Religions in India : Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism & Jainism | Art & Culture | UPSC Notes

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Religions in India : Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism & Jainism | Art & Culture | UPSC Notes

India’s past shows that religion has always been an important part of its culture. Laws and customs in the country make sure that people of different religions can live together peacefully. The great majority of Indians, more than 93%, belong to a religion. India is the home of four of the world’s most important religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. People also call these faiths “Eastern Religions.”


The Indus River is called Sindhu in Sanskrit, which is where the word Hindu comes from. Hinduism is the third biggest religion in the world, after Christianity and Islam. About 1 billion people follow Hinduism. Hinduism is thought to be one of the world’s oldest religions. It is the main religion on the Indian region and one of the faiths that grew up there. Hinduism is more of a collection of different intellectual or philosophical points of view than a set of ideas that everyone must agree on. Hindus believe in a god who can look different ways.


• Some of the most important proofs of the past:

Mesolithic rock paintings of dances and rituals show that there was religion in the Indian “subcontinent” in the past.

Neolithic pastoralists who lived in the Indus River Valley buried their dead in a way that suggested they believed in magic and thought there was an afterlife.

Other Stone Age sites, like the Bhimbetka rock shelters in central Madhya Pradesh and the Kupgal petroglyphs in eastern Karnataka, have rock art that shows religious acts and signs that ritualised music may have been played there.

People who lived in the Indus Valley Civilization, which was centred around the Indus and Ghaggar-Hakra river valleys, may have worshipped a very important mother goddess who represented wealth.

o Excavations of sites from the Indus Valley Civilization have found seals with animals and “fire-altars,” which show that fire was used in ceremonies.

The Rigveda, which was written during the Vedic time, is the oldest Hindu text that is still around. The Soma rite and worshipping gods like Indra, Varuna, and Agni are at the heart of the Vedas.

By chanting Vedic mantras, fire sacrifices called yajna are done, but no buildings or statues are known.

The earliest forms of the epic poems Ramayana and Mahabharata were written between 500 and 100 BCE.

After 200 BCE, the Indian schools of thought of Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, PurvaMimamsa, and Vedanta were written down in an official way.

Academics divide modern Hinduism into four main groups:


• The worship of Vishnu is at the centre of it. Vaishnavites follow a way of life that focuses on Lord Vishnu and His ten incarnations. This is called differentiated monotheism.


This religion worships Shiva as the highest being. Shaivas believe that Shiva is the creator, keeper, killer, revealer, and coverer of everything. Those who worship Shiva wear sacred ash on their foreheads and other parts of their bodies as a sign of their faith. Both bhasma and vibhuti can be translated as “sacred ash” in Sanskrit.Shaivism has a lot of writings, and these writings come from many different philosophy schools, such as non-dualism (abheda), dualism (bheda), and non-dualism with dualism (bhed bheda).


• Shaktism is based on worshipping Shakti or Devi, the Hindu Divine Mother, as the one and only God. Shaktism sees Deva as the Supreme Brahman itself, and all other gods, whether they are male or female, are seen as just different forms of her.

• Shaivism and Shaktism have many of the same ideas and practises. Shaktas, on the other hand, place most or all of their worship on Shakti, the powerful female side of the Supreme Divine.

• The Srikula, which is strongest in South India, and the Kalikula, which is strongest in northern and eastern India, are its two biggest and most noticeable schools.


• Smartism is a non-sectarian branch of Vedic Hinduism that accepts all the major Hindu gods as different forms of the same Brahman.

• People who believe in the Vedas and Shastras are called Smartas. Smartas are now only used by a small group of south Indian brahmins.

• Smartas are people who believe in and spread Smriti, which are religious writings based on Vedic scriptures.

• People who followed the Smarta religion thought that the Vedas were true and that the main idea behind the puranas was true as well.

• It is very important for Smarta Brahmins to be experts in the Karma Kanda of the Vedas and the practises that go with it, and to teach the next generations what they have learned.


• The four main groups in Hindu society are called varnas. They are the Brahmins, who are Vedic teachers and priests, the Kshatriyas, who are warriors, nobles, and kings, the Vaishyas, who are farmers, traders, and businesspeople, and the Shudras, who are servants and workers.

• The Hindu holy book, Bhagavad Gita, ties the varna to a person’s job (svadharma), their nature at birth (svabhava), and their natural tendencies (guna).


• A Hindu’s life is usually broken up into four Ashramas, which mean “phases” or “stages.”

• During Brahmacharya, the stage of being a student, the first part of a person’s life is spent as a celibate, controlled, sober, and pure contemplator under the direction of a Guru. This prepares the mind for spiritual knowledge.

• Grihastha is the stage of being a housewife or husband. In this stage, people get married and meet their needs for both kama and artha in their personal and working lives.

• The retirement stage, Vanaprastha, is a slow separation from the world of things. One way to do this is to give responsibilities to one’s children, spend more time on religious practises, and go on holy pilgrimages.

• In the last stage, Sannyasa, which is the stage of asceticism, a person gives up all attachments to the world in order to find the Divine by separating from the world and quietly letting go of the body.

Hindu texts:

• There are two types of Hindu literature:

Shruti is what has been heard, and Smriti is what has been remembered.

• The Vedas that belong to the group Shruti are considered holy texts. Smriti is made up of later works like the different shastras and itihaasas.

• The Bhagavad Gita falls somewhere between the Upanishads of the Vedas and the epics, and most Hindus today think of it as a sacred text. All of the Shruti texts are written in Sanskrit.

Hindu Pilgrimage

Important Pilgrimage places of Hindu devotees are:

• Kumbh Mela is one of the most important Hindu pilgrimages. It takes place every 12 years in a different place, such as Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik, or Ujjain. It is thought to be one of the biggest places where people go on journey in the world.

• Char Dham (Famous Four Pilgrimage Sites): The Char Dham (four abodes) pilgrimage route is made up of the four holy sites of Puri, Rameswaram, Dwarka, and Badrinath.

Puri is home to a major Vaishnava Jagannath temple and the Rath Yatra festival. Katra is home to the Vaishno Devi temple. Shirdi is home to Sai Baba of Shirdi, Tirumala-Tirupati is home to the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, and Sabarimala is where Swami Ayyappan is worshipped.

Shramarta Traditions

• In ancient India, the Shramana movement was a non-Vedic movement that was different from Vedic Hinduism.

• The Shramana school gave rise to Jainism, Buddhism, and Yoga. It was also responsible for the related ideas of samsara (the cycle of birth and death) and moksha (freedom from that cycle).

• Sramanism was one of the three main ideas in Hinduism. It stressed thought, hard work, and discipline. One of the other two was Brahmanism, which got its main ideas from Mimamsa. The third and most famous school of thought in Indian philosophy is called Bhakti or Theism. It is based on what most people around the world think of as God.

Philosophy of Shramana Tradition

• Shramanas thought that life was full of pain (Dukha). They did both Ahimsa and strict asceticism.

• They believed in Karma and Moksa, but they didn’t like the idea of return.

On the other hand, Vedics think that rituals and sacrifices done by a special group of people can make their lives better by making certain Gods happy.

• The Sramana philosophy’s beliefs and ideas:

Denying that God made the world and is all-powerful

The Vedas are not seen as revealed texts. Karma, return, Samsara, and the soul’s ability to move from one body to another are all supported.

Affirmation that moksa can be reached through Ahimsa, sacrifice, and austerities

Refuting the idea that sacrifices and rites can clean people.

Caste system is not accepted

• Since ancient times, Jainism and Buddhism have been the two main schools of thought in India.



• Jainism is the sixth largest religion in India and is practised all over the country.

• Its main beliefs are that soul and matter exist separately, that there is no supreme divine creator, that karma has power, that the universe has always existed and was never made, and that morality and ethics are based on freeing the soul.

• Lakshadweep is the only Union Territory or state that doesn’t have Jain people. The most Jain people live in the state of Maharashtra.


Jainism supports spiritual growth by helping people grow their own wisdom and depend on their own self-control. Ascetics in this faith make five important promises:

1. Ahimsa (nonviolence): The first important promise that ascetics make is to not hurt other living things.

2. Satya (Truth): The vow is to tell the truth all the time. Since nonviolence is the most important, other ideals have to give way to it when there is a conflict. When telling the truth could lead to violence, people should be quiet.

3. Asteya: Asteya means not taking anything that wasn’t given to you freely. It is theft to try to get other people to give you money or to take advantage of the weak.

4. Brahmacharya: When you take the vow of brahmacharya, you promise not to give in to your physical desires.

5. Aparigraha: This is the practise of letting go of people, places, and things. Ascetics give up everything they own and have no contact with other people.

6. The seven or nine basic ideas that make up Jain philosophy are called Tattva. These are attempts to explain what’s wrong with people and how to fix it. These things:

• Jiva: Jiva is the word for live things. It is a thing that is not the same as the person that holds it. The most important parts of the Jiva are consciousness, information, and perception.

• Ajiva: This is the group for things that are not alive and are made up of matter, space, and time.

• Asrava: When the two elements, java and ajava, come together, a special ajiva called karma flows into the soul. Then, this karma stays with the soul.

• Bandha: Karma hides the jiva and keeps it from knowing and perceiving things as perfectly as it could.

• Samvara: By doing the right thing, you can stop more karma from coming in.

• Nirjara: If you do fasting, you can shred or burn up the karma you already have.

• Moksha: A jiva whose karma has been taken care of is said to be liberated and to have its real, pure form of perfect knowledge.

7.Sometimes, two more Tattva groups are added: the good and bad actions that have to do with karma. These things are called punya and papa.


Jainism has been taught by a line of twenty-four religious leaders called Tirthankara.Tirtankara is a person who helps others find freedom and enlightenment as a “Arihant” by destroying all of their soul-binding (ghati) karmas. He became a role model and leader for those looking for spiritual advice. Each of the 24 Tirthankara brought new life to the Jain Order.According to Jaina history, the first tirthankara was Rishabha, who is also known as Adinath. Parshva and Mahavira were the last two tirthankara.A Chakravarti is the ruler of the material realm and the ruler of the world. Even though he has power in the world, the vastness of the universe often makes his goals seem small. Give a list of the twelve Chakravarti, Jaina puruna. Bharata is described in Jaina scriptures as one of the most powerful Chakravartis. Tradition says that in honour of this Bharata, India became known as Bharata-varsha.

Sects of Jainism:

In the 4th century CE, Jainism split into two main groups: the Digambara and the Svetambara. The Digambara are sky-clad ascetics, and the Svetambara are white-robed ascetics.Both the Digambara and Svetambara groups have kept growing, but almost without each other’s help. Over time, both of them grew to have more parts. Their beliefs and practises for spiritual growth are the same, except for a few small changes in rituals and ways of life. Digambara, Svetambara Murtipujaka, Sthanakavasi, and Terapanthi are the four major sects with a lot of people.

• The Digambaras, like Mahavira, don’t wear any clothes at all. This is to avoid all ties.

• The Shvetambaras don’t believe that being naked is a sign of their spiritual growth on the inside. Unlike the Digambaras, they also let women join the monks’ society early on.

Jaina Literature

• The fourteen Purvas were a group of Jain texts that were taught by Jainism’s tirthankara.

• Agamas are the most important books in Jainism. They are based on what Mahavira taught. The Jain canonical or Agamic literature is a collection of texts called Sutras that were put together by Mahavira’s students from what they heard him say.

These Agamas are made up of forty-six texts: twelve angas, twelve upanga agamas, six chedasutras, four mulasutras, ten prakirnaka sutras, and two culikasutras.

• Digambaras agree that Satkhandaagama and Kasaayapahuda, which were written in the second century CE, are two canonical writings.

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Rituals of Jain

• The Navkar Mantra is the most important prayer in the Jain religion. There are no names in this prayer, not even the name of the tirthankara. It doesn’t ask for favours or things. It’s just a sign of deep respect for beings they think are more spiritually advanced, and it reminds Jainists of their final goal, which is to reach nirvana.

• Jains have to do six things called Avashyakas. These are practising calm (samyika), praising tirthankara (chaturvimshati), respecting teachers and monks (vandan), Pratikramana, Kayotsarga, and giving up (pratyakhyana).

• One of the most important holidays for Jains is Paryushana. Digambara Jains usually call it Das Lakshana, while Svetambara Jains call it Paryushana. People think that the devas do the ashtaprakari puja of Tirthankara, which takes them eight days to do. This is called Ashtanhika Mahotsav, but Jains celebrate it as Paryushan at the same time. For Svetambara Jains, Paryushana lasts eight days, and for Digambara Jains, it lasts ten days.

The birthday of Mahavira, called Mahavira Jayanti, is marked on the thirteenth day of the waxing moon’s second half-month in the month of Chaitra.

This faith has a unique ritual called Sallekhana, which is a holy fast until death. By doing this, a person can die with respect and calm, and a lot of their bad karma will be taken away. Santhara is another word for this way of dying.

Jainism Sites

1. The marble was used in the Dilwara Temples in Mount Abu.

2. The Gomateshwara Statue in Shravanabelagola, Karnataka, is made of black stone.

3. The Ranakpur Jain Temple in Rajasthan has towers made of carved marble.

4. Sonagir Temples: A place to do penance

5. Bawangaja: Statue of Lord Adinath 6. Hanumantal: Madhaya Pradesh, 22 Jain shrines

7. The Lord Adinath and Lord Parasnath temples at Khajuraho, which are part of a group of Jain shrines.

8. Puliyarmala Jain Temple, Kalpetta

9. The Dharamnath temple in Cochin is the most important place of worship for the Jain people of Kerala.

10. The Girnar mountain range: Beautifully made Jain temples dot the whole area.

11. Kulpakji Shrine, Andhra Pradesh: Home of the Svetambara Jains



Buddhism is a faith that comes from the Indian subcontinent. It is made up of many different traditions, beliefs, and practises, most of which are based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha.

Buddhists see Buddha as an awakened or enlightened teacher who shared his knowledge to help sentient beings end suffering (dukkha) by getting rid of ignorance (avidya) by understanding and seeing dependent origination (pratityasamutpada) and getting rid of craving (tanha), and so reach the highest happiness, nirvana.

During the time of the Mauryan Empire, Buddhism was at its best. Ashoka supported Buddhism as king, which spread it all over Asia. He sent Buddhist missionaries to different parts of his kingdom, as well as to the parts of the world ruled by the Greeks in the Northwest, Sri Lanka in the south, and Central Asia. After Ashoka died, there was no longer a direct link between the king and Buddhism. Soon, Buddhism became less popular and was almost wiped out in India. Instead, it spread to countries in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka.

Gautama Buddha

• Siddhartha Gautama was born around 563 BCE in Lumbini, which is now in what is now Nepal. He grew up in Kapilavastu. An expert said that if young prince Gautama saw how other people suffered, he would give up on the material world. So, he was kept from seeing how other people suffered. In what Buddhist literature calls “the four sights,” he met an old man, a sick man, a dead body, and finally an ascetic holy man who seemed happy and at peace with the world. Because of these things, Gautama gave up his life as a king and went on a spiritual quest.

• Siddhartha lived as a strict monk for six years. He studied and practised different ways of meditating with different religious teachers. But he was never happy with everything. But he soon realised that being physically hard on himself was not the way to be free. From then on, he told people to find a middle ground instead of going to extremes. This was what he called The Middle Way.

Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi tree in the Indian town of Bodh Gaya and thought about things when he was 35 years old. After many days, he got rid of all the bad things in his thoughts and became enlightened. This is how he got the name Buddha, which means “Enlightened One.

“After that, he got a group of people to follow him and started a monk order. He spent the rest of his life travelling around the north-eastern part of the Indian subcontinent and teaching others about the way to awakening that he had found. He died at the age of 80 (483 BCE) in Kushinagar, India.


“The cycle of birth and death” is what Samsara means.In Buddhism, karma is the force that makes samsara happen. Good, skillful actions (kusala) and bad, unskillful actions (akusala) plant “seeds” in the mind that grow either in this life or in a future return. Sila means to avoid doing things that aren’t good for you and to do things that are good for you.

Rebirth is the process by which beings go through a series of lives, each from birth to death, as one of many possible forms of sentient life. • Buddhism does not believe in a lasting self or an unchanging, eternal soul, as Hinduism and Christianity do.

Branches of Buddhism

Most people know about two types of Buddhism: Mahayana means “The Great Vehicle” and Hinayana means “The Lesser Vehicle.”


Mahayana is a form of Buddhism that strongly believes in the spirit of Buddha’s teachings. Its texts, called Sutras, are written in the Sanskrit language. This form of Buddhism became popular during the reign of Kanishka.

• It believes that faith saves people.

The goal of Mahayana is salvation for everyone, which is why it’s called the “greater vehicle.” Mahayana honours the ideals of the Boddhisatva, or “saviour,” who cares about the salvation of others. This sect believes in Buddha’s divine qualities, so it worships statues.

• The Bodhisattva Vehicle is another name for it.

• Mahayana Buddhism is spread across India, China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, and Mongolia.

Tibetan Buddhism is only one of the Mahayana schools of Buddhism.

• Mahayana doctrine is based on the idea that all beings can be freed from pain. This is one of its most important ideas. This is the “Great Vehicle” because of this.


• Early Buddhist teachings put more emphasis on self-awareness and hard work as ways to reach bliss. Hinayana is a less important tool because its goal is individual salvation.

• The Hinayana or Theravada philosophy is based on what Buddha first taught. They don’t believe in worshipping idols.

Hinayana says that the way to salvation for a person is through self-discipline and meditation.

• It’s important to note that Asoka liked Hinayana.

Hinayana scholars spoke Pali, which was the tongue of the people.

• It is also called the “Deficient Vehicle,” the “Abandoned Vehicle,” Stharvivada, or Theravada, which means “doctrine of elders.”

Hinayana focuses on doing good things and the rule of karma.

• Hinayana thinks of Buddha as a man. He had a lot of knowledge, but he was still just a man, so they don’t worship him.

• It is based on the things Buddha did.

• Hinayana thinks that people should work for their own salvation and that saving comes from what they do.

• The texts of the Hinayana school are written in Pali and are based on the Tripitakas.

• People in Sri Lanka, Laos, Cambodia, and other South-East Asian countries follow Hinayana or Theraveda customs.

The Four Noble Truths

People think that the lessons about the Four Noble Truths are the most important part of Buddhism. Here’s how you can sum them up:

1. There is a lot of pain in life

2. Trishna, or want, makes people suffer

3. An end to suffering

4. How to put an end to pain: The eightfold path is the name for this road.

Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path is a group of eight factors or conditions that, when worked on together, lead to the end of suffering. These are the eight things:

1. Right View (or Right Understanding): Seeing things as they really are, not just as they seem to be.

2. Right Intention (or Right Thought): Wanting to give up, be free, and not hurt anyone

3. Right Speech: Talking in a way that is honest and doesn’t hurt others

4. Doing the right thing means not doing anything bad.

5. Right Livelihood: A way to make a living that doesn’t hurt others

6. Right Effort: Trying to get better.

7. Right Mindfulness: Having the ability to see things as they are with a clear mind

8. Right Concentration: The first four jhanas describe correct meditation or concentration.


• Buddhism is based on the Three Jewels, which are the Buddha, the Dharma (the lessons), and the Sangha (the group).

• Taking “refuge in the triple gem” has long been a statement and commitment to being on the Buddhist path. It is also a way to tell a Buddhist from a non-Buddhist.

• Some other practises include following ethical rules, helping the monastic community, giving up a normal life to become a monk, becoming more mindful and meditating, etc.Vihara or Gompa are the names for the place of worship for Buddhists. They normally have one or more statues of the Buddha. The following symbols show the five most important events in Buddha’s life:

(i) Birth by Lotus and Bull. (ii) Great Renunciation by Horse. (iii) Nirvana by Bodhi Tree. (iv) First Sermon by Dharmachakra or Wheel. (v) Parinirvana, or death, by Stupa.


The most important sign of Buddhism is the Wheel of Law, or dharmachakra.Buddha said that dharma is the law that makes sure the most people are happy and healthy if it is followed. The wheel is a sign of the good in everyone. The wheel has eight spokes, each of which represents one of the eight virtues listed in the Eight Fold Path, which is the way to freedom.

Tibetan Buddhism:

• “Tibetan Buddhism is based on the Mahayana school of Buddhism, with elements of modified Shaivism and native ritualistic shamanism.”

• Lamas are monks who practise this form of Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism, which is also known as Lamaism, is the main faith in Tibet, Mongolia, and other places around the world.

Tibetans who live in Dharamsala, Dehradun (UK), Kushalnagar (Karnataka), Darjeeling (West Bengal), Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, and Sikkim all perform it.

• Tibetan Buddhism has a strict set of rules about the usual order of things. Two lamas are in charge: the Dalai Lama (also called the “Grand Lama”) and the Panchen Lama (also called the “Bogodo Lama”). The third level of power is made up of the Rimpoches, Hobilghans, and Bodhisattvas.

Buddhist Monastries

1. The Hemis temple is a Tibetan Buddhist temple in Hemis, Ladakh, India. It is part of the Drukpa Lineage. It is south of Leh and on the west side of the river Indus in Jammu and Kashmir. This monastery is known for the Guru Padmasambhava Festival, which is held every year in June and July.

The Tabo Monastery is in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, in the village of Tabo.

3. The Tsulglagkhang Monastery is one of the most well-known Buddhist temples. This is where His Holiness the Dalai Lama lives. It is in the Himachal Pradesh town of Maclodganj. It is also called the home of the Dalai Lama.

4. The Thiksey Monastery is on top of a hill in the Indian town of Thiksey, which is east of Leh. It is a 12-story building with a lot of Buddhist art inside, including stupas, statues, thangkas, wall drawings, and swords.

5. The Tawang Monastery is in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, in the city of Tawang. It is the biggest monastery in India and the second largest in the world, after the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.

6. The Bylakuppe Monastery is the world’s biggest place where Tibetan Buddhism’s Nyingma path is taught. It is in the district of Mysore in the state of Karnataka. The town of Bylakuppe is where it is.

7. The Shashur Monastery is a Buddhist monastery of the Drugpa group in Lahaul and Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, in northern India.

8. The Ghum Monastery is in Ghum, which is in the state of West Bengal. It is part of the Gelukpa or Yellow Hat group, and its 15-foot-tall statue of Maitreya Buddha is well-known.

The Kye Gompa temple is a Tibetan Buddhist temple. It is on top of a hill, 4,166 metres above sea level, close to the Spiti River, in the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh, Lahaul and Spiti district, India. It is the largest temple in Spiti Valley and a place where Lamas learn about religion.

10. The Lingdum temple is a Buddhist temple in Sikkim. It is close to Ranka. It sticks to the Zurmang Kagyu way of doing things.

11. The Alchi Gompa Monastery is in the Jammu and Kashmir town of Alchi. It is in the Leh District.

12. The Shankar Monastery is in Ladakh, close to Leh. It is like a branch of the Spituk temple.

13. The Matho Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery on the bank of the river Indus. It’s in Leh, which is in Jammu and Kashmir. The Saskya order is in charge of it.

14. The Nako Monastery is in Kinnor, which is in the Himachal Pradesh region of Himachal Pradesh. It was set up in the year 996 AD. It is one of the oldest monasteries on the old roads that Lamas have used for hundreds of years.

15. The Rumtek Monastery is also called the Dharmachakra headquarters. It is close to Gangtok, which is in Sikkim.



Guru Nanak started Sikhism about 500 years ago. It teaches people to always love and remember God, to live honestly, and to treat everyone the same. It also says that superstitions and blind practises are wrong.

• Anyone can join Sikhism because the lessons of its 10 Gurus are written down in the Sikh Holy Book, called the Adi Granth or Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

The core beliefs of Sikhism (Principles of Sikhism)

• Sikhs think that God is either one or not two. He made the universe, and its existence and continued existence rely on what He wants.

• God is both Saguna (with qualities) and Nirguna (without qualities). He is called Sat (truth), Sat Guru (true Guru), Akal Purkh (an eternal being), Kartar (the one who makes things), and Wahi-Guru (praise to God).

• The most important part of the Sikh religion is the trust in the ten Gurus, who are spiritual guides who get rid of ignorance and darkness. It says that the only way to be free from the circle of birth and death (mukti) is to be aware of God (gurmukh).

Khalsa and the five K’s

Guru Gobind Singh came up with the idea of Khalsa, which means “the pure” in English. He started this new group with five followers, who became known as the Panj Pyares and were baptised with amrit to become Khalsas. The Khalsa was a symbol of the coming together of peace and strength, purity and power, scripture and weapon, the power of wisdom (jnana shakti) and the power of action (kriya shakti).

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• Every Sikh had to wear the Five K’s: Kesha (long hair), Kangha (comb), Kara (steel band), Kaccha (short pants) and Kirpan (sword).

Sri Guru Granth Sahib

The Guru Granth Sahib, also called the Adi Granth, is the highest spiritual authority and head of the Sikh religion. It is a collection of devotional hymns and poetry that praises God, emphasises meditation on the True Guru (God), and gives moral and ethical rules for the development of the soul, spiritual salvation, and unity with God. The writings of the Gurus are arranged in the order in which they were written. Each Guru signed his or her songs with the name “Nanak.” Guru Granth Sahib has 3,384 songs. Of those, 974 were written by Guru Nanak Dev.

• It also has the Bhagatas of Kabir, Namdev, Ravidas, Sheikh Farid, Trilochan, Dhanna, Beni, Sheikh Bhikan, Jaidev, Surdas, Parmanand, Pipa, and Ramanand. The fifth Guru, Arjan Dev, started putting together the Holy Granth Sahib at Sri (Amritsar). This was a very important job.



• The religion of Islam teaches that the only way to have real peace of mind and a calm heart is to submit to God and live by the rules He has given us.

• Muslims think that all of God’s prophets, including Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, brought the same message of Pure Monotheism. Because of this, Prophet Muhammad is not thought of as the founder of a new faith, as many people wrongly believe. Instead, he is seen as the Last Prophet of Islam.

The Principles of Islam

• Traditional Islamic beliefs say that the religion has been around since the beginning of time. Allah, the All-Powerful God, made Adam, the first human, out of a lump of clay and told the angels to meet him by bowing down in humility.

• All the angels did what they were told, except Iblis, who is the Devil. This led to Satan being punished, and Allah said that anyone who followed Satan’s way would lose His pleasure and spend all of eternity in the fires of hell.

Basic Islamic beliefs are:

(i) Tawheed: believe in One, Unique, Incomparable God who created, rules, and sustains the universe, and no one else has the right to be worshipped but Him alone; (ii) Belief in the existence of Angels of God as the honoured creatures; (iii) Belief in God’s Revealed Books; (iv) Belief in God’s Prophets and Messengers; (v) Belief in the Predestination – God’s complete authority over human destiny

Main Sects of Islam

• There are two main groups of Muslims: the Shiah and the Sunni. Even though they agree on most of the same views and tenets, they disagree on two things: who will follow Prophet Muhammad and who will be in charge of Islam after he dies.

• Shiah is a small branch of Islam that makes up about 10% of the world’s Muslim population. In Arab countries like Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Iran, Shiites make up a large part of the population. The Shiahs believe that Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law, is his true heir. They say that Ali was the first real Imam or Khalifah (Caliph) and that Abu Bakr, Omar, and Usman, the first three Sunni Khalifahs, were usurpers.

 Shiites are divided into two main groups:

o (i) The “Twelvers” are Shiah Islam’s biggest group by far. They think that the line of Ali died out when al-Askari, the Twelfth Imam, went missing in 873 CE. But they won’t believe that alAskari is dead. Instead, they think he will come back just before the end of the world.

Ismailites, also called Seveners, are the second biggest Shiite sect. The Aga Khan is their spiritual leader. The Ismailites only know about the first seven Imams.Sunnism is the main school of Islam, and it agrees that the first four Khalifahs, also called Caliphs, were legitimate. The Sunnis think that the Prophet’s job was not passed down from one generation to the next, and that no one could claim to be his only heir. The people in the village choose one of their own to be the Khalifah, or leader.

• Sunni Muslims have four traditional sects: Hanafiyah (followers of Imam Abu Hanifah), Shafiyah (followers of Imam Ash-Shafii), Malakiyah (followers of Imam Malik), and Hanbaliyah (followers of Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal).


Caliph or Khalifah means “successor” or “second in command.” It is used to name the next leader of the Muslim group after the Prophet.This title was used by the Arab powers that came before and after the Ottomans.After the Sultanate was done away with, the Ottoman Caliphate stayed in place for two years, until Kemal Ataturk got rid of it in February 1924.

Prophets of Islam

• Muslims believe that Allah has sent different Prophets to different parts of the world at different times and in different places to show people the right way to live.

• The names of the following Prophets are mentioned in the Holy Quran: Adam, Sheth, Idris, Nuh (Noah), Hud , Salih, Lut, Ibrahim (Abraham), Ismail, Ishaq (Isaac), Yaqub (Jacob), Yusuf (Joseph), Shuaib, Dawud (David), Sulaiman (Solomon), Ilyas, Al-Yasa (Elisha), Musa (Moses), Aziz (Ubair or Ezra), Ayyub (Job), Dhul-Kifl (Isaih or Kharqil Bin Thauri), Yunus (Jonah), Zakariya (Zachariah), Yahya (John the Baptist), Isa (Jesus Christ) and Muhammad.

Prophet Muhammad

• People think of Prophet Muhammad as Allah’s servant and the last of all Prophets, who brought Islam back to its original, pure state.

• In the year 570 CE, Prophet Muhammad was born in Makkah. At age 40, Prophet Muhammad got his first message from God through the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) in a cave on Mount Hira near Makkah. The revelations kept coming for 23 years, and all of them together are called the Quran. He started teaching about these revelations to the people of Makkah. Prophet Muhammad and his followers went on the Great Migration, or Hijra, to a town called Yathrib, which later became known as Medina. This was done because the people who didn’t believe in Islam were very hostile. This move marks the beginning of the Muslim Calendar.

• In Medina, Islam began to grow, and Prophet Muhammad died at the age of 63. Muslims say “Peace Be Upon Him” after the name of the Prophet to show respect for him.

Islam in India

• Arab traders brought Islam to India for the first time on the Malabar Coast of Kerala. A few hundred years later, those who had converted to Islam formed a close-knit social and cultural group called the Moplas.

• The Delhi Sultanate, the first Muslim state, was founded in India with its capital in Delhi. Several other Muslim kingdoms came after this, including the Khiljis, the Tughlaqs, the Lodhis, and the Mughals.

• During the time of the Mughals, Islam in India was at its best. Under Mughal rule, the faith grew, and many Indians turned to Islam.

• About 14% of India’s people are Muslim, and most of them live in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Kashmir.



• Sufism, or tasawwuf as it is called in Arabic, is the inner, mystical, or psychospiritual part of Islam, according to most experts and Sufis.

The Origin

• The roots of Sufism can be traced back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad. His teachings attracted a group of scholars who became known as “Ahle Suffe,” or “the People of Suffe,” because they sat on the platform of the Prophet’s mosque in Medina and talked about the reality of “being” and looked for the inner path while meditating and purifying their spirits. These people came up with the idea of Sufism.

Fundamental principles

• It emphasises self-realization, making the soul beautiful through piety, justice, and love for everyone. Sufis believe that every prophet and saint is dominated by a certain Divine Attribute, so much so that they can be seen as incarnations of that attribute. The goal of Sufism is to create Perfect Beings who are like mirrors that reflect the Divine Names and Attributes. In Sufism, a perfect person is also called a Wali (saint), which means “true friend” in Arabic.

Sufism is built on the idea of a master, also called a pir or murshid. Sufism was able to instill in its followers a feeling of brotherhood, equality, and fairness, as well as a desire to help other people, regardless of race, community, caste, creed, or colour.

Due to its focus on love, forgiveness, peace, and renunciation, Sufism’s mystical ideas were always at odds with the orthodox parts of Islam. Even though Sufism questioned what was considered normal, it did not get rid of everything that was considered normal. But one of the most important things Sufism did was to make Islam more widespread in India. Sufi ideas were simple and appealed to everyone, no matter what class or faith they were from. This led them to convert to Islam.


• Sama is the name for the part of Sufism that is about singing and ecstasy. This is a type of spiritual dance that is similar to Kirtana. It was first done by Jalaluddin Rumi.When a Sufi is emotionally captivated, he or she turns his or her heart towards the Beloved. He remembers God in a selfless way by moving in a certain way and often listening to special, rhythmic music. Sufis say that there are two kinds of Sama poems. The first kind praises God (called Hamd), the Prophet (called Naat), and Sufi saints (called Manqabat).

The second one is about spiritual feelings, such as mystical love, ecstatic states, and separation and union.

Most Sama poems is sung in a style called Qawwali. Sama music has a rhythmic structure and is played with the Dholak, Tabla, Sarangi, Harmonium, and Sitar.

Dawoodi Bohras

• “Bohra” comes from the Gujarati words “vohorvu” or “vyavahar,” which mean “to trade.”

• Daudi Bohras is a Muslim community whose ancestors were early converts to Ismaili Shiism during the rule of Fatimid Caliph Imam al-Mustansir (1036-1094 CE).

• After that, this group split into the Jafari Bohras, the Daudi Bohras, the Sulaymani Bohras, the Aliyah Bohras, and a few other smaller groups.

• The Daudi Bohras’ religious order is mostly Fatimid, and the dai mutlaq is put in charge by the person who was in charge before him. The dai makes two more people madhun (licentiate) and mukasir (executor), which are subordinate positions. The next ranks are shaikh and mullah, both of which are held by hundreds of Bohras. An Aamil is in charge of religious, social, and community matters for the local group. Each town has a mosque and a jamaat-khanah, which is a gathering hall where social and religious events take place.

• The seven bases of Islam are known to the Bohras. The first and most important of the seven pillars is Walayah, which means love and respect for Allah, the Prophets, the imam, and the dai. The others are tahrah (cleanliness and purity), salat (prayer), zakat (religious taxes for purification), saum (fasting), haj (a trip to Mecca), and jihad (holy war).The Bohras get along well with each other and with their religion. Every Bohra must take an oath of loyalty (called a “Misaaq”), which is a formal way to join the religion.



• Christianity is the religion of people who follow what Jesus Christ taught. More than 2.2 billion people around the world follow Christianity. This is more than any other religion.


• In 4 BCE, Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem as a Jew. People thought that he had supernatural skills. He started going to many places and speaking to people in many towns.

• Some Jewish priests were worried about how famous Jesus Christ and his teachings were getting, so they made a plan to kill him and had him put to death on a cross. Jesus came back to life on the third day after he was crucified. He stayed on earth for 40 more days, and then he went to heaven.

• The things that happened before and after his birth were in line with what the Old Testament said would happen when the son of God was born on earth to save people from their sins.

• The people who followed Jesus started a new religion. It was called Christianity, after Jesus, and its disciples were called Christians.

Fundamental principles of Christianity

Christians believe that there is only one God who created the world and keeps it going. This one God is called the Holy Trinity and is made up of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christians see God as the Lord of Israel and the father of Jesus Christ, who is both divine and human. Jesus Christ was the eternal word of God, who became a person to help people and save them. Jesus Christ had to suffer and die to save people from their sins.Christians also think that Jesus Christ now sits at God’s right hand as the final judge of the dead and that He will come back again as was predicted.

• Christians believe that Jesus Christ picked 12 wise men (called “apostles”) to spread his teachings and lead the people.


The Bible is the holy book of Christians. The Bible is a group of books written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and English between 9 BCE and 1 CE.

• There are 46 books in the Old Testament, and there are 27 books in the New Testament.

The Old Testament is a Hebrew book that is holy to both Jews and Christians. It tells about how the world was made. The New Testament tells about the life and lessons of Jesus Christ, which are at the centre of Christian belief.

Christian Sects

• When Constantine, the Emperor of Rome, became a Christian in 313 CE, Christianity became the official faith of the Roman Empire. The Roman Pope was in charge of the faith, which was called Catholic or universal.

• By the year 1054, there were a lot of differences, so the Church split into the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic schools.

• In the 1500s, a new school of thought began to question the Pope’s position as the most important person in the world. Martin Luther pushed for many changes in the Church in the 1600s. This caused another split in the Christian community and the start of Protestant churches all over Northeast Europe. The Protestants didn’t agree with the Pope’s power, so they pushed for the Bible to be the only source of truth.

Christianity in India:

According to tradition, St. Thomas, one of Jesus Christ’s apostles, brought Christianity to South India when he came on the Malabar Coast in 52 CE. He lived there for a while and died near Madras. But some people think that Saint Bartholomew was the first missionary to come to the land.

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• In history, Christian missionary work began in 1544 CE with the arrival of St. Francis Xavier. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Catholic and Protestant missionaries went to India to spread Christian beliefs. They also did a lot to improve India’s society and schooling.

• When the British government took over control of India from the East India Company in 1858, Christianity began to grow quickly. As preachers, Christians from many different places came.

• At the moment, Christians live all over India, but most of them live in the Northeast, Kerala, and other states in the south.



• Judaism is one of the world’s oldest religions. It started about 3,700 years ago in Egypt.

• Judaism is the faith, philosophy, and way of life of the Jewish people. It is based on the idea that God is one and only.


According to Jewish custom, Abraham was the leader of a group of people in Chaldea called the Hebrews around 2000 BCE. He supported the idea of monotheism and chose to move his tribe to Canaan (now called Palestine) to spread the word about it. Here, the Hebrews mixed freely with the people who lived there and tried hard to get them to join their religion.

• Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, met a strange being who told him that from then on, people would call him “Israel.” Israel’s name was changed, and he had 12 sons. These boys went on to have 12 tribes named after them. The group name for these tribes was Bene Israel, which means “Children of Israel.”

• The number of Israelites grew, and for about two hundred years, they were slaves in Egypt. Around 1200 BCE, Moses led them to freedom. For a long time, they roamed in the deserts of Sinai (now in Egypt). Here, God’s first Prophet, Moses, got the law, the Ten Commandments, which are now called the Sefer Torah, the Jewish Bible.

• After this, Jerusalem became the capital of a new kingdom in Canaan. In this city, a temple was built so that holy rituals could be done there.

• Israel was split into two countries after King Solomon died. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin made up the Southern Kingdom, which was called Judah and had Jerusalem as its city.

The Northern Kingdom was made up of the other 10 tribes. When the Assyrians attacked the Northern Kingdom, they sent the Israelites to different parts of their kingdom northeast of Israel.

They are known as the ten lost tribes today. In the Last Days, the Bible says they will be found and sent back to Israel.

Beliefs and practices

• The Jews believe in one god, Yahweh, who was set up by Abraham. Everything comes from him, they say. In Judaism, prophets are important. Moses was the first prophet.

• The Ten Commandments are said to have come from God to Moses. Even today, every religious Jew follows these rules.

• The religion puts a lot of emphasis on living a good life. It does not encourage asceticism, celibacy, or self-inflicted suffering because it believes that the only way to heaven is through good deeds.

• The religious book Sefer Torah is made up of the first five books of the Old Testament. There are 613 rules in the Torah that every Jew must follow in their daily lives. This number is represented by the number of threads in the prayer scarves (tsisith) that every adult male Jew must wear to pray. The Talmud, which is the body of Jewish law, is thought to be the only and unchangeable rule of Yahweh. The synagogue is where Jews go to pray.

Jewish sects

• Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformist are the three main groups of Jews.

The founder of the Reform movement believed that things should change with the times, so religious services and customs were greatly shortened.

• The Conservative Jews took a middle road. They kept some of what the Orthodox groups did, but they also let some things go in some cases.

Judaism in India:

• Most people agree that Jews have lived in India for over 2,000 years, ever since they first landed on the West coast.

• The Indian Jewish community is known for being peaceful. The Hebrew calendar is used. When there is a holiday, the Indian Jews have a special thanksgiving ritual called Eliyahoo-ha-Nabior, which means “thanks to Elijah the Prophet.”

• There are five types of Indian Jews:

Children of Israel is what Bene Israel means. Marati speaking. Maharashtra about 2,100 years ago.

Cochin Jews came to India about 2,500 years ago and set up shop as sellers in Kerala.

Baghdadi Jews: Jews from West Asia, mostly from Baghdad, who came to India as traders. Most of them live in Mumbai, Pune, or Kolkata.

Bene Menashe: The Manipur Jews see themselves as descended from the Manasseh (Menashe) Tribe, which is one of the 10 lost Jewish groups.

They are called “Telugu Jews” because they are a small group of people who know Telugu. Their Judaism goes back to the year 1981.



• Zoroastrianism or Parsism began in Persia. Spenta Zarathustra, also called Zoroaster, started the faith. He is known as the Prophet of the Parsis. Zoroastrianism is based on the idea that it is up to each person to choose between good and evil and to accept what God has made.

• Zarathustra taught that there was only one god, and he thought that god was Ahura Mazda, who has no shape and six great parts called the Amesha-Spentas. These names are Ardibehest, Bahman, Shahrivar, Spendarmad, Khordad, and Amardad.


• The fire temple is the name of the place of prayer for the Parsis. Five prayers are said every day, typically hymns or Gathas that Prophet Zarathustra said. These prayers are said at home or in a temple, usually in front of a fire that represents the realm of truth, rightness, and order and “represents God.”

• Dakhma-nashini is the only way to get rid of a dead body in Zorastriniasm. This means that the flesh-eating bird or the Sun’s rays have to kill the dead person in the stone-walled Dakhma.

Religious Scriptures

• The Parsis’ holy book is called Zenda Avesta. It has the lessons, sermons, and prayers that Prophet Zoroaster, his followers, and students wrote. The tongue that it is written in is also called Avestha.It is divided into five parts: the Yasna (worship with ceremony and offerings), the Videvdad (laws against demons), the Yashts (worship), the Khordeh Avestha, which comprises of selected portions of the Avestha and forms the book of daily prayers of the Zoroastrians, and the five Gathas – Ahunavaiti, Ushtavaiti, SpentaMainyu, VohuKhshathra and Vashishta-lshti, which contain the 17 hymns of God received by Prophet Zarathushtra by way of a Divine Revelation.


Shahenshai, Kadmi, and Fasli are the three main Sects among Parsis.

The only difference between the three sects is the calendar they use. The Faslis use the traditional Persian calendar. The Shahenshais base their calendar on the last Sassanian king, Yazdegard III. The Kadmis say their calendar is the oldest and most accurate.

Zoroastrians of India

The first Zoroastrians came to India in the 10th century and lived on the coast of Gujarat. By the 17th century, most of them had moved to Bombay.

Today, most Parsis live in the Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.


Bahai Faith:

• The Bahai Faith is a monotheistic faith that was started in Persia in the 1800s by Baha’u’llah.

• The Bahais think that Baha’u’llah, who was born in 1863, is the “Promised One” of all times and places.

• In 1874 and 1875, he sent one of the most famous Bahai teachers, Jamal Effendi, to India to teach people about the Bahai faith.

Beliefs and practices

• Bahais believe in the three cardinal principles: the oneness of people, the oneness of God, and the oneness of religion.

• Bahais believe that God has taught people through a number of Divine Manifestations throughout history. Krishna, Buddha, Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Jesus, and Muhammad are all examples of these Manifestations. They think that God has shown Himself through Bahaullah, whose name means “The Glory of God,” in this age. He is what they call the Prophet.

The Bahais try to get rid of discrimination based on caste, faith, religion, sex, skin colour, race, and language. They want everyone to get an education and learn to think in a scientific way. The Bahais don’t believe in magic, ceremonies, practises, or strict rules.

The one real God, who made everything, is who the Bahais pray to. People say that praying is like having a discussion with God. Every Bahai must pray and think about the Words of God every day. There are prayers for every situation, and they can be said alone or with a group.

The Lotus Temple

People often call the Bahai House of Worship in New Delhi, India, the Lotus Temple. The building looks like a floating half-open lotus flower with its leaves all around it.

There are no priests, no idols, no pictures, no lectures, and no rituals in the temple. It is a place where God, who made man, and man can talk to each other.

The shrine was created by Mr. Fariburz Sabha, a young Canadian architect who is also a Bahai and is from Iran. He was chosen as one of the best architects in the world.


Religious Pilgrimages of India

Amarnath Yatra:

The Cave of Amarnath is about 50 kilometres from Pahalgam in the south of Kashmir. Getting there is hard work because you have to walk, hike, and ride a pony. There are snowy mountains all around the cave. The cave is covered in snow most of the year, except for a short time in the summer when travellers can visit.

According to a myth, the cave is where Lord Shiva gave the Hindu gods amrit, which means “nectar.” People think that Lord Shiva took the form of an ice-lingam, which can still be seen in the cave.

Floods and other natural disasters in the valley caused the Yatra to be put on hold for a long time. A Muslim family in the area named the Maliks is said to have found it again. Since then, each generation of the Malik family in Mattan has helped get ready for the Yatra, and they get a share of the donations made at the cave. Kashmiri workers, who are always Muslims, help the pilgrims all along the way. Pilgrims walk along the path while shouting “Har Har Mahadev” and “Amarnath Swami Ki Jai.” “Ya Peer Dastgeer” is what the Muslim workers say to join them. The Yatra ends on the day of the August full moon.


The Hajj is a spiritual trip that Muslims from more than 120 countries make every year to the holy city of Makkah. The journey is one of the five pillars of Islam, which are the most important things in an Islamic person’s life.

• Muslims say that the Haj started with Prophet Ibrahim, who rebuilt the first House of Allah, the Kaaba, as a place where only Allah could be worshipped.

• The Hajj starts on the eighth day of the Islamic year’s 12th month, Dhul-Hijjah. It lasts for six days, from the 8th to the 12th of Dhul-Hijjah. Pilgrims have to wear special clothes called Ihram for the first three days of the Haj.

When the visitors get to Makkah, they go to the Haram Sharief (Holy Mosque) and do the Tawaaf, which is walking around the Kaaba, also called the House of Allah.On the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah, the Jamarat (Satan) is stoned (Rami). This is followed by Tawaf-e-Ziyarah and Sayee at Makkah, which is the end of the main Hajj rituals. In India, the Ministry of External Affairs is in charge of making arrangements for Hajjis. Every year, about 1,75,000 Indian Muslims go to perform Hajj. A smaller journey called “Umrah” is also done by about 80,000 people from India every year in Saudi Arabia.

Kumbh Mela:

The Kumbh Mela is the biggest Hindu holy gathering along a river. It happens every three years. But the big Maha Kumbh Mela only takes place every 12 years.

• According to a story, Lord Vishnu saved Amrut from the devils and gave it to the gods in a pot. The gods put the pot down in each of the four cities of Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik. It is said that a few drops of nectar fell into the water at each of these four places, and sages, saints, and pilgrims began going to each of these “Tirthas” to celebrate the divine event.

• Millions of people think that taking a holy dip in the river will wash away their sins.

Ayyappa Temple

The Lord Ayyappa hill temple in Sabarimala is in Kerala’s Western Ghats. The temple is open to all devotees, no matter their caste, creed, religion, or social class. Every year, it draws millions of people from inside and outside India.

Lord Ayyappa is also called Hariharaputra, the son of Vishnu and Shiva who was born in a supernatural way to kill the monster Mahishi. His statue is said to have been put up at Sabrimala on the day of Makar Sankranti. Devotees believe that on this day, a strange light called “Makara Vilakku” or “Makkara-Jyoti” can be seen facing the god over the hills, and they eagerly wait for this beautiful sight.

Mandalam, a 41-day period of ritual worship, comes before the Makara Vilakku. During Mandalam, pilgrims observe strict discipline and austerities, such as wearing black clothes and avoiding meat and alcohol. Girls and women between the ages of 10 and 50 are not allowed to visit the temple, so that strict celibacy can be observed in the temple complex. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that women of any age can enter the Ayyappa temple. Only pilgrims who have done austerities for at least 41 days are allowed to use the 18 steps that lead to the main sanctum sanctorum. Devotees say “Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa” to each other.

Pushkar Mela

• The Pushkar Fair is held in Pushkar, Rajasthan, on the full moon day of the month of Kartik.

One of the only two temples to Brahma is in Pushkar. The other is in Khedbrahma, which is in Kerala. It is one of the many churches that line the edges of the big Pushkar Lake.

The main event at the Pushkar fair is swimming in the Pushkar Lake on the night of the full moon. Pushkar is known as the tirtharaja, the king of all pilgrimage places, because it is linked to Brahma. Pushkar is also where India’s largest cattle fair takes place. Scholars think that the cow fair grew out of the religious practise of going to the lake to take a dip.

Urs of Khwaja Moin-Ud-Din Chishti

• In 1191, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, who started the Chishti order, came from Persia to India as part of Muhammad Gouri’s army. He moved to Ajmer and taught Islam there until he died in 1233. In his honour, a darga was built. He was known as Garib Nawaz, which means “freer of the poor,” and his death date is marked with an Urs every year in the month of Rajab. This is to honour Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. The story says that on the first day of the month of Rajab, the Khwaja went to his cell to think for five days. On the sixth day, he died.

During this six-day fair, which people from many different groups come to, different ceremonies are held and the Qawwalis are sung to honour the Khwaja.

People know that the tomb can make dreams come true. When people need help, they tie a kalawa to one of the poles. Once their wish has been granted, they are supposed to untie the knot.