India was ruled by Muslims from around 12 century to 1857 and then by British till 1947 but India still have a large number of Hindus. Countries like Indonesia, Afghanistan, Malaysia now have Islam as the dominant religion and many countries in Africa which were ruled by Europeans have more Christians then any other religion. So my question how come Hindus were not converted to Islam/Christianity despite being ruled by them for so long?
First, the easier part on Christianity. As the other reply says, the British were (mostly) unwilling to convert Indians in order to avoid inflaming local religious sentiments. In fact, the British were so cautious on this that they would probably even tolerated the practices of sati and child marriage had some Indian reformers (such as Ram Mohan Roy) not goaded them into stopping it. However, the regions where the Portuguese had power (sometimes before the British), such as Goa and Kerela, have substantial number of Christians.
As for conversion to Islam, the question is more difficult. Almost 90% of India was occupied by the Islamic rulers at some point or another, many of them intolerant of other religions, and it is difficult to say why much of India remained unconverted. One reason that many historians cite is Hinduism's rigid caste hierarchy, which created a social structure that was difficult to dismantle.
Time and again India has seen some reformers who revolutionize the thoughts of the masses. When Buddhism was in full force in India, Adi Shankara was born to revive Hinduism. During the Mughal Period, Tulsidas, Surdas and others deeply imposed the faith of Hindus in God. Tulsidas wrote Ram Charitra Manas whereas Surdas composed many devotional songs about Lord Krishna. During the British administration of India, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra VidyaSagar deeply influenced the religious sentiments of the Hindus. So, this trend continued and as a result, India despite being the birth place of Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism is still dominated by Hindus.
The Religion Factor
To understand this, you have to understand Hinduism. Let me take up my own case- a Kokanast Maharashtrian Brahman. This is a sub-caste. The point of interest to us here is the amazing similarity in diversity in India.
Hinduism (Sanaatan Dharm) is an individual, a highly individual religion. it is common to have the Father worship Lord Hanuman, the Mother Worship Lord Ganapati, the Son to worship Maa Durgaa, and the Daughter to worship Lord Krishna. No one forces anything on anyone; there are no dictats or dogmas; no specific days to attend, and compulsion to pray. It is an individual choice.
Further, beliefs of Hinduism have roots deep in the ancient past - going back 6000 years and more. This means a deeply-set range of beliefs and attitudes, mores of behaviour, cultural traits etc that are totally different from any other religion. Thus, only the downtrodden can be a realistic target for religion change. General change from the local populace is not a consideration.
However, the downtrodden also have historically enjoyed total freedom to worship the Lord of their choice. They, too were never under any compulsion; they were persecuted - true, but persecution was not on praying; it was on praying in the higher-caste temples. Thus, they had no basic complaint against the religion per se, only the overall societal structure.
The Caste Factor
We have seen the nature of Hinduism, and its amazing diversity and total individuality. And yet, strangely, within this individualism is hidden a strange cohesion that is stronger than any known religious bond. Coming to myself, we kokanast brahmans, exhibit some peculiar traits that are identified with us: stingy behaviour, general reservedness in family functions (our functions are rather small affairs), tall, usually fair, our functions are rather contained affairs. Contrast this with the other main Brahman sub-caste in us Marathis: The Deshasth. These people are lively, you will find their functions full of energy, gift-giving, deep and extensive contacts. This is indicative of a deep cohesion due to in-breeding; the preferred match for a Kokanast is still a Kokanast even in the 21st century.
The point is that this is 2012, and nothing substantial has changed. if we are so cohesive now, what must we have been like 1000 years ago? in 2003, I shaved my moustache: and believe you me I got dirty looks from quite a few family members who gave me hell. These essentially caste-internal interactions create a deeply connected society, and this acts as an extremely powerful support base against as well as protector from subversive change. An individual has to after all live in the same society. Add to the the inherent religious freedom, and deep-rooted cultural and religious ethos. This cohesion combined with total individual freedom is further complicated by difficulties in marriage even today. In the old days. this must have been compounded by career and vocational hurdles as well. This creates a further barrier to change, keeping the religion intact
This factor means that there is societal pressure from within each sub-caste not to change; while no one will object to your decision, no one will agree to marry you (or you will find difficulty in getting a suitable match within your community). Further, the caste also pressurises in subtle (as well as not-so-subtle) ways the family members. In my case, Dad lowered the paper, gave me a look (no moustache), and raised the paper again without a word. Mom glared (apparently, only fatherless people shave off moustaches). This is modern india we are talking about - the case of an Army Colonel, MD in Anaesthesia, Mom being a post graduate gold medallist, sister a gynaecologist, self a postgraduate, and brother a graduate. Well, after Mom-Dad were taken away to the heavenly abode, I attempted it again - and told my wife. Her response to my no-moustache declaration of independence (I was on tour): so you are away for 3-4 months now? My wife is a double Postgraduate in Economics. And this is in the case of a moustache. Just imagine the reactions in case of religion! This is modern India, AD 2012. A family I know has one condition for a match for their son: the girl must be fluent in Marathi.
These, and innumerable other societal pressures still operate in India. What do you think it must have been like in 1400AD? Such pressures both insulate the individual as well as erect powerful barriers to change. You see, for a Hindu, worshipping a different deity is one thing; changing your religion quite another
The Historical Perspective
Yes, there was persecution by Muslim invaders. But the people to change their religion were, by and large, the downtrodden who had a powerful motivator to change. And even among them, change was restricted to a percentage due to the caste factors and religious factors discussed above. Then, the invaders were on a mission to rule, and loot. The objective was not conversion, it was a byproduct. The noblemen and ministers in the medieval muslim rulers' courts were totally turks and other muslims from outside India. Even local muslims were not included; both local hindus and muslims were treated with contempt. India was already home to a sizable muslim community by the time the invaders arrived; the earliest Muslim community in India dates back to around The Prophet's time (The Mopillahs). Furthermore, India had massive trade links through both Sea and Land routes to the Muslim world, and there were already muslim settlers who came for trade in the Northwest, and a few other isolated pockets. Yes, conversion also happened, and is good numbers, as discussed above. Further, the main interest areas were cities for the invaders and rulers, rural India was not touched by some of these developments
Thus we can see that the interaction of these three forces ensured that India remained a predominantly Hindu country.
As regards the British non-attempts to convert, that is a myth. It is a documented fact that the British had a) full intentions to go on a massive conversion drive and b) populate India with Europeans. A note to this effect was known to have been raised in the late 1840s. This is a matter of documented record. That this did not happen is largely due to The First War Of Independence 1857 - 1859.
The longest attempted conversion was the Goa Inquisition, for a continuous period of 200 years in full brutality. Despite this, a large segment of Goanese remained Hindu - nearly 40 - 50%.
The Moghuls ruled only the northern half or 2/3 of India, not the entire sub-continent, and practiced a more tolerant version of Islam than the Arabs further West.
Consequently Aurangzeb spent virtually his entire reign subduing rebellions, and failed to create any sort of stable administration for his empire. Upon his death, the empire rapidly disintegrated.
I would like to give some historical facts:
Not only these Kingdoms saved Hindu religion, there were also regional revolutionaries who fought for defending the religion and nation. Mughals destroyed Hindu temples and built mosques on it. This was the reason why Hindus stayed in their religion and many among those who got converted forcefully, committed suicide. From time to time religious reformers were successful in reconverting them to Hinduism.
Whereas British ruled India for short period of time and they were not aggressive as Mughals. Also their intention was to get natural resources like spices. They were mostly trade oriented. But Portuguese were bit different and in Places like Goa and Calicut [Kerala] they forced Christianity. But we see some unique Persons like Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who have contributed a lot to save Hinduism. There are thousands of stories on how Hindus defended their religion from invaders.
This is a simple question, it's because Hindusim is not a religion at all.(and I hope this can be asked as a separate question) Actually it is a culture which is passed by ancient rishis and yogis in India.
Some questions proving that hindusim is not a religion.
Even if you try to convert a culture to a religion like christian or muslim it does not have a meaning at all.
Hindusim is teaching as how to live a perfect life. It do have a lot of teachings and inventions in a vast collections of books like Vedas, Upanishaths, Mahabharatha, Sreemad Bhagavatha, etc. which can be applied in our daily life.
It is vast enough to accept any religions. That's why there are many christians and muslims live in India with all their freedom.
In this world, no other country have developed this kind of culture, so they are converted to RELIGIONS,but not INDIA.
I believe it also to be of significance to the question that the British did not generally inter-marry with their non-European colonial subjects.
This was in contrast to the Spanish in Latin America, and the Philippines, who both converted (often bloodily) and inter-married. Similarly the Portuguese (someone mentioned Goa) in their colonies, and to some extent the French in Indo-China.
The British never attempted to 'settle' Asia with large white communities, probably because they had huge territories like Australia, Canada and Africa south of the Zambezi, more suitable to European settlemt. An exception was parts of East Africa, such as Kenya, which were considered suitable climatically and agriculturally for white settlement.
The relatively small British populations in Asian cities lived lives largely segregated socially from local communities. E.M.Forster's novel 'A passage to India', and George Orwell's 'Burmese Days' very aptly describe the juxtaposition of British and Asian societies of the sub-continent.
Every nation and religion has its own nature. Nature of Indian religions (such as Hinduism) is to mix with others and tolerate. This is the fundamental reason for their contunued existence for the past 5000 years. Besides the Muslims and British, India has been attacked by many other nations and all of them assimilated and became Indian later.
Muslims came to India. They forced Hindus to convert. As a result a large part of India (modern Pakistan and Bangladesh) became Muslim. At that time a socio-religious movement (called Bhakti and Sufi movement) was started by some Hindu and Muslim leaders. These prevented Hindus from converting to Islam. As a result India became the country of both Hindus and Muslims. Such leaders were Sri-Chaitanyadev (in Bengal), Guru Nanak (In Punjab), Santa Ramadash, Khaja Mainuddin Chisty (Muslim in Rajastan)etc.
In British period many Hindus were converted to Christian in Bengal, Assam and other places. Same type of movement was started which is called Indian Renessaince. In Bengal Shri Ramakrishnadeva and his follower Swami Vivekananda (called The Father of Indian Nationalism) played a creative role which prevented Hindus from becoming Christian all over India. Slowly many Christian Indians came to the main flow of Indian life.
Moreover the religious and philosophical foundations on which various Indian religions are standing is very rich. This is the main reason. Otherwise they may have become Muslim many years ago.
Although Islam and Christianity are more egalitarian than Hinduism, there was a caste system in India in both these religions. I'm a Tamilian and I know that there is a caste system among Tamil and Kerala Christians just like Hinduism. An upper caste Christian/Muslim will never marry a lower caste Christian/Muslim in India. Yet many Dalits did convert because they found these religions more attractive and less ridden with social evils which are widespread in Hinduism.
protected by Community♦ Mar 13 at 15:03
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