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(Based on New Syllabus for IAS Exam: General Studies Paper II)

Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India (Part III)


Religion

India is a land of multiple religions. Almost all of the major religions of the world have their presence in the country. Hinduism is the dominant religion of India, followed by Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.  The religions with lesser following are Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Bahaism.  However these are not the only religions

Religion

Percentage

All religious communities

100.0

Hindus

80.5

Muslims

13.4

Christians

2.3

Sikhs

1.9

Buddhists

0.8

Jains

0.4

Others

0.6

Religion not stated

0.1

 

 As per the data of Census, 2001, Hinduism is professed by the majority of population in India. The Hindus are most numerous in 27 states/Uts except in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab. The Muslims professing Islam are in majority in Lakshadweep and Jammu & Kashmir. The percentage of Muslims is sizeable in Assam (30.9%), West Bengal (25.2%), Kerala (24.7%), Uttar Pradesh (18.5%) and Bihar (16.5%).

Christianity has emerged as the major religion in three North-eastern states, namely, Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya. Among other states/Uts, Manipur (34.0%), Goa (26.7%), Andaman & Nicobar Islands (21.7%), Kerala (19.0%), and Arunachal Pradesh (18.7%) have considerable percentage of Christian population to the total population of the State/UT.     Punjab is the stronghold of Sikhism. The Sikh population of Punjab accounts for more than 75 % of the total Sikh population in the country. Chandigarh (16.1%), Haryana (5.5%), Delhi (4.0%), Uttaranchal (2.5%) and Jammu & Kashmir (2.0%) are other important States/Uts having Sikh population. These six states/UTs together account for nearly 90 percent Sikh population in the country.

 The largest concentration of Buddhism is in Maharashtra (58.3%), where (73.4%) of the total Buddhists in India reside. Karnataka (3.9 lakh), Uttar Pradesh (3.0 lakh), west Bengal (2.4 lakh) and Madhya Pradesh (2.0 lakh) are other states having large Buddhist population. Sikkim (28.1%), Arunachal Pradesh (13.0%) and Mizoram (7.9 %) have emerged as top three states in terms of having maximum percentage of Buddhist population.    Maharashtra, Rajsthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have reported major Jain population. These states/UTs together account for nearly 90 percent of the total Jain population in the country, the percentage of Jain population to the total population is maximum in Maharastra (1.3%), Rajsthan (1.2%), Delhi (1.1%) and Gujrat (1.0%). Elsewhere in the country their proportion in negligible.

The above figures would indicate that the Indian society is also diverse in religious terms. While the general populace has been largely tolerant of other communities, there have been some instances of religious tension. While the Muslims feel uneasy on account of the Babri Masjid and Gujarat riots and Christians feel disturbed about actions of some sections against the missionaries, the Sikhs have time and again pointed out 1984 anti Sikh riots. However, credit must go the resilience of the common people that they have successfully dealt with these challenges to social fabric of the country and have maintained communal harmony.

Region

India is a large country with huge geographical variations. We have the snow clad Himalayas, fertile plains of the North, arid land of Western India, Deccan plateau and the coastal plains of the South. Some areas like the plains of North have been historically prosperous due to good agriculture while some like Rajasthan do not have the same position. Some areas like U.P. and Punjab were seats of power and had continuous interaction with the outside world, some like the Himalayan states of the north and tribal areas in the north east were untouched by the outside world. These areas developed their own pockets in which they lived in accordance with their culture and traditions. Apart from this, feudalism has been an important part of Indian polity after the Mauryan period and has virtually controlled the political system since 8th century onwards. It ensured that whenever the central authority weakened the local lord would strive to become independent. A number of local kingdoms like Awadh, Bengal and Hyderabad arose after the decline of Mughal empire. Support of such rulers helped in developing local dialects and culture helping the region to grow into a separate and linguistic identity.

 Regional identity thus is a combination of geographical and cultural identities and regional consciousness invariably evolves from either or both of these characteristics. When this regional consciousness is coupled with economic disparities it brings in a contradiction between the community and the state, and the community starts demanding a separate administrative setup in the form of state or autonomous councils where they can preserve their socio-cultural identity and look after well being of their people, which according to them are neglected.  While some such movements have led to successful creation of states, others like Telengana have not been so successful.

Language

Like all other aspects India has linguistic diversity. Although, Hindi is the official language of the country the Constitution recognizes 22 languages. These are Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri,Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. However, number of languages is much higher and Census,2001 recognized 122 languages belonging to five families of Indo-European, Dravidian, Austro-Asiatic, Tibeto-Burmese and Semito-Hamitic.

 

As per Census, 2001, strength of the speakers of the 22 scheduled languages is as under.

RANKING OF SCHEDULED LANGUAGES IN DESCENDING ORDER OF SPEAKER'S STRENGTH- 2001 

 

S. No

Language

% age of population

1

Hindi

41.03

2

Bengali

8.11

3

Telugu

7.19

4

Marathi

6.99

5

Tamil

5.91

6

Urdu

5.01

7

Gujarati

4.48

8

Kannada

3.69

9

Malayalam

3.21

10

Oriya

3.21

11

Punjabi

2.83

12

Assamese

1.28

13

Maithili 

1.18

14

Santali 

0.63

15

Kashmiri

0.54

16

Nepali

0.28

17

Sindhi

0.25

18

Konkani

0.24

19

Dogri 

0.22

20

Manipuri

0.14

21

Bodo 

0.13

22

Sanskrit

0.00

 

Apart from this there are thousands of dialects which are spoken in the country. For example, Hindi which is spoken in a number of states has various dialects in use in various areas of the country, like Awadhi in eastern U.P. and Brij in another area of the same state. These languages have developed and are concentrated in particular geographical areas and play crucial roles in framing regional identities. There have been successful movements for creation of states on linguistic basis and Andhra Pradesh was the first state to be organized on this basis. Presently, Telugu speaking people of Andhra Pradesh, concentrated in the Terengganu region are demanding a separate state.

 

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