Hinduism is a major world religion originating on the Indian subcontinent and widely practiced throughout Southeast Asia. Hinduism comprises various philosophies, beliefs, and rituals. The four largest denominations of Hinduism are Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. Hinduism, more so than any other religion, accepts and celebrates that truth or reality cannot be encapsulated and must be sought in multiple sources.
Many Hindus strongly believe that tolerance is the central religious virtue and consider Hinduism to be a way of life more than a religion. This notion is reinforced by the vast differences between the various branches of Hinduism, as well as the fact that Hinduism has no founder and no single universally accepted central god or prophet. Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include the four puruṣārthas, the proper goals or aims of human life. These are Dharma (ethics/duties), Artha (prosperity/work), Kama (desires/passions), and Moksha (emancipation, self-realization, and to some Hindus the liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth/salvation). Additionally, Hinduism is shaped by five elements: doctrine, practice, society, story, and devotion.
Hinduism is the third-largest religion worldwide, with approximately 1.2 billion Hindus in many different countries. Oddly, Hinduism is the dominant religion in only three countries—but one of the three happens to be the second-most-populated country in the world, India, (78.9%). The other two countries are Nepal (80.6%) and Mauritius (48.4%). Although Hinduism is rarely a country's primary religion, it still enjoys a global presence. Many regions around the world support significant populations of Hindus, including the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, North America, and South America.
India, unsurprisingly, has the largest Hindu population in the world at nearly 1.094 billion, comprising a full 78.9% of India's massive population. Additionally, about 95% of the world's Hindus live in India. The majority of Hindus in India belong to the Shaivite and Vaishnavite denominations. Nepal has the second-highest Hindu population with 28.6 million, which is 80.6% of the country's population. Hinduism played a large role in Nepal's history, which was the only Hindu state in the world until 2008. Hinduism in Nepal differs from that in India in three ways: Hinduism and Buddhism are not separated from each other in local populations, there are no influences of Islam, and there are no influences of Bhakti traditions.
Bangladesh has the third-largest population of Hindus at almost 13.8 million. Hinduism is the second-largest religious affiliation, comprising about 8.2% of the population, while Islam is the largest religion, comprising about 90% of the population. Despite having a relatively large number of Hindus, Bangladesh has seen a steady decrease in the Hindu population since 1940, where the percentage of the total population was 28%. With a Hindu population of more than 4.2 million, Indonesia has the fourth-highest Hindu community in the world. Indonesia is predominantly Muslim (90%), with only 1.6% of Indonesian people practicing Hinduism. The Bali island in Indonesia has the largest number of Hindus living in Indonesia, with more than 83% of its population being Hindu. A few years after gaining independence from the Dutch, the Indonesian Ministry of Religion came under Islamists' control, who defined religion as monotheistic. As a result, Indonesia denied rights of citizenship to individuals who did not belong to a monotheistic religion; therefore, the Balinese Hindus adopted their form of Hinduism to be monotheistic. Balinese Hinduism is a distinct type of Hindu worship that incorporates local animism, ancestor worship (Pitru Paksha), and reverence for Buddhist saints (Bodhisattva).
Pakistan has nearly 4 million Hindus, comprising 1.9% of its total population. Hinduism is Pakistan's second-largest religion behind Islam. Hinduism, as well as Buddhism and Sikhism, has been on the decline in Pakistan for centuries. Non-Muslims in Pakistan have faced discrimination and persecution with the rise of the Muttahida Majilis-i-Amal (MMA), a coalition of Islamist political parties that have taken a specific anti-Hindu stance. Additionally, the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan has further influenced the anti-Hindu attitude and increased persecution of Hindus and all non-Muslims. The religious discrimination and persecution in Pakistan have many Hindus looking to India for safety. Hinduism is the oldest religion in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has the sixth-largest Hindu population at 3.09 million, comprising about 13.7% of its people. Sri Lankan Hindus are almost exclusively Tamils, the oldest ethnic group in Sri Lanka, with some immigrants from India and Pakistan making up the rest of the Hindu population. Most Sri Lankan Hindus follow the teachings of Saiva Siddhanta while some follow Shaktism.
The United States has the seventh-largest Hindu population in the world of 2.51 million, comprising 0.7% of its total population. Roughly 90% of American Hindus are immigrants and the children of immigrants, with the remaining 10% being converts. Hindu-Americans hold the highest educational attainment level among all religious communities in the United States. Hindu concepts, such as karma, veganism, reincarnation, meditation, yoga, and Ayurveda, have become popular in the U.S. mainstream, believed and practiced by millions of non-Hindus. Hinduism also has the highest retention rate of any religion in the U.S., with 80% of adults who were raised as Hindus continuing to adhere to Hinduism. Malaysia has about 1.94 million Hindus, about 5.8% of the country's total population. Hinduism arrived in Malaysia when Indians began to settle there during the ancient and medieval eras, and most Hindus still live in peninsular Malaysia. As in some other countries with large Islam populations, Malaysian Hindus face institutionalized persecution due to discriminatory laws that blatantly favor Muslims. The Malaysian authorities have destroyed hundreds of Hindu temples, and religious violence against Hindus is common.
The United Kingdom has the ninth-largest Hindu population in the world with 1.03 million Hindus. This is about 1.6% of the U.K.'s total population. Hinduism was present in the United Kingdom as early as the 19th century, when the British Empire had control over India. Most of India's Hindu migration to the U.K. came in massive waves during four main periods after World War II. According to the United Kingdom's Office of National Statistics, British Hindus have the highest economic activity of all ethnic minorities in the U.K., and Hindu men are more likely than the general population to be entrepreneurs. The country formerly known as Burma rounds out the top 10 with 890,000 Hindus, roughly 1.7% of the population. Hindus in Myanmar have adopted several concepts practiced by the country's more than 41 million Buddhists, including statues of Buddha in their Hindu temples. The exchange has been mutual, however, as Hindu influence can be seen in everything from Burmese architecture to the origin of the names Burma and Myanmar.
The five countries with the most Hindu followers are India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan.
Only India and Nepal have a majority of Hindu followers. Hindus in India make up 78.9% of the population. In Nepal, 80.6% of the country is Hindu.