Indian subcontinent has wide diversity in religions that define morality and ethics of the people who follow it. The spirituality of religion is vested in the sacred books and physical spaces that where people get together to pray. Religion is a powerful tool in the hands of the powerful and it is used to make or break religious ties.
Hindu is referred to a person who lived near the river Indus. Currently this religion is one of the major religions in the world and the biggest in India. Hinduism borrows its basic principles from pre vedic and vedic religious philosophies.
In South India, the Vaishnavaite movement was strong and the saints named Alwars were devotees of Vishnus and they collected and sang songs which were collectively known as Prabandas. The other powerful group was the Shaivaites or followers of Shivas also named as Nayanars.
The later vedic period led to emergence of a brahmanical dominance and social evils such as Sati, Caste systems, rituals and practices emerged. This led to oppresion of weakers sections of the society known as "Shudras". Another offshoot of this oppression led to emergence of alternative religions like Jainism and Buddhism which were embraced by these lower sections.
Jainism is derived from the word Jina which means "Conqueror". The religion believes that everything has a soul and that the universe follows a law. There are no single founders of Jainism.
From Adinatha to Mahavira there were total 24 tirthankars of Jainism. Tirthankars is like an incarnaton of god who takes the form of a human and has to go through penance and meditation to reach the pure stage of the soul.
Buddha was a Prince named Siddhartha born in Lumbini, Kapilvastu in Nepal. He was married and had a son, however he left his worldly possessions and left the kingdom and family to wander as an ascetic in the search for enlightenment.
At the age of 35 he achieved it when undergoing penance under the tree in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. After enlightenment he preached his first sermon in Sarnath. Another important place of worship is Kusinagar where Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana.
Buddha preached thorughout his life in eastern India places like Magadha and Kosala. After Buddhas death, his teaching were compiled into three texts known as Pitakas - Suta pitaka, Vinay pitaka and Abhidhamma. All the three texts are in Pali language.
The compilation of texts were done during Buddhist councils. During the fourth buddhist council in Kashmir under the patronage of the Kushana king Kanishka - the sect split into Hinayana and Mahayana.
|They believe in an eternal buddha who is like a god and who will live forever||They believed that buddha was a mortal and his teachings were ethical values that defined the way humans should live.|
|They follow the boddhisattva concept of salvation of all conscious individuals||They follow the Theravada concept of salvation of an individual.|
Islam originated in the Arabian peninsula in 5th Century and spread around the world. The followers of Islam are called Muslims. Prophet Muhammad is believed to be among the long lines of messengers of god like Abraham, Moses etc. An angel revealed the message of god to Prophet Muhammad on the mountain. This message was passed by Muhammad to his followers.
Initially Prophet faced many problems and had to migrate from his home in Mecca to Medina. After a successful coup he returned to Mecca and this route is the Hajj pilgrimage that every Muslim is required to undertake in his lifetime subject to health and financial conditions.
The religion has two major sects: Shia (those who believe Ali - the son in law of the prophet should be his successor) and Sunni (those who believe that the successor of Prophet Muhammad should be his follower Abu Bakr).
It is the largest religion in the world. The religion began with Jesus whose persecution and eventual crucifixion and resurrection led to many followers. It became the state religion of Rome and expanded from there. The vatican city in rome became the center of the movement for Roman catholic Christianity. There were several reform movements too like Protestants and Methodists etc.
Christians believe in one god who created the universe. god sents his messengers to guide his creations. Jesus the son of god left the earth but God continued his existence on earth through the holy spirit (Holy ghost). Christians follow the holy book "Bible" and worship the holy trinity : God (the father), Jesus (the son) and the Holy ghost.
This history of Sikhism commences with the life and times of Guru Nanak [1469 - 1539]. He was a non conformist with a different vision. He was a non-conformist and criticised the way people in Punjab led their life and offered them an alternative way of socio-religious organisation to his followers.
He regulated community life of his followers by bringing in congregational worship in a dharamshala and dining together to bring people together.
Guru Nanak not only denounced the existing way of life but also offered an alternative to it. For him, the supreme purpose was salvation which attained by being delivered from this endless cycle of rebirth and death.
However, he preached that this salvation could not be achieved by worshipping idols or books but by right conduct, right worship and right belief which are all taught by a Guru.
Guru Nank preached that a person should work for his household, attend community gatherings and community kirtans and this shall lead him to salvation. Thus, he preached a practical way of reaching closer to god. His preaching found acceptance in Khattari traders and merchant class.
Initially Mughal Sikh relations were cordial but Mughal emperors Jahangir and Aurangzeb were into conflict with the guru and executed them. The last physical guru Guru Gobind Singh transferred his authority to the Guru Granth sahib which was the bani of sikh saints and had moral authority.
Baptised Sikhs were known as Singhs and their women were Kaur. By adopting uniform appearance they got another level of uniformity into a loose movement. The khalsa sikhs were not allowed to cut their hair and possessed the 5 K's (Kachcha, Kesh, Kangha, Kirpan, Kara).
The religion has its origins in Prophet Zarathustra of Persia. The religion belives in one god who is an epitome of just behavior and goodness.
These people entered India around 10th century to escape from islamic invaders. The Parsis as they became known are a small community.
They are fire worshippers and also also belive in sacredness of wind, earth and water. Their temples are rare and only 8 temples are there in India
The Parsis do not bury their dead but leave it in the Tower of Silence to be eaten by Vultures. They believe that dead bodies are a corrupting influence on this earth.
This religion is one of the most persecuted religions and has been under oppression by the Romans and then Germans under Hitler.
Jews believe in one god "Yahweh" and follow the holy book "Torah". Their prayer houses are Synagogues.
In India the Major jewish communities are Malayalam speaking Cochinis, Marathi speaking Bene Israel, Baghdadi Jews, Bene Menashe or Manipuri Jews, Bene Ephraim who are Telugu speaking jews.
Abraham was the father of jews his sons Isaac (descendants were christians) and Ismael (descendants were Muslims) were also blessed by god. Even today the Muslims and Christians share many things in common with Judaism.
During the post vedic period, literature was written in Prakrit and Pali. Prakrit is a language which is loosely attached to any language from the standard one i.e. sanskrit.
Pali is used to indicate the archaic or old form of prakrit and it combines several existing dialects. These languages gained prominence when religious literature of Buddhists and Jains were composed in this language.
Buddhist literature can be divided into canonical and non canonical works : Canonical literature is divided into Tripitakas which are named as
Vinaya Pitaka :Covers rules and regulations to be followed by Buddhist monks.
Suta Pitaka :Contains dialogues and speeches of the Buddha that deal with morality and righteous dharma.
Abhidhamma Pitaka :Concentrates on philosophy and meta physics. It contains discussions on topics like theory of knowledge, ethics and psychology.
These are compilation of stories from the previous births of buddha.
The stories of Boddhi sattavas or future buddhas are also discussed in these tales.
Each birth of Buddha is presented in one Jataka tale.
Although these tales present the previous births of buddha and propagate buddhist religious doctrine, they are available in sanskrit and pali.
Buddhacharita by Ashwaghosha is another such non canonical Buddhist literature in sanskrit language.
These were mainly written in Prakrit. They form the basis of the jain canonical literature.
The most important jain texts written in sanskrit are "Upamitibhav Prapancha Katha" by Siddharasi. The other important texts written in jain literature are Angas, Upangas and Parikramas. Apart from these Chedda sutra and Malasutra are also important texts.
"Sangam" means fraternity and the period around 300 BC to 300 AD is the one in which most of the literature is composed and compiled. The literature consists of a collection of works which have 2381 poems written by 473 poets and a large corpus of anonymous literature.
There are two major schools of Sangam literature :
Aham / Agam : It is the inner field and concentrates on discussions of human aspects like love, sexual relations etc.
Puram : Outer field that discusses human experiences like social life, ethics, valor etc.
The literature is known as Sangam literature as the chief patrons "Pandya Kings" organised assemblies called "Sangamas" where poets, bards, writers would flock from various parts of India.