India. The word to some conjures up images of snake charmers, half-naked fakirs, tigers and exotic food; to others it brings up an image of a spiritual people with deep, mystic religious beliefs; and to yet others, it represents a place of poverty, of a people divided by caste, communalism and ethnicity. To my mind, India is all this, and much, much more...
This modern nation of more than 900 million people, the second most populous in the world, is the world's largest democracy- one devoted to Liberty, Equality, and Justice in all spheres of human life. On August 15, 1947, India awoke from the slumber of oppression under foreign rule to become an independent democratic republic and took its rightful place among the nations of the world. Governed for more than four decades under socialist principles, India recently took to the road of liberalization and market reforms and is beginning to emerge as another one of the dynamic major Asian economies.
India, of all nations, is hardest to define, to stereotype. Those who only see one side of its many faces and close their eyes to the others cannot even come close to comprehending the essence of India. This essence which I speak of is really a principle- the principle of "Unity in Diversity".
It has been stated by historians that "no civilization anywhere in the world with the probable exception of China has been as continuous as that of India. ...the ideas emanating from Vedic times continue to be a living force." Indians feel in their lives a continued link with the past through their traditions and customs. There are an estimated 800 languages spoken all over the nation. People in India speak many different toungues, may wear different clothes, eat different foods, and have diverse customs and traditions. Many faiths are represented in the land that gave birth to some: Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastranism, Buddhism, Jainism... Through the centuries India has displayed often its tolerance and ability to absorb foreign elements into the fabric of its own diverse culture. Through all this there is a very noticeable thread of Indianness that binds all this diversity into the unity that is India. But it is really hard to define what this Indianness is.
India has, since time immemorial had great achievements. In Religion, Philosophy , Science, Art, Sports and other fields, Indians have excelled again and again. The thoughts of men like the authors of the Upanishads, Buddha, Mahavira, Sankara, Guru Nanak, Kabir, Tagore, Gandhi and countless others have inspired not only Indians but people all over. Indians like Raman, Chandrashekhar, Khorana, Bose, Ramanujan have made significant contributions to science and Mathematics.
Yet it is not to be denied that the land of the Mahatma is also the land today where communal hatred, caste divisions, ethnic tensions, poverty and corruption prevail. We all have a long way to go. The ambition of the greatest man of our century was to wipe every tear from every eye. So we still have promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep. India has much to offer and teach others, but we also have much to learn.
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