India is one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world.
It is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism which are known as the Dharmic religions. Hinduism and Buddhism are the 3rd and 4th largest religions in the world with over 2 billion followers.
All these religions share some common rituals, traits and beliefs such as the concepts of karma (action or deed), dharma (duty), samsara (continuous flow of the cycle of birth, life, death and reincarnation), moksha (release of the soul from the cycle of samsara and end of all suffering) and yoga, though the interpretations may vary.
They also share the concept of cremation of the dead known as antim samskara or ‘last rites’; wearing of vermilion on the forehead by married women, as well as several marriage rituals.
Buddhism was originally founded by Siddhartha Gautama (Gautama Buddha) a Kshatriya prince turned ascetic somewhere between the 6th and 4th century BCE. Buddha meaning ‘the enlightened one’ taught ‘the Middle Way’ as the path that when followed leads to liberation.
Ancient Buddhist rock cut cave shrines located in Karli near Lonavala, in the state of Maharashtra, India about 150km from Mumbai. The oldest cave dates back to around 160 BC.