The Variety And Unity Of India
Written by -Jawahar Lal Nehru
The diversity of India is tremendous; it is obvious; it lies in the surface and anybody can see it. It concerns itself with physical appearance as well as with certain mental habits and traits. There is little in common, to outward seeming, between the Pathan of the North-West and the Tamil in the far South. Their racial stocks are not the same though there may be common strands running through them; they differ in face and figure, food and clothing and of course, language. In the North-West Frontier Province there is already the breath of Central Asia, and many a custom there, as in Kashmir, reminds one of the countries on the other side of the Himalayas. Pathan popular dances are singularly like Russian Cossack dancing. Yet with all these differences there is no mistaking the impress of India on the Pathan, as this is obvious in the Tamil. This is not surprising for these border lands and indeed Afghanistan also were united with India for thousands of years. The old Turkish and other races who inhabited Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia before the advent of Islam were largely Buddhists and earlier still, during the period of the Epics, Hindus. The frontier area was one of the principal centers of old Indian culture and it abounds still with ruins of monuments and monasteries and, specially, of the great university of Taxila, which was at the height of its fame two thousand years ago, attracting students from all over India as well as different parts of Asia. Changes of religion made a difference but could not change entirely the mental backgrounds which the people of those areas had developed.
Differences, big or small can always be noticed even within a national group, however, closely bound together it may be. The essential unity of that group becomes apparent when it is compared to another national group, though often the differences between two adjoining groups fade out or intermingle near the frontiers, and modern developments are tending to produce a certain uniformity everywhere. In ancient and medieval times, the idea of the modern nation was non-existent and feudal, religious, racial or cultural bonds had more importance. Yet I think that at almost any time in recorded history, an Indian would have felt more or less at home in any part of India, and would have felt as a stranger and alien in any other country. He would certainly have felt less of a stranger in countries which had partly adopted his culture or religion. Those who professed a religion of non-Indian origin and coming to India settled down there, became distinctively Indian in the course of a few generations , such as Christians Jews Parsis, Moslems; Indian convert to some of these religions never ceased to be Indians in spite of a change of faith. All these were looked upon in other countries as Indians and foreigners, even though there might have been a community of faith between them.
Today, when the conception of nationalism has developed much more Indians in foreign countries inevitably form a national group and hang together for various purposes, in spite of their internal differences. An Indian Christian is looked upon as an Indian wherever he may go. An Indian Moslem is considered an Indian in Turkey or Arabia or Iran or any other country where Islam is the dominant religion.
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