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For children: Sikhs, the turbaned people of India

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India is one of the most intensely religious areas in the world. This might explain why in recent weeks there have been outbursts of religious tension between Muslims and Hindus in and around the city of Bombay.

Fierce clashes have also erupted between troops of the Indian government and supporters of the Sikh religion in that part of northern India known as the Punjab. This vast country, which has the largest number of people on earth after China, has many claims to religious fame.

India, for instance, was the birthplace of Buddhism. This Oriental religion, which never really took hold in India, claims about 250 million followers in the world.

India is also the motherland of Hinduism. As a world religion it ranks third with 457 million followers after Christianity (over 1 billion) and Islam (548 million).

Although only 11 percent of India's 850 million are Muslims, that is to say followers of the Islamic religion, that still makes India the country with the third largest Muslim population in the world. Only Indonesia and Bangladesh have more Muslims.

Although there are many cases of Muslims and Hindus living peacefully together in Indian villages, their religious beliefs and social customs are quite distinct.

The Muslim religion was introduced to India early in the 16th century by the Mogul emperors. It was a grieving Mogul emperor, for instance, who built the magnificent Taj Mahal temple in memory of his wife. The Mogul empire collapsed at the end of the 18th century when the Hindus, who were of Aryan background, seized power.

Nowhere, perhaps, is the difference between the two religions more startlingly different than in their views of God.


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