Amidst the underlying diversity and prowling political chaos, India continues to survive as one nation with its homogenous constitution, an extraordinary unanimity and permeable divide. India as a country has witnessed so much since its territorial existence including invasions, colonial rule, socio-political upheavals, financial crisis, to name a few. Though 1947 sketched its periphery as a nation, India had already prepared to endure its distinguished make. Whether it is democracy, patriotism or secularism that integrates the country is an interminable discourse. Despite distinguished linguistic and cultural demographics, what is the common thread that weaves India as a nation? While research indicates a plethora of commonalities, here we discuss the eminence of a few hues that paints the Indian canvas into one amalgamated image.
Script: It is said that most languages traces its foundation from the common Brahmi script. These scripts are known to be found in Ashoka edicts, whose descendants comprise the Sarada script used in Kashmir, while the Siddham script has been used for languages in east India such as Bengali, Assamese. The other southern Brahmi script is said to be used in lettering Telegu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam.
Language: Languages across India use the same set of vowels and consonants relaying in the same order. Though there are multiple languages and these primarily impact the grammar formation, most languages draw a lot from a common vocabulary.
Calender: Indian cultures mostly follow a consistent calendar that projects the significance of “Rashi” and “Nakshatra”, especially when we refer to the Hindu calendar. When we closely look at the Hindu calendar in different Indian languages, it could be seen in most parts of India that the year commences from the spring season. Though the names could appear different, the rest of the division is same.
Festivals: Name a festival and Indians celebrate it with optimum fervour. While cultures across India revel in diverse religious festivities, these celebrations also include observance of nationally and globally significant days like Independence Day, Republic Day, Gandhi Jayanti, Environment Day, World Aids Day and so many relevant occasions determining the country’s solidarity.
Social systems: The existence of myriad cultures is said to stem from a common social system built on Jati and propped with Varna. For instance, while there are uncountable rituals, most marital customs and traditions are broadly consistent across the nation.
So how did India subsist while several other countries with cultural diversities could not?
It is worth questioning if other secular states with their underlying ideologies and political secularism can match up to India’s solidarity. The Indian model of secularism derives heavily from the predominant inter-communal practices and the Indian Constitution as appropriately interpreted. Firstly, practice of multiple religions usher commitment to compound values like that of liberty, equality, peace and toleration between communities. Secondly, the boundaries between states and religions and languages are porous, allowing the state to intervene in religions through multiple roles like that of granting aid to educational institutions or religious communities seamlessly. Though there is no establishment of religion, public recognition is accorded to all religious communities. The state ideally does not intervene or inhibit religious practices as long as it displays respect for other practices of co-existing religious communities. One of the significant factors that pertain to India’s constitutional secularism is that it allows decisions on such matters to be contextually reasoned by the judiciary or to be discussed within the dynamics of democratic politics. As some scholars pointed out, “Indian secularism is an ethically sensitive, negotiated settlement between diverse groups and divergent values.”
Some factors that saliently contributed to its survival include:
1.The legacy of struggle for the country’s Independence against the British rule as the entire movement was premised on national cohesion and patriotism among Indians.
2.The framers of the Indian Constitution have a major role to play in the survival of democracy. Despite several attempts, the fundamentals of the constitution remain unaltered.
3.The Indian Union has been much guarded by the efficient Indian Civil Service and the incessant devotion and integrity guaranteed by the Indian Armed Forces.
Even though it may appear as miniscule, several cultural elements like the practice of Yoga, admiration for sports like Cricket, popularity of Bollywood, global role in education and occupations and many such elements have an immense contribution in India’s sustained foothold on the international diaspora.
When we discuss diversity, we know that a Gujarati is different from a Tamilian. The question is whether we are all that different? While Balaji is worshipped in the south, its avatar Hanumanji is worshipped in the north. Every community is a little different from the other. We perceive that a Muslim is slightly different from a Hindu; a Hindu distinct from a Christian, but even a Gujarati Hindu is different from a Telegu Hindu. When a country with a pre-dominant religion does not declare itself a “Hindu-Rashtra”, it lives up to its constitutional definition of secularism.
Today, India is more open to people’s interest and ideas, valuing democratic pluralism and impregnable by the external world. While the relatively equal parity that unfolds within diversity ensures equal significance to empowerment of all regional and cultural groups, it does not entirely eliminate disputes between hegemonies across regions or states. Incidences of conflict between warring ethnic groups as well as against vulnerable minority segments are not unheard of. Strains are as much prevalent; however, an internal mechanism restores the equilibrium from time to time, making India stand tall as a harmonious entity.
Article by Rochita.