Diversity of India and Its People
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 29 Aug 2022
India is a vast country with a population of about 1.37 billion. If we consider the population of entire Africa with so many countries being about 1.4 billion, we see that the two populations are approximately equal. The world population is about 8 billion with the Chinese population being the highest; however, the Indian population is expected to surpass it in a year or two.
India is a vast country with a long coast, 28 states and 8 regions that are called Union Territories, which include the capital city Delhi. The largest state, UP (Uttar Pradesh) has a population of about 230 million. India also has the world’s coldest and hottest places. Also, the wettest region is located in the state of Meghalaya (region of clouds) in the northeastern part of the country .
With such a large area, and so many states, it is not surprising to know that culturally and linguistically India is extremely diverse. India has 22 official languages with Hindi being the largest spoken and understood language. The official languages comprise not only the southern languages (Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam) but also Sanskrit, Nepalese, Sindhi languages spoken by a few speakers. There are also several tribal languages spoken in various parts of mainland India and also in the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the sea of Bay of Bengal, roughly equidistant from Bangladesh and the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
We all know that India was colonised by England for about 200 years — India won its freedom from England only in 1947 with the struggles of Mahatma Gandhi and several other eminent people. Pakistan was also created at that time. In addition to domination by England, two foreign powers had also colonised small regions of the country. These were Goa colonised by Portugal on the western coast of India and a small territory of Pondicherry in the southern part of Tamil Nadu. One can see their distinctive architectural features even today. France gave up its territory voluntarily but Portugal had to be driven out by Indian forces in 1961.
Apart from such geographic diversity , there are also several religions in the country. A large group of people follow Hinduism; we also have vast number of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains. In addition there are followers of a few small religious faiths — Dev Samaj, Parsee, Baha’i etc. The number of Muslims is second largest in India (highest in Indonesia) and largely belong to the Sunni denomination.
One can see Christianity flourishing in the country with beautiful churches and cathedrals. Some educational institutions — at school and College levels also have small pretty churches built within these academic institutions. In addition to Christian churches and many Hindu temples, one can see many splendid gurdwaras of Sikhism with the Golden Temple in Amritsar (on the Indo Pakistan border), being a fantastic place of worship. Some of the Sikh places of worship are located in the territory of Pakistan.
While Islam came to India from the western countries — Turkey, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, UAE etc, the movement of Buddhism from India was towards the East — Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Japan, China etc. Buddhist temples are often known as Pagodas. Interestingly, Japan constructed a small beautiful Buddhist temple — Peace Pagoda near Darjeeling in northeast of India. There is a very large and mentally soothing temple — Angkor Wat in Cambodia built by Indian architects and craftsmen. It has several pillars with dancing damsels (Apsaras) etched on them. This magnificent place is recognised as a heritage temple by UNESCO.
As discussed above, the above features of India are splendidly diverse. What about the People?
There are different races of people in India — Chinese, Tibetan, Negroid and those that seem to have migrated from Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey etc. How do people having different aspects of religion, culture, language, live together in India? By and large, they live peacefully and share humanitarian traits that are common to all. We are happy that these are derived from peaceful religious values such as those of Bhagwad Gita and are a window of togetherness and unity for the world at large. To know more, come to this ancient land of India that simultaneously follows the modern values of democracy and peaceful coexistence.
Indian educational and cultural systems allow its citizens to pursue various paths — in mathematics, science and technology, music, dance, politics and what not. The country has produced brilliant mathematicians, rocket scientists, artists, film makers etc demonstrating the depths of their achievements in diverse fields. A few persons have obtained international awards — Nobel awards and Booker prizes. But one should not be carried away by these achievements. There are innumerable avenues for people to excel and work for the benefit of the nation and its people as did Mahatma Gandhi and countless others.
I end my essay with the salutation to the country: Jay Hind
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. email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 29 Aug 2022.
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