Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic religions, are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent; namely Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism.Adams, C. J.
Classification of religions: Geographical
Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007. Accessed: 15 July 2010
These religions are also all classified as Eastern religions. Although Indian religions are connected through the history of India, they constitute a wide range of religious communities, and are not confined to the Indian subcontinent. Evidence attesting to prehistoric religion in the Indian subcontinent derives from scattered Mesolithic rock paintings. The Harappan people of the Indus Valley Civilisation, which lasted from 3300 to 1300 BCE (mature period 2600–1900 BCE), had an early urbanized culture which predates the Vedic religion. The documented history of Indian religions begins with the historical Vedic religion, the religious practices of the early Indo-Iranians, which were collected and later redacted into the ''Vedas''. The period of the composition, redaction and commentary of these texts is known as the Vedic period, which lasted from roughly 1750 to 500 BCE. The philosophical portions of the Vedas were summarized in Upanishads, which are commonly referred to as ''Vedānta'', variously interpreted to mean either the "last chapters, parts of the Veda" or "the object, the highest purpose of the Veda". The early Upanishads all predate the Common Era, five of the eleven principal Upanishads were composed in all likelihood before 6th century BCE, and contain the earliest mentions of ''Yoga'' and Moksha. The Shramanic Period between 800 and 200 BCE marks a "turning point between the Vedic Hinduism and Puranic Hinduism". The Shramana movement, an ancient Indian religious movement parallel to but separate from Vedic tradition, often defied many of the Vedic and Upanishadic concepts of soul (Atman) and the ultimate reality (Brahman). In 6th century BCE, the Shramnic movement matured into Jainism and Buddhism and was responsible for the schism of Indian religions into two main philosophical branches of astika, which venerates Veda (e.g., six orthodox schools of Hinduism) and nastika (e.g., Buddhism, Jainism, Charvaka, etc.). However, both branches shared the related concepts of Yoga, ''saṃsāra'' (the cycle of birth and death) and ''moksha'' (liberation from that cycle). The Puranic Period (200 BCE – 500 CE) and Early Medieval period (500–1100 CE) gave rise to new configurations of Hinduism, especially bhakti and Shaivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism, Smarta, and smaller groups like the conservative Shrauta. The early Islamic period (1100–1500 CE) also gave rise to new movements. Sikhism was founded in the 15th century on the teachings of Guru Nanak and the nine successive Sikh Gurus in Northern India. The vast majority of its adherents originate in the Punjab region. With the colonial dominance of the British a reinterpretation and synthesis of Hinduism arose, which aided the Indian independence movement.



James Mill (1773–1836), in his The History of British India (1817), distinguished three phases in the history of India, namely Hindu, Muslim and British civilisations. This periodisation has been criticised, for the misconceptions it has given rise to. Another periodisation is the division into "ancient, classical, medieval and modern periods", although this periodization has also received criticism. Romila Thapar notes that the division of Hindu-Muslim-British periods of Indian history gives too much weight to "ruling dynasties and foreign invasions," neglecting the social-economic history which often showed a strong continuity. The division in Ancient-Medieval-Modern overlooks the fact that the Muslim-conquests took place between the eight and the fourteenth century, while the south was never completely conquered. According to Thapar, a periodisation could also be based on "significant social and economic changes," which are not strictly related to a change of ruling powers. Smart and Michaels seem to follow Mill's periodisation, while Flood and Muesse follow the "ancient, classical, mediaeval and modern periods" periodisation. An elaborate periodisation may be as follows: * Indian pre-history including Indus Valley Civilisation (until c. 1750 BCE); * Iron Age including Vedic period (c. 1750–600 BCE); * "Second Urbanisation" (c. 600–200 BCE); * Classical period (c. 200 BCE-1200 CE); :* Pre-Classical period (c. 200 BCE-320 CE); :* "Golden Age" (Gupta Empire) (c. 320–650 CE); :* Late-Classical period (c. 650–1200 CE); * Medieval period (c. 1200–1500 CE); * Early Modern (c. 1500–1850); * Modern period (British Raj and independence) (from c. 1850).

Prevedic religions (before c. 1750 BCE)


]] Evidence attesting to prehistoric religion in the Indian subcontinent derives from scattered Mesolithic rock paintings such as at Bhimbetka, depicting dances and rituals. Neolithic agriculturalists inhabiting the Indus River Valley buried their dead in a manner suggestive of spiritual practices that incorporated notions of an afterlife and belief in magic. Other South Asian Stone Age sites, such as the Bhimbetka rock shelters in central Madhya Pradesh and the Kupgal petroglyphs of eastern Karnataka, contain rock art portraying religious rites and evidence of possible ritualised music.

Indus Valley civilisation

The religion and belief system of the Indus valley people have received considerable attention, especially from the view of identifying precursors to deities and religious practices of Indian religions that later developed in the area. However, due to the sparsity of evidence, which is open to varying interpretations, and the fact that the Indus script remains undeciphered, the conclusions are partly speculative and largely based on a retrospective view from a much later Hindu perspective. An early and influential work in the area that set the trend for Hindu interpretations of archaeological evidence from the Harrapan sites was that of John Marshall, who in 1931 identified the following as prominent features of the Indus religion: a Great Male God and a Mother Goddess; deification or veneration of animals and plants; symbolic representation of the phallus (linga) and vulva (yoni); and, use of baths and water in religious practice. Marshall's interpretations have been much debated, and sometimes disputed over the following decades. One Indus valley seal shows a seated, possibly ithyphallic and tricephalic, figure with a horned headdress, surrounded by animals. Marshall identified the figure as an early form of the Hindu god Shiva (or Rudra), who is associated with asceticism, yoga, and linga; regarded as a lord of animals; and often depicted as having three eyes. The seal has hence come to be known as the Pashupati Seal, after ''Pashupati'' (lord of all animals), an epithet of Shiva. While Marshall's work has earned some support, many critics and even supporters have raised several objections. Doris Srinivasan has argued that the figure does not have three faces, or yogic posture, and that in Vedic literature Rudra was not a protector of wild animals. Herbert Sullivan and Alf Hiltebeitel also rejected Marshall's conclusions, with the former claiming that the figure was female, while the latter associated the figure with ''Mahisha'', the Buffalo God and the surrounding animals with vahanas (vehicles) of deities for the four cardinal directions. Writing in 2002, Gregory L. Possehl concluded that while it would be appropriate to recognise the figure as a deity, its association with the water buffalo, and its posture as one of ritual discipline, regarding it as a proto-Shiva would be going too far. Despite the criticisms of Marshall's association of the seal with a proto-Shiva icon, it has been interpreted as the Tirthankara Rishabha by Jains and Dr. Vilas Sangave or an early Buddha by Buddhists. Historians like Heinrich Zimmer, Thomas McEvilley are of the opinion that there exists some link between first Jain Tirthankara Rishabha and Indus Valley civilisation. Marshall hypothesized the existence of a cult of Mother Goddess worship based upon excavation of several female figurines, and thought that this was a precursor of the Hindu sect of Shaktism. However the function of the female figurines in the life of Indus Valley people remains unclear, and Possehl does not regard the evidence for Marshall's hypothesis to be "terribly robust". Some of the baetyls interpreted by Marshall to be sacred phallic representations are now thought to have been used as pestles or game counters instead, while the ring stones that were thought to symbolise ''yoni'' were determined to be architectural features used to stand pillars, although the possibility of their religious symbolism cannot be eliminated. Many Indus Valley seals show animals, with some depicting them being carried in processions, while others show chimeric creations. One seal from Mohen-jodaro shows a half-human, half-buffalo monster attacking a tiger, which may be a reference to the Sumerian myth of such a monster created by goddess Aruru to fight Gilgamesh. In contrast to contemporary Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations, Indus valley lacks any monumental palaces, even though excavated cities indicate that the society possessed the requisite engineering knowledge. This may suggest that religious ceremonies, if any, may have been largely confined to individual homes, small temples, or the open air. Several sites have been proposed by Marshall and later scholars as possibly devoted to religious purpose, but at present only the Great Bath at Mohenjo-daro is widely thought to have been so used, as a place for ritual purification. The funerary practices of the Harappan civilisation is marked by its diversity with evidence of supine burial; fractional burial in which the body is reduced to skeletal remains by exposure to the elements before final interment; and even cremation.

Dravidian culture

The early Dravidian religion constituted of non-Vedic form of Hinduism in that they were either historically or are at present Āgamic. The Agamas are non-vedic in origin and have been dated either as post-vedic texts. or as pre-vedic oral compositions. The ''Agamas'' are a collection of Tamil and later Sanskrit scriptures chiefly constituting the methods of temple construction and creation of ''murti'', worship means of deities, philosophical doctrines, meditative practices, attainment of sixfold desires and four kinds of yoga. The worship of tutelary deity, sacred flora and fauna in Hinduism is also recognized as a survival of the pre-Vedic Dravidian religion. Ancient Tamil grammatical works Tolkappiyam, the ten anthologies Pattuppāṭṭu, the eight anthologies Eṭṭuttokai also sheds light on early religion of ancient Dravidians. ''Seyon'' was glorified as ''the red god seated on the blue peacock, who is ever young and resplendent,'' as ''the favored god of the Tamils.''Kanchan Sinha, Kartikeya in Indian art and literature, Delhi: Sundeep Prakashan (1979). Sivan was also seen as the supreme God. Early iconography of Seyyon and Sivan and their association with native flora and fauna goes back to Indus Valley Civilization. The Sangam landscape was classified into five categories, ''thinais'', based on the mood, the season and the land. Tolkappiyam, mentions that each of these ''thinai'' had an associated deity such Seyyon in ''Kurinji''-the hills, Thirumaal in ''Mullai''-the forests, and Kotravai in ''Marutham''-the plains, and Wanji-ko in the ''Neithal''-the coasts and the seas. Other gods mentioned were Mayyon and Vaali who were all assimilated into Hinduism over time. Dravidian linguistic influenceJ.P. Mallory and D. Q. Adams, ''Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture'' (1997), p.308. on early Vedic religion is evident, many of these features are already present in the oldest known Indo-Aryan language, the language of the ''Rigveda'' (c. 1500 BCE), which also includes over a dozen words borrowed from Dravidian. This represents an early religious and cultural fusion or synthesis between ancient Dravidians and Indo-Aryans, which became more evident over time with sacred iconography, traditions, philosophy, flora and fauna that went on to influence Hinduism, Buddhism, Charvaka, Sramana and Jainism. Throughout Tamilakam, a king was considered to be divine by nature and possessed religious significance. The king was 'the representative of God on earth’ and lived in a “koyil”, which means the “residence of a god”. The Modern Tamil word for temple is koil. Titual worship was also given to kings. Modern words for god like “kō” (“king”), “iṟai” (“emperor”) and “āṇḍavar” ( “conqueror”) now primarily refer to gods. These elements were incorporated later into Hinduism like the legendary marriage of Shiva to Queen Mīnātchi who ruled Madurai or Wanji-ko, a god who later merged into Indra. Tolkappiyar refers to the Three Crowned Kings as the “Three Glorified by Heaven”. In the Dravidian-speaking South, the concept of divine kingship led to the assumption of major roles by state and temple. The cult of the mother goddess is treated as an indication of a society which venerated femininity. This mother goddess was conceived as a virgin, one who has given birth to all and one, typically associated with Shaktism. The temples of the Sangam days, mainly of Madurai, seem to have had priestesses to the deity, which also appear predominantly a goddess. In the Sangam literature, there is an elaborate description of the rites performed by the Kurava priestess in the shrine Palamutircholai. Among the early Dravidians the practice of erecting memorial stones ''Natukal'' or ''Hero Stone'' had appeared, and it continued for quite a long time after the Sangam age, down to about 16th century. It was customary for people who sought victory in war to worship these hero stones to bless them with victory.

Vedic period (1750–800 BCE)

The documented history of Indian religions begins with the historical Vedic religion, the religious practices of the early Indo-Aryans, which were collected and later redacted into the ''Samhitas'' (usually known as the Vedas), four canonical collections of hymns or mantras composed in archaic Sanskrit. These texts are the central ''shruti'' (revealed) texts of Hinduism. The period of the composition, redaction and commentary of these texts is known as the Vedic period, which lasted from roughly 1750 to 500 BCE. The Vedic Period is most significant for the composition of the four Vedas, Brahmanas and the older Upanishads (both presented as discussions on the rituals, mantras and concepts found in the four Vedas), which today are some of the most important canonical texts of Hinduism, and are the codification of much of what developed into the core beliefs of Hinduism.Stephanie W. Jamison and Michael Witzel in Arvind Sharma, editor, ''The Study of Hinduism.'' University of South Carolina Press, 2003, page 65 Some modern Hindu scholars use the "Vedic religion" synonymously with "Hinduism." According to Sundararajan, Hinduism is also known as the Vedic religion. Other authors state that the Vedas contain "the fundamental truths about Hindu Dharma" which is called "the modern version of the ancient Vedic Dharma" The Arya Samaj is recognize the Vedic religion as true Hinduism. Nevertheless, according to Jamison and Witzel,

Early Vedic period – early Vedic compositions (c. 1750–1200 BCE)

The rishis, the composers of the hymns of the Rigveda, were considered inspired poets and seers. The mode of worship was the performance of Yajna, sacrifices which involved sacrifice and sublimation of the havana sámagri (herbal preparations) in the fire, accompanied by the singing of Samans and 'mumbling' of Yajus, the sacrificial mantras. The sublime meaning of the word yajna is derived from the Sanskrit verb yaj, which has a three-fold meaning of worship of deities (devapujana), unity (saògatikaraña) and charity (dána). An essential element was the sacrificial fire – the divine Agni – into which oblations were poured, as everything offered into the fire was believed to reach God. Central concepts in the Vedas are Satya and Rta. ''Satya'' is derived from Sat, the present participle of the verbal root ''as'', "to be, to exist, to live". ''Sat'' means "that which really exists ..the really existent truth; the Good", and ''Sat-ya'' means "is-ness". ''Rta'', "that which is properly joined; order, rule; truth", is the principle of natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it. "Satya (truth as being) and rita (truth as law) are the primary principles of Reality and its manifestation is the background of the canons of dharma, or a life of righteousness." "Satya is the principle of integration rooted in the Absolute, rita is its application and function as the rule and order operating in the universe." Conformity with Ṛta would enable progress whereas its violation would lead to punishment. Panikkar remarks: The term rta is inherited from the Proto-Indo-Iranian religion, the religion of the Indo-Iranian peoples prior to the earliest Vedic (Indo-Aryan) and Zoroastrian (Iranian) scriptures. "Asha" is the Avestan language term (corresponding to Vedic language ṛta) for a concept of cardinal importance. to Zoroastrian theology and doctrine. The term "dharma" was already used in Brahmanical thought, where it was conceived as an aspect of Rta. Major philosophers of this era were Rishis Narayana, Kanva, Rishaba, Vamadeva, and Angiras.

Middle Vedic period (c. 1200–850 BCE)

During the Middle Vedic period Rgveda X, the mantras of the Yajurveda and the older Brahmana texts were composed. The Brahmans became powerful intermediairies. Historical roots of Jainism in India is traced back to 9th-century BC with the rise of Parshvanatha and his non-violent philosophy.

Late Vedic period (from 850 BCE)

The Vedic religion evolved into Hinduism and Vedanta, a religious path considering itself the 'essence' of the Vedas, interpreting the Vedic pantheon as a unitary view of the universe with 'God' (Brahman) seen as immanent and transcendent in the forms of Ishvara and Brahman. This post-Vedic systems of thought, along with the Upanishads and later texts like epics (namely Gita of Mahabharat), is a major component of modern Hinduism. The ritualistic traditions of Vedic religion are preserved in the conservative Śrauta tradition.


Since Vedic times, "people from many strata of society throughout the subcontinent tended to adapt their religious and social life to Brahmanic norms", a process sometimes called Sanskritization.Encyclopædia Britannica, ''Other sources: the process of "Sanskritization"''.
/ref> It is reflected in the tendency to identify local deities with the gods of the Sanskrit texts.

Shramanic period (c. 800–200 BCE)

During the time of the shramanic reform movements "many elements of the Vedic religion were lost". According to Michaels, "it is justified to see a turning point between the Vedic religion and Hindu religions".

Late Vedic period – Brahmanas and Upanishads – Vedanta (850–500 BCE)

]] The late Vedic period (9th to 6th centuries BCE) marks the beginning of the Upanisadic or Vedantic period.Indiana University "India Studies Program"
''Passage to India, Module 10''.
, ''āzvārkaḷ'' , those immersed in god) were Tamil poet-saints of south India who lived between the 6th and 9th centuries CE and espoused "emotional devotion" or bhakti to Visnu-Krishna in their songs of longing, ecstasy and service. The most popular Vaishnava teacher of the south was Ramanuja, while of the north it was Ramananda. Several important icons were women. For example, within the Mahanubhava sect, the women outnumbered the men, and administration was many times composed mainly of women. Mirabai is the most popular female saint in India. Sri Vallabha Acharya (1479–1531) is a very important figure from this era. He founded the Shuddha Advaita (''Pure Non-dualism'') school of Vedanta thought. According to ''The Centre for Cultural Resources and Training'',

Early Islamic rule (c. 1100–1500 CE)

In the 12th and 13th centuries, Turks and Afghans invaded parts of northern India and established the Delhi Sultanate in the former Rajput holdings. The subsequent Slave dynasty of Delhi managed to conquer large areas of northern India, approximately equal in extent to the ancient Gupta Empire, while the Khalji dynasty conquered most of central India but were ultimately unsuccessful in conquering and uniting the subcontinent. The Sultanate ushered in a period of Indian cultural renaissance. The resulting "Indo-Muslim" fusion of cultures left lasting syncretic monuments in architecture, music, literature, religion, and clothing.

=Bhakti movement

= During the 14th to 17th centuries, a great ''Bhakti'' movement swept through central and northern India, initiated by a loosely associated group of teachers or ''Sants''. Ramananda, Ravidas, Srimanta Sankardeva, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Vallabha Acharya, Sur, Meera, Kabir, Tulsidas, Namdev, Dnyaneshwar, Tukaram and other mystics spearheaded the Bhakti movement in the North while Annamacharya, Bhadrachala Ramadas, Tyagaraja among others propagated Bhakti in the South. They taught that people could cast aside the heavy burdens of ritual and caste, and the subtle complexities of philosophy, and simply express their overwhelming love for God. This period was also characterized by a spate of devotional literature in vernacular prose and poetry in the ethnic languages of the various Indian states or provinces.


= Lingayatism is a distinct Shaivite tradition in India, established in the 12th century by the philosopher and social reformer Basavanna. The adherents of this tradition are known as Lingayats. The term is derived from Lingavantha in Kannada, meaning 'one who wears ''Ishtalinga'' on their body' (''Ishtalinga'' is the representation of the God). In Lingayat theology, ''Ishtalinga'' is an oval-shaped emblem symbolising Parasiva, the absolute reality. Contemporary Lingayatism follows a progressive reform–based theology propounded, which has great influence in South India, especially in the state of Karnataka.

=Unifying Hinduism

= According to Nicholson, already between the 12th and 16th century, The tendency of "a blurring of philosophical distinctions" has also been noted by Burley. Lorenzen locates the origins of a distinct Hindu identity in the interaction between Muslims and Hindus, and a process of "mutual self-definition with a contrasting Muslim other", which started well before 1800. Both the Indian and the European thinkers who developed the term "Hinduism" in the 19th century were influenced by these philosophers.

=Sikhism (15th century)

= (''The Golden Temple'') is culturally the most significant place of worship for the Sikhs.]] Sikhism originated in 15th-century Punjab (region)|Punjab, Delhi Sultanate (present-day India and Pakistan) with the teachings of Nanak and nine successive gurus. The principal belief in Sikhism is faith in ''Vāhigurū''— represented by the sacred symbol of ''ēk ōaṅkār'' eaning one god Sikhism's traditions and teachings are distinctly associated with the history, society and culture of the Punjab. Adherents of Sikhism are known as Sikhs (''students'' or ''disciples'') and number over 27 million across the world.

Modern period (1500–present)

Early modern period

According to Gavin Flood, the modern period in India begins with the first contacts with western nations around 1500. The period of Mughal rule in India saw the rise of new forms of religiosity.

Modern India (after 1800)

thumb|The largest religious gathering ever held on Earth, the 2001 Maha Kumbh Mela held in Prayag attracted around 70 million Hindus from around the world.


= In the 19th century, under influence of the colonial forces, a synthetic vision of Hinduism was formulated by Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Mahatma Gandhi. These thinkers have tended to take an inclusive view of India's religious history, emphasising the similarities between the various Indian religions. The modern era has given rise to dozens of Hindu saints with international influence. For example, Brahma Baba established the Brahma Kumaris, one of the largest new Hindu religious movements which teaches the discipline of Raja Yoga to millions. Representing traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Prabhupada founded the Hare Krishna movement, another organisation with a global reach. In late 18th-century India, Swaminarayan founded the Swaminarayan Sampraday. Anandamurti, founder of the Ananda Marga, has also influenced many worldwide. Through the international influence of all of these new Hindu denominations, many Hindu practices such as yoga, meditation, mantra, divination, and vegetarianism have been adopted by new converts.


= Jainism continues to be an influential religion and Jain communities live in Indian states Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Jains authored several classical books in different Indian languages for a considerable period of time.


= The Dalit Buddhist movement also referred to as Navayana Omvedt, Gail. Buddhism in India : Challenging Brahmanism and Caste. 3rd ed. London/New Delhi/Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2003. pages: 2, 3–7, 8, 14–15, 19, 240, 266, 271 is a 19th- and 20th-century Buddhist revival movement in India. It received its most substantial impetus from B. R. Ambedkar's call for the conversion of Dalits to Buddhism in 1956 and the opportunity to escape the caste-based society that considered them to be the lowest in the hierarchy.

Similarities and differences

According to Tilak, the religions of India can be interpreted "differentially" or "integrally", that is by either highlighting the differences or the similarities. According to Sherma and Sarma, western Indologists have tended to emphasise the differences, while Indian Indologists have tended to emphasise the similarities.


Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism share certain key concepts, which are interpreted differently by different groups and individuals. Until the 19th century, adherents of those various religions did not tend to label themselves as in opposition to each other, but "perceived themselves as belonging to the same extended cultural family."


The spectrum of these religions are called Dharmic religions because of their overlap over the core concept of Dharma. It has various meanings depending on the context. For example it could mean duty, righteousness, spiritual teachings, conduct etc.


Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism share the concept of moksha, liberation from the cycle of rebirth. They differ however on the exact nature of this liberation.


Common traits can also be observed in ritual. The head-anointing ritual of ''abhiseka'' is of importance in three of these distinct traditions, excluding Sikhism (in Buddhism it is found within Vajrayana). Other noteworthy rituals are the cremation of the dead, the wearing of vermilion on the head by married women, and various marital rituals. In literature, many classical narratives and purana have Hindu, Buddhist or Jain versions.c.f. Encyclopædia Britannica, s.v. "Jainism > Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism" All four traditions have notions of ''karma'', ''dharma'', ''samsara'', ''moksha'' and various ''forms of Yoga''.


Rama is a heroic figure in all of these religions. In Hinduism he is the God-incarnate in the form of a princely king; in Buddhism, he is a Bodhisattva-incarnate; in Jainism, he is the perfect human being. Among the Buddhist Ramayanas are: ''Vessantarajataka'', Reamker, Ramakien, Phra Lak Phra Lam, Hikayat Seri Rama etc. There also exists the ''Khamti Ramayana'' among the Khamti tribe of Asom wherein Rama is an Avatar of a Bodhisattva who incarnates to punish the demon king Ravana (B.Datta 1993). The ''Tai Ramayana'' is another book retelling the divine story in Asom.


Critics point out that there exist vast differences between and even within the various Indian religions. All major religions are composed of innumerable sects and subsects.


Indian mythology also reflects the competition between the various Indian religions. A popular story tells how Vajrapani kills Mahesvara, a manifestation of Shiva depicted as an evil being. The story occurs in several scriptures, most notably the ''Sarvatathagatatattvasamgraha'' and the ''Vajrapany-abhiseka-mahatantra''. According to Kalupahana, the story "echoes" the story of the conversion of Ambattha. It is to be understood in the context of the competition between Buddhist institutions and Shaivism.

''Āstika'' and ''nāstika'' categorisation

''Āstika'' and ''nāstika'' are variously defined terms sometimes used to categorise Indian religions. The traditional definition, followed by Adi Shankara, classifies religions and persons as ''āstika'' and ''nāstika'' according to whether they accept the authority of the main Hindu texts, the Vedas, as supreme revealed scriptures, or not. By this definition, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa and Vedanta are classified as ''āstika'' schools, while Charvaka is classified as a ''nāstika'' school. Buddhism and Jainism are also thus classified as ''nāstika'' religions since they do not accept the authority of the Vedas. Another set of definitions—notably distinct from the usage of Hindu philosophy—loosely characterise ''āstika'' as "theist" and ''nāstika'' as "atheist". By these definitions, ''Sāṃkhya'' can be considered a ''nāstika'' philosophy, though it is traditionally classed among the Vedic ''āstika'' schools. From this point of view, Buddhism and Jainism remain ''nāstika'' religions. Buddhists and Jains have disagreed that they are nastika and have redefined the phrases āstika and nāstika in their own view. Jains assign the term nastika to one who is ignorant of the meaning of the religious texts, or those who deny the existence of the soul was well known to the Jainas.

Use of term "Dharmic religions"

Frawley and Malhotra use the term "Dharmic traditions" to highlight the similarities between the various Indian religions. According to Frawley, "all religions in India have been called the Dharma", and can be According to Paul Hacker, as described by Halbfass, the term "dharma" The emphasis on the similarities and integral unity of the dharmic faiths has been criticised for neglecting the vast differences between and even within the various Indian religions and traditions. According to Richard E. King it is typical of the "inclusivist appropriation of other traditions" of Neo-Vedanta: The "Council of Dharmic Faiths" (UK) regards Zoroastrianism, whilst not originating in the Indian subcontinent, also as a Dharmic religion.

Status of non-Hindus in the Republic of India

The inclusion of Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs within Hinduism is part of the Indian legal system. The 1955 Hindu Marriage Act "efinesas Hindus all Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and anyone who is not a Christian, Muslim, Parsee (Zoroastrian) or Jew". And the Indian Constitution says that "reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion". In a judicial reminder, the Indian Supreme Court observed Sikhism and Jainism to be sub-sects or ''special'' faiths within the larger Hindu fold, and that Jainism is a denomination within the Hindu fold. Although the government of British India counted Jains in India as a major religious community right from the first Census conducted in 1873, after independence in 1947 Sikhs and Jains were not treated as national minorities. In 2005 the Supreme Court of India declined to issue a writ of Mandamus granting Jains the status of a religious minority throughout India. The Court however left it to the respective states to decide on the minority status of Jain religion. However, some individual states have over the past few decades differed on whether Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs are religious minorities or not, by either pronouncing judgments or passing legislation. One example is the judgment passed by the Supreme Court in 2006, in a case pertaining to the state of Uttar Pradesh, which declared Jainism to be indisputably distinct from Hinduism, but mentioned that, "The question as to whether the Jains are part of the Hindu religion is open to debate.(para 25, Committee of Management Kanya Junior High School Bal Vidya Mandir, Etah, U.P. v. Sachiv, U.P. Basic Shiksha Parishad, Allahabad, U.P. and Ors., Per Dalveer Bhandari J., Civil Appeal No. 9595 of 2003, decided On: 21 August 2006, Supreme Court of India) However, the Supreme Court also noted various court cases that have held Jainism to be a distinct religion. Another example is the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Bill, that is an amendment to a legislation that sought to define Jains and Buddhists as denominations within Hinduism.Gujarat Freedom of religions Act, 2003
/ref> Ultimately on 31 July 2007, finding it not in conformity with the concept of freedom of religion as embodied in Article 25 (1) of the Constitution, Governor Naval Kishore Sharma returned the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2006 citing the widespread protests by the Jains as well as Supreme Court's extrajudicial observation that Jainism is a "special religion formed on the basis of quintessence of Hindu religion by the Supreme Court".The Times of India, 11 Mar, 2008
In his letter dated 27 July 2007 he had said Jainism has been regarded as "special religion formed on the basis of quintessence of Hindu religion by the Supreme Court".

See also

* Abrahamic religions, a similar term used to refer Judaism, Christianity and Islam * Ayyavazhi and Hinduism * Buddhism in India * Christianity in India * Demographics of India * Hinduism in India * Indology * Iranian religions * Islam in India * Jainism in India * Kalasha (religion) * Proto-Indo-European religion * Proto-Indo-Iranian religion * Sikhism in India * Tribal religions in India * Zoroastrianism in India




Printed sources

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Web sources

External links

;Statistics * ;Constitution and law * ;Reports * {{DEFAULTSORT:Indian Religions Category:Religion in South Asia