India is a home to all major religions of the world—those born here : Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, and those brought from outside by the missionaries, colonial rulers, invaders and immigrants, viz., Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. Religion is central to Indian culture. These religions have developed and are presented as related to or independent of Hinduism—according to their leaders’ and theologians’ socio-political and religious agendas as well as their religious and secular experiences. Preaching God’s unity and equality of all human beings, Sikhism is committed to the nation’s secular democracy.
Buddhism and Jainism have influenced India and Hindhuism with their emphasis on compassion and nonviolence. Christianity landed on the shores of India through the Disciple Thomas. Jews too settled in India at very early times. Over the centuries the Judaic-Christian religions have come to feel at home in India. Mother Teresa and her gospel of selfless love are as Indian as Gandhi and his nonviolence. The Zoroastrians, known as the Parsi community, left Iran or Persia and settled in the Bombay area. Famous Parsi names such as Tata, General Manekshaw, Homi Bhabha and Zubin Mehta, remind us of the success of Indian pluralism. India has the second largest Muslim community in the world.
After centuries of ongoing negotiations with the native religions and culture, Islam has blossomed in India, becoming a part of the Indian way of thinking, music, art and architecture. This is secularism and pluralism at work. Indian Muslims are progressive and brave enough to be experimental nowadays.
The 1.2 billion people though live in a country whose mother tongue is Hindi but is home to 22 official languages and 398 living languages. As you travel in India you will find a difference in slang and accent of the language spoken every 15 to 20 kms and also a change in language often. There are not just a variety of spoken languages but also posses their own literature which differs a lot from others. Some of the popular scripts in ancient times were Pali, Kharosthi Devnagri, etc.
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