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DIVERSITY IN INDIA
|Unity In Diversity
India being the largest democracy in the world with a civilization more than five thousand years old boasts of multiple cultural origins. The cultural origins of the Indian subcontinent can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilizations, the remains of which are cherished even today. Since the late 16th century India was under the influence of the British Empire until 15th August 1947 the day when India gained independence. India is a land of diverse cultures, religions and communities. There is great diversity in our traditions, manners, habits, tastes and customs. Each and every region of the country portrays different customs and traditions. But though we speak different languages yet we are all Indians. 'Unity in Diversity' has been the distinctive feature of our culture. To live peacefully has been our motto and this motto has helped us to achieve independence. As history tells us that there has been active participation from people of different caste and religion. In our struggle for freedom people from different communities participated keeping one thing in mind that they all are Indians first. But unfortunately this peace and understanding among different communities has been endangered lately. India at present is facing many problems. The biggest of these is the problem of communalism. In their personal fight they are destroying their life only. In fact, it is the biggest threat to humanity and to the unity and integrity of the country.
People from different background and culture participated in India's struggle for freedom. The national leaders, particularly Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Azad and Bose had coined the slogan unity in diversity There are numerous others who were also involved. Be it Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain and Sikhs everybody had a single identity of being an Indian. It should be understood that all of us have multiple identities religious, linguistic, cultural, regional and caste identities. No one can claim single identity. One who demands single identity i.e. national identity does not recognize the reality but during India's struggle for freedom no one thought in that manner they just thought of India's independence. Modern India presents a picture of unity in diversity where people of different faiths and beliefs live together in peace and harmony. Still today also India remains one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world.
Spanning an area of 3,287,263 square kilometers, India is a vast country and includes dry desert areas, evergreen forests, snowy Himalayas, a long coast, and fertile plains.
The unique geographic demographics also hosts a unique eco-system rich with vegetation, wildlife, rare herbs, and a large variety of birds.
The Deccan Plateau -- Known as the Dravida land, the four states of South India offer a marked cultural and literary experience from that of the North.
Diversity of Religions
Virtually every major religion has a strong connection with India (including Christianity -- some people claim Jesus Christ meditated in India in his early years). Buddhism was born in India (not China), so were Sikhism, Jainism, and of course Hinduism. The Zoroastrians, the Jews (living in India since 600 B.C.), the people of Bahai faith, all are found in India in substantial numbers.
There are also numerous cults in India, each practicing their own ideologies and interpretations of the major religions.
Diversity of Languages
There is no such thing as the Indian language. By some counts there are over 200 languages in India (almost 1600, if you include dialects), with about twenty of them being very prominent ones. Imagine a nation where the population does not understand their national anthem or the President's address to the nation. That is India for you.
The Indian currency is printed in 15 languages.
Most forms (like job application, tax forms) in India are hence printed in three languages -- English, Hindi, and a prominent local language.
Diversity of Clothing and Attire
Perhaps India remains the only country where unstitched clothing is still popular. The Saree, Lungi, Dhoti, Turbans are all worn this way. It is the way of wearing it is where the styles differ.
Tailored Indian clothing includes Salwar-Kameez, collarless jackets, Kurtas, and western attires for both men and women.
Many types of headgear are prevalent in India -- these include rumals, topis, and turbans.
Diversity in Food Habits
The food habits of the one billion Indians varies by the availability of raw materials, cooking traditions, local spices, and interestingly their religious faiths. For instance, some Jain communities do not kill life to feed themselves -- including plants! This means they only consume fruits, milk and leaves only.
Many communities do not eat meats respecting the life on the animals.
Some communities define meat as "anything that moves" -- thus they consume muscles, but not fish!
Besides the staples, the spices play an important role in Indian food. There are so many spices to appeal to different parts of the body that the English language does not have adequate adjectives to describe them. For example, the hotness that touches the taste-buds is different than the hotness that makes your gums swell !
India also has a number of sweet dishes, mostly based on sugar, milk, and unbleached sugar (called jaggery in India). The Bengal is famous for its milk-based sweets.
In general Indian food is rich in oil and in spices. Rice and wheat are the primary bases for Indian food. The coastal areas fashion seafood delicacies, while the desert areas have mastered cooking with minimal use of water.
The years of foreign rule, religious movements, and spiritual discoveries in the ancient land of India has given way to a rich potpourri of social habits, festivals, and customs. To appreciate the Indian culture, an introduction to the religious heritage of India is necessary. Please see topics on the Bhakti Movement, Hinduism, Festivals, and other Topics on the Indian Culture.
India also has a very rich native or tribal culture. See topics on the life of some of the tribes of India at the Tribals of Bastar and Children of the Forest God.