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South Asian religions, an introduction

South Asia is the seat of many of the world’s great religious traditions, most notably Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.
Seated Buddha from Gandhara, c. 2nd - 3rd century C.E., 95 x 53 x 24 cm, Pakistan, © Trustees of the British Museum
Seated Buddha from Gandhara, 2nd - 3rd century C.E., schist, 95 x 53 x 24 cm, Pakistan
 © Trustees of the British Museum
Buddhism was established in the fifth century B.C.E. by the Buddha or "enlightened one." However it was not until the third century B.C.E. that Buddhism enjoyed royal patronage under the Mauryan kings—notably Ashoka—and spread to all parts of the subcontinent. Buddhism continued to flourish in subsequent centuries, reaching South East Asia in the fifth century C.E. and Tibet in the seventh.
Mahavira—the "great hero" —was a contemporary of the Buddha and founder of the Jain faith. This religion, with its emphasis on harsh asceticism, has been less popular than Buddhism and did not spread beyond continental South Asia. Nonetheless it has survived to the present and through the centuries has enjoyed strong support from the merchant and banking classes. The artistic heritage of Jainism is thus especially rich.
Hinduism has very ancient roots but began to assume its mature form only in the fourth century C.E.  The most characteristic features of mature Hinduism are the worship of divine images and the construction of temples to house these images. Hinduism has a vast pantheon of male and female deities but pre-eminent among them are Shiva and Vishnu.
Although indigenous religions dominate Indian history, it is important to note that Christianity was established in India in the first century when the apostle St. Thomas travelled east. Islam too became a significant force in south Asia from the early eighth century.
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© Trustees of the British Museum

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  • starky sapling style avatar for user Niki
    who is ashoka?
    (0 votes)
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  • spunky sam blue style avatar for user Tsewang Palmo
    I want to learn about all the religion and their main teachings. How do i find it out on Khan Academy?
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Krishnan L Narayan
    I disagree with the characterization of Hinduism given here in the synopsis. Recent archaeological evidence (see, for example, History of Ancient India, Portraits of a Nation by Kamlesh Kapur) indicates the contributions made by ancient India to the civilization of mankind, stretching from way back to 3067 B.C, right after the Mahabharata war. Has this course been peer reviewed by other researchers in the field and updated with current data?
    (1 vote)
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  • male robot hal style avatar for user Deadpool
    - I thought Muslim religion was famous but it only says Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Why?
    - It says Jainism was large in India. But, Jainism is only 0.36 percent of the total population of India. Why?
    (2 votes)
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    • piceratops seedling style avatar for user Liz Williamson
      The historical artefacts associated with Jainism are a significant part of India's artistic and cultural heritage, which is why a historical overview of Indian art will include them prominently even if the religious make-up of contemporary India has changed.

      For the art of the Mughal Empire (the Islamic dynasty which ruled India from 1526–1540
      and 1555–1857), the Khan Academy provides a considerable amount of information in the Arts of the Islamic World unit. This article is discussing religions which originated in South Asia, which does not include Islam.
      (2 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user sriharish.padmanabhan
    this article states that hinduism matured in the fourth century. will someone please correct the writer and ask him/her to publish his/her sources?

    we have a responsibility to publish accurate information, especially in the education space because scores of young peoplerely onit and form deep rooted impressions based on what is published.

    i hence request the writer to abstain from personal biases and publish information based on credible,authentic source.
    (2 votes)
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  • hopper jumping style avatar for user ASach14
    I want to see more information
    (1 vote)
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  • leaf blue style avatar for user Wasay
    why isn't islam one of south asias religion
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Robert  Kotak
    pretty sure Sikhism, a religion larger than jainism, is worth mentioning as it started in India and is actually unrelated to hinduism unlike Jainism and Buddhism. Why is it not here?
    (1 vote)
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  • aqualine sapling style avatar for user chloe
    could you put up information about modern indian culture like chlothes work school ,things like that please.
    (0 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Venky V
    On what basis did author say 'Hinduims' matured 400AD? Can you furnish the sources.
    Hinduism concepts like 'karma' 'moksha' are it's basic tenants through which other religions like Jainism, Bhuddism evolved. This article is highly misleading.
    (1 vote)
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