Religion in Maharashtra is characterized by a diversity of religious beliefs and practices. Maharashtra possesses six of the world's major religions; namely Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity and Sikhism. Throughout Maharashtra's history, religion has been an important part of the state's culture.
The Constitution of India declares the state to be a secular republic that must uphold the right of citizens to freely worship and propagate any or no religion or faith. The Constitution of India also declares the right to freedom of religion to be a fundamental right.
Hindus form 79.83% of the state's total population as per 2011 census and Hinduism plays an important role in the lives of the Maharashtrian people in their day-to-day life. Ganesh is the most popular deity amongst Marathi Hindus, followed by Krishna in the form of Vithal. They also worship the Shiva Family deities such as Shankar and Parvati. The Warkari tradition holds a strong grip on the local Hindus of Maharashtra. The public Ganesh festival started by Lokmanya Tilak in the late 19th century is very popular. Marathi Hindus also revere Bhakti saints, such as Dnyaneshwar, Savata Mali, Tukaram, Namdev and Chokhamela and Banjara, Rashtrasant Tukdoji Maharaj (Sant as well as Philosopher), Sant Gadge Maharaj (Sant as well as Philosopher) and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (Spiritual leader of Buddhist and dalits).
Islam is the second largest religion in the state, with 12,967,840 adherents comprising 11.54% of the population, per estimates. Eid-ul-Fitr (Ramzan Eid) and Eid-ul-Azha (Baqar Eid) are the two most important Muslim festivals in the state. The overwhelming majority of Muslims in the state are Sunnis. The population in the state is both highly urbanised, and is spread across different regions. Significant Muslim populations can be found in Marathwada, Khandesh, and Mumbai-Thane belt. The Vidarbha, Western Maharashtra and Konkan regions also house sizeable Muslim populations. The urban character of the community in Maharashtra can be seen from the fact that Mumbai, the capital city of Maharashtra, is approximately 18.8% Muslim per the Census. Similarly, Nagpur, the second capital of Maharashtra, has population that is 11% Muslim. In Aurangabad City, Muslims form 30.79% of the population. Muslims also form a majority in towns like Malegaon and Bhiwandi.
Buddhism is the third largest religion in the state. Buddhism accounts 6% in Maharashtra's total population. 6,531,200 people are followers of Buddhism in Maharashtra as per 2011 census. Maharashtra account for 77.36% of all Buddhists in India. Most Marathi Buddhists are followers Navayana Buddhism of the Dalit Buddhist movement, a 19th and 20th-century Buddhist revival movement in India that received its most substantial impetus from Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar who called for the conversion of Dalits to Buddhism to escape a caste-based society that considered them to be the lowest in the hierarchy.
Jains are a major group in Maharashtra. Jain community census for 2011 in Maharashtra area was 1,400,349 (1.25%). They are mostly concentrated in the urban cities in Western Maharashtra.
The vast majority of Jains in Maharashtra originate from the Marwad and Mewad regions of Rajasthan and from the state of Gujarat. There is a tiny indigenous Marathi Jain community in Maharashtra. Rulers of Maharashtra from the 1st millennium CE such as Rashtrakuta and the Chalukya were followers of Jain religion. Along with Hindu and Buddhist caves, there are a number of Jain caves at the ancient cave complex of Ellora.
Christians account for 1,080,073 or 0.96% of Maharashtra's population. Most of the Christians are Catholics and Protestants. There are also Goan, Mangalorean, Keralite and Tamilian Christians in the urban pockets of Mumbai and Pune. There are two ethnic Christian communities in Maharashtra:
There is a sizeable Sikh population in Maharashtra, with the 2011 census indicating 223,247 or 0.20% adherents.Nanded, the second largest city in the Marathwada region (after Aurangabad), is an important holy place for the Sikh faith and is famous for the Hazur Sahib Gurudwara. Haz?r S?hib ("presence of the master"), also spelled Hazoor Sahib, is one of the five takhts (seats of temporal authority) in Sikhism. Located on the banks of the River Godavari, it is where the 10th Guru, Gobind Singh died. The Gurudwara within the complex is known Sach-Khand, "Realm of Truth". At a stone-throw distance from the Hazoor Sahib Gurudwara, there lies the Langar Sahib Gurudwara which is very famous for its grand Langar. In all the city has 13 major Gurudwaras with historic significance. There is a significant Sikh population in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Nashik and Aurangabad.
There are two Zoroastrian communities in Maharashtra.
The Bene Israel ("Sons of Israel") are a strong community of Marathi Jews originally from villages in the Konkan region who migrated in the late 17th century to the nearby cities, primarily Mumbai, but also to Pune, and Ahmedabad. Prior to these waves of emigrations and to this day, the Bene Israel formed the largest sector of the subcontinent's Jewish population. The native language of the Bene Israel is Marathi and Hebrew. Most Bene Israel have now emigrated to Israel, Canada and other Commonwealth countries. Before the great migration after Indian Independence this community numbered at least 80,000.