India Tour Packages
On behalf of Gill and I this is to say a big thank you for a great vacation. rohit and the team in Delhi did a good job in managing the tour. The organisation and service was excellent and everything went without a hitch.
Religions in India
India is the land of ancient cultures and civilizations. There is probably no other country in the world that has more diversity than India in terms of religions, cultures, languages, and lifestyle. Hinduism is the main religion in India practiced by nearly 85% of the total population of India. Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism are other religions that have good number of followers in India.
Hinduism is the most ancient religion of India (also among the most ancient religions of the world). Hinduism in India is believed to have started with the arrival of Aryans who entered the northwestern side of the Indian subcontinent in the second millennium BC. The roots of Hinduism lie in four Vedas, Upanishads, scriptures and other holy books of Hinduism. Hindus are broadly divided into four classes – Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. This system of categorization is known as Varnasharadharma. These main classes are subdivided in around 3000 castes (jatis).
The idea of Hinduism states that a person in his/her life should perform four duties (karmas) in order to make the life meaningful. The first duty is ‘Dharma’ that means performing good deeds and live a life free from sins. The second duty is ‘Artha’ meaning earning money through legitimate and rightful work. The third duty is ‘Kama’ meaning satisfying the desires of life in a rightful manner. The fourth duty is ‘Moksha’ meaning doing prayer and meditation and follow the path to god to get liberation from the cycles of birth and death.
Two main epics of Hindus are Mahabharat and Ramayan. Other important holy books in Hinduism include Dharma Shastra, Dharma Shutras, Smiriti (memory), Puran and Vedas. With the help of these books, a person can make his life easy and free of sins. In Hinduism, a large number of gods and goddess (deities) are worshipped. The main deities of Hindus are Ganesha, Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, goddess Durga, Lakshami, Saraswati, etc. Hindus believe and practice idol worship. Daily prayers are done twice a day, in the morning and in the evening using flowers, sandalwood, rice, incense, water and fruits. In temples, all the prayers are done by the priest (pujari). Singing devotional songs in groups and reciting of Bhagawad Gita is also done in temples. The most popular festivals of Hindus are Diwali, Dushhera, Holi, Raksha Bandhan, Navratra and Basant Panchami. Main pilgrimage places of Hindus in India include Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Yamnotri, Jagannath Puri, and Vaisho Devi.
In terms of followers, Islam is the second biggest religion of India followed by about 12% of the total population. Prophet Mohammad was the founder of Islam who is believed to be the messenger of the God. ‘Quran’ is the most holy book of Islam which discusses all the rules of Islam that should be following by a Muslim.
Muslims first came to India from south coast in 7th century for trade reasons. Some of them settled permanently in India. In 711 AD, Muslims entered India from the northwestern side in the Sindh region. Mahmud of Gajani attacked north India in search of Indian treasures and ravaged many Hindu temples. In later centuries, Muslim rulers established their empires in India. Mughal Empire was the most powerful Muslim empire in India that ruled the country for more than 150 years.
Muslims are divided into two main sections – Shi’a and Sunni. A Muslim has to follow five basic rules in life, also known as five pillars of Islam. These include Shahada (confession of faith), Salat (prayer), zakat (almsgiving), Saum or Roja (fasting), and Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arab). There are many restrictions on women in Muslim society. The main pilgrimage sites of Muslims are Mecca and Madina. Muslims do their prayers five times a day at their homes, in mosques, or in dargahs of saints. The most important festivals of Muslims are Id-ul-Juha and Id-ul-fitar.
Buddhism was founded by Gautam Buddha who was born in a royal Kshastriya family in Lumbini, now situated in Nepal. At the age of 30, he left his home to know the true meaning of life. He went to Magadh state where he spent many years of his life doing meditation. He attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya in Bihar. He established ‘Sangha’ in which teachers and nuns used to preach about the real aim of life.
Sarnath and Bodhgaya are the main pilgrimage sites of Buddhist people in India. Sarnath is the place where Buddha gave his first sermon after getting enlightenment. Bodhgaya is the place where Buddha attained enlightenment. Other places in India that feature some landmark Buddhist structures include Sanchi (stupa), Ellora (Buddhist caves), and Ajanta. Other countries where Buddhism is a major religion include Sri Lanka, Japan, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Tibet, China, Korea and India.
The founder of Sikhism was Guru Nanak Dev born in a Hindu family in Talwandi situated in Lahore. He said that God cannot be bounded in a religion. One can find him only by following the path of truth. He believed in cycle of birth and death as well as the concept of Karma. A great disciple of Guru Nanak was Guru Angad Dev (Lehna). He collected all the hymns of Guru Nanak Dev and wrote it in Gurumukhi script. He was the second guru of Sikh Panth after Guru Nanak Dev. Guru Gobind Singh, the last guru, founded the Khalsa Panth by making five disciples to help the poor and fight against the oppression. Sikh men started using ‘Singh’ as surname (meaning lion) while women used ‘Kaur’ (meaning princess). Sikh men wear turban on their head. Guru Granth Sahib is the most holy book for Sikhs, while Golden Temple (Amritsar) and Patna Sahib (Patna) are among the pilgrimage places for Sikhs.