Though followed by a minor portion of the Indian population, atheism has a strong tradition in India.[1]


Ancient India

Atheistic schools are found in Hinduism, which is generally considered a theistic religion. The anti-theistic philosophical Cārvāka School originated in India around 6th century BCE. It is classified as a heterodox system and is not considered part of the six orthodox schools of Hinduism, but it is noteworthy as evidence of a materialistic movement within Hinduism.[2]

Other Indian philosophies generally regarded as atheistic include Classical Samkhya and Purva Mimamsa. Samkhya, though a school in the Orthodox (Astika) variety of Hinduism, denies the existence of God or any other exterior influence.[3] However, unlike other atheist schools of thoughts, it did not deny existence of all things transcendent.[4] The rejection of a personal creator God is also seen in Jainism and Buddhism, both of which originated in the Indian subcontinent.[5]

Modern India

Bhagat Singh, one of the most well-known figures in the Indian independence movement, was an atheist.

Periyar E. V. Ramasamy (1879-1973), the leader of self-respect movement was a vocal critic of rituals, supersition and the concept of God. His words

There is no god, there is no god, there is no god at all. He who invented god is a fool. He who propagates god is a scoundrel. He who worships god is a barbarian
are written on his statues in various parts of Tamil Nadu.[6]

Goparaju Ramachandra Rao, better known as "Gora", expounded the term "positive atheism" in his book Positive Atheism (1972).[7] Positive atheism entails such things as a being morally upright, showing an understanding that religious people have reasons to believe, not proselytising or lecturing others about atheism, and defending oneself with truthfulness instead of aiming to 'win' any confrontations with outspoken atheophobes.

Gora organized the First World Atheist Conference in 1972. Subsequently, his Atheist Centre has organized several World Atheist Conferences in Vijayawada.

Other notable Indian atheists include

Hindu atheists

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the president of Hindu Mahasabha and the founder of the Hindutva movement, was also an atheist.[11] He did not define "Hindutva" by religion, and used to publicly advertise lectures on atheism and non-existence of God.[12]

Shreela Flather, Baroness Flather of Windsor and Maidenhead, the first Hindu woman in British politics, described herself as a "Hindu atheist".[13]

Atheism in Kerala


The Yukthivadi was the first atheist/rationalist magazine published in Malayalam.

There is a sub-group of atheists in Kerala who are members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). There are others who support atheism because of rationalist ideals: these include supporters of the Indian Rationalist Association. Some notable atheists from Kerala include Sahodaran Ayyappan V. S. Achuthanandan, A.K. Antony, Sreeni Pattathanam, Abu Abraham, A. K. Gopalan, Mookencheril Cherian Joseph, Joseph Edamaruku, Sanal Edamaruku, and Abraham Kovoor and Johnson Eyeroor.Sanal Edamaruku the founder-president of Rationalist International and the president of the Indian Rationalist Association is an atheist from Kerala. The Kerala Yukthivadi Sangham is an organization that supports atheism and rationalism in the Malayali community throughout Kerala. The Yukthivadi was the first atheist/rationalist magazine published in Malayalam.The atheists and other non-religious groups such as agnostics only make 1% of the population in Kerala.


According to the Dentsu Communication Institute Inc, Japan Research Center (2006), 6.6 % of Indians stated that they had no religion.[14]

See also


  1. Evans, Robert (12 February 2004). "Atheists, Humanists Push Campaign for 'Darwin Day'". Reuters. "In India, where humanism and atheism have a strong tradition and are not so distant from traditional Hindu thought, which rejects "ultimate truths," rationalists are alarmed at the rise of an aggressively militant version of Hinduism." 
  2. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore. A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy. (Princeton University Press: 1957, Twelfth Princeton Paperback printing 1989) pp. 227–249. ISBN 0-691-01958-4.
  3. Dasgupta, Surendranath. A history of Indian philosophy. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. p. 258. ISBN 81-2080412-0. 
  4. Muller, Max. The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy. p. 279. ISBN 9781406770094. 
  5. Joshi, L.R. (1966). "A New Interpretation of Indian Atheism". Philosophy East and West 16 (3/4): 189–206. doi:10.2307/1397540. 
  6. Atheism in South India
  7. Rao, Goparaju (1972). Positive Atheism. Vijayawada, India: Atheist Centre, Patamata, Vijayawada, India. 
  8. Anti-Hindu rhetoric nothing new for atheist DMK chief
  9. Maharashtra Times
  10. Jaya Bachchan in Sarkar Raaj?, India Times, 18 April 2008 (accessed 21 April 2008)
  11. Nandy, Ashis (2003). Time Warps: The Insistent Politics of Silent and Evasive Pasts. Delhi: Orient Longman. pp. 71. ISBN 9788178240718. OCLC 49616949. 
  12. Kumar, Pramod (1992). Towards Understanding Communalism. Chandigarh: Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development. pp. 348. ISBN 9788185835174. OCLC 27810012. "VD Savarkar was publicly an atheist. Even when he was the Hindu Mahasabha leader he used to publicly announce and advertise lectures on atheism, on why god is not there and why all religions are false. That is why when defining Hindutva, he said, Hindutva is not defined by religion and tried to define it in a non-religious term: Punyabhoomi." 
  13. BBC News
  14. (Japanese) English source requested

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