The Republic of India is a vast and populous country in South Asia that touches three major bodies of water (the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal) and shares a land border with Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. It is the seventh-largest country by area and has the second-largest population in the world (over 1.3 billion people). India has a wealth of history and culture, and it is home to the beginnings of four world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. India became an independent nation in 1947, having gained its independence from the United Kingdom after the non-violent resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi. The government of India is a federal constitutional republic, divided up into 28 states and 8 union territories.
Although India contains an extensive array of religions, it is traditionally and predominantly a Hindu nation. Eighty-one percent of the people of India align themselves with Hinduism, filling the country with the worship of countless different false gods and idols. Islam is also a very significant religion among the Indian populace (14 percent), and India has the third most Muslims of any nation in the world.
It is reported that Christianity arrived in India in the first century. According to the tradition, the apostle Thomas and Apostle Bartholomew visited India to evangelize the people. Pantaenus from Alexandria and John the Persian followed in the second and third centuries respectively. Later in the medieval period, many Roman Catholic and Jesuit missionaries arrived in India, but mainly for political and commercial gain. India was a land of trading that was rich in diamonds, pearls, and spices. These resources caused other nations to fight for political control over India. Portuguese, Dutch, Mughals, and the British played a major role in trading and politics in India.
The British did not encourage any missionary activities for a long time. It was only after the 17th century that protestant missionaries from Germany, Britain, and America arrived and establish mission centers in India. Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg, William Carey, and others played vital roles in translating the Bible into native languages, evangelizing the people, and planting churches all across India. They abolished evil practices, educated people, cared for the sick, preached the gospel, and influenced the nation for good. However, many of the influential Indian leaders resisted them. After India received its Independence in 1947, the ruling party excommunicated foreign missionaries out of India and discouraged any Christian activity. Persecution towards Christians began to rise. Christian missionaries and pastors were killed and their properties taken or destroyed. This trend continues even today, where there is a rise of nationalistic pride among Hindu extremists, who see Christianity as a western religion that is destroying Indian culture. However, in spite of the increased violence against Christianity, the church continues to press forward in India.
With over 400 languages spoken and 2,379 entire people groups that are considered unreached with the Gospel, India can legitimately be argued as the greatest missionary challenge in the world.
Sources: Wikipedia, Joshua Project, and Operation World