Every year, Hindus around the world celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights. The festival lasts for five days and Indians mark it with gifts, prayers and many sources of light including lamps, candles and fireworks. This Diwali, some Hindus are also celebrating the appointment of Rishi Sunak as the first Hindu Prime Minister of the UK.
With Diwali celebrations and Sunak’s transition underway, here are some facts about Hindus around the world, taken from a Pew Research Center survey of India conducted in 2019-2020, our 2021 study on the composition religion of India and other sources.
The Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to take a closer look at the world’s Hindu population, the vast majority of whom live in India. Much of the analysis is based on the June 2021 report “Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation”, based on a survey of 29,999 adults across India, the most comprehensive and in-depth exploration of Indian public opinion to date. Here are the questions used for this report, along with the answers, and its methodology.
In addition, this analysis uses previous work from the Pew Research Center projecting world religious populations from 2010 to 2050 (“The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050″), analyzing the religious composition and rates of fertility of India since independence (“Religious composition of India”), comparing the level of education worldwide by religion (“Religion and education in the world”) and analyzing the evolution of the sex ratio in India “The sex ratio at birth in India is beginning to normalize”). Together, these four reports drew on more than 2,000 data sources, including censuses and various surveys. Additional information on the methods used can be found in the Methodology section of each report.
More than nine out of ten Hindus in the world live in India. There are more than 1.1 billion Hindus in the world and around 94% of them live in India, according to Pew Research Center projections for 2020. Eight in ten Indians (79.8%) identify as Hindus, according to the country’s 2011 census. Far fewer Indians belong to other religions, including Islam (14.2%), Christianity (2.3%) and Sikhism (1.7%).
The largest Hindu populations outside India are in Nepal – the only other Hindu-majority country in the world – and Bangladesh. In the UK, UK government statistics show that Hindus make up just under 2% of the population in England and Wales. In the United States, they represent less than 1%, according to the 2014 Religion Landscape Study by the Pew Research Center.
Almost all Hindus in India celebrate Diwali, but many also celebrate Christmas. More than nine in ten Indian Hindus (95%) celebrate Diwali, while around one in five (17%) say they participate in Christmas festivities and 7% say they celebrate Muslim Eid, according to the 2019-2020 Pew study Research Center. investigation. (In the United States, 95% of Indian American Hindus celebrate Diwali, according to a 2012 survey.)
Diwali is one of the most popular religious festivals in India and is also celebrated by large majorities of Jains (98%), Sikhs (90%) and Buddhists (79%), as well as significant minorities of Christians (31%). and Muslims (20%).
The vast majority of Indian Hindus believe in God (98%), including eight in ten who say they believe in God with absolute certainty. Even though Hinduism is sometimes referred to as a polytheistic religion, very few Hindus (7%) believe that there are multiple gods, according to the Center’s 2019-2020 survey. The prevailing view, shared by 61% of Hindus, is that there is one God “with many manifestations”. About three in ten Indian Hindus (29%) simply say, “There is only one God.”
The survey asked Hindus who say they believe in God which god(s) they feel closest to, seeking to gauge the concept of ishta devata (“personal god”). The vast majority of Hindus chose more than one god or indicated that they had many personal gods. Hindus most often feel close to Shiva (44%). About three in ten Hindus say they feel closest to Ganesha (32%) and Lakshmi (28%), and 17% of Indian Hindus feel closest to Lord Ram – three deities commonly honored during Diwali.
Many Indian Hindus regularly perform puja – a worship practice that often involves praying and making offerings to deities. Most Hindus in India perform daily puja at home (55%). Fewer Hindus practice puja daily in temples (20%). Hindu women are much more likely than men to perform daily puja at home (64% vs. 47%), but there is no gender gap when it comes to performing puja in temples (20% versus 21%).
Four out of ten Indian Hindus believe in reincarnation. Although reincarnation is a common teaching in Hinduism, less than half of Hindus express their belief in this teaching. College-educated Hindus are slightly less likely than others to say they believe in reincarnation (34% vs. 41%).
Hindus in the United States and Europe are among the most educated religious groups where they live. Hindu adults in the United States have an average of 15.7 years of formal schooling – a full year longer than the next most educated American religious group (Jews) and almost three years longer than the average American adult. (12.9 years), according to a 2016 Pew Research Center analysis. Similarly, the average level of education of Hindus in the UK is higher than that of other British adults (13.9 years compared to 12.2 years ). These differences reflect the fact that religious minorities are often more educated, on average, than a country’s majority, especially when the minority group is largely foreign-born and comes from a distant country.
In India, Hindus are among the least educated groups: 39% of Hindu adults have 10 years or more of schooling, compared to 48% of Sikhs and 47% of Christians, according to India’s National Family Health Survey 2019-2021 .
Almost two-thirds of Indian Hindus (64%) say it is very important to be Hindu to be truly Indian. A majority of Hindus (59%) also say that speaking Hindi is crucial to being truly Indian.
These beliefs about Indian national identity are strongly reflected in political views and levels of support for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is sometimes said to prioritize Hindu interests. About half of Hindus who say they voted in the country’s 2019 elections say they voted for the BJP (49%), but support for the BJP is considerably higher among those who say being Hindu and speaking Hindi are very important to be truly Indian (60%). Although this group of Hindu BJP voters may see a special place for Hindus in India, they are just as likely as other Hindus to say that respecting other religions is crucial to being truly Indian.
jonathan evans is a research associate specializing in religion research at the Pew Research Center.