Unity in Diversity in India
Joined as One Nation
“United we stand, divided we fall.”
-Aesop (620-560 BCE)
The ocean’s blue waves slowly creep up to the shore and gently streak the thick sand. The crisp white-colored Himalayas extend forever into space. As you stretch your hands out wide, you can feel the elevated walls of rock tenderly run across your hands when you go into a narrow bypass. Vibrant colored flowers grow peacefully in the tiger’s kingdom. This is India, a land of multicolored landscapes ranging from the desert to the mangroves, from the tall mountains to the fertile plains and the pristine rivers to the salty ocean, where diversity stands as one. From the Indus Valley Civilization to the India today, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and many, many other religions peacefully coexist. “Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha, Dravida, Utkala Banga,” Rabindranath Tagore put the diverse spirit into our National Anthem. Unity in Diversity is one of India’s most powerful characteristics. India has proved throughout years and years of history that diversity does not pull people apart, it brings them closer together.
India’s diverse culture all starts in its’ history. India’s long history starts off with the Indus Valley Civilization. Then the Harrapan Civilization conquered, and ruled. From the Harrapan Civilization to the British rule, there were many rulers, and empires that influenced India’s diversity. The first settlers were the Aryans. They traveled from Persia (modern day Iran), and brought with them new foods, religion, and a different language. The Aryans were a part of the rainbow of diversity. The Mauryans were next in line to conquer India. They were one of the first empires in India to have a very intricate social structure and hierarchical administration. The next empire was the Gupta Empire. They ruled the Northern part of India. The people, who lived in the Northern part of India, had different customs and traditions then the people who live in the south. These empires also brought diversity into Indian culture. After all of these empires came the Mughal Empire. The Mughals were mostly Arabs from Persia and the Middle East. When they came to India, they traded lots and lots of new items. With them they also brought a new religion called Islam. One of the most prominent Mughal kings was Akbar. Akbar brought to action armies and other defense strategies. The Mughal Empire brought lots and lots of diversity into India’s already diverse culture. These empires stabilized India for the future. These empires created India’s rainbow of diversity. India’s history is layered, just like a rainbow. That is what makes it different from other countries. Each layer has a big influence on what India is today. In America, when the Europeans conquered they marginalized the natives and brought in their own culture. In India the openness of the dominant culture has traditionally embraced the culture of foreign invaders. As a result the Indian culture that evolved through the ages shows the various layers of influence.
Mahatma Gandhi supported non-violence with all his heart. In all of the marches and protests there were people of many different races and cultures and dialects. This has created an alloy where the qualities of each element remain distinct yet at the same time strengthen the qualities of the other thereby making a durable product. Present day India is replete with examples of the same. Just 6 years ago, Sonia Gandhi was elected as president. She is an Italian-born, and was raised in a typical Roman Catholic family, who is the president of India. In her presidency she was joined by Manmohan Singh, a Sikh, who was later sworn in by the next president Abdul Kalam in a country that is 80.5% Hindu.
Indian cuisine reflects this diversity. Every civilization, empire or country that has ruled or even stepped one foot in India has brought a small but powerful influence into Indian food. The Persian influence is reflected in the various meat dishes of the North. The Portuguese brought in chilies and tomatoes from the new world. This became an instant hit on the subcontinent and is today an integral part of Indian cuisine all over India and in the Indian diaspora all over the world. Present day India has embraced the fast food culture with equal enthusiasm. India’s huge variety of foods now includes McDonalds McAloo tikka burger. India’s highway of cuisine is endless and imagination is what keeps it going. India is a place in which one lifetime is not enough to experience all the things it has to offer.
Looking at India’s demographics astounded me, specifically the linguistic and religious demographics. The numbers may range from 80% to 0.1% but still that is a very large amount. India’s population today is around 1.17 billion people. The amount of people who are under the category “other religions and persuasions” are 0.6%. This number may not sound big, but it is 6,639,626 out of 1.17 billion people. India’s linguistic demographics are amazing as well. India has so many languages, and versions that are uncountable. A language has a huge history underneath the words that are spoken. Each word derives from an ancient script and comes out of the mouth like a lullaby. The basis of most Indian languages is Sanskrit, which is classified as Indo-European in origin. Hindi has a strong Urdu influence. Marathi has a large number of Farsi words. This indicates a cultural give and take that has withstood the test of time.
Though India may be mostly unified, there are a few flaws. The pristine rivers do sometimes fill deep with blood. Diversity comes with a price; it brings in new views of the world, which sometimes trigger acts that are ruthless and cruel. Inspite of these clashes, the theme endures with a unique resilience that is the grounding aspect of Indian culture. The cultural caravan has expanded as it winds its way through turbulent and peaceful times.
Diversity makes India distinctive from other places in the world. A land without diversity would be like a house without people, boring and predictable. Though that house needs more than people, it needs to have all the five senses, just like diversity. Famous leaders like Gandhi had many views on diversity. One of Gandhiji’s most famous quotes was, “I consider myself a Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist and Confucian.” This simple sentence says it all. With increasing globalization, instant communication, migration of people, beliefs and ideas there will be a non homogenous population all over the planet. This will be the changing face of the United States and the rest of the world will not be far behind. India then becomes a role model for others to follow.