NIOS Class 12 Sociology Chapter 28 Major Religious Communities In India

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NIOS Class 12 Sociology Chapter 28 Major Religious Communities In India

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Major Religious Communities In India

Chapter: 28



Answer the following questions:

Q.1. What is the approximate population of Hindus in India? 

Ans. 83% (eighty three per cent).

2. Where are the Hindus found in the world?

Ans. The Hindus are found in India, Nepal, and also in several other countries of Asia, Africa, the Caribbean Islands, Fiji, USA and United Kingdom.

Q.3. To which civilization can the roots of Hinduism be traced? 

Ans. Indus valley civilization.

Q.4. Name the religion of per-Islamic  iran.

Ans. Zoroastrianism.

Q.5. Where are the followers of Zoroastrianism found in india? 

Ans. Maharashtra and Gujarat.


Q.1. Which of the following statements is true or false? Write T after the statement that is true and after the statement that is false. 

(a) Harshvardhana and the Pala emperors provided a lot of patronage to Buddhism.

Ans. True.

(b) Some scholars regard Buddhism as peace loving and defenseless.

Ans. True.

(c) Twenty percent population of India is of Buddhists.

Ans. False.

(d) Jains believe in twenty-four tirthankara.

Ans. True.

(e) Tibetan refugees in India follow Jainism.

Ans. False.


Fill in the blanks:

(a) Christianity is a ……………… faith.

Ans. Monotheistic.

(b) The followers of Judaism are called ………………. .

Ans. Jews.

(c) The Jews of Maharashtra are divided into ……………. and ……………… .

Ans. White Jews and Black Jews.

(d) ……………. is seen as the chosen one of God.

Ans. Jesus.

(e) In …………….., Portuguese occupied Goa.

Ans. Christianity.


Answer the following questions:

1. What percentage of India’s population follows Islam?

Ans. 13% (Thirteen percent).

2. What is the meaning of the term Islam?

Ans. “To surrender to God’s law and thus to be a integral whole.”

3. Are Muslims a part of the jajmani system in Indian villages?

Ans. Yes they are.

4. What is the meaning of the term Sikh?

Ans. It means disciple.

5. How many gurus do Sikhs reconize?

Ans. Ten Gurus.


Answer each of the following question in above 100-200 words:

Q.1. Give reasons for the decline of Buddhism. (Most Imp.) 

Ans. Reasons responsible for the decline of Buddhism:

(i) Adaptation of Tantric practices: At one time it was believed that Buddhism adopted the Tantric practices. It started degenerating it. Some people or followers of this religion criticised this and gave up Buddhism.

(ii) Peace Loving Monasteries: Buddhist Monasteries were peace loving and defenceless. The monasteries were the strong holds of Buddhism. The horde of Muslim invaders (or warriors) that invaded India destroyed the monasteries, leading to a crumbling of Buddhism.

(iii) Beginning of the Hindusization of Buddhism: Many of the Buddhist ideas and practices were absorbed into Hinduism. Not only that Hinduism adopted Buddhist practices and ideology, Buddhism also adopted certain Hindu practice, thus began the practices of the Hinduization of Buddhism.

(iv) Decline of Royal patronage: When royal patronage declined there was a subsequent declines of Buddhist monasteries.

(v) Selfishness of Monks: Buddhist monks were more interested in their own personal salvation than converting people to their faith. 

Q.2. What is the central belief of Islam? Give an account of the five ‘pillars’ of Islam. (Very Imp.)

Ans. The Central belief of Islam: The following three basic concepts of Islam are:

(i) The oneness of God (al-Akhirah), The idea of Islam is summed up in the idea of “There no deity, but God.’ It affirms God to be one and only one.

(ii) God of Quran is transcendent, powerful and merciful. There are five constituents of the Islamic faith (iman), namely belief in God, in ccongels, in revealed books, in God’s messengers, and in the last day, when everything will come to an end.

(iii) For Muslims a five-fold practical doctrine was formulated. These five aspects constitute the ‘pillars’ of Islam. They are:

(a) Bearing witness in public at leas once lifetime that “There is no God but God and Muhammad is His prophet’ Islam’s fundamental ideas are the oneness of God and the finality of the Prophet.

(b) Praying five times a day (before sunrise, early afternoon, late afternoon, retiring), while facing the Kaaba at Mecca.

(c) Paying welfare tax (Zakat for poor). 

(d) Fasting during Ramajan (the ninth month of the Islamic lunar year) with no eating drinking, smoking or sexual intercourse from down until sunset.

(e) Performing the annual pilgrimage to Ka’bah once in one’s adult lifetime provided one can afford the journey and has provision for one’s family.

Q.3. What is the central belief of Jainism? (Most Imp.)

Ans. (i) The central doctrine of Jainism is of, non-harming’ and ‘non-violence (ahimsa अहिंसा) and of vegetarianism.

(ii) The basic idea of Jainism is that the acts carried out by an individual are important for salvations. The status one acquires by birth (ascribed status) is unimportant.

(iii) Jains share a common belief in the concept of ‘three jewels’ (triratna (त्रीरन्त), which are right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct. If one follows these jewels’, then one will be able to attain liberation from the world.

Q.4. Name the sects in which the Jains are divided.

Ans. (i) Digambara. and 

(ii) Svetambara.

Q.5. What are the properties of god according to Sikhs? Describe the idea of the community kitchen?

Ans. (i) According to Guru Nanak Devji God is the father, lover, master, and the great given of all gifts. 

(ii) God is formless (nirankara) and without quality (nirguna निर्गुण).

(iii) God many be known by different names, such as Rab, Rahim, Govinda, Murari, and Hari. Nanak first called God Aumkara (Hindi), but later referred to Him as Sat Kartar (Hindi) (the true creator), or the Sat Nam (Hindi) (the term name). In Sikhism, the symbol of God is Om.

Idea of the Community Kitchen: Guru Nanak established free community kitchen (langar) at which all his believers, irrespective of their caste, ate together. This institution of langar (Hindi) is central to Sikhism.



Q.1. Write the names of two broad groups in which the Indian religions may be divided.

Ans. Broadly speaking Indian religions may be divided into two categories, first, those which are of local origin, and second, those which are introduced from other parts of the world.

Q.2. Which Indian religions are placed under India’s original or internal organised religion in first categories?

Ans. (i) Hindurism.

(ii) Buddhism.

(iii) Jainism. and 

(iv) Sikhism.

Q.3. Which religions are placed under second category in India?

Ans. (i) Zoroastrianism.

(ii) Judaism.

(iii) Christianity. and 

(iv) Islam.

Q.4. Make a short list of sacred books of the Hindus.

Ans. (i) Four Vedes: 

(a) Rig Veda.

(b) Sama Veda.

(c) Yajur Veda. and 

(d) Atharva Veda.

(ii) Upanishads.

(iii) The two Epics: 

(a) The Ramayana, 

(b) The Mahabharata along with.

(c) Srimad Bhagavad Gita,

(D) Dharmashatra.

(e) Puranas. 

(f) Darsanas.

(g) Agamas. and 

(h) Tantaras, etc.

Q.5. Why is it said that Hinduism may be understood as a way of life?

Ans. Hinduism is intimately connected with Hindu society with the result that it is difficult to say where one ends and the other begins. Because of this, some authors say that Hinduism may be understood as a way of life. 

Q.6. What is the position of Hinduism as a religion in world? 

Ans. Hinduism is one of the most ancient religions of the world. Its roots can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization, around 3000 B. C. Archaeologists points out that the worship of Shiva and the mother goddess (shakti) came into existence in the pre-Aryan period (3000-2000 B.C.). Having such a long history, it is obvious that Hinduism has developed over a period of time and is bound to show a far greater diversity in its thoughts and practices that any other religion.

Q.7. Briefly make clear the statement that contradictory beliefs are contained in Hinduism.

Ans. The doctrines of Hinduism are not contained in any one sacred book. Hinduism does not have a single historical founder. Hindus worship innumerable gods and goddesses. But at the same time, they also have the concept of one God from whom everything emerges and in whom everything dissolves. At one end, if Hinduism is polytheistic (i.e., consists of many gods and goddesses), at the other, it is monotheistic (i.e., has the concept of one God). It is interesting that one need not believe in the existence of god in order to be a Hindu. Contradictory beliefs are contained in Hinduism.


Q.1. What is position of caste system in Hindu society, as described or referred in sacred books of Hinduism?

Ans. (i) The social basis of Hinduism is found in caste system, which according to Rig Veda has a divine origin. The four social categories, called Varna, emerged from the body of the purusa, the first being who was sacrificed in a ritual. Social categories that at one time were regarded as untouchable were not part of this scheme. This model of caste with four varnas is known as the chaturvarna system.

However, in reality, there are not four but innumerable castes that are endogamous, i.e., marry within. They are known as jatis. Each of them has a monopoly over an occupation and claims to fall in one or the other varna. When Hindu sacred and legal texts speak of caste, it is mostly varna that they have in view and very rarely jati. The concepts of purity and pollution are central to Hinduism, and thus caste system, although the strictness with which they are observed differs from one caste society to another. 

Q.2. Explain certain concepts to Hinduism in about 100 words. 

Ans. Certain concepts central to Hinduism are dharma, karma, and moksa. Word. The word dharma means ‘duty’, and each individual is advised to live according to the duty laid down for one’s caste, sex and age. The net balance of good and bad deeds in previous births is called karma. It determines whether one will be born a human or animal, or will be released forever from the cycle of birth and death. The permanent release from the world is called mksa (meaning ‘salvation”), which should be the aim of every Hindu. But one should think of one’s salvation after having accomplished one’s household duties as successfully as possible.

Q.3. “Hinduism has under gone several mention worthy changes.” Explain in about 100 words.

Ans. Change is the law of nature Hinduism cannot be exception to this universal truth. It is a fact that in the course of its history Hinduism has undergone many changes.

(a) Certain Hindu institutions, such as untouchability, Sati (i.e., a women following her husband to death) human sacrifice, female infanticide (i.e., killing of female children), where severly criticised by the British.

(b) One of the great reformers of the nineteenth century was Raja Ram Mohan Ray, who founded a religious society called Brahmo Samaj in 1828. He said a return to Vedic Hinduism would provide an end to many unjust practices that had developed in Hinduism.

(c) Dayananda Saraswati, who founded Aryal Samaj in 1875, also worked for a revival of Vedic Hinduism.

(d) Other charges have came in Hinduism because of secularization, the ideology of equality, and rationality. 

Q.4. Write a short note a caste system and Jainism.

Ans. Jains are divided into numerous castes. Some scholars estimate that there are certainly not less than sixty castes among Jains. Many Jains are tradespersons, but some are in other occupations as well, such as cultivation and service. Jains in South India divide themselves in four groups, headed by those who are temple priests. This priestly caste is like the Brahmin caste among Hindus, with the main exception that even these highest among Jains will interdine with all other Jains of their region. Among Hindus, members of different castes do not have inter-dining relations. Jains have also adopted the characteristics of the area where they have chosen to reside. For instance, in Gujarat, some Jain castes have taken up the system of hypergamy (anuloma), i.e., taking women from lower castes in marriage rather than giving theirs.

Q.5. Discuss in short Jainism and reform movements.

Ans. Many reform movements have arisen in the long history of Jainism. They have insisted to revive true Jain traditions and to marry within (i.e., remain endogamous). Jains have long inter-married with counterpart Hindu castes, but these reformers say that inter-marriages be arranged among Jain castes rather than with Hindus. The worship of certain Hindu deities, which has been taken up by some Jain groups, should be abandoned. These movement have been successful in some parts of India. 

Q.6. Describe briefly Christian missionaries and caste system.


Altitude of Christianity towards caste system. 

Ans. Christian missionaries were generally against the traditional social order, i.e. caste system. However, they were not able to provide feasible alternatives. Converts were made mainly from lower castes, but even after they had embraced Christianity, their social ranking did not charge. Higher castes treated them in the same way as they had treated them earlier. Not only were the lower castes converted to Christianity in certain parts, missionary activities were also active in tribal areas, especially of the north-eastern part of India. As a result, qualitative changes have come in the lifestyles of people who had embraced Christianity. The level of education is higher among them. Christian missions also provided legal help to tribals whose land had been forcibly taken away by outsiders. Many tribal languages in the northeastern part found a script in Roman because of the efforts of the missionaries. In other words, Christianity has been a source of long-lasting changes in India.

Q.7. “Discuss” Judaism in India.

Ans. Judaism in India:

(i) The followers of Judaism are known as Jews. The ancient Indian settlements of Jews are in Cochin and Maharashtra. Both the settlements are small in number having a combined population of not more than twenty thousand individuals.

(ii) The Jews of Cochin have firmly maintained their religious identity for at least a millennium. It was around 1020 A. D. that the King of Cochin gave the Jews the right to live and enjoy privileges, such as the right to ride elephants and to go with a state umbrella, etc. Later, the Jews came to be divided into two groups – the White Jews, who were generally lighter in their skin colour and traced their kinship to the original migrants, and the Black Jews, who were dark skinned. There existed no relationship of marriage or eating food together between these two groups.

(iii) By comparison to the Jews of Cochin, those in Maharashtra are large in number. Thoday, these Jews are known as Bene Israel, i.e., the Sons of Israel. They live in several Konkani-speaking villages as oil-pressers. Since oil-pressing is not a prestigious occupation, they do not rank high in their villages. As they do not work on Saturdays, they are also known as Saturday Oilmen. They observe Jewish festivals. There is also evidence that they have tried to improve upon their status by purifying their diet and prohibiting the re-marriage of widows. Like those in Cochin, these Jews are also divided into White Jews, those who claim pure Jewish ancestry, and Black Jews, who are of mixed origin. The White Jews place themselves above the Black. Some scholars say that these two groups are like the two castes.


Q.1. Write an essay on Zoroastrianism in India.


Discuss the following points or aspects related with Zoroastrianism.

(a) A brief history with Zoroastrianism.

(b) Mazdaism or Ahura Mazda.

(c) The place of earth and Fire in Zoroastrianism. 

(d) Disposal of dead by the Passis.

(e) Arrival of Zorastrianism and present position of Parsis in India.

Ans. Zoroastrianism (or Parsi Religion in India):

(a) A brief history of Zoroastrianism: With a history of almost three thousand years, Zoroastrianism is one of the most ancient living religions. It is the most important and best known religion of ancient, or pre-Islamic, Iran. The roots of Zoroastrianism can be located in an Eastern Iranian, tribal, and basically pastoral society. The religion originated around 1000 B. C. and further under the first Iranian empire.

Zoroastrianism takes its name from that of its founder, Zarathushtra (or Zoroaster), who probably lived around the beginning of the first millennium B. C. The story narrated about his birth in the Zoroastrian texts is that when the world had fallen into the hands of evil people, Mother Earth appeared before the Almighty in the shape of a cow. She requested the Lord to save her from the evil that had spread. Then, the Lord said he would send down a hero named Zarathushtra who would rescue her. Soon after, the story goes, in the city of Rae, in Iran, a son was born to Prince Pourushaspa. He was named Spitama, who later became Zarathushtra. Because the Prince suspected that tyrant chiefs might kill the child, he sent him to his mother’s father’s house, where the grew up. Spitama began to preach at the age of fifteen, and his preaching constitutes the central body of Zoroastrianism.

(b) Mazdaism or Ahura Mazda: Another name of Zoroastrianism is Mazdaism. It is derived from the name of Mazda (Wise’) or Ahura Mazda (Wise God’), who is regarded in Zoroastrianism as the Creator of the whole universe. Zoroastrians believe that there is but one God. They say: Everything emanates from Ahura Mazda and merges back to Him at the end.’ Ahura Mazda is formless. The characteristics of the Lord and the teachings of Zarathushtra are contained in texts called gathas.

(c) The Place of Earth and Fire in Zoroastrianism: The earth has a significant place in Zoroastrianism. She is regarded as the mother who sustains all human beings. During life, the Zoroastrian is in her charge, and after death, he returns to her. Fire (atar) is an outward symbol of Zoroastrians. Zarathushtra taught the Iranians to worship fire as the purest and holiest of God’s creation. This is the reason why Zoroastrians do not burn their dead, because contact with the dead and decaying body would pollute the holy fire.

(d) Disposal of the dead by the Parsis: The followers of Zoroastrianism (or by the Parsis) is note worthy. They neither bury the corpse nor throw it in water. So, they build walled-in-platforms of masonry, open to the sky. Known as the Towers of Silence (dakhamas), it is in here that the corpse is exposed, which the birds eat away. The bones crumble by the action of sun, rain and wind. The bone-dust is deposited into the large pit in the centre of the tower, where all, people of different classes, at last mingle together in the bosom of Mother Earth.

(e) Arrival of Zoroastrianism and present position of Parsis in India: The followers of Zorastrianism, called Parsis, came to India about the eighth century A. D. They constitute a small community in India, having a population of around one lakh individuals, settled mostly in the western part. Some of their families have attained great industrial success, like that of the Tatas. Most aspects of the Parsi culture, apart from their religious rites, are like that of the other trading communities of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Since the mid-nineteenth century, Parsis have been the leaders of India’s modernization. Other modernizing groups in their region and elsewhere in the country emulate their example.

Q.2. Write an essay on “Buddhism in India.


Discuss position, development and its position in Nepal as well efforts by some great personalities to revive Buddhism. 

Ans. (i) Introduction-Buddhism during ancient period of the Indian history: Buddhism acquired a dominant position India under the rule of Emperor Ashoka (273-236 B. C.). As a consequence of the missionary propaganda, Buddhism spread all over India. Ashoka sent his son and daughter to propagate the teachings of Buddha in different parts of India. Buddhism also embraced several communities outside India, thus becoming a world religion. By the twelfth century A. D., Buddhism was on its way out from India. In northern India, Harshavardhana and the Pala emperors provided a lot of patronage of Buddhism. But the other royal families were staunch adherents of the Brahmanical sects.

(ii) Other sects, religions and Buddhism: At one time, it was believed that once Buddhism had adopted the Tantric practices, it started degenerating. Today, this explanation is not held. The other reason given was that Buddhist communities were peace loving and defenceless. The monasteries were the strongholds of Buddhism. The hordes of Muslim warriors that invaded India destroyed the monasteries, leading to a crumbling of Buddhism. Another explanation is that Hinduism offered a colossal challenges to Buddhism. Many of the Buddhist ideas and practices were absorbed into Hinduism. Not only that Hinduism adopted Buddhist practices and ideology, Buddhism also adopted certain Hindu practices, thus began the process of the Hinduization of Buddhism.

(iii) Decline of Buddhism due to internal causes: Besides these, there were some internal causes that led to its decline. Buddhism was dependent upon monasteries that did not have broad popular support but relied exclusively on royal patronage. So, when royal support declined, there was a subsequent decline of monasteries. Further, Buddhist monks were more interested in their own salvation, rather than converting people of their faith.

(iv) Buddhism in Nepal and other parts of Asia: Today, Himalayan Buddhism of direct Indian ancestry remains only in Nepal, where it is fused with Hinduism. Its priests are called Vajracharya, who are Tantric priests, and they are married persons. Because of this, this kind of Buddhism is also known as Vajracharya Buddhism. Buddhism of Tibetan origin survives in Ladakh, Sikkim, Bhutan, and also Nepal. It also survives with Tibetan refugees in India, whose settlements are in different parts.

(v) Buddhism and efforts of Mahabodhi Society: Certain focused attempts have also been made to revive Buddhism in the subcontinent. A Sinhalese monk, Anagarika Dharmapala, founded in 1891, a society for the revival of Buddhism. The society was called the Mahabodhi society, and one of its aims was to work towards Buddhist education. It also took the repair of Bodhgaya Temple.

(vi) Dr. Ambedkar and Buddhism: Conversion to Buddhism on a mass scale took place after Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution of India, embraced Buddhism on 14 October, 1956 in Nagpur (Maharashtra). Along with him, thousands of men of community. called Mahars, the community to which Dr. Ambedkar belonged, were also converted to Buddhism. A community of leather-workers in Agra, called Jatavas, embraced Buddhism a little later. These Buddhists are often known as Neo-Buddhists (or Nav Buddhists). For some inspired Buddhists, Dr. Ambedkar is ‘Bodhisattva Ambedkar’. In contemporary India, Buddhists of all types constitute around 8.0 per cent of the total population.

Q.3. Discuss history principles, position etc. of Jainism in India.


Write an essay on “Jainism”. 

Ans. Jainism in India:

(i) The Jains in India are a relatively small section, about one half of one per cent of India’s population. They are spread in all parts of India, but their main concentration is in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Karnataka. Founded by Vardhamana Mahavira, who lived from 540 to 468 B. C., Jainism has exercised a significant influence on India, and the world’s history.

(ii) In ancient India, both Buddhism and Brahmanism absorbed the central doctrines of Jainism of ‘non-harming’ and ‘non-violence’ (ahimsa) and of vegetarianism. As a consequence, both of them became the primary principles of Indian culture. During the medieval period, Jain practices and doctrines also affected the major Hindus sects. In modern India, Jains have played a remarkable role in commercial and political life. Through its indirect effect on Mohands Karamchand Gandhi, Jainism has given the principle of ‘non-violence’ to the world. Hence, though the followers of Jainism are fewer in number, their impact has been tremendous.

(iii) Jains have practiced their faith for more than twenty-five centuries. They have also produced a large scriptural literature. One of the deeds of religious merit for Jain monks is to copy and preserve their manuscripts, and this is one of the reasons of a large number of scriptures that they have. The basic idea of Jainism is that the acts carried out by an individual are important for his salvation. The status one acquires by birth (ascribed status) ‘is unimportant. Jains share a common belief in the concept of ‘three-jewels’ (triratna), which are right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct. If one follows these jewels’, then one will be able to attain liberation from the world.

(iv) Jains are the members of the four-fold organization (samgha), composed of monks and nuns, laymen and laywomen. The monks and nuns observe stricter discipline, but laymen and laywomen try their best to live according to the rules laid down in their scriptures, Jains must abstain from injuring life, making false speech, taking what is not given, leading an impure life, and taking food and drink at night. They also do not eat root vegetables such as potatoes, onions, garlic, or those that have a multiplicity of seeds. 

(v) Although Jains are divided into two groups, namely Digambara and Svetambara, most of the doctrines are common to them. The basic difference between them is that the Digambara male saints (muri) are ‘skyclad’, meaning they remain naked, whereas the Svetambara monks (both men and women) wear white robes. This division of Jains came into existence in 79 A. D.

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