INDIA – The land of Religious Harmony

LAND OFIndia is a land of diversities. This diversity is also visible in the spheres of religion. The major religions of India are Hinduism (majority religion), Islam (largest minority religion), Sikhism, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and many others. India is a land where people of different religions and cultures live in harmony. This harmony is seen in the celebration of festivals. The message of love and brotherhood is expressed by all the religions and cultures of India.

Whether it’s the gathering of the faithful, bowing in prayer in the courtyard of a mosque, or the gathering of lamps that light up houses at Diwali, the good cheer of Christmas or the brotherhood of Baisakhi, the religions of India are celebrations of shared emotion that bring people together. People from the different religions and cultures of India, unite in a common chord of brotherhood and amity in this fascinating and diverse land.

At present Buddhism is one of the major world religions. The philosophy of Buddhism is based on the teachings of Lord Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama (563 and 483 BC), a royal prince of Kapilvastu, India. After originating in India, Buddhism spread throughout the Central Asia, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Southeast Asia, as well as the East Asian countries of China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.

Christianity is one of the prominent religions in India. At present there are about 25 million Christians in India. It is interesting to note that the Christian population in India is more than the entire population of Australia and New Zealand or total population of a number of countries in Europe.

Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world. Hinduism is world’s third largest religion after Christianity and Islam. Hinduism is the dominant religion in India, where Hindus form about 84 per cent of the total population. Hinduism is also known as “Sanatan Dharma” or the everlasting religion.

Islam forms about 12 per cent of India’s population. Though India’s contact with Islam had begun much earlier, the real push came in the 8th century when the province of Sindh was conquered. Though the Muslims form only 12 per cent of the total population of India but the influence of Islam on Indian society is much stronger.

The humanity that India represents today is a product of a civilization 12,000 years or more old. The spirit of tolerance and assimilation are the hallmarks of this civilization. Never has the question of communal harmony and social integration raised such a wide range of emotions as today. The gradual and painful change of each man’s allegiance from his own ethnic group to a wider circle of the entire social milieu constitutes one of the great revolutions of our time.

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Fear, suspicion and hatred are the fuel which feed the flame of communal disharmony and conflict. Though the Indian masses would prefer harmony between various communities, it cannot be established through the accommodation ‘separate but equal’, nor through the submergence of minority culture into majority culture – whatever that may be. The present milieu offers no lasting cure. Though some benefits result from political action, until hearts are changed there is, at best, the outward form of equality without the spirit.
Lasting harmony between heterogeneous communities can only come through a recognition of the ‘oneness of mankind ’, a realization that differences that divide us along ethnic and religious lines have no foundation. Just as there are no boundaries drawn on the earth to separate nations, distinctions of social, economic, ethnic and religious identity imposed by peoples are artificial; they have only benefited those with vested interests. On the other hand, naturally occurring diverse regions of the planet, or the country, such as mountain and plains, each have unique benefits. The diversity created by God has infinite value, while distinctions imposed by man have no substance.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. This warning to India torn by internal war holds true for the nation today – and for the world. Differences between nations are even greater than those between diverse religious groups in India. One of the essential responses to this challenging issue is the development of a long range program to eradicate every vestige of communal hatred and prejudice. Such a program necessarily involves the dissemination of factual information as one means of eliminating misconceptions and superstition as one means of eliminating misconceptions and superstitions about caste and religion, so that positive relationships with persons of other backgrounds may be established with confidence and ease.

Every individual who desires to take part in the great task of promoting and establishing true communal harmony in India can do so by becoming well-informed about the findings of science in regard to caste and religious prejudice, by participating continually in the work of social integration, by helping to eradicate those general conditions in the Indian sub-continent that bring frustration and hardship to many groups of people, and by encouraging others to join him in these worthwhile endeavours.

Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, said India, where different religious traditions “live harmoniously”, is a model to other parts of world, and should continue to keep this tradition.

“India is a model. Different religious traditions live peacefully and harmoniously. Please keep this tradition,” Dalai Lama said at the valedictory of the year-long celebration of the 1,960 year-old Malankara Orthodox Syrian church in Kochi. Describing India as ‘Arya Bhumi’, the Nobel Laureate said “we consider this country spiritually very, very important.” In the last 2000-3000 years, different religious traditions, including Buddhism, Jainism, flourished here.”

“India has great heritage. There is harmony among different religious traditions. India is a land where people of different religious faiths can live peacefully and harmoniously here. India’s tradition is very relevant in today’s world,” he said. For thousands of years, India carried the message of ‘Ahimsa’ which was relevant even today, he said, adding, “We should ourselves create inner peace by practising love and compassion in daily life.”

In the 21st century, people everywhere talk about money and material value. That is also important. Material wealth provides physical comfort. Mental comfort is possible only by faith, he said. “A disturbed mind is very bad for health, while a healthy mind and health body go together. Material wealth alone will not bring happiness,” the spiritual leader said.

Former President A P J Abdul Kalam said there is need for a combination of economic prosperity and spiritual way of life.

India is known for its diversity that is marked by harmonious relations between people of different communities. And examples of this ethos can be found throughout the country. One such example comes from Rajkot, in the eastern state of Gujrat, where Hindus help Muslims in making Tazia during Muharram. This Tazia is popular in Rajkot by the name of a Hindu, Patel Tula Ram. A Tazia is a replica of the tomb of Imam Hussain that is carried in processions during Muharram. The first ten days of the month of Muharram commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his companions at Karbala. The Tazia makers believe that through their work they are sending out a message of brotherhood and harmony between different communities. The joint participation of people in important events of different communities is an example of interfaith harmony that exists in the country.

College  girls wearing traditional colorful dress and performing Punjabi Gidda  on the occasion of “Lohri festival celebrating at Amritsar on Tuesday, January 13 2015. EXPRESS PHOTO BY RANA SIMRANJIT SINGH

Varanasi, situated on the banks of river Ganga, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, is known as the spiritual capital of India. The city is known for Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb or religious harmony between the people of different faiths. This tehzeeb is upheld by the people, who celebrate religious co-existence in the city with utmost devotion. A similar example is witnessed in a Muslims locality where Muslim girls paint and decorate earthen lamps for Hindus during their religious occasions. Their aim is to maintain the age-old culture of religious harmony and promote peace and brotherhood in the city. Besides, these Muslim girls want to gift the decorated lamps to their Hindu sisters as a sign of mutual respect and gratitude. These efforts enlighten the hearts of the people of different communities who work ceaselessly to maintain communal harmony in the region, for which Varanasi is popular.

Vadodara, located in the western state of Gujarat, is an important industrial, educational and cultural hub of western India. The city houses people from different communities, who live in harmony and help each other during different religious ceremonies. In a similar example, a person belonging to Muslim community takes care of a Temple and its arrangements during important religious gatherings. The man along with other Muslim fellows maintains cleanliness of the temple and even decorates it during religious occasions. The love and devotion of this Muslim man for Hindu brethren reflects the age old tradition of the country which is cherished by one and all.

Such examples can found across the length and the breadth of the country and a perfect example of the composite culture of India that stands on the bed-rock of amity between different communities. The celebrations like this depict love and fondness of people and respect for each other’s religious beliefs which still exists in the country. And it simply reaffirms the fact that amity between different communities has been a way of life in India since ages and it will continue to strengthen the social fabric in times to come as well.

Source: Religious Harmony Foundation

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