UNITY IN DIVERSITY
India is a country of many ethnic groups, a land of myriad languages, veritable babble of tongues and numerous modes of apparels and countless mannerisms. For the most part, the continental dimensions of the country account for these variations and diversities.
The diversity itself, far from being a damaging cause of disunity and weakness, is a fertile source of strength and wealth. Sir Herbert Risley 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”. From his long and first-hand experience in India Vincent A. Smith says that the civilization 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 a 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 theatre of its activities. India is not a mere geographical expression, nor is it a mere collection of separate people, traditions and conventions. India is more, much more than that.
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 sub-continent to make us what we are and what we will be. There were Dravidians in India before the coming of the Aryans and the Hinduism is a blend of cultures of the North and the South.
India has one hundred and fifty dialects and fifteen recognized 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 recognized as the National Language of India.
India has a rich cultural heritage. We are inheritors to several grand treasures in the Melds 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 store houses of spiritual wisdom. Our saints and rishis aspired for the realization of the infinite. We have inherited great spiritual values in contrast to the materialistic progress of the West. The West has lot to learn from India, and it has now been realized 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 Festival of India in various parts of the world. The West is fast turning 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, the caves of Khajuraho, Ajanta and Ellora which are shining examples of India’s proficiency in sculpture and architecture. Our music enjoys world wide popularity.
Indian classical music, like the Indian dances is built on the concepts of “ragas” and “talas”. Each “raga” is regarded appropriate to a certain emotion, a certain mood, suitable for a certain time of the day or the night. It is believed that there are 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 gulf 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 dance as well as classical dances of great virtuosity. Throughout India dance is regarded not merely as an accompaniment to social intercourse, but also as a mode of aesthetic expression and spiritual realization. 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 more than two thousand years. It was performed in palaces and in temples.
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 generations to uphold this torch of cultural unity for the rest of the world to see, follow and emulate. They should not get dazed by the superficial prosperity and material achievements of the West.