Religion and Politics in India

Subject: Religion
Pages: 5
Words: 1128
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: PhD


Globally, religion has always played an integral part in influencing political culture of nations. For many decades, not only has religion influenced social living through its doctrine teachings, but also has been continuously powerful in propelling political ideologies in many nations. Coupled with its linguistic federalism, ethnic problems, and religious discrimination issues, religions have historically spurred political mobilization.

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Several Asian studies have constantly indicated a great connection among religions and political development and reforms of the Asian continent, before and after their independence. Two main historical religions of India, the Hinduism, and the Muslim have greatly contributed to fragmented Indian nationalism, with this nation experiencing a mixture of peace and hostility resulting from religious politics. Religious attrition and differences in India before and after its independence may have been significant to the India’s politics. Central to examining democracy development in India, the essay explores the association religion and politics in India before and after independence.

Religion and politics in India before independence

Major political transformations in India greatly associates with the involvement of religious political movements, which since history initiated communal participation in development of nationalism of India (Moore 316). Before independence, political pressure was eminent in India and characterised by political differences between non-Hindu and ethnic minority. Indian State was initially a nation that served in the ideology of secular nationalism under the reign of secular Congress Party that dominated Indian politics (Sahu 243). However, Hinduism was politically influential but their Muslim counterparts remaining sceptical about Hindus religious politics.

Before independence, the caste notion in Hindu society was most influential in social and political organisation. Moore (317) describes “caste system as the organisation of the population into hereditary and endogamous groups” where males engaged in social and political functions. There were four castes in hierarchical order and associated with spiritual, social and political progression in India. Sahu (246) identifies the castes as “Brahmanas (priests and scholars), Kshatriyas (political rulers and soldiers), Vaishyas (merchants and cultivators), and Sudras (artisans and labourers)”

The caste system significantly contributed to political systems in India during the Mogul era from sixteenth century throughout to eighteenth century. The caste system strongly engaged in political reforms and improved the lives of Hindus, though with limited operations following incessant confrontations with the Muslims. As stated by Moore (317), “caste served, and still serves, to organise the life of village community, the basic cell of the Indian society and the fundamental unit that determined strong leadership.” The caste system having a great affiliation with the Hindu religion had significant obstruction to Indian democracy as history identifies this socio-political system as an era of agrarian bureaucracy.

Caste system symbolized the Indian polity and imposed political governance based on military rule that supported taxation and leadership under the chieftains. This means that politicians of Mogul era used the caste reservations to acquire unfair wealth.

Relationship between religious and political beliefs

The differences towards nationalism before independence of Hindu and formation of the Muslim-dominate Pakistan may be the potential backdrop to fragmented political beliefs and stands in India (Moore 371). Subsequent to Indian partition, disparity commenced intensely on political ideologies as Muslims had most majority of its potential leaders to the Muslim-dominate Pakistan. Following such issues “Indian Muslims supported and voted for the secular Congress party on the understanding that the Congress government would maintain Muslim Personal Law and other aspects of the Muslim culture” (Sahu 245).

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The confrontation between the Muslim and the Hindus continued when the Hindu nationalist parties including Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) pressured the secularist Congress Party that began losing its political authority after the split. Along religious differences, proponents of secularism and Hinduism have always differed in political beliefs regarding to nationalism and doctrine that should dominate national leadership. Despite having greater political influence, Hinduism has failed to consolidate its religious authority in India.

Hinduism is the most complicated religion as each cultural linguistic zone contains its own worshiping culture and doctrine. As noted by Sahu (245), “Hindus worship different gods and goddesses, which are limited portrayals of the unlimited – ultimate reality that is formless, nameless and without personality.” Coupled with the fact that the BJP possesses leaders from Hindus, but with different religious ideologies following their broad cultural homogeneity, there exists no state religion with dominant principles in national governance. Each of the political parties contains a mixture of religious cultures practiced concomitantly, with each of the two religions influencing each other ideologically (Moore 368).

Contesting to the power of nationalism, none of the religions has managed to conquer national governance. Being proponents of secularism, Muslim differ distinctively in religious ideologies; other minor religions differ with Hinduism, and Hindus themselves have differing doctrine principles. Having shared religious power in national governance where both Muslim and Hindu religious practices apply, there is no State religion.

Relationship between religion and groups/institutions

The India’s partition of 1947 was arguably the backdrop to formation of political groups and institutions that emerged on religious divide. Thought to be the solution towards political differences between the Hindus and the Muslim, the 1947 partition itself was the course of major political pressures in India (Moore 371). Majority Hindus differ between themselves, Muslims have different religious ideologies and Christians, and other minority groups differ as well. BJP, Ram Rajya Parishad, and RSS who were the most anti-congress parties continually existed on the foundations of Hinduism or Hindu nationalism.

Contrary to its opponents, majority of Muslims commenced with their support over Congress secularist party. Following incessant religious attritions on which religion should become a state religion, politics of India divided along linguistic lines. According to Sahu, “religious politics divided as follows: “Indian Muslims developed their own form of occupation-based caste distinction (247); Sikhs demanded a creation of a Punjabi-speaking province” (248) and Hindus remained devoted to their motive of making India a Hinduism state.


The history associated with India’s political transformations on religious grounds is considerably diverse and complicated. Religious contribution to Indian nationalism has remained a convoluted issue, with all religions existing in India having different ideologies towards state nationalism. The Indian Muslims who remained in India after the 1947 partitioning strongly opposes the efforts of Hindus in developing of Hindu nationalism, Christians and other minority religions have had a notion of discrimination.

In addition, Hindu themselves posses different religious ideologies, with some worshiping single god, others worshiping several gods, with all having different worshiping centres. India is still a nation of many religions with shared political influence and none of the religions has dominance in the national governance. This means that efforts of partitioning India into India and Muslim-dominated Pakistan was not a solution towards religious differences as the remaining Indian Muslims have also had significant political consequences in the India’s political stand.

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Works Cited

Moore, Barrington. Social origins of dictatorship and democracy: Lord and peasant in the making of the modern world, Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 1967. Print.

Sahu, Sunil. Religion and politics in India: The emergence of Hindu Nationalism and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.