46 per cent Indians believe ghosts exists, 24 percent consult a palmist

93 per cent Indians believe in God

New Delhi, January 24, 2007

Here are some common beliefs about religion — Indians used to be very religious but no longer are, religion is the domain of women and the elderly, and educated and urbane India has no time for religion.

If you also thought so, it is time you took a look at the findings of the HT-CNN IBN State of the Nation Survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). Every alternate respondent in this survey — 7,670 to be precise — was asked a series of questions about their religious beliefs, attitudes and practices. The findings are bound to surprise you.

The survey found that urban, educated Indians are more religious than their rural and illiterate counterparts. Yes, women are more religious, but metropolitan women are far more religious than rural women. Predictably, the youth are a little less enthusiastic about religion. But the point is: religion in the country is on the rise.

If there is one social group that is least enthusiastic about religious practices, it is the adivasis. And if there is one group that is more religious than any other, it is upper caste Hindus who have been exposed to modern life more than others.

Consider these facts:

1) 93 per cent believe in god; education makes no difference
2) 64 per cent visit a temple, mosque or gurudwara regularly
3) 53 per cent pray daily; the educated pray more regularly
4) 46 per cent believe ghosts exist
5)  24 per cent consult a palmist
6)  68 per cent participate or take interest in religious functions of other religions

Do you think these figures reflect the rise of the BJP? Not quite. The party gets a little more than average support from among the very religious, but so does the Congress.

So what drives people to religion? Sociologists tell us that the stress of urban living pushes people to search for anchors in their lives. Since they cannot go back to their villages, they recreate a community through religion. That explains the religiosity among those who live in big cities.

In the process, religion changes from a personal experience to something that is more public and congregational. Hence, the proliferation of jalsas, satsangs and ratjagas. Market and the media play a greater role in defining religion.

Religious programmes on television are the latest vehicle for religious communication.

(Kumar and Yadav are social scientists working with the CSDS, Delhi)

Sanjay Kumar and Yogendra Yadav, Hindustan Times

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