Religion Kolkata / Calcutta
majority of the state's population is grouped under the generic
denomination of Hindu. There is a sizeable Muslim minority. The other
minority communities are Christians, Buddhist, Sikhs and Jains.
term Hindu covers a number of religious sects ranging from monotheists to
polytheists in various degrees. The religious sect with the largest
following is Vaishnavism, mainly of the Chaitanya cult. Of the minor
Bhakti cult sect, the most interesting is the Sahajiya sect, which does
not recognize the difference of caste and community and the convention of
social life. The next in order are the Shaktas and Saivas.
Hinduism in Bengal is an amalgamation of pre-Aryan sects. These influences
are evident not only among the Hindu Community but among the Muslims and
Christians in a considerable degree. The Bhakti cult, of which Vaishnavism
is a refinement, has been an ancient feature of the religious thought of
Bengal and is perhaps the strongest element in the spiritual beliefs of
the people irrespective of community.
behaviour of this plural structure of Hinduism is traditionally controlled
by the caste system with a clear-cut division between the entire Hindu
community and the other communities.
was the home of numerous castes and sub-castes, which did not confirm to
the Varna. The highest in the traditional caste hierarchy are the
Brahmins, who claim descent from pure Aryan stock.
they have had the monopoly of the priestly occupation and almost the sole
guardianship of Sanskritic learning, particularly the sacred scriptures,
until the reform movement of the nineteenth century when other castes
admitted themselves to the study of the scriptures in the original
Sanskrit and in Bengali translations. The next in order of the precedence
are the Vaidyas supposed to have evolved from inter caste unions of
Brahmins and the immediately lower castes who hereditarily practiced the
science and art of Hindu medicine.
third in order are the Kayasthas the most numerous among the higher castes
who lightly claim to be of the Kshatriya descent. Their traditional
occupation was white-collar activity - clerks, bookkeepers, scribers for
the ruling authority and the like. The Bengal Brahmins and Kayasthas are
not admitted to marriage relationship with their counterpart in other
regions. In certain late Puranas, which seem to have originated in Bengal
the Kayasthas are classed as Sat-Sudras or good Sudras.lassification but
which were arranged according to the hereditary occupations.