India as an ancient civilization ishome to several cultures, ethnicities and languages as varied as its ownnatural bio-diversity. If one has to go by the official statistics,“recognized” by the union government of India, there are 22 major official languages,6 major religions and over 60 ethnicities in its fold – that’s in just under athird of US’ total land area. India hosts over 1/6th of the globalpopulation, a close second to China. Infact, the modern political commentatorsof the mid 20th century had spelled that it would be a miracle ifIndia survived more than 10 years post independence in 1947!
Remember, India is not under the might of any dictatorship or communist iron fist, it’s thelargest democracy with a population of over 1 billion. In India, not just themajority, but the so ethnic minorities who were natives and also the foreigncultures found their homes in it when they were persecuted at their own homes. To make things even more interesting, none of these minorities/foreign cultureslost their identity or become overpowered by India’s own native culture, everyone of them prospered. One widely asked question everyone seems to ask is how it is relatively harmonious and managed to stay together even after having so many extreme differences and reasons to intolerance. The answer to this question is never a simple or a direct one. But no harm in exploring them,right?
India at its core is a culture of genuine inclusivity. Every human grows up witnessing, understanding andmingling with other cultures around him that have different belief system, like culture, language, faith, dialect, ethnicity etc. So, if you were surprised everyday, would you be as surprised as you did on the first day? Surprises end up becoming a part of your life! Until, surprises seize to surprise you!
India as a cultural entity, despitehaving countless and mindboggling differences within is bound by a universal mother of all of its cultures that is common and cuts across all of its indigenous cultures. The degree of influences of this mother of Indian cultures can be witnessed when you span your eyes over to every country and civilization located to the east of India (From China to South East Asia to Japan and Korea!), prominently deemed as the “Asian Culture”. These cultures boast of immense gravitas being given to social value system, discipline in lifestyle, spirituality as a prominent ingredient of a daily life, an signature footprint in its culinary styles and religion – Buddhism (with its origins in India). Thus, there exists an exceptional common thread that binds every one of its culture together!
India, over several thousands of years has been an attractive destination for plunderers and conquerors from across the world for its riches! But a very peculiar aspect about India has been the fact that it had the character of an ocean that absorbed everything that was thrown at it and made it a part of its spirit, for the rest of the cultures across the world, it was either fight them off or to become them. And because India absorbed, its own indigenous cultures survived and thrived.
As mentioned earlier, in the postcolonial India it is an extremely normal sight to witness and engage with people of other cultures. It’s a “Normal” thing, to an extent where festivities of a different faith which otherwise is forbidden elsewhere in the world is celebrated with great vigor and passion, in the process engaging with people of other faiths. Tolerance and celebration of differences is a part of daily life.
“One is a relative, the other stranger, say the small minded. The entire world is a family, live the magnanimous. Be detached, be magnanimous, lift up your mind, enjoy the fruit of the universal spirit” – An excerpt from an ancient Hindu Sanskrit text “Maha Upanishad” is the testament to some of the thoughts that champions the Indian belief system even today as it sits engraved in the entrance hall of the parliament of India.“Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” literally translates into – the world is one family.
What makes a functional family special? It’s the fact that everyone stands for each other. Fight through the distress, enjoy the little and grand moments of joy! Take responsibility foreach others’ actions and stand by the value system! Stand by each other! Work towards the prosperity and wellbeing of every member of the family, and takecare of each other through thick and thin. 🙂
Throughout its history, as a testament to this belief system India has embraced and sheltered some of the most persecuted communities of the world. India remains the only place that didn’tsee even a single anti Semitic incident throughout its history. When Jews were being persecuted upon the Islamic revolution, some of the ancient sects of Jews migrated to India following the trade routes. Upon their arrival, Jews were given a hearty welcome and were allotted land in prime locations within ancient princely states, were given freedom to pursue their occupation of choice. Until recently when the state of Israel was formed and it was their time to “aliyah”(return to their holy land of Israel), Jews remained in various parts of India leading a peaceful and prosperous life.
It was the same case with the followers of ancient religion of Zoroastrianism (Irani/Parsi/Persians). Zoroastrianism, one of the major religions of the ancient world, flourished and prospered across the ancient empire of Persia. India remains the only nation that has active followers of this religion, having migrated upon Islamic revolution in the region.
India remains the only country in the world to host all of 70 sects of Islam. India again is the only place that hosts some of the most orthodox sects of Christianity, such as the Syrian orthodox Christianity and Latin Christianity.
Perhaps, that’s the reason why India’s national tree happens to be the good old Banyan Tree. A fascinating role the Banyan tree has always played through the history, is of providing refuge to avariety of fauna, from little birds to squirrels from the local ecosystem..often the unprotected ones in the nature. They find food during the harshest of summers and rain water in its crevices. The tree also nurtures the local vegetation and surrounding trees as their massive root system preserve much needed nutrition and moisture always in the soil. A mother tree.