Thursday, August 16, 2007

India’s Greatness

What is the greatness of this country if there is one such greatness?

According to me, it is the ability to allow its citizens to be what they are. India houses one of the most diverse populations on this planet, allowing them to live the way they want to live.

Take religion, for example. There is no other country on this planet which houses so many different religions in such huge proportions. India is, at the same time, #1 home to World’s 3rd largest religion (Hinduism), #2 home to World’s 2nd largest religion (Islam), #1 home to World’s two other major religions (Sikhism and Jainism). Most western nations that tout their secular principles fail to uphold their test of tolerance when compared with India. Most of these nations ask for conformity from its minorities. Their do not allow you to express yourself ‘freely’. For example, Ireland forbids Sikhs from wearing turban in its Army. England disallows Muslim women from wearing veil in its schools. France disallows Muslim kids from wearing scarves at schools. All this is done to achieve what they call ‘integration’. According to these nations, conformance to habits or customs of the majority is considered integration. On the other hand, India has a Sikh regiment where Sikhs proudly wear their turbans in the Army, it allows its Muslim woman doctors to wear a veil, and it allows its Muslim girls to wear scarves in schools. In India, there is no need to conform to the customs or habits of majority (with some exceptions of late). India’s unity and integration comes from allowing and preserving its diversity, which seems to be alien to most Western secular and democratic nations.

In languages, India is #1 home to six of the top 20 languages of the world and also has a huge population that speak English. [The same applies to India’s diverse cultures, customs, traditions, food habits and dress habits].

There is no other country on this planet where such diverse populations are living together. India is so unique in this respect that no other nation comes close to India. Come to think of it, India completely defies every rule on how a nation-state should be formed. Its people do not have anything in common ‘universally’ to make it a nation-state. No common religion, no common language, no common ethnicity, no common history, and no common ideology. Its people are all different from another in every way imaginable. The only thing that binds them together to make this a nation is that they all want to be part of India to live together (with some exceptions).

So, what makes one an Indian? It’s his wish to be part of India, nothing more, nothing less!

23 comments:

  1. Sujai: You missed Zoroastrianism. India has the largest # of parsis in the world.

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  2. This is your best article ever, period.

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  3. Is wearing a veil and the turban right or wrong if it is going to lead his future children into the same path that _they_ went through. (Right or wrong in terms of worldwide prosperity and happiness.)

    Completely offtopic, but if you get around to writing about this, I would

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  4. Regarding India's tolerance for diversity compared to Western secular nations, I don't think that the reasons are always that noble. It is most probably either because of indifference or fear of hurting sentiments or appeasement.

    For example, what is the logic behind allowing kirpans on flights when I am not even permitted to carry a nail clipper in my carry-on?

    Also, as though our streets are not noisy enough, we have both temples and mosques blaring prayers and what not all the time to the whole neighborhood. Of course, we don't have noise ordnances because we don't want to hurt religious sentiments.

    Plus we allow polygamy for Muslims while it is illegal for every other community. I am sure that had female circumcision been prevalent in India, we would have essentially turned a blind eye to it, since what they do within their community is entirely their business. Plus we don't want to hurt the sentiments (and lose votes) of their community.

    And a few months ago, there was a procession of completely nude Digambara Jain men in my neighbourhood , which led to the embarassment of everyone around. Surprisingly enough, they were escorted by police to protect them! I am questioning, if I decide to walk nude in public tomorrow, wouldn't I get arrested? Then how come, in the name of religion, people can get away with stuff that are normally considered offences?

    We cannot have two sets of laws for people based on religion or culture. I think this is what Western govts strive to acheive.

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  5. Did you change the font. It's quite unreadable in google reader.

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  6. 1. "... There is no other country on this planet where such diverse populations are living together. ..."

    This is not a competition, but how about USA? Very diverse, different nationalities, widely varying visually prominent differences in appearance (more than you find in India) and pulling along pretty well I would think, perhaps better than we are (no serious separatist movements, for example).

    2. Forgive the pessimism, but I do wonder if some of the unity_in_diversity we celebrate is actually due to apathy / indifference.

    No approval of the difference is implied by the mere presence of difference, only a lack of strong disapproval (strong enough to create explicitly discriminatory behaviour).

    regards,
    Jai

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  7. Ledzius:

    I agree with you when you say that
    "I don't think that the reasons are always that noble. It is most probably either because of indifference or fear of hurting sentiments or appeasement."

    However, it goes without saying that India has indeed absorbed many cultures throughout time and gave refuge in this country- may be, because of apathy as you say. Parsis found home here. Tibetans found home here.

    In most other places, only one religion dominated when all others were cleanly wiped out.

    For example, what is the logic behind allowing kirpans on flights when I am not even permitted to carry a nail clipper in my carry-on?

    ;-) No logic!

    Also, as though our streets are not noisy enough, we have both temples and mosques blaring prayers and what not all the time to the whole neighborhood.

    Indeed, it is quite annoying! Another idiotic practice is not to demolish a religious place even if it is lying right in the middle of the road.

    Then how come, in the name of religion, people can get away with stuff that are normally considered offences?

    In the name of religion, certain people are allowed to take drugs. In the name of religion, animal sacrifices continue to happen. In the name of religion or caste, women are paraded naked as a punishment.

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  8. Jai:

    I still maintain that "... There is no other country on this planet where such diverse populations are living together. ..."

    USA does not score over India in this respect. Please understand that I was talking about diverse populations living in great proportions. For example, US is predominantly Christian, and speaks mostly English (with only other language being Hispanic), with almost same cuisine and couture across the country.

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  9. atm:
    I am not sure if I changed the font.

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  10. And how many communal/religious riots have USA or France seen when compared to India? There is a reason why people of all religions are integrated - it's not a random decision. The reason so many different religions are able to live in India is probably because of Hinduism, though there's also the ugly side of VHP/BD.

    -chirkut

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  11. >>There is no other country on >>this planet where such diverse >>populations are living together.

    Sujai, I to ohave a problem with this. Singapore, a tiny island state, has palpably more diversity in it with its multiple races - Chinese, Indian and Malay. These races are more dissimilar to each other than any of those in India. Even in culture they are vastly different from each other.

    And in the book Third Chimpanzee, Jared Diamond gives examples of diversity from New Guinea that makes India appear uniform.

    ~ Vinod

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  12. Vinod:

    And in the book Third Chimpanzee, Jared Diamond gives examples of diversity from New Guinea that makes India appear uniform.

    Jared Diamond is speaking of genetic diversity. For example, two neighboring African tribes are more different from each other (genetically) compared to an Indian and a Scandinavian.

    I was speaking more of cultural diversity.

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  13. >>I was speaking more of cultural diversity

    Sujai, Diamond mentions the diversity in languages in New Guinea and even on that count it beats India hands down

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  14. Vinod:
    May be this is off topic, but such diversity in languages comes about from isolation. These tribes, even though they live close to each other geographically, are actually living in isolation from each other, and hence the diversity. This diversity is a byproduct prolonged isolation.

    The diversity I am talking about is little different. Most of the civilized world has common roots, and yet have gone on divergent paths. In India, people rub shoulders with each other, live in the same vicinity, and follow their own cultural heritage without having to conform (as I said, there are lot of exceptions to this).

    Singapore and US are extreme examples. They have given room only to those immigrants who are 'qualified'. This gating criteria kind of filters the people who want to make it to Singapore or US. If US takes in the whole population of Rwanda, then it make a different case. If Singapore take the complete population of Manipur without making a decision criteria, then it would make a different case.

    I do not consider US and Singapore as valid examples for this comparison.

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  15. Sujai
    I think then Diversity canbe measured in different ways. In your way of measuring it, India is first. But from a simple literal meaning, India is not the most diverse.

    ~ Vinod

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  16. Sarve bhavantu sukhinay, sarve santu niramaya (May all beings be happy, may all beings be healthy) - Happy New Year 2008 to all Sujai fans.

    - Bodhiswaha.

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  17. India is diverse and tolerant untill provoked is because of Hindus and Hinduism....

    no other country can talk of that ...

    to give an example of new guinea is really absurd ...

    it has a population of some 7-8 million ...

    mostly are tribal people ...

    so they have quite some way to go to move to religion and modern science and so forth ...

    there has to be some uniformity in laws ...

    like no polygamy for any relgion .. if someone wants to cover themselves it really is their choice ...

    Hindus are slowly but surely moving away from that islamic tradition ... which got into India during the moslem rule ...

    India has to remain a predominantly Hindu society to keep its tolerance alive ...

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  18. best article....india rocks

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  19. India or the Republic of India is called "Bharat" in her national language Hindi. Bharat is derived from the sanskrit word "Bharata" which is composed of two root words. "Bha" which means light and Knowledge and "rata" means devoted. That is India and the people who inhabit India are defined by their devotion to light and knowledge as opposed to darkness and ignorance. This relentless pursuit of truth by the people who inhabit India since time immemorial is what makes India so special and great in world.
    India is the only place in the world where one is encouraged, cherished and respected to sit and do nothing!!!!. It is the only place in the world where renunciation of this world is given an equivalent, no infact an higher place than action (by definition even thinking without doing any physical activity is considered action). India knows the simple and yet profound secret that the true knowledge and true liberation can be had only when one is at peace with ones own self. So, whenever external forces who do not understand the true spirit of India, threatened India and her peace, one of her innumerable swamis, sannyasis, fakirs, yogis or baabas has come to her rescue and protected her people. (Gandhiji and swami vivekananda are the most recent examples...swami vivekananda one of India's foremost nation builders was a wandering monk and Gandhiji was a half naked fakir/sannyasi !!! who stood against the British empire! proving again and again those immortal words uttered by krishna in Bhagavadgita.."whenever my people are threatened by immoral and irreligious behavior my cosmic spirit will manifest by the power of itself into a body and protect the righteous". India believes in universal toleration and is refuge to people across the world who are persecuted in their own countries.

    So, if you want to truly understand India go in the spirit of a renunciate, an ascetic and understand her spiritual nature. If you go in expensive clothes and try to talk only pigs, cows, bulls, buffalos and dogs will stare at you. But, if you go as an ascetic and renouncer of the world and talk to people about metaphysics and mysteries of the world they will bow to you, respect you and follow you with infinite devotion, love and affection.

    Oh my India, I just want to roll and rub my nose in your dust across the length and breadth of your great land.

    Jai Hind

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  20. I think that the best feature of India is the ancient civilizations that once ruled there, many ancient ruins are there, and more are yet to be found.

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  21. WEST is nothing more than a piece of shit when compared with India.

    India is the only country in this planet to have direct connections with GOD.

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  22. INDIA is the heavan of earth.

    every western country is jealous of us.

    after all we showed growth during recession

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  23. india is the only country in the world which is home to nearly 125 languages,100+ cultures and india is the birth place of hindusim,buddhsim,jainism,sikhism and also a home to christianity,islam,zoorasanism,judaism,parsi. the most diverse,the most cultured and the most united nation in the world.
    "India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all".
    --Will Durant, American historian
    "India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only."
    --Mark Twain, American author
    "We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made."
    --Albert Einstein, American scientist

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