How Does Hinduism Affect Indian Society?

Modern Indian society has been shaped by the core spiritual beliefs of Hinduism, the religion practiced by 80 percent of the nation's population of 1.2 billion people. According to Fordham University Professor of Economics, Hrishikesh Vinod, Ph.D., as stated in a June 2011 global economics conference, ancient Hindu beliefs can encourage good deeds and individual responsibility in society, but could also lead to a belief in "fate" that may not be fully conducive to economic growth.

According to Subramanian Swamy, Ph.D., India's former minister of commerce, law and justice, a new economic perspective that changes the goal of material gain to one that includes spiritual rewards can be shaped by Hindu values. Also a presenter at the June 2011 global economics conference, Dr. Swamy said that a belief in "Karma calculus" assures Hindus that reward or profit will come during their lifetimes if they lead good lives.

The question of segregation by caste, a legacy of ancient Hinduism, remains an issue in Indian society that has not yet been fully resolved. Although there is a blurring of the formerly entrenched caste distinctions in the urban areas, the "untouchables," or Dalits, require greater political rights and protections for continued self-reform. Although both globalization and urbanization are breaking down the remnants of the caste system, the future remains uncertain regarding what Hinduism's role as a spiritual and cultural force will be when and if the distinctions of caste are completely abolished.

The transitioning of segments of the Indian population from a rural life into the new urban existence has resulted in a rift between the older, traditional Hindu communal lifestyle of deep religiosity and the new individualistic and more secular city environment. The transition is not always a smooth one and has, on certain occasions, erupted into communal violence when the differences between "what is left" and "what will be" are unsuccessfully negotiated.