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Why India
    India is the world's largest functional democracy and the second most populous country with more than 16% of world population living in India. Over 1 billion people live in India. There are 4,635 people groups based on culture and caste. People speak a variety of languages such as Hindi, English and 17 other official languages along with many local dialects. According to a UNO report, a normal Indian has an average life span of 62 years among men and 65 years among women. Wealth distribution in India, a developing country, is fairly uneven, with the top 10% of income groups earning 33% of all income. India has a labor force of 496.4 million of which 60% are employed in agriculture or agriculture related industries which contributes to about 22% of the GDP, 17% in mainstream industry and 23% in service industries. These statistical data indicate that there is a major gap between the rich and the poor, the upper class and the lower class, the Cosmopolitan culture and the primitive rural culture and the Hi tech India and the backward India.
  Historical Significance  
     India is the country having a civilization that is one of the earliest recorded and is contemporary of civilizations in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. It has a culture more than 5000 years old. The Indian civilization started with Indus Valley Civilization. It was the beginning of the earliest urban society in India. It developed around major urban centers such as Harappa and Mohenjodaro. It was centered on the Indus River and its tributaries, including the Ghaggar Hakra River, and extended into the Ganges Yamuna, Doab, Gujarat, and northern Afghanistan. After this era many civilizations and dynasties came and vanished. Among these the most prominent were Vedic Civilization, Maurya dynasty, Gupta dynasty, Chola empire, The Rajputs, Mughal empire,Portuguese & British rule. These regimes influenced the people of India and molded the Indian culture and religious outlook very diversely. History says India has always been the cultural hub for the entire Asia. The ancient Indian paintings, architecture & temples are very famous and still is an attraction for western people. Indian architectural monuments like Taj Mahal Are famous around the world for its diversity and uniqueness. Taj Mahal is one of the seven wonders of the world.
  Religious Significance of India  
  Psalms 135:15-18  
    The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.  They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see;  they have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.
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    India is the birth place of many popular and influencing religions in the world. Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism & Jainism are the prominent ones among them. Religion has a large impact on the personal lives of most Indians and Influences public life of the people on a daily basis. Indian religions have deep historical roots that are recollected by contemporary Indians. The ancient culture of South Asia, going back at least 4,500 years, has come down to India primarily in the form of religious texts. Contacts between India and other cultures have led to the spread of Indian religions throughout the world, resulting in the extensive influence of Indian thought and practice, in Southeast and East Asia in ancient times and, more recently, in the diffusion of Indian religions to Europe and North America.
    Hinduism, known as Hindu Dharma in modern Indian languages is a religious tradition that originated in the Indian subcontinent. In contemporary usage Hinduism is also sometimes referred to as Sanatana Dharma, a Sanskrit phrase meaning“eternal law.” Hinduism is the world's third largest religious system. Considered to be one of the world's oldest extant religions, the origin of Hinduism can be traced back to the ancient Vedic civilizations .Hinduism contains a vast body of scriptures.The Hindu scriptures expound on theology, philosophy and mythology; providing spiritual insights and guidance on the practice of dharma (religious living). In the orthodox view, among such texts, the Vedas and the Upanishads are the foremost in authority, importance and antiquity. Other major scriptures include the Tantras,the sectarian Agamas, the Pura?as and the epics Mah abharata and Ramaya?a. The Bhagavad Gita, a treatise excerpted from the Mahabharata, is sometimes called a summary of the spiritual teachings of the Vedas.
      Hinduism is an extremely diverse religion. Although some tenets of the faith are accepted by most Hindus, scholars have found it difficult to identify any doctrines with universal acceptance among all denominations. Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include Dharma (ethics/duties), Samsara (The continuing cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth), Karma (action and subsequent reaction), Moksha (liberation from samsara), and the various yogas (paths or practices). Hindu practices generally involve seeking awareness of God and sometimes also seeking blessings from Devas. Therefore, Hinduism has developed numerous practices meant to help one think of divinity in the midst of everyday life. Hindus can engage in puja (worship or veneration), either at home or at a temple. At home, Hindus often create a shrine with icons dedicated to the individual's chosen form(s) of God.  
      The vast majority of Hindus engage in religious rituals on a daily basis. Most Hindus observe religious rituals at home. However, observation of rituals greatly vary among regions, villages, and individuals. Devout Hindus perform daily chores such as worshiping at the dawn after bathing (usually at a family shrine, and typically includes lighting a lamp and offering foodstuffs before the images of deities), recitation from religious scripts, singing devotional hymns, meditation, chanting mantras, reciting scriptures etc. A notable feature in religious ritual is the division between purity and pollution. Purification, usually with water, is thus a typical feature of most religious action. Other characteristics include a belief in the efficacy of sacrifice and concept of merit, gained through the performance of charity or good works, that will accumulate over time and reduce sufferings in the next world.  
    Buddhism is often described as a religion and a philosophy. Buddhism is regarded as a set of teachings and practices rather than a religion. Buddhism is also known as Buddha Dharma or Dhamma, which means roughly the "teachings of the Awakened One" in Sanskrit and Pali; languages of ancient Buddhist texts. Buddhism is the fourth-largest organized religion in the world. Most of the concepts of Buddhism are the refined forms of Hinduism. Estimates show that the number of Buddhist followers around the world range from 230 to 500 million. Buddhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world behind Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and a traditional Chinese religion. The monks' order (Sangha), which began during the lifetime of the Buddha in India, is among the oldest organizations on earth.Buddhism was brought into being around the 5th century BC by Siddhartha Gautama. Siddhartha
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Gautama is believed by Buddhists to have been born in Lumbini, Nepal and raised in Kapilavastu near the present-day Indian Nepalese border. He is believed to have descended in the great lineage of either the Vedic Rishi Gotama or Rishi Angirasa according to Buddhist texts. The Buddha claimed that in a previous life, he was the Brahmin sage Kapila, hence the name Kapilavastu of his ruling capital. Born as a prince, his father, King Suddhodana, attempted to shield him from the sufferings of his people in the hopes of making Gautama a better ruler. Despite his father's efforts, at the age of 29, he discovered the suffering of his people.Gautama, deeply depressed by these sights, sought to overcome old age, illness, and death by living the life of an ascetic. Gautama escaped his palace, leaving behind this royal life to become a mendicant. After asceticism and concentrating on meditation and Anapana-sati (awareness of breathing in and out), Gautama is said to have discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way—a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. He accepted a little milk and rice pudding from a village girl and then, sitting under a pipal tree, now known as the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, he vowed never to arise until he had found the Truth. After 49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he attained bodhi, also known as "Awakening" or "Enlightenment." After his attainment of bodhi he was known as Buddha or Gautama Buddha and spent the rest of his life teaching his insights (Dharma).
    The teaching of the Buddha, offers a refuge by providing guidelines for the alleviation of suffering and the attainment of enlightenment. Part of the Buddha’s teachings regarding the holy life and the goal of liberation is constituted by the "The Four Noble Truths", which focus on dukkha, a term that refers to suffering or the unhappiness ultimately characteristic of unawakened, worldly life. The Four Noble Truths regarding suffering state what is its nature, its cause, its cessation, and the way leading to its cessation. This way to the cessation of suffering is called "The Noble Eightfold Path", which is one of the fundamentals of Buddhist virtuous or moral life.
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    Sikhism is a religion that began in the fifteenth century in Northern India with the teachings of Nanak and nine successive human gurus. This system of religious philosophy and expression has been traditionally known as the Gurmat (literally the counsel of the gurus) or the Sikh Dharma. Sikhism comes from the word Sikh, which in turn comes from the Sanskrit root si?ya meaning "disciple" or "learner", or sik?a meaning "instruction." Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world. The principal belief in Sikhism is faith in Vahiguru represented using the sacred symbol of ek oa?kar. Sikhism advocates the pursuit of salvation through disciplined, personal meditation in the name and message of God. The followers of Sikhism are ordained to follow the teachings of the ten Sikh gurus, or enlightened leaders, as well as the holy scripture the Guru Granth Sahib—which includes the selected works of many authors from diverse socioeconomic and religious backgrounds. The text was decreed by Gobind Singh, the tenth guru, as the final guru of the Khalsa Panth. Sikhism's traditions and teachings are distinctly associated with the history, society and culture of Punjab.
    Adherents of Sikhism are known as Sikhs (students or disciples) and number over 23 million across the world. However, most Sikhs live in the state of Punjab in India;prior to partition, millions of Sikhs lived in what is now as the Punjab province of Pakistan.In Sikhism, God—termed Vahiguru—is formless, eternal, and unobserved: nira?kar, akal, and alakh.Baptised Sikhs are bound to wear the Five Ks (in Punjabi known as pañj kakke or pañj kakar), or articles of faith, at all times. The tenth guru, Gobind Singh, ordered these Five Ks to be worn so that a Sikh could actively use them to make a difference to their own and to others' spirituality. The five items are: kes (uncut hair), ka?gha (small comb), ka?a (circular heavy metal bracelet), kirpan (ceremonial short sword), and kaccha (specially-designed underwear ). The Five Ks have both practical and symbolic purposes. Sikh teaching also stresses on the concept of sharing—va?? chakko—through the distribution of free food at Sikh gurdwaras (la?gar), giving charitable donations, and working for the betterment of the community and others (seva).
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    Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma is an independent religion, one of the oldest religions in the world. It is a dharmic religion and its philosophy originating in Ancient India. The Jains follow the teachings of the 24 Jinas (conquerors) who are also known as Tirthankaras. The 24th Tirthankara, Lord Mahavira lived in the 6th century BC. Jains are a small but influential religious minority with at least 4.2 million practitioners in modern India and more in growing immigrant communities in the United States, Western Europe, Africa, the Far East and elsewhere. Jains continue to sustain the ancient Shraman or ascetic tradition.Jains are not a part of the Vedic Religion (Hinduism). Jainism stresses on spiritual independence and equality of all life with particular emphasis on non-violence. Jains have an ancient tradition of scholarship. Not surprisingly, Jains are the most literate religious community in India. The Jain libraries are India's oldest.
    It is generally believed that the Jain sangha is divided into two major sects, Digambar and Svetambar. In Sanskrit, ambar refers to a covering like a garment. 'Dig', an older form of 'disha', refers to the cardinal directions. Digambar therefore means those whose garment is only the four directions, or "sky-clad." 'Svet' means white and Svetambaras are those who wear white coverings.
    Digambar Jain Monks do not wear clothes because they believe clothes are like other possessions, increasing dependency and desire for material things, and desire for anything ultimately leading to sorrow. Svetambar Jain monks wear white seamless clothes for practical reasons and believe there is nothing in Jain scripture that condemns wearing clothes. Sadhvis (nuns) of both sects wear white. Jain monks walk barefoot and sweep the ground in front of them to avoid killing any insects. Even though all life is considered sacred by the Jains, human life is deemed by them to be the highest form of life. It is for this reason that it is considered vital never to harm or upset any person.
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