India, a country of many ethnic groups, is a land of myriad languages, a veritable babel of tongues and numerous modes of apparel. For the most part, the continental dimensions of the country account for these variations and diversities. Besides, there are several religions, sects and beliefs. But there are certain common links and uniting bonds that people have sought to develop in order to achieve the eminently desirable goal of unity amidst diversity.
It is true that superficial observers are likely to be bewildered by the astonishing variety of Indian life. They fail to discover the one in many, the individual, in the aggregate; the simple in the composite. With them the whole is lost in its parts. What is needed is the superior interpretation, synthesis of the power of the mind that can give rise to a vision of the whole.
A keen penetrating insight will not fail to recognise the fundamental unity beneath the manifold variety in India. The diversity itself, far from being a damaging cause of disunity and weakness, is a fertile source of strength and wealth. Sir Herbert Risely has rightly observed: “Beneath the manifold diversity of physical and social types, languages, customs and religions which strike the observer in India, there can still be discerned a certain underlying uniformity of life from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin.”
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From his long and first-hand •experience in India, Vincent A. Smith says that the civilisation of India “has many features which differentiate it from that of the other regions of the world, while they are common to the whole country in degree sufficient to justify its treatment as a unity in the history of human, social and intellectual development.”
Even the early Indian history unmistakably shows that the political consciousness of the people has from the very early times, grasped the whole of India as a unit and assimilated the entire area as the theatre of its activities. India is not a mere geographical expression, nor is it a mere collection of separate peoples, traditions and conventions. India is much more than this. The best proof lies in the fact that Indian history has quickened into life.
India has many races, castes, sub-castes, nationalities and communities, but the heart of India is one. We are all heirs to a common and rich culture. Our cultural heritage consists of our art and literature as they flourished centuries ago. Our cultural heritage serves as a bond of unity between people of different faiths and creeds.
The streams of different cults and cultures have flowed into our subcontinent to make us what we are and what we will be. There were Dravidians in India before the coming of the Aryans and Hinduism is a blend of the cultures of the North and the South.
India has one hundred and fifty dialects, and twenty two recognised regional languages, but Hindi, like English, has come to stay as the lingua franca of our nation. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Mumbai to Nagaland, Hindi is now understood and is recognised as the national language of India.
India has a rich cultural heritage. We are inheritors of several grand treasures in the fields of music, fine arts, dance, drama, theatre and sculpture. Our sages and seers have left behind a tradition of piety, penance, spiritual greatness, conquest of passion, etc. Our scriptures are the storehouses of spiritual wisdom. Our saints and rashes aspired to the realisation of the Infinite. We have inherited great spiritual values contrasted with which the materialistic progress of the West appears insignificant.
The West has to learn a lot from India, and it has now been realised when people in the United States and Europe are turning to the Indian way of life. Indian yogis and maharishis, musicians and spiritual leaders, have all attracted them in a big way. A significant move to project India’s cultural unity has been the holding of Festivals of India in various parts of the world. The West is fast inclining towards our spiritual values which include meditation and contemplation, charity and love, universal brotherhood and fear of God, piety and unselfishness, control of passions and peace of mind.
Our cultural unity is further exemplified by the temples of the South and of Khajuraho, the caves of Ajanta and Ellora, which are shining examples of India’s proficiency in sculpture and architecture. Our music has come to enjoy worldwide popularity.
Indian classical music, like the Indian dances, is built on the concept of ragas and talas. Each raga is regarded appropriate to a certain time of the day or the night. There are believed to be about 250 ragas in common use in the North as well as in the South. In the modern times, people like Ravi Shankar have taken Indian music to the West and thus bridged the gap between the music of the East and the West.
Other significant features of India’s cultural unity are the variety, colour and the emotional richness of its dances. The country abounds in tribal dances, old-dances as well as classical dances of great virtuosity. Throughout India, nee is regarded not merely as an accompaniment to social intercourse, but also as a mode of aesthetic expression and spiritual realisation.
The great symbol of dance is Shiva, the Cosmic Dancer, depicted in sculpture and poetry as Nataraja. Similarly, the classical theatre in India has a history of more than two thousand years. It was performed in palaces and in temples. The classical plays combined music and dance. Tragedy was, and is, still discouraged otherwise; the range of themes covered is wide.
It is this strand of cultural unity running through the country that we are heir to, and to which people in the West are increasingly turning now. It is up to the younger generation to uphold this torch of cultural unity for the rest of the world to see, follow and emulate, and not get dazed by the superficial prosperity and material achievement of the West, where man has set foot on the Moon in his quest for space travel, but finds himself isolated in his own society and community.
India is a land of diversity in race, region, caste, language, mate, landform, flora and fauna and so on. From ancient time till day India has repaintained this diversity from very ancient time. Mature has shaped the country so. Rightly this land has been termed as "the epitome of the world." The fundamental diversity in India is gleaned from the following.
India is a vast country with great diversity of physical features. Certain parts in India are so fertile that they are counted amongst the most fertile regions of the world while other are so unproductive and barren that hardly anything car be grown there.
The regions of Indo- Gangetic Valley belong to the first category, while certain area of Rajasthan falls under the later category. From the point of view of climate, there is sharp contrast. As Minoo Massami has said that, "India has every variety of climates from the blazing heat of the plains, as hot in places as hottest Africa-Jacobabad in Sindh- to freezing point (the Arctic cold of the Himalayas).
The Himalayan ranges which are always covered with snow are very cold while the deserts of Rajasthan are well known for their heat. The country also does not get uniform rainfall. There are certain areas like Cherapunji in Assam which get almost 460" of rain -fall per year which is considered to be world's highest record on the other hand, Sindh and Rajasthan get hardly 3 inches of rainfall per- year. This variety in climate has also contributed to a variety of flora and fauna. In fact, India possesses richest variety of plants and animals known in the world.
India possesses a rich variety of races. In view of this variety Prof. V.A. Smith says, "From the human point of view India has been often described as an ethnological Dr racial museum in which numberless races of mankind may be steadied."
"The vast population of India consists of the jungles tribe (Hence Bhils, Kols, Santhals), the Greeks, the Sakas, the Kushanas, the Hunas, the Mongolians, the Arabs, the Turks, the Afghans etc. The physical features and color of the Indian people also differ from region to region- While the people of Kashmir are handsome and fair in complexion, these qualities are missing among the habitants of Assam.
India not only possesses racial diversity but also linguistic diversity- It is said that almost 400 languages are spoken in India. Some of the prominent language recognized by the constitution includes, Assamese Bengali, Gujrkti, Hindi, Kannad, Kashmiri, and Malayalam. Marathi, Or Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Terrill, Telgu and Urdu. In fact it is commonly believed that in India the language changes after every four kooks. There is not only variety of languages but also variety of scripts in India some of the popular scripts in ancient times were Pali, Kharosthi Devnagri, etc. What is really striking is that almost all these language- possess their own literature which differ a great deal from each other
Religious and social Diversity:
In the religious sphere also India possesses great diversity. Almost all the principal religions of the world like Brahmanism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam and Christianity are found here. Most of these religions are further sub-divided into various sects and divisions.
For example, Buddhism is divided into Hinayana and Mahayana; the Jainism is divided into Digambaras and Septembers and the Brahmanism is divided into the Vaishnavas, Shivas, Shaktis, Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj etc. In addition the primitive men have their own peculiar cults which are quite distinct from these major religions. Thus we can say India possess completely diversity on religious sphere.
In the social sphere also the general customs and manners of the people greatly different. People of different regions use different types of dresses. Their eating habits and customs are also quite different. Certain people are quite civilized while other are yet backward in their customs. Thus we find as Radhakumud Mukherjee has put it, "India is a museum of cults and customs, creeds and cultures, faiths and tongues, racial types and social systems.
The diversity in culture, races, language, religion etc. greatly stood in the way of political unity in India. As a result from the earliest times, India has been divided into several independent principalities. The rulers of these principalities were always engaged in wars with each other for supremacy. This disunity and friction was fully exploited by the foreign invaders to bring India under their subjugation.
No doubt certain rulers like Chandra Gupta Maurya, Ashoka, Samudra Gupta, Ala- ud- din Khiliji and Akbar had subjugated these principalities and established strong empire but they were only handful of the rulers who could accomplish it. For most of the time India presented the spectacle of a divided country. Even under this mighty rulers a real unity could not be established both due to the lack of means of communication and transportation as well as national consciousness. In short, we can say that really speaking India could never be united politically.
In this way diversity pervades on the whole of Indian subcontinent. This diversity is so much so that a foreigner will simply stare at this. Anyway, such diversities are not the hallmarks of Indian culture. The main theme of this culture is unity which absorbs all the diversities.