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MAJOR INDIAN RELIGIONS and Social Reform Movements

MAJOR INDIAN RELIGIONS and Social Reform Movements

MAJOR INDIAN RELIGIONS and Social Reform Movements

India is the land of religions. Its being a secular country does  not recognize any religion as state religion. India is the birth place of four of the world’s major religious traditions, namely Hinduism,   Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

The other religions in India are  Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and the Bahai faith.


It is believed that Hinduism was the oldest religion to come into existence in India. Almost 80% of the population follows the Hindu religion in India. Hinduism is world’s third largest religion after Christianity and Islam. Many aspects of Hindu philosophy like Yoga, Ayurvedic medicine, Vegetarianism, Karma and reincarnation have been popularized in the West by Indian Spiritual figures. Hinduism has a profound philosophy. The sacred tasks of Hindus are the Vedas, Upanishads, the Gita, the Ramayana and theMahabharata.


Jains form less than one percent of the Indian population. The states of Gujarat and Rajasthan have the highest concentration of Jain population in India.

Jainism rejected the authority of the Vedas and Vedic rituals. It did not believe in the existence of God, but it believe in Karma and the transmigration of soul (Nirvana).

The early Jains discarded the Sanskrit language and adopted Prakrit language.

There are three ways to attain Nirvana as per Jainism. Right Faith, knowledge and  Right conduct

As per Jainism there are five cardinal principles.

Non Injury                               Ahimsa

Non lying                                   Satya

Non stealing                              Asateya

Non possession                        Aparigraha

Observing Continence           Brahmacharya


  • Though Buddhism originated in India, Now there is less than 1% of the India’s population 85 percent of all the Buddhists in India are concentrated in Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh and the higher Himalayan habitats of north western India too have some Buddhist population.
  • After originating in India, Buddhism spread throughout the central Asia, Sri Lanka, Tibet, China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.
  • Founded by Gautam Muni (Sakyamuni or Thagat) originally known as Siddhartha.
  • Four noble truths (Arya Satyas)
  1. The world is full of sorrows.
  2. The cause of sorrow is desire.
  3. Sorrows can be conquered by conquering the desire.
  4. The desire can be conquered by following the eight fold path.

Right understanding, thought, speech, Right action, livelihood, effort, concentration and mindfulness

Three jewels of Buddhism are Buddha , Dhamma and Sangha.

Major Indian Religions
Major Indian Religions


  • About 2% of the total population of India form Sikhs In comparison to other religions, Sikhism is a younger religion.
  • Sri Guru Nanak Dev started the Sikh religion He was the first Guru of the Sikhs and was born in Talwandi in 1469.
  • Sikhism which emerged in the 15th Century tried to bridge the gap between Hinduism and Islam.
  • Guru Gobind Singh the tenth guru of the Sikhs organized the Khalsa in 1699.The Sikhs are required to keep 5 k’s kacha, kripan ,kesh, kanga and kara.
  • Though Sikhism is dispersed widely over the entire India, their largest concentration is in Punjab, where they form the majority of the state’s population. Adi Granth is considered the religious book of the Sikhs.


  • The second most dominant religion after Hinduism is Islam. In India, about 12% of the population follows the Islam religion.
  • Though spread all over all parts of India. The ratio of Muslim population exceeds the national average in Lakshadweep Islands, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and West Bengal.
  • The Muslim population in India is the third largest in the
  • The shrines of some of the most famous saints of sufism like Moinuddin Chishti and Nizamuddin Auliya are in India. India is also home to some of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture like the Taj Mahal and the Qutab Minar.


  • Christianity is the third most dominant religion in India.
  • At present there are about 3 percent Christians in India. They are highly concentrated in Goa, Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.


  • Zoroastrianism have an ancient history in India. Though the total number of  Zoroastrians (Parsis) in Indian population is very less yet they continue to be one of the important religious communities of India.
  • According to 2001 census, there are about 70,000 Parsis in India. Most of them live in Mumbai and the rest in Gujarat.In the 2011 census the parsis population declined by 10%


  • Indian Jews are a religious minority of India. Judaism was one of the first foreign religions to arrive in India.
  • According to the 1991 census there were about 5,271 Jews in India. Of the total Jewish population in India about half live in Manipur and Mizoram and a quarter live in the city of Mumbai. In Kerala a community of Jews are seen in the cities of Kannur (Kodungalloor) and Kochi.


  • Bahai’s are from various parts of the world. The Baha’i Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent religion.
  • India was the 6th country to have the Baha’i Faith introduced to it.
  • Baha’i Faith in India is numerically small and tiny in proportion of the national population. TheBaha’i House of worship in Delhi, popularly known as the Lotus Temple is a prominent attraction in Delhi.


Arya Samaj

  • Arya Samaj is a Hindu social reform movement in India that was founded by Swami Dayananda in 1875.
  • Swami Dayananda Saraswati rejected all non vedic beliefs and gave the call “Back to the Vedas.”
  • Arya Samaj condemned idolatry, animal sacrifices, ancestor worship, pilgrimages, offerings made in temples, the caste  system, untouchability and child marriage and stressed on social reform.
  • The primary aim of the Arya Samaj is to do good for all, that is promote physical, spiritual and social well being. Now Arya Samaj had set up schools and missionary organizations and extended its activities outside India.

Brahmo Samaj

  • Brahmo Samaj is a religious social reform movement founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy,it was known as Atmiya Sabha when it started in 1814 ,later it changed its name to Brahmo Samaj.
  • The Brahmo Samaj believed in the existence of one God, who is omni – present and omniscient.
  • This social reform movement condemned some of the evil practices of Hinduism like caste system, Sati, Child Marriages etc.
  • The names of Devendra Nath Tagore and Kehav Chandra Sen are associated to the Brahmo Samaj.
  • The Brahmo Samaj got split into Aadi Brahmo Samaj and Brahmo Samaj of India. The Brahmo Samaj of India was under Keshav Chandra Sen .Some of the followers of Keshav Chandra Sen moved away from Brahmo Samaj of India and formed Sadharan Brahmo samaj.

 The Theosophical Society

  • The Theosophical Society was founded in the United States by Madam H.P Blavtsky and Colonel H.S. Olcott who later came to India and founded the headquarters of the Society at Adyar near Madras in 1882.It was a social reform movement that desired to study the ancient religions of the world.
  • The Theosophist movement soon grew in India as a result of the leadership given to it by Mrs. Annie Besant who had come to India in 1893.

 Prarthana Samaj

  • Prarthana Samaj was a social reform movement that was founded in 1867 in Mumbai by Atmaram Pandurang as an off shoot of the Brahma Samaj. It was later joined by M.G. Ranade and R.G. Bhandarkar.
  • It aimed at removing the evil social customs.
  • It preached the worship of one God and tried to free religion of caste orthodoxy and priestly domination.

Aligarh Movement

  • Aligarh Movement was a muslim social reform movement and was started by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan to educate the Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent and to bring social reforms among muslims relating to purdah, polygamy , widow remarriage, divorce etc.
  • The Aligarh movement was a liberal modern trend among the Muslim intelligentsia.
  • In 1875, Syed Ahmad Khan founded the Muhammedan Anglo – Oriental College at Aligarh as a centre for spreading western sciences and culture. Later this College grew into the Aligarh Muslim University.
  • The Deoband school was an orthodox social reform movement  among the muslims which aimed at moral and religious regeneration among the muslims and they even issued a fatwa against sir Syed Ahmed Khan due to his liberal ides.

Shuddhi Movement

  • Shuddhi Movement was started by Arya Samaj in early 20th Century.This social reform movement aimed  to bring back the people who transformed their religion to Islam and Christianity from Hinduism.
  • The process of reconverting Hindus from Islam and Christianity was accompanied by Sanghathan movements, which was launched to unify the Hindus and organise them in self- defence.

 Young Bengal Movement

  • Young Bengal Movement was started by Sir Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, teacher of Hindu College.
  • The supporters of Young Bengal Movement were influenced by the ideals of the French Revolution. They preached the ideals of liberty, equity and fraternity. Derozio’s teachings questioned the existing superstitions and age – old beliefs.

The Servants of India Society

  • The Servants of India Society was a social reform movement formed in Pune, Maharashtra on June 17, 1905 by Gopal Krishna Gokhale.
  • The Society organised many campaigns to promote education, sanitation, health care and fight the social evils of untouchability and discrimination, alcoholism, poverty, oppression of women and domestic abuse.
  • Aim was to train missionaries for the service of India and to promote by all constitutional means the true interests of the people of India.
  • After Gokhale’s death in 1915 Shrinivas Shastri took over as its President.

Akali Movement

  • The Akali Movement was another for Gurdwara Reform Movement.
  • The property and wealth of the Sikh temples were being misused by the Mahants and Priests of the temple. Mahants considered the Gurudwara as their personal poverty and misused the income of Gurudwara on drinking and loose living. Thus these Mahants used the sacred Gurudwaras to centres for immoral life.
  • Thus Akali Movement was a struggle for freedom and purification of Sikh historical places of worship. It came into full swing from the early 1920’s. It produced tremendous and far reaching effects on the social and religious life of the Sikhs and brought them into the political movement for freedom of India.
  • The Akali movement also aimed at making modern western education available to the  Sikhs and as a result a lot of Khalsa schools were set up.

Kuka Movement/ Namdhari Movement

  • This social reform movement is also popularly known as Kuka Movement was launched on the Baisaki day in April 1857 in Ludhiana.
  • District of Punjab by Guru Ram Singh as an offshoot of Sikhism.
  • The Kuka movement marked a significant stage in the development of national consciousness in the country. Guru Ram Singh adopted non – violence and non -cooperation as the two weapons against British.
  • They boycotted British goods, government schools, law courts, mill made cloth etc.
  • Avoided the use of Post Offices and depended upon their own postal system. They adopted their own legal system and rejected the British system. The Kukas had thrice revolted against the British. But the movement was ruthlessly suppressed by the British.

Ahamadiyya Movement

  • Ahamadiyya Movement is an Islamic religious movement founded in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad on 23 March 1889.
  • Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims and claim to practice Islam in its pristine forms.
  • Ahmadis opposed Islamic orthodoxy. Ahamadiyya views on certain beliefs in Islam have been controversial to mainstream Muslims since the movement’s birth.
  • They opposed the concept of Jihad that is waging a war against the non muslims and were in favour of western liberal ideas for the muslims.

Wahabi Movement

  • Wahabi Movement was founded by Syed Ahmed in 1820 at Rohilkhand.
  • The Wahabi movement condemned all changes and innovations to Islam. Wahabi Movement was revivalist movement which held that the return to the true spirit of Islam was the only way to get rid of the socio – political oppression.
  • Wahabis played a major part of the Indian freedom movement. During the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, the Wahabis played a notable role.
  • Wanted harmony among the four schools of Islam which had divided the Indian muslims.


  • Ramakrishna Mission is a humanitarian organisation founded by Sri Rama Krishnan Paramahamsa’s chief disciple Swami Vivekananda in 1897.
  • The aims and ideals of the mission are purely spiritual and humanitarian and has no relation with politics. The principles of Karma Yoga in Bhagavad Gita are one of the main source of inspiration for the Ramakrishna Mission.
  • The Mission conducts extensive work in heatlh care, disaster relief , rural management, tribal welfare, elementary and higher education and culture.
  • The headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission is at Belur Math near Kolkata.

Some other movements

Movement / Place / Founder

  1. Aravippuram movement /Kerela / Sri Narayan guru
  2.  Indian social conference (also called social reform cell of the congress)/M G Ranade & Raghunath Rao
  3. Sri Narayan Guru Dharma Paripalna/ Kerela/Sri  Narayan Guru Swami
  4. Seva Sadan (Parsi Reform Movement)/Behramji M Malabari
  5. Dharma Sabha (Orthodox Hindu Movement)/Raja Radhakant Deb
  6. Radha Swami Movement/Agra /Shiv Dayal Saheb
  7. Rahunamai Mazdyasan Sabha (Parsi Reform Movement)

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