Maharashtra is the second most populous state of India. With a huge population of 96,752,247, the state is known for diverse religions that are known to exist here. There are people belonging to different religions and castes. Though the majority is inhabited by Hindus; people belonging to other religions like Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism etc are also present in large number.
There are several religions in Maharashtra. This diversity can be attributed to the history of the state and its geographical location. It is, in fact, a land of certain oldest religions of India. The development and evolvement of these religions is influenced by various religious movements that took place in past. The 13th century saw the flourishing of Bhakti Movement whose main protagonists were Tularam, Ramdas, and Inameshwaer etc. Their teachings and life style had profound effect on the lives of common people.
Main religions of the state :
It is one of the most common and main religions in Maharashtra. Hindus are supposed to cover about 80% of the entire population. There are several Hindu gods and goddesses that are highly revered and worshipped by people. Among the popular deities, Lord Shiva, Krishna, Vishnu, Ganesha, and Parvati are the common ones. A large number of festivals and fairs are held every year when these deities are worshipped in temples and shrines. These god-fearing people pay numerous offerings to their gods in the form of eatables, cash and other sacred objects.
Warkari tradition is very common in Maharashtra. It is a Vaishnava movement that involves worshipping Lord Vitthal (Krishna). Popularized by Tularam, Namdev, and Eknath, Warkari people observe a number of traditions including self-restraint, avoidance of alcohol, fasting on special occasions, reading holy books, and performing bhajans on regular basis. Every year on Ekadesi, the devotees flock to Pandharpur, carrying "palkis" or palanquins of their revered saints. Some of these palkis carry footwear or "chappals" of these saints.
There are myriad Hindu temples that are the worshipping places of thousands of devotees. Balaji Mandir, Kailash Temple, Bhuleshwar Temple, Kopineshwar Temple, Mahalakshmi Temple, Elephanta and Ellora Caves, Ganjan Maharaj Temple, Panchvati, and Rameshwar Mandir are a few names in this regard.
Christians comprise about 2-3 % of the entire Marathi population. It is one of the important religions in Maharashtra. Majority of the Christians are Roman Catholics, a large number of whom reside at Thane, Raigad, and Mumbai. They are also known as East Indians. Marathi Christians are those who are Protestants and live at Pune, Aurangabad, and Ahmednagar.
Christianity was popularized by missionaries in 14th century. The East Indians was the name given by British rulers to differentiate between native ones from others. Main occupation of eat Indians is agriculture. In Mumbai, a village by the name of Gaothan is their residence. Though Marathi is their mother tongue, they also speak English frequently. The effect of Portuguese can be clearly seen on their lives.
Marathi Christians that comprise another part of Christianity are mostly the converts from Hinduism and Islam. They have retained their Marathi culture up to great extends. Missionaries played a major role in spreading Christian education, opened several schools, and translated Bible into English.
Islam is one of the other widespread religions in Maharashtra whose roots can be traced back to ancient times. Under Mughal period, Islam gained immense popularity. This religion was brought by a bunch of missionaries and traders who came to India in 8th century. The religion reached its zenith in 16th century when a large part of Maharashtra was ruled by Mughal emperors. Most of the Muslims follow Sufi tradition which involves paying homage to spiritual leaders, visiting their majors, and attending Urs fairs. About 10% of the Maharashtra population comprises of Muslims.
Buddhism gained popularity in 5th century; the number of followers increased as the time passed. Lord Buddha was the main propagator of this religion who gave a number of doctrines and code of conduct to be followed by people. Caves of Ajanta and Ellora were built to popularize this religion and spread the teachings of Buddha. Buddhist caves at Kanheri, Karle, and Bedsa are rock-carved. A temple at Worli is a worth visiting site for followers of Buddhism. There are several monasteries and stupas that were built from to time.
Propagated by Lord Mahavir, Jainism is one of the other religions in Maharashtra that has a large number of followers. There are two sects of Jainism-Shwetambars and Digambars. The earlier ones wear white cloths while the latter prefer to remain nude. Bahubali Ji is an important center of Jain pilgrimage. A Digambar Jain Temple is present in Osmanabad.
Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak, the first guru of Sikhs. This religion lays stress on monotheism which means existence of a single God. Worshipping of idols is prohibited. Maharashtra has a several Gurudwaras, the worshipping places of Sikhs.
Judaism was founded in Maharashtra by Bene Israel group. The followers of this religion form the minority community. These flowers have incorporated several Marathi customs and rituals; their worshipping places, Synagogues, have many centers in Thane, Alibagh, and Mumbai. There is an oldest synagogue in Mumbai.
This ancient religion was founded by Parsis who had fled form Persia and found shelter in Western India. Most of the Parsis are settled in Thane and Sanjan. A famous feature of Zoroastrianism is a fire-temple. The Parsis have survived in India from a long time; hence it is easy to distinguish them from their Iranian counterparts.
Maharashtra is a land of diverse religions. The history is the witness of evolvement of these religions in Maharashtra. People belonging to different faiths and communities have adapted well to this Maratha state.