India: Land of Diversities
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 11 Oct 2021
India is a nation of extensive diversities — religious, cultural, economic and geographic to name a few. From the point of geography we have extreme weather conditions — very hot deserts and very cold regions such as Siachen where the temperatures may fall to minus 30º C. We also can take pride if one may use this expression, of having the rainiest region in the state of Meghalaya ( region of clouds) in our Northeast.
On a religious front we have not only large populations of people believing in several religions — Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism but also a few others such as Arya Samaj, Dev Samaj. There are also small number of people who fled from their own lands on religious grounds and sought refuge in India. The temples or places of worship of these faiths are beautiful and display all forms of architecture.
Linguistically we have 22 languages officially recognised by the Constitution and countless smaller regions’ specific languages, especially in the tribal regions of several states: Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, parts of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar , Andaman & Nicobar islands, and so on. These states have their specific cultures, deities, songs & dances, and attires that the locals wear.
Urban dwellers have a tendency to call tribals primitive, but in fact they have very rich cultures and flexible lifestyles that have allowed them to survive for centuries in their so called primitive conditions.
Another northeast state of India is Arunachal Pradesh, which has more than twenty distinct tribal languages and cultures. One is the Wancho tribe that lives in the hilly parts of Longding district of the State. Most people living in other parts of the country know very little of this State and its tribes — how they live and how they survive as India embarks on the road of development into remote areas.
A film called The Head Hunter, which won the best film award in the Wancho language a few years ago, has partly dispelled our ignorance of these peoples.
The basic issue of the film is to show the contrast and conflict between the local head hunter and a young educated man who wants the people to ‘modernise’ and accept modern development. But development at what cost– by uprooting local traditions and customs? Even the local dress that is part of their culture is mocked at since it looks so odd and strange from our perspective.
This conflict is not confined to only Arunachal but is representative of the conflicts that modern developments highlight. We feel we are educated but we need a sensitivity to appreciate local cultures, their songs and dances and their indigenous lifestyles.
In fact, their so-called primitive methods have helped our environment not to deteriorate to a more dangerous level. These tribes often have social interaction that prevents the excessive social and economic rich/poor divide seen in many countries, including in urban areas of our land.
One may mention that modern technology is also very diverse — from an ordinary tube light to powerful WiFi that allows us to know about the world as well as about our own remote areas. The smart phone that has evolved over the years is a powerful gadget that allows us to do several tasks — writing, sending messages, sharing photos, doing calculations and knowing about unknown facts with the help of Google and others. In these days of COVID19 pandemic, schooling and attending college have been replaced by online learning/teaching.
There is a say that suggests we should encourage unity in diversity. By and large, India survives by this ideology. Let us all promote this aspect of life.
Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: Culture, India
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 11 Oct 2021.
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