India is among the most religiously diverse countries in the world. Although India is a secular state, which means that no religion is valued over any other in the eyes of the government, Hinduism is by far the country's most practiced religion, with nearly 80% of the total country identifying as Hindus. This translates to over 1 billion people! Following Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, and Buddhism are also popular. Indian citizens are guaranteed freedom of religion under the country's Constitution.
Aside from the country's designation as a religiously diverse country, Indian religions are also some of the world's oldest religions. Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism all have ties to the Indian subcontinent, and continue to have a considerable amount of followers to date.
1. Hinduism - 79.8%
Hinduism is the most dominant religion in India. It is also one of the oldest religions in the world, having emerged around 3,500 years ago. Hinduism includes lots of religious practices, which differ in practice, and consist of different philosophies and sects. It also contains a collection of deities but in the manifestation of only one Supreme Deity known as the Brahman. Conversely, it is assumed to be a polytheistic religion that believes in a particular universal essential tenet of the Hindu belief. It is the third biggest religion in the world with about 1 billion followers, about 966 million of whom live in India.
2. Islam - 14.2%
Islam was introduced to India in the 8th century, where it contributed significantly to other cultural improvements of the existing cultures, and molded the world of Indian classical music. It also motivated an important tradition of the Arabic and Persian languages through literature both secular and religious. Approximately 130 million people in India follow the religion of Islam, most of whom converted during the Mughal period, and who mostly reside in parts of western and northern India.
4. Christianity - 2.3%
The Christian religion was introduced to India during the 1st century by the Christian missionary known as Saint Thomas. He converted many Indians in the south of the country, many who have continued to practice Christianity to the present date. Christianity was advanced and strengthened through the coming of Jewish-Christians recognized as Knanaya people during the second century. Roman Catholicism arrived in India during the colonization period that began in 1498 when Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese traveler, arrived on the Indian coasts. In the early 1800s, missionary activities increased, and today, Christianity is among the most prominent minority languages in India. Its followers are most widespread in the western states like Goa, as well as in northeastern regions such as Mizoram, and in South India.
5. Sikhism - 1.7%
Sikhism started in the Punjab region around 400 years ago. Today, there are around 20.8 million Sikhs living in India, most of whom live in the Punjab, which is the leading Sikh region in the world and contains the inherited homes of the Sikhs. Notably, a large number of Sikhs served in the Indian army. The Golden Temple, in Amritsar, is the most famous and popular Sikh Temple in India if not the entire world.
6. Buddhism - 0.7%
Buddhism is a minority religion in India, accounting for around 0.7% of the population. Although Buddhism was once widespread across the Indian continent, today observers are really only found in the country's Himalayan region. Today, there has been an undertaking by the government of India to promote the country's ties to Buddhism, primarily for tourism purposes.
In Buddhism, places of worship are called temples. India is home to no shortage of notable Buddhist temples, among them the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, which is considered to be one of the most sacred places for Buddhism not only in India but in the world as a whole.
7. Other - 0.7%
The other category includes minority languages in India that have a small following in the country. These religions include the Bahá'í religion as well as Judaism. Although it is estimated that the actual Bahá'í community is much larger, the latest census data from India only recorded a total of 4,752 people who practice the Bahá'í religion. These numbers have been widely criticized as inaccurate. It is estimated that the actual community more likely consists of 1 to 2 million individuals.
Jewish people have lived in India for centuries. In fact, Judaism was one of the first religions to ever be recorded on Indian territory. However, today it is estimated that only around 5,000 Jews live in India.
8. Jainism - 0.4%
Although India has the world's largest population of people following the Jain religion, its followers still make up a rather small percentage of religious beliefs in India, at only 0.4%. Jainism was invented in modern-day India around 3,000 BCE. It is considered to be an ancient religion. There are around 5 million Jains in India.
A Jain place of worship is called a Jain temple, or a Derasar (in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan) or a Basadi (in Karnataka). Some of the most famous Jain temples in India include the Ranakpur Jain Temple in Ranakpur and the Palitana Temple in Palitana.
9. Zoroastrianism - 0.1%
Followers of the Zoroastrian faith make up around 0.1% of the Indian population. The Zoroastrian faith traces back to the prophet Zoroaster, who lived in present-day Iran. Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest religions in the world.
What is the Most Popular Religion in India?
Hinduism is the most dominant religion in India, with 79.8% of the population adhering.
Major Religions In Modern India
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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