Religion in India

The political map of ancient and medieval India was made up of myriad kingdoms with fluctuating boundaries. In the 4th and 5th centuries A.D., northern India was unified under the Gupta Dynasty. During this period, known as India's Golden Age, Hindu culture and political administration reached new heights.


Hinduism is unique among the world religions in that it has no founder or date of origin. While most major religions derive from new ideas taught by a charismatic leader, Hinduism is simply the religion of the people of India, which has gradually developed over four thousand years. The origins and authors of its sacred texts are largely unknown.

Although today's Hinduism differs significantly from earlier forms of Indian religion, Hinduism's roots date back as far as 2000 BC, making it one of the oldest surviving religions. Because of its great age, the early history of Hinduism is unclear. The most ancient writings have yet to be deciphered, so for the earliest periods scholars must rely on educated guesses based on archaeology and the study of contemporary texts.

Though many Hindus have adopted the name for themselves, they also use the terms "Veda," or "Vedic religion," which refer to the ancient texts at the core of the tradition, or Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Law).

The Upanisads were recorded from 1000-600 BCE. The Ramayana and the Mahabarata were recorded between from 2nd century BCE to the 4th century CE. The Mahabarata describes three paths to salvation: the path of duties (karma-marga), the path of knowledge (jnana-marga), and the path of devotion (bhakti-marga). Though the Upanisads emphasized renunciation and asceticism, the later texts emphasize that the three paths can be used simultaneously for the maintenance of the world order (dharma) and release from the the world (moksha).


Islam spread across the Indian subcontinent over a period of 500 years. Its influence started in the early 7th century with the advent of Arab traders. Trade relations between Arabia and the subcontinent are very ancient. Arab traders used to visit the Malabar region, which was a link between them and ports of South East Asia, to trade even before Islam had been established in Arabia. In the 10th and 11th centuries, Turks and Afghans invaded India and established sultanates in Delhi. In the early 16th century, descendants of Genghis Khan swept across the Khyber Pass and established the Mughal (Mogul) Dynasty, which lasted for 200 years. From the 11th to the 15th centuries, southern India was dominated by Hindu Chola and Vijayanagar Dynasties. During this time, the two systems--the prevailing Hindu and Muslim--mingled, leaving lasting cultural influences on each other.

Religions in 1909

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    The Coming Of Islam To South Asia