Religions and Cultures of India

By: Ayushi Chintakayala


Major Religions:

- Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Christianity

Consider the Following:

  • India is a very diverse nation that is just barely held together!!
  • It is divided into several states, each of which expresses its own sort of nationalistic unity within its citizens.
  • There are many languages spoken in India! Each region of India is dominated by its own language, religion, and culture.
  • India's traditions and customs are celebrated through annual festivals and many of which embrace the message of love, morality, and family.



- Earliest forms date back to 1500B.C.

- 3rd largest religion in the world

- Life's Purpose: to attain liberation (moksha) from the cycle of reincarnation (samsara)


- Very diverse

- one can believe a wide variety of things about God, the universe, and the path

to liberation and still be considered Hindu

- Basic Hindu Beliefs:

  1. The authority of the Vedas (the oldest Indian holy texts) and the Brahmans
  2. Reincarnation: a soul that transfers from 1 body to another after death
  3. Karma determines one's destiny in current life and the next

- Principle Gods: Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti are all representations of a single reality/god


- Founded in 33 A.D by Jesus

- Largest religion in the world

- Life's Purpose: to know, love, and serve God


- Holy Text: Bible

- Ultimate Reality: there is only 1 God

- Humans are created good but become sinful

- Followers should have faith in God, do good deeds, and participate in sacraments

Connection to God of Small Things

Syrian Christians (Nisranis) in Kerala

- 3rd most practiced religion in Kerala (16.4%)

- Syrian Christianity is a culturally and linguistically distinctive community

- Sects:

  • Syrian Roman Catholics, Latin Roman Catholics (61.4%)
  • Orthodox Syrians, Jacobite Syrians (21.4 %)
  • Marthoma Syrians (5.7%)

- 1961: Christian proportion decline due to a high rate of migration of Christians out of Kerala and the absence of significant conversion to Christianity

- With regard to possession of household consumer goods, Syrian Christians stand very much above the other communities


- Founded in 622 CE by Muhammad

- 2nd largest religion in the world

- Major Sects: Sunni, Shia, Sufi

- Life's Purpose: Submit to Allah, attain paradise after death


- Follow the Quar'an and the 5 Pillars of Faith

- 5 Pillars

  1. Confession of Faith
  2. Daily Prayer
  3. Pilgrimage to Mecca
  4. Fasting during Ramadan


- Founded is 520 B.C by Buddha (Siddartha Gautama)

- 4th largest religion in the world

- Major Sects: Mahayana, Theravada, Vajrayana

- Life's Purpose:

  • Theravada: to escape the cycle of rebirth and attain nirvana (salvation)
  • Mahayana: to become a saint, then help others attain enlightenment


- There is no such thing as Ultimate Reality, everything changes

- Life is full of suffering. We suffer because we continually strive after things that don't have lasting happiness

- Buddha rejected the concept of the soul as an eternally existing spirit


- Founded in 550 B.C. by Mahavira

- Emphasizes complete non-violence and asceticism

- Major Sects: Digambaras (sky clad), Shvetambaras (white clad)

- Life's Purpose: Gain liberation from rebirth

Beliefs/Cosmology (The Universe)

- Everything is eternal and was never created and can never be destroyed

- 3 Realms: the heavens, the earthly realm, and the hells

  • The Heavens (7 levels)
- top Level: "The Realm of the Jinas": reserved for liberated souls
- next Level: Realm of the Gods
  • The Earthly Realm - divided into 7 regions by 6 mt. ranges
  • The Hells- the 8 hells become progressively torturous as you go down

- Founded in 1500 B.C by Shri Guru Nanak Dev

- Emphasizes work, worship, charity, and community

- Life's Purpose: to overcome the self, align with the will of God, and become a "Saint soldier" fighting for good


- Cycle of rebirth can never be broken

- Guru Nanak's Teachings:

  1. A disciplined life -- by moderating egoism and luxury to live a balanced worldly manner, and by accepting ultimate reality
  2. Salvation doen't mean entering paradise after a last judgement, but a union and absorption into God


Traditional Caste System

- Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras, Dalits

- it became the identity of a person and how he/she was treated in society

- Originally based upon job and authority status in a society

- You were born into a caste and there was no way to move up to a higher class

The Caste System has changed now:

- Caste is still taken into account (Brahmins only marry Brahmins)

- You're born into a caste, but it's not as strictly used anymore to identify oneself

- Caste system has advanced to a newer level of socioeconomic status

  • The wealth of the family defines the amount of respect that one receives
  • High class, Middle class, and Low class exists in US too, but in India it determines one's purpose in life, how to live, who to marry, and who to respect.

  • the more gold you wear, the higher class you are

India's love affair with gold
(1:00-2:00), (3:02-3:52)

Traditional Gender Roles

- Women: assumed subservience to men

  • stay at home and were in charge of raising children, cooking, sewing
  • sometimes harassed by men and couldn't do anything about it
  • daughters were considered a burden (dowry) compared to sons

- Men: head of the family

  • goes to work to earn money and support the family
  • his say was the law of the household
  • he is able to get involved in political endeavors

Women roles have changed now:

- women are more liberated than before
- later marriages
- women can take part in politics
Although, there is still discrimination towards women in rural villages.

Works Cited

"Buddhist Beliefs." Buddhism Fast Facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2013.

"Countries and Cultures." Religion and Expressive Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2013.

"Fast Facts on Christianity." - ReligionFacts. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2013.

"Facts About Islam." Islamic Values and Beliefs. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2013.

"Fast Facts on Jainism." - ReligionFacts. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2013.

"Fast Facts on Sikhism." - ReligionFacts. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2013.

"Hinduism and Its Origins." Indian Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2103

"Indian Traditional Customs." Overview of India. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2013