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India's culture is marked by a high degree of syncretism and cultural pluralism. India's cultural tradition dates back to 8000 BCE and has a continuously recorded history for over 2,500 years. With its roots based in the Indus Valley Tradition, the Indian culture took a distinctive shape during the 11th century BCE Vedic age which laid the foundation of Hindu philosophy, mythology, literary tradition and beliefs and practices, such as dhárma, kárma, yóga and moksa.
Pakistani society is largely hierarchical, with high regard for traditional Islamic values, although urban families have grown into a nuclear family system because of the socio-economic constraints imposed by the traditional joint family system. Recent decades have seen the emergence of a middle class in cities like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Hyderabad, Faisalabad, Multan and Peshawar.
Sri Lanka has a multi ethnic and multi religious population. Buddhism constitutes the religious faith of about 70% of the population of the island, most of whom follow the Theravada school of Buddhism. According to traditional Sri Lankan chronicles, Buddhism was introduced into Sri Lanka in the 2nd century BCE by Venerable Mahinda, the son of the Emperor Ashoka, during the reign of Sri Lanka's King Devanampiyatissa.
The overwhelming majority in Nepal follow Hinduism. Shiva is regarded as the guardian deity of the country. Nepal is home to the largest Shiva temple in the world, the famous Pashupatinath Temple, where Hindus from all over the world come for pilgrimage. According to mythology, Sita Devi of the epic Ramayana was born in the Mithila Kingdom of King Janaka Raja.
Bangladesh was founded as a secular state, but Islam was briefly made the state religion, before returning by decree of the High Court to the principles of its 1972 constitution. The High Court also strengthened its stance against punishments by Islamic edict (fatwa), following complaints of brutal sentences carried out against women by extra-legal village courts. Bangladesh has the fourth largest Muslim population after Indonesia, Pakistan, and India, with over 130 million.
Afghans are over 99% Muslims and 1% other. The region around Nuristan was known as Kafiristan (land of the kafirs) because of its inhabitants: the Nuristani, an ethnically distinctive people who practiced animism, polytheism and shamanism. Up until the mid-1980s, there were possibly about 50,000 Hindus and Sikhs living in different cities, mostly in Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad, and Ghazni.
Bhutanese population follows Vajrayana Buddhism, which is also the state religion. About one quarter to one third are followers of Hinduism. Muslim and non-religious communities account for less than 1% of the population. The current legal framework, in principle guarantees freedom of religion; proselytism, however, is forbidden by a royal government decision. Buddhism was introduced to Bhutan in the 7th century AD.
Islam is the only official religion of The Maldives. The open practice of all other religions is forbidden and such actions are liable to prosecution under the law of the country. A small but growing number of Maldivians do question their faith, using the internet as a means of communication but rarely in a public way.
Many religions are practised in Burma. Religious edifices and orders have been in existence for many years. Festivals can be held on a grand scale. The Christian and Muslim populations do, however, face religious persecution and it is hard, if not impossible, for non-Buddhists to join the army or get government jobs, the main route to success in the country.