have also come from outside. In addition to the establishment of the missionary religions of Islam and Christianity, Parsism (Zoroastrianism) and Judaism originally came with immigrant minorities.

Hinduism is South Asia's largest religion. In today's India, a large population (80.5% according to the Census of India 2001) officially counts as Hindus. Hindu dominance is broken only in a few areas, mainly in the north and northeast. However, it must be borne in mind that "Hinduism" serves as a collective term for an unmistakably large number of interrelated directions and societies, cult practices and religious conceptions. The unity of Hinduism is often seen in (sanatana) dharma ('(the eternal) norm'), ie. the traditional value system and ritual-social patterns that include. appears in the caste system. Claims to represent Hinduism in its entirety are raised by Vishva Hindu Parishad (compare Hinduism).

Islam was already established in South Asia in the seventh century (Sind and Kerala). In undivided British India, about a quarter of the population were Muslims. Today, Islam is India's largest minority religion (13.4%), spread across the country but in various concentrations; i.a. Kashmir holds the Muslims majority position. The Sunnis are by and large totally dominant, as in Pakistan and Bangladesh, but smaller Shiite groups are also represented (including Ismailite Khojas and Bohoras) and make up a total of about a tenth of South Asian Muslims. An independent and controversial direction is the Ahmadiya movement.

The Urdu language has been developed as a linguistic carrier of Muslim identity. Many elements of Islamic culture have become self-evident parts of the common cultural heritage of modern India. The approach between Islam and Hinduism in certain forms of Sufic piety and within the religion of the people has been counteracted by a conscious and organized endeavor, especially in parts of the ulama layer, to Islamic purity and fulfillment of the sharia's requirements. Today, this line is gaining greater connection, as in other parts of the Muslim world.

Christianity was established early in the form of the Syrian Church in Kerala, which today is divided into several different communities (see Toma Christians). From the 16th century, under Portuguese protection, the Roman Catholic mission began, among other things. in southernmost India. The Jesuits were followed in the 18th century by pietist missionaries. Many other Christian communities have later been active, especially British during colonial times (compare Church of South India). Important efforts have been made in areas such as education and health care. The mission's success has been won mainly by low-cast groups and minority people. The Christians constitute a fairly small proportion of the total population (2.3%) but still have a strong position both in Goa, southern Kerala and southern Tamil Nadu, and in some areas in central and north-east India, where a large population share belongs to ethnic groups. minorities.

The followers of Sikhism make up about 1.9% of India's total population. Punjab is the traditional homeland of Sikhism. There is its religious center: The Golden Temple of Amritsar (see picture at Amritsar). The majority of Sikhs belong to the peasant jat. Today, many Sikhs live outside Punjab in India's major cities.

The historical contradictions between Sikhs and Muslims flared up in connection with the British division of India and Punjab in 1947. A large number of Sikhs then fled from the parts of Punjab that went to Pakistan. When Punjab was separated from Haryana (1966), the Sikhs gained their own majority in the state. A separatist and "fundamentalist" faction among the Sikhs has fought with terror as a weapon for an independent Sikh state, Khalistan. A crucial point in relations between the Sikhs and the Indian state was the army's storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar 1984 (compare Sikhism).

Buddhism, which originated in India and was perhaps India's most important contribution to Asia's religious and cultural development, has remained in the northern periphery of the subcontinent and in Sri Lanka in the south. The forms of Buddhism found in the Indian Himalayan region are the same as in Tibet and among Tibetan refugees in India. At BR Ambedkar's initiative, in 1956 a wave of conversion to Buddhism started as part of the quest to improve the status of the lowest (so-called untouchable) castes. Above all, this was the case of Ambedkar's own group, the Mahar caste of Maharashtra. This dramatically increased the number of Buddhists in India to about 8 million (2001). They still constitute only about 0.8% of the population.

The followers of Jainism today constitute about 0.4% of India's population and are scattered throughout the country, mainly in the western parts. Like Karnataka, Gujarat and Rajasthan have long been strong attachments to Jainism. There, as in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, there are also today areas with a fairly high proportion (about 5%) of Jainists. In 1977 there were about 1,500 Jainist monks and 4,000 nuns, whose lives are characterized by strict ahimsa ('non-violence'). Jainism has, Due to their ethical rules, the group is widely dispersed and supported by groups active in the commodity and money markets. The followers have been financially strong, which formed the basis for a comprehensive activity in charity and culture (compare Jainism).

Parsism is represented by an ethnic-religious minority (69,600, 2001) of Persian origin (Parsi 'Persian') and Zoroastrian religion. The first parties came to Gujarat in western India in the 9th century. From the 18th century they participated in the construction of Mumbai (Bombay) as a commercial and later industrial center. Bombay became the most important stronghold of Zoroastrianism. The social efforts of the couples have been very significant in relation to their small number.

Jews have been living in Kerala since ancient times. Most have now emigrated to Israel. Compare Bene-Israel.

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