Maharashtra is the third largest state in
the country on account of its area and population. Maharashtra is flocked
by people belonging to all the religions. The main religion found is
Hinduism. Being an important trade and commercial centre owing to its
geographical location has aided in the diversity of religions followed,
because of the inhabitants having come and settled from all over the
Apart from having the ubiquitous followers of Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, the state also has believers of Judaism, Zoroastrianism and even some of the oldest religions followed by the tribals of Maharashtra.
The Bhakti Movement in Maharashtra dates back to 1290 AD
when Inameshvar (1275-96) composed his commentary on the "Bhagavad
Gita". Apart from Inameshwar, Ram das and Tukaram are the other two
people whose teachings influenced the Maharashtrians. The "Bhakti"
movement had a deep impact on the Maharashtrian, and caused the up-lift of
Maharashtra (and consequently, of India) to a higher level of capacity,
both of thought and action.
Long prevailing evil customs like polygamy, Sati, caste oppression, infanticide, etc. are much less visible here than elsewhere. Thus, it can be easily analyzed why modern Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, etc. are able to manifest unified spiritual virility and material prosperity despite the presence of all kinds of religious faiths and beliefs.
The oldest religion in Maharashtra is that of the tribal people of the state who follow their conventional beliefs, religious practices and rituals and their own totems. Most of the tribals are animist and many of their rites of worship involve the tiger or even the cobra. They are also known to worship the moon. These tribals live in the distant hills, aloof from any human civilization. There are about forty tribes in the state out of which twenty-two are considered dominating.
Hinduism is the main religion and large number of the population belongs to this religion. There are many temples dedicated to Hindu gods and Lord Ganesh is the patron to Maharashtrian's. All the Hindu festivals are celebrated in the state with religious fervor.
Maharashtra has a large Muslim community and so many mosques can be found in almost all cities in the state. Islam was brought to India in the 8th century by traders and missionaries and it became widely followed during the Mughal period (1526-1857 AD). Islam is based on the teachings of Prophet Mohammed of 'Makkah'. Islam is strictly monotheistic and anti - idealistic.
The Christian community in Maharashtra comprises both Roman Catholic as well as Protestant. Christianity came to India Circa 55 AD, when St. Thomas a Christian missionary landed on the eastern coast of south India. There are many churches in Maharashtra of which a few even dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Portuguese ruled the region. Churches in Bassein and Pune are architectural delights.
A very important religion born in India and followed today by one- third of the world's population. In Maharashtra from around 5th to 7th centuries Buddhism was so popular that the World Heritage sites of the exquisite world-renowned Ajanta and Ellora caves were built at that time. Apart from these there are also the Buddhist caves at Karla, Kanheri, Bhaja and Bedsa and many other temples, monastries and stupas carved out of rock, which stand evidence to the popularity of the religion. At present there are many Buddhist temples in Maharashtra. Do not forget to visit the Buddhist temple at Worli.
This is an ancient religion founded in India by Lord Mahavir, based on the sanctity of life and non-violence. An important pilgrim centre for the Jains in Maharashtra is 'Bahubuli Ji', where the Swetambars have a temple on top of a hill and the Digambars have theirs lower down, inside which is a giant figure of Shree Bahubali, the first prophet of the Jains. There is another Digambar Jain Temple near Osmanabad and also a shrine of Shantisagar Maharaj.
In the 15th century, Sikhism - one of the recent faiths in India - was founded in Punjab by Guru Nanak. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion that believes in tolerance. Sikhs oppose the worship of idols and caste distinction. In Maharashtra also, there is a notable number of Sikhs. Their place of worship is called a Gurdwara (Gate of the Guru or Master). One of the largest Gurdwaras is at Dadar in Mumbai.
The Bene Israel Jewish group that fled from Palestine in around 175 BC found shelter on the West Coast of India. In Maharashtra, one can see Judaism but the percentage of this population is very less. The Bene Israel speak the state language - Marathi and they have also embraced many local customs and festivals of the state. Apart from the one in Pune, there are several other synagogues in Alibag, Thane, Revdanda and also in Mumbai. The 'Keneseth Elyahoo' synagogue in the Mumbai's Fort area is an old and famous one.
The Zoroastrian religion is as ancient as some 8,000 years back. It is followed by the Parsis, who came to the western coast of India in 636 AD after fleeing from Persia, which in turn had come under the power of the Arabs. The Parsis first settled to the north of Maharashtra in Sanjan and later moved to Thane near Mumbai, in around the 8th century. In the 10th century they built 'Agyari' (a fire temple), in Cheul. There are many fire temples spread all over Maharashtra and Mumbai has many of them.