India country overview

The people of India

Geography, People, Culture, and Economic Profile

india information index

Religions of India

Religion is a fundamental element of the cultural fabric in India, shaping the collective identity of its citizens. The historical narrative of India is intricately linked to the interactions between its myriad religious communities. Hinduism, which originated within the nation’s borders, is a faith characterized by a rich tapestry of beliefs, sects, and practices, and it is embraced by a substantial majority of the Indian populace. To gain a comprehensive understanding of India’s principal native religions, one may refer to scholarly articles on Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. The philosophical tenets associated with these religions are explored in the field of Indian philosophy. For a detailed examination of other prominent religions in India, resources on Islam and Christianity are available.

The geopolitical landscape of the Indian subcontinent underwent a significant transformation in 1947 with its partition, leading to the establishment of Pakistan as a separate nation with a predominantly Muslim population. This event led to a demographic shift, with approximately 10 million Muslims relocating to Pakistan and a similar number of Hindus and Sikhs migrating to India. This migration underscored India’s Hindu majority, which now constitutes nearly 80% of the country’s population. Despite this, Muslims represent the largest minority faith, accounting for about one-seventh of India’s total population. Muslim communities have a substantial presence in various regions, such as Jammu and Kashmir, western Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala, and numerous urban centers. Notably, India’s Muslim population surpasses that of any Middle Eastern nation and is second only to Indonesia, with Pakistan and Bangladesh having marginally larger Muslim populations.

In India, a diverse array of religious minorities complement the Hindu majority. Among these, Christians are significantly present in the northeastern regions, Mumbai, and the southernmost parts of the country. Sikhs are predominantly found in Punjab and its neighboring areas. Buddhists have a notable presence in Ladakh, Maharashtra, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh, while Jains are primarily concentrated in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Rajasthan. The Bahāʾī community, though previously too small to be noted in census data, has seen considerable growth due to active proselytization efforts. The Zoroastrian community, mainly the Parsis, though numerically small, have historically held a disproportionate influence, particularly in Mumbai and coastal Gujarat, a legacy of their prominence during the colonial era. Additionally, India is home to several small Jewish communities along the western coast, which hold sociological significance. Indigenous tribal populations, primarily practicing animism, reside largely in the northeastern part of the country, representing what is likely the most ancient of India’s religious traditions.

Hinduism prevails as the dominant religion across most Indian states, with the exceptions of Punjab, with a Sikh majority; Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland, where Christianity is the main religion; and Arunachal Pradesh, where animist beliefs are most common. Hinduism is also the predominant faith in all union territories, apart from Lakshadweep, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, and Jammu and Kashmir, with a Muslim majority. Nonetheless, significant local minority communities are a common feature throughout the country, with Hindus forming virtually the entire population only in Odisha and Himachal Pradesh.

Precise data on sectarian affiliations within India’s major religions is lacking. Within Hinduism, such affiliations are often fluid and broadly defined. Vaishnavism, which includes worship of Vishnu or his incarnations like Rama and Krishna, as well as associated cults, is more prevalent in the northern and central regions of India. In contrast, Shaivism, the worship of Shiva, has a stronger presence in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, western Maharashtra, and the Himalayan regions. Shaktism, which venerates the goddess Shakti and her various forms, finds particular resonance in West Bengal, Assam, and the mountainous regions of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Hinduism is also characterized by numerous smaller sects that advocate for religious revival and reform, social upliftment, or are centered around the teachings of charismatic leaders, some of whom have garnered international followings.

Within the Islamic faith, adherents of the Sunni tradition constitute the predominant group in most regions. Nonetheless, there are significant Shi’a minorities in certain areas, such as Gujarat. This is particularly evident among Muslim merchant communities, including the Khojas and Bohras. Additionally, in urban centers like Lucknow and Hyderabad, which were once the seats of power for Muslim principalities prior to the subcontinent’s partition, there exists a notable presence of individuals with Persian ancestry, reflective of the historically Persian-influenced aristocracy.

Moving to the Christian faith within India, the Roman Catholic Church, represented by iconic structures such as the 16th-century Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, is the most substantial Christian denomination. This is particularly true along the western coastline and in the southern regions of India. Protestant denominations have seen a consolidation of their various branches post-independence, resulting in the formation of the Church of North India and the Church of South India. Despite this unification, numerous smaller fundamentalist groups have chosen to preserve their autonomy. Since the mid-19th century, the Christian conversion movement has predominantly engaged individuals from lower castes and tribal communities.

In terms of Buddhist practice, geographical location plays a significant role in determining sectarian adherence. Buddhists residing in proximity to the Tibetan border typically practice Tibetan Buddhism, also known as Vajrayana, which translates to “Vehicle of the Thunderbolt” in Sanskrit. Conversely, those near the Myanmar border are inclined towards Theravada Buddhism, meaning “Way of the Elders” in Pali. In Maharashtra, the Neo-Buddhist community is present, though it does not align strictly with any particular Buddhist sect.

brics | ICP

and Cooperation

The Information and Cooperation platform IN4U is a digital hub for BRICS members to collaborate, share information, and promote cooperative initiatives. Stay connected and engaged with the latest developments.


The cooperative

The Cooperative Framework of BRICS by IN4U platform is a dedicated digital space for fostering collaboration and cooperation among inter BRICS government entities and international organizations.

BRICS Collaboration Made Easy: Access info & cooperation tools on IN4U.

This website stores cookies on your computer. Privacy Policy