Arrival of Non-Indian religions
India, well known as the land of
spirituality and philosophy, was the birthplace of
Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism among other
religions. Along with the religions that developed in
India, there are also followers of religions of non-
Indian origins. Among these religions are Islam,
Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Bahaism and Judaism. The
followers of these different religions arrived in India
at different times.
The largest religion of non-Indian origin is Islam. They
are about 12% of India's population. Muslims who arrived
in India converted Indians to Islam. Islam was spread in
India through two means, peaceful and sword. The first
spreaders of Islam in India were individuals who saw in
spreading Islam a holy precept. They used peaceful means
to convert to Islam. But most of Indians are believed to
have converted to Islam through the sword, which means
the Muslim invaders gave the Indians an option to choose
between death and Islam. The different Muslim rulers of
India also brought into their kingdoms Muslim
mercenaries, businessmen and slaves from different parts
of the world like Russia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Arab
countries and Africa. These people remained in India,
married local Indians and converted them to Islam.
Like the Muslims, the Christians, who arrived to India
also converted Indians to their religion, Christianity.
Christians are about 2.5% of India's population. Most of
the Indians were converted to Christianity by the
missionaries who arrived in India with the European
powers from 15th century. Of the European powers, the
Portuguese were most enthusiast to baptize Indians. But
Christianity did not arrive in India with the arrival of
European missionaries. It reached India almost 2000
Christianity originates in Israel. One of the Apostles
(the 12 chief disciples of Jesus), St. Judas Thomas, was
a carpenter. He was brought to India by a merchant to
build a temple. St. Thomas arrived in Kerala, in south
India in 52 AD. He succeeded in converting local Indians
to Christianity. His converts were called Syrian
Christians. One assumption says that some of the Syrian
Christians were actually local Jews converted by St.
Judas Thomas to Christianity. The disciples of Jesus at
first intended to convince the Jews to adopt the
philosophy of Jesus as new Judaism. Therefore they
arrived to regions where Jews had settled in the world.
Among these regions where Jews had settled was India.
Two Apostles are believed to have arrived in India for
this purpose. St. Judas Thomas arrived in Kerala in
south India and St. Bartholomew in western Maharashtra
in west India.
Judaism is probably the oldest religion of non-Indian
origin to arrive in India. Today there are also a few
thousand Jews in India. Judaism and Christianity might
have arrived in India before they reached Europe.
The different Jewish communities of India, Bene Israel,
Cochini, Baghdadi and Bne Menashe claims their arrival
in India in different ways and it is not always clear
how they really came to India. The Bene Israel, which is
the largest Jewish community of India, lived earlier in
the villages of west Maharashtra. They are believed to
exist in India for over 2000 years. The Cochini Jews in
south India also claim that their first forefathers
arrived in India over 2000 years ago during King
Solomon's rule. The Bne Menashe of East India who claim
to origin from the 'Lost Tribes' arrived much later in
India. The Bne Menashes arrived in east India from China
and Myanmar (Burma). In the late 18th century, Jews from
Arab countries and Iran arrived in India because of
religious persecutions in their countries. They were
called collectively as Baghdadi Jews.
Two other religions that arrived in India because of
religious persecutions in their countries were
Zoroastrianism and Bahaism. Both of them arrived from
Zoroastrians, who even though make less then 0.01% of
India's population, are well known around India. The
followers of this religion are called Parsis because
they arrived from Persia (Iran). The followers of this
religion exiled from Iran in the 7th century AD. They
arrived in Gujarat in west India. In the 20th century
followers of the Bahai religion arrived in India because
of religious persecution in Iran.