Although India presents a scene of great local cultural diversity, in the study of religion the subcontinent may be viewed as a single large field of social action. Within this field new movements are constantly arising, whose practices and ideas interact with others and penetrate from one section of the subcontinent to the other, filtering across deep political and social barriers. Thus in ancient times Brahminical Hinduism spread south from the Northwest, and Hinduism and Jainism, originating in the Northeast, followed closely upon its path. In medieval times the various bhakti movements which arose in South India spread northward, but have continued to play an important part in the life of all regions. Similarly reform Hinduism, born under the impact of contact with the West, affects areas far from its points of origin.

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