- religions in india
Religion played an important part in the lives of the Indians from the ancient times. Four major religions of the world – Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam – are practiced in India. Major religions of the world like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and many minor cults and regional sects were born in India. Many other religions such as Zoroastrianism, Judaism etc. which came to India from outside have also assimilated in the lives of Indians.
Hinduism is one of the oldest living religions of the world. It has grown through time. Normally it is difficult to define Hinduism because unlike other religions of the world it has neither any founder nor nay one sacred scripture. In fact, the term ‘Hindu’ was first used by foreigners to describe the inhabitants of the country to the east of the river Sindhu (Indus).
Hinduism has grown gradually over a period of five thousand years, absorbing and assimilating all the religions and cultural movements. Hinduism, in fact, is a vast religion which has many sacred scriptures and encompasses many sects within itself which overlap each other in the most extraordinary manner. The followers of this religion differ in their thoughts and beliefs – such as some are monotheists, polytheists and pantheists; some are worshipers of divine mothers, of spirits, of trees, rocks and streams and of tutelary village duties; some whose rituals consist mainly of prayers and hymns and some who indulge in unspeakable orgies in the name of ceremonies.
Hinduism is based on many contrasting beliefs. On one end is the most abstruse metaphysical speculation about ultimate reality, on the other there are popular cults based on the propitiation of tree spirits and animal deities. It believes both in monism and pluralism.
It accepts the validity of many paths leading to the same goal, and is willing to recognize the divinity of the prophets of other religions but rigidly adheres to the caste distinctions and cast-ridden practices.
Characteristic Features of Hinduism
- Belief in God
- Worship of various gods and goddesses
- Belief in reincarnation
- Belief in nature worship
- Immortality of soul (Atman)
- Belief in Vedas
- Belief in rebirth
- Belief in karma (deeds)
- Moksha – ultimate goal of life
- Belief in idol worship
fundamentals of hinduism
Four Objectives (Goals) of Life (Purusharth)
- Dharma (truth, righteousness)
- Artha (prosperity, fame)
- Kama (pleasure including sex)
- Moksha (liberation from the cycle of existence) – the ultimate goal.
Four Stages (Ashram) in life
The normal rhythm of man’s life is divided into four stages (ashrams). These stages are not applicable to women. Considering man’s life to be of 100 years, each stage is of 25 years.
- Brahmacharya ashram (until 25 years): This is first stage, stage of learner (student) which demands self control and abstinence.
- Grihasthashram (25 to 50 years): This is the stage f house-holder and the most important stage of life.
- Vanprasth ashram (50 to 75 years): Vanprasth means ‘proceed to forest’. This stage signifies detachment or gradual turning away from worldly concerns.
- Sanyas ashram (75 to 100 years): This is the last stage of life. This is the stage of renunciation, when one leads a wholly spiritual life preparing for
This society, based on differences in aptitudes and temperaments, is divided into four castes in following order: 1) Brahmins (priests, teachers); 2) Kashatriyas (warriors, rulers); 3) Vaishyas (traders, merchants); and 4) Shudras (unskilled workers)
Saivism originated in very ancient time in India. Though both-Vaishnavism and Saivism-were referred to by Megasthenes in the fourth century B.C. it is, however, the grammarians who first give us an idea about its growth as a religious movement. Panini in his sutra on the formation of words like ‘Saiva’ probably refers to a group of Siva– worshippers of his time (5th century B.C.). Patanjali in his commentary on one of the ‘sutras’ of Panini describes a class of Siva-worshippers named by him as Siva-Bhagavatas, who were characterized by the iron lances and clubs they carried and their skin garments.
The principal sub-sects of the Saivas are the ‘Pasu’, the individual soul, was eternally existing with ‘Pati’ the supreme soul, and the attainment of ‘Dukhanta’ (cessation of misery) by the former was through the performance of ‘Yoga’ and ‘Vidhi’. The ‘Vidhi’ or means consisted mainly of various apparently senseless and unsocial acts. The Kapalikas and Kalamukhas were no doubt offshoots of the pasupata sect and there is clear epigraphic evidence to show that these were already flourishing in the Gupta period.
Kashmir Saivism is the earlier form of Saivism and more philosophical in nature. It is known as Trika because; it accepts as most important the triad – Siddha, Namaka and Malini out of the ninety-two Agamas recognized by it.
Saiva-Siddhanta is the Saivism of South India. The Agamantins based their tenents mainly on the 28 Agamas, said to have been composed by the various aspects of Siva himself.
The doctrine of Bhakti, or devotional faith as a means to salvation, and opposed to the path of action (Karma-Marga) and the path of knowledge (jnana-marga), is considered to be the foundation of modern Vaishnavism. It is difficult to determine the age when the Vasudeva-Krishna cult flourished.
The Bhagavata doctrine, as already pointed out, is based on the Bhakti cult. But the object of Bhakti was originally Vasudeva.
The concept of cosmic god Vishnu was absorbed in the Hari-Krishna cult on the basis of the Epic and Puranic literature of the early post-Christian period.
By the end of the 2nd century A.D. Bhagvatism came to be known by the name of the Pancharatra Agama, the word Agama meaning that which has come and is, therefore, the counterpart of the Veda. Vaishnava poet- saints known as Alvars preached one-souled and loving adoration for Vishnu and their songs were collectively name ‘prabandhas’. The most famous of the 12 Alvars were Nammalvar and Tirumalisai Alvar, while those noted among the early Acharyas were Yamunacharya and Ramanuja.
Shaktism or Mother Goddess
The cult of the Mother-Goddess may be traced to pre-Vedic times. Shaktism is as old as Vedic period. The Shaktas are worshippers of the mother-goddess. It is supplied with a philosophical justification symbolizing the union of the soul (purusha) with the primordial essence (prakriti). The associated female principle is supposed to possess a degree of activity and personality. Shaktism is more closely connected with Saivism and is known by various names from Vedic Nana to Amba, Durga, Gauri, Parvati and many others. Shakti worship, according to the Puranas, is mainly confined to that of Kali and Durga.
The metaphysical doctrines associated with the usual practices and rites of the Shaktas are many. According to these, Siva and Shakti are primodal substances – Siva in the form of ‘Prakasha’ (light), entersinto Shaktiin the form of vimarsa or sphurti (feeling or appearance) and assumes the form of a bindu (drop), and shakti similarly enters into Siva and develops the ‘bindu’ or drop; and there arises out of it the female element called ‘nada’ (sound). These two elements get united. The intense affinity between the female and male energies is called ‘kama’ (love). When these four principles unite into one substance, Kamakala, the creating of the world proceeds.
‘Shaktism’ is closely related to ‘Tantrism’. As a matter of fact, at some stage of its development and with great many devotees, the two became inseparable. The word ‘tantra’ is of divine origin. A simple meaning of the word is ‘a kind of bodily exercise’ being derived from the word ‘tan’ which means body. The origin of Tantrism is not definitely known. Some consider it to be the most ancient of Indian cults. Some look upon it as pre-Aryan. According to other the Tantras came after the Vedas.
Surya has been venerated in India from the earliest times. In Vedic and Epic mythology Sun and his various aspects played very important part. But it was only at a comparatively later period that it got figured as the central piece in religious movements.
Evolution of Modern Hinduism dates back to the days of Sankaracharya (8th century AD) who propounded the theory of Advaita or monism.
Causes for birth of Jainism &Buddhism
Both these religious movements came into existence around 6th century B.C. Sixth Century was a period of spiritual unrest and intellectual ferment all over the world. It was an era of revolt and age of protest against the old order of things. The increasing reutilization, necessitating sacrifices involving the slaughter of animals, and the hegemony of the Brahman priests, together with the Sudras being placed outside the orbit of Aryan culture, resulted in a form of socio-religious exploitation.
The new philosophy of revolt was anti-social in form and anti-caste in spirit. It preached pure individualism and spiritualization. It discarded the principle of social immobility, inequality and injustice; it upheld the sanctity of human intellect and its freedom. Outside of Brahmanical Holy land, spiritual leadership passed from the hands of priestly theologians and sacrifices to ascetics and wanderers (Sramanas Parivrajakas) who laid the greatest emphasis on the cessation of craving for the things of the world. These ascetics and wandering teachers rejected the authority of the Vedas and Vedic priests, denounced the blood-sacrifices which constituted a large part of Brahmanic ritual and even denied the existence of God. Right conduct, they declared, was the only way of getting out of the meshes of ;karma’ and ‘samskara’. This right conduct included, among other things, the practice of ‘Ahimsa’ or non-injury to living –beings.
The leaders of this religious movement were two Kshtriya Princes – Vardhamana Mahavir and Gautam Buddha. The philosophy and the teachings of the former ultimately came to be known as Jainism and of the latter as Buddhism.
It was founded by Gautam Buddha, a contemporary of Mahavira.
Life History of Buddha
He was born in 544 B.C. (or 486 or 483) at Lumbini in Kapilvastu (Nepal) and was named Siddhartha, gotra Gautama. His father was Sudhodhana of the Sakyas and mother Mahamaya, a Kosalan prince. However, after his mother’s death he was brought up by his aunt Mahaprajapati Gotami. He was married to his own cousin Bhaddoka Chchana/Yasodhara, daughter of Sakyan Suppabhddha and had a son Rahul. On seeing first an aged man, then a very sick man, then a corpse and then a wandering beggar he became very sad and left home to become an ascetic at the age of 29 years. He attained nirvana at the age of 35 under a peepal tree in Bodh Gaya (Bihar). He gave his first sermon, called Dhammachakkapavattana Sutta or ‘turning of the wheel of law’, at deer park in Sarnath. He died at 80 in 406 BC under a sal tree in the outskirts of Kusinagara (now in UP) the capital of Mallas. He was called by various names such as Buddha (Enlightened one), Tattagatha (he who has thus attained), Sakyamuni (the guru of the Sakyas).
The dhammachakkapavattana Sutta of Buddha contains four Aryasatyas (Noble Truths) and 8-fold path to Nirvana.
Four Noble Truths:
- World is full of suffering (Sarvam Dukham);
- There is a cause of suffering (Dukha Smanudaya);
- There is cessation of suffering (Dukha Nirodha); and
- The path to cessation of suffering or nirvana is the noble eightfold path
EIGHT FOLD PATH
- right speech, kind and truthful;
- right action, honest and peaceful;
- right livelihood, without hurting any living thing;
- right effort involving self-control;
- right mindedness;
- right concentration and meditation on the meaning of life;
- right thoughts worthy of the sincere and intelligent man; and
- right understanding, avoiding superstition.
Buddhism believes in the Law of Karma operating in this life and in the next. Every effect is caused and every cause has an effect. Buddha discovered the twelve linked chain of causation (of cause and effect) which is: ignorance (Avidya), Impressions of past actions (Samskaras), consciousness (Vijnana), psycho-physical organism (Nama-rupa), sense-organs and the mid (Smaskaras), contact of the sense-organs and the mind (Sadayatana), contact of the sense-organs with objects (Sparsa), sensations (Vedana), thirst for sense-enjoyments (Upadana), will to be born (Bhava), birth or rebirth (Jati) and old-age and death (Janma-marana).
After the death of Buddha, four Buddhist councils were held at which his teachings were compiled into Pitakas-Vinaya, Sutta and Abhidhama, referred in their combined form as Tripitaka and are in Pali Language.
First Buddhist Council: Held in Rajgir in 483 B.C. immediately after Buddha’s death, under auspices of king Ajatasatru. Mahakassapa presided. Upala recited the Vinaya Pitaka (rules of order). Ananda recited the Sutta Pitaka (collection of Buddhas sermons on doctrines and ethics).
Second Buddhist Council : Held in 4th c. B.C. in the reign of Kalasoka of the Sisunag dynasty, at Vaishali. The rift between easterners called Vajjikaputtaka (from Vaishali and Avanti) and, westerners (Kausambhi, Pathayya and Avanti) on rules gave rise to the Sthaviravadin (in Pali Theravada means believers in the teaching of elders, is orthodox western group) and the Mahasanghika sect (members of the great community or Achariyavada or Easterners). Tibetan tradition holds that Mahakachchyana founded Theravada sect and Mahasanghika by Mahakassappa. Both were Hinayanists.
ThirdBuddhistCouncil:Held in 4thc. B.C by Asoka, in Pataliputra, presided by Mogaliputta Tissa. Heretics were expelled and Theravada was established as the orthodox school. The last section of Pali scriptures, Abhidhamma Pitaka, dealing with psychology and metaphysics was added.
Fourth Buddhist Council:Held in 1st c. AD, by Kanishka, in Kashmir, according to Chinese traditions. Vasumitra was elected Chairman. The Sarvastavadin doctrines were codifiedin the Mahavibhasa. The Hinayana and Mahayana sect were formed. Mahayana (the creator’s vehicle) flourished in India while the Hinayana flourished in Ceylon.
Different sects of Buddhism
Hinayana: Followers of this sect considered Buddha as a man and gave his teachings an ethical value; their Theravada doctrine emphasized the salvation of the individual.
Mahayana: Followers of this sect laid emphasis on the Boddhisatva and salvation of all sentient individuals. They are subscribed to the theory of Eternal Buddhas who resemble the God of theistic sects.
Vajrayana: Also called Tantric Buddhism, evolved from the interaction of Buddhist thought and Brahmanical speculations.
However, today all the sects have dissolved their differences to the extent that all of them emphasise on universal teachings of the Buddha and work on the basis of dhamma.
Contributions of Buddhism
Buddhism also made valuable and lasting contributions in the field of religion, philosophy, literature and art. One of the biggest contributions of Buddhism to India in the political field was that it promoted a sense of national feeling amongst the Indians. It not only shattered the dominance of the caste-system which stood in the way of the achievement of this unity but also gave a death blow to the dominance of Brahmans. Buddhism laid too much emphasis on the principle of Ahimsa, which greatly effected the character of the people. It is well-known that Asoka under the influence of Buddhism gave up war.
Buddhism made contact with outside world, which also promoted political and commercial relations with these countries. The greatest contribution of Buddhism was the establishment of a simple religion which could be easily understood and followed by the common people. It attached great importance to the moral upliftment of man.
It is believed that idol-worship was also introduced by Buddhism for the first time. According to historians, the practice of worshiping the images of gods and goddesses did not initially exist in Hinduism.
A vast and varied nature of literature was produced in the popular language of the people. The Tripitakas and Jataka the most important literary works of the Buddhist, are held in high esteem. Originally these works were written in Pali, the language of the masses.
The Buddhist Sanghas and Viharas served as great centres of education. Nalanda, Taxila, and Vikramshila which gained reputation as great educational centres were originally BuddhaViharas. The Buddhism followers erected stupas in honour of their monks and also built many caves.
The origin of Jainism is shrouded in Mystery. In the Rigvedic ‘mantra’ there are clear references to ‘Rishabha’ (the first Tirthankara) and ; ‘Arishcanemi’, two of the Jain ‘Tirthankaras’, the former being the founder of Jainism. The story of ‘Rishabha’ also occurs in the ‘Vishnu-Purana’, and ‘Bhagvat-Puran’, where he figures as an ‘Avatar’ (incarnation) of Narayan. All this indicates that Jainism is as old as the Vedic religion, if not older. The Jains believe that it is the outcome of the teachings of twenty-four ‘Tirthankaras’ or prophets or saints, all Kshatriyas, coming one after another. The 23rdTirthankara, named, Parsavanatha, who lived 250 years before Vardhamana Mahavira, seems to have been the real personage. His main teachings were non-injury, non-lying (not to tell lies), non-stealing and non-possession. Parsavanatha seems to have left a well-formed organization behind him. The next and the last‘Tirthankara’ was Vardhamana Mahavira himself.
Life History of Mahavira (540-468 B.C.)
Mahavira was born as Vardhamana at Kundagrama (in Muzaffarpur, Bihar). His father Siddhartha, was chief of Janatrika clan and mother Trisala, a Lichchavi princess. He married Yasoda and had a daughter Anojja Priyadarsana. At the age of 30, he renounced his family, became an ascetic and set out in search of truth. In the 13th year of his asceticism (at the age of 42) he attained enlightenment under a sal tree near a village Krimbhikagrama. From then onwards, he was called Jina or Jityendriya (conqueror of his senses), Nirgrantha (free from all bonds) and Mahavira (the brave) and his followers came to be known as Jain. He attained Kaivalya (moksha) at Pava, near Patna at the age of 72
Philosophy of Jainism
Jainism though does not deny the existence of god, it says the world is fundamentally atheistic, with gods having no important part in the universe’s scheme. God didn’t create, preserve or destroy it since it functions according to universal law.
Jains believe in Karma and in transmigration of soul. Salvation or nirvana is possible only by getting rid of the cycle of birth and rebirth, and can be attained by leading a pure life following a three fold path-right faith, right knowledge and right conduct. Right conduct involves 5 ideals-non-injury (ahimsa), not to lie (asteya), non-stealing, non attachment/possession (aparigraha) and chastity (brahmacharya).The first four ideals were postulated by Parsava, and last one was added by Mahavira. The teachings of the Tirthankaras were compiled in twelve Angas which were written down at Vallabhi in 5th century AD.
Jainism takes reality to be a multiple comprising two main kinds of objects: the Jivas (souls) and eh Ajivas (non-souls). The ‘Jivas’ Ajiva come matter, space, motion (dharma), rest (adharma) and time (kala). Both the ‘Jivas’ and ‘Ajivas’ have been existing eternally.
According to Jainas, the reality has an infinite number of aspects and attributes (‘ananta-dharmatmakameya tattvam’). This doctrine of Jaina philosophy is called ‘Anekantavada’. The Jaina doctrine of ‘Syadavada’ asserts that statements must be made with caution, keeping in view that they cannot be absolute and that opposite statements are plausible.
Jainism recognized five sources and kinds oaf knowledge: mati, knowledge obtained through sense-perception and inference; Sruti, knowledge conveyed by others through intelligible symbols; Avadhi, knowledge acquired by some supernormal means, such as clairvoyance and clairaudience; Manahprayaya, knowledge of other minds gained by means of telepathy; and Kevala Jnana, knowledge of the perfected souls who have acquired omniscience. The Jainas lay great emphasis on Ahimsa (non-violence), both in theory and practice.
Jainism split into two groups – the Digambaras (sky clad or naked) and the Svetambaras (clothed in white).
Contributions of Jainism
Jainism not only made valuable contributions to the philosophy but also in the field of art and literature. Though the teachings of Jainism were greatly influenced by the Vedic philosophy, it developed a distinct philosophy of its own also. The principle of Ahimsa, though not entirely unknown to the Indians, was popularized by the Jains. It was mainly due to the insistence on the principle of Ahimsa by Jains that the various types of sacrifices were given up.
Jainism attacked caste-system and the perversions of Hinduism. It laid stress on the greater service to the cause f humanity. Its emphasis on Ahimsa, led to the dampening of the military spirit of the Indian people. Jainism also rendered valuable contribution to the growth of vernacular literature. Jains preached in the language of people. Most of the Jain literature was written in ‘Prakrit’ and some in Sanskrit language. The Jain followers built many caves and some temples.
Founded by Gosala Maskariputra, friend of Mahavira, before he attained Kaivalya. He died a year before Buddha after quarreling with Mahavira. His followers combined his teachings with Purana Kasyapa and Pakhuda katyayana to from the Ajivika sect. Bindusara patronized them.
According to the sect the whole universe was determined by Niyati (destiny), the impersonal cosmic principle. The course of transmigration cannot be altered. None have power, strength or virtue. There are 8,400,000 Mahakappas (aeons)through which everybody has to pass. Samasara cannot be influenced. Monks were monks because destiny forced them. Dravidian Ajivikas made Gosala a deity and held the world’s movement and change being illusory since the world was in reality at rest.
‘Sikh’ is derived from Sanskrit word shishya, meaningdisciple. Sikhism is a reformed offshoot of Hinduism, a religion founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1539) who was born at Talwandi (called Nankana, now in Pakistan). Influenced by Kabir (great religious reformer) from whom he took some beliefs as also by Muslim mystics, he was the first Guru, nine gurus followed on, nearly all making some significant contribution to the teachings of the religion. The main tenets are: uncompromising belief in one God (but retaining the Hindu doctrines of immortality of soul, karma and transmigration), is opposed to asceticism, idolatry, casteism, sati, intoxicating drinks and smoking of tobacco, leading a good moral life, living in accordance with virtues of honesty, truth, justice and philanthropy, conquering of sins of egoism, lust, attachment, anger and agreed, and belief in sacred scripture, the (Adi) Granth. Every Sikh was enjoined to wear five articles (which happen to begin with ‘K’) – Kara (bangle of iron), Kesh (long hair), Kangha(comb), Kachcha (short drawers) and Kripan (short sword).A Sikh is not necessarily born a Sikh but becomes a member of the Khalsa brotherhood (or panth) by a baptism ceremony (pahul) after which he is entitled to use the honorific ‘Singh’ (lion) after his name.
Followers of this religion believe in Christ (the son of God) who was sinless. His main teachings were that one should love God completely and one’s neighbor as oneself and that there is everlasting life after death. Tradition says that the Syrian Christian Church, the first in India, was established in South India early in the 1st century A.D. and that Thomas went to Malabar about A.D. 51. St. Thomas brought the Christian faith from Syria to South India and for over a thousand years this remained the only Christian centre of influence. By the 3rd century, Christianity had spread in south India, where there were Christian communities, and its influence on Hinduism had also come into being. Historically, however, Christian missionary activities can be said to have begun with the arrival of Saint Francis Xavier in 1542 who introduced Latin Christianity in India. His tomb in Goa is still visited by thousands of Catholics every year.
Saint Francis Xavier was succeeded by Portuguese missionaries. Other Jesuit missionaries adopted the system of ‘adaptation by which Indian converts were free to conform to their Indian traditions at culture, personal living, language, dress, etc. Christianity was encouraged at the courts of Akbar and Jahangir and small Christian communities were established in north India by Roman Catholic missions. Danish Lutheran missionaries began their work of conversion in India in 1705. The Baptist mission was established in Serampur by the Englishman William Carey who reached India in 1771. In eighteenth century Anglican missionaries also started establishing their societies for the propagation of the Christian gospel and the establishment f their churches. In the 19th century, other Protestant dominations like the Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran and Armenian Christian started missionary work, mostly in north India and set-up educational institutions, particularly for women and girls in many cities. From 1875 onwards, American missionaries of many denominations started valuable education, medical and other types of humanitarian and social work with their own financial resources as did certain other Christian bodies like the Young Men’s Christian Association, Young Women’s Christian Association, Salvation Army and many orders of Roman Catholic monks and nuns.
Certain great Hindu reformist leaders were deeply influenced by Christianity and had great veneration for it.
Islam is the religion founded by Mohammad (A.D.570-632); it was ‘revealed’ to him by God on mount Hira near Mecca, where he was born. He preached there was only one God and that he (Mohammad) was his Prophet. He desired to eradicate idol worship and immoral life in his country. 622AD, the year of his flight (hijra) to Mecca, marks the beginning of Islamic era. Islam was brought to India by Arab traders and invaders (8th century A.D.) and consolidated by the Muslim Sultans who conquered parts of north India (1196) and later by the Mughal Emperors.
The basic doctrines of Islam are simple and few, the main being; unity of Allah (God) and Mohammad being Allah’s prophet, that God will recompense everyone according to one’s actions on the day of judgement, life after death, five duties to be strictly carried out – recitation of kalma, namaz five times a day, roza during Ramazan, haj to mecca and Zakat (giving of charity in cash or in kind). Muslims have faith in pirs (saints) whose urs (death anniversaries) are celebrated at their tombs. Islam has no canon or priesthood but has four schools of jurisprudence – Hanafi, Shafei, Maliki and Hambali – and two main sects, Shias and Sunnis, majority inIndia being Sunnis who follow the Hanafi code.
Influence of Islam permeated numerous aspects of Hindu life: gave to India the art of enamelling, faience, calligraphy and the illuminated manuscripts, a fresh type of architecture- the Indo-Saracenic, Mughal schools of painting in beautiful Persian-Hindu style, new ragas and some new musical instruments, beautiful gardens with fountains in Mughal style, ideas from astronomical works of Arabia, Unani system of medicine, Urdu (which evolved because of fusion of local dialects, Persian, Turki and Arabic) which led to use of speech called Hindustani, new types of dress, food, etiquette and manners (polished and courtly), introduced into some forms of Hindi and other literatures – the sweetness and grace of Persian language and poetry.
This religion has been established in India for over a millennium. The small Jewish population in India has two ancient indigenous Jewish communities – the Malayalam – speaking Cochinis and the Marathi-speaking Bene Israel (Children of Israel) in Maharashtra.
Parsis are a small community in India. They emigrated to India from Persia in the 8th century after the Arab conquest of Iran. They brought with them the ancient Persian religion founded by Zoroaster in the 6th century B.C. this religion is based on the worship of Ahura Mazda (“Wise Lord”) who is eternally in conflict with Ahriman, the evil force. The Avesta, which is the scripture of the Parsis, includes the Gathas (songs) composed by Zoroaster.
The Parsis settled down on the western coast of India and adopted the Gujarati language. They have always adhered strictly to their ancient faith. Although the Parsis are conservative in their religion, they have identified themselves with their fellow-countrymen in other areas. They have contributed to the educational, scientific and industrial progress f India; and in the early phases of Indian nationalism, the Parsi communality produced great leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji.