A nation that has no cultural heritage is like an orphan who has nothing to feed upon. An individual human being, a race or a nation must necessarily have certain roots somewhere. India is deep rooted in the culture of her past—the glorious past. India is a vast country, and centuries old. It is difficult to sum up her heritage in a few words. Her past has been full of glory. She has been the birth place of many great men and women. She has given birth to many great movements in religion, art and literature. These movements have not been limited to India alone, but they have travelled to other parts of the world. The India of today has a rich past over which we can look back with pride. Our past has given us a definite way of life, which is typically Indian and yet universal in approach.
The most prominent feature of India's culture it that it combines many cultures. India is a land of great variety and many influences have worked to produce modern India. India has shown great capacity for absorbing what came to her from outside. The base of the Indian civilization was formed by the coming together of the old Indus Valley Civilization and the Aryan Civilization came from beyond the North-West frontier of India. It has been repeatedly influenced by other civilizations, though basically it has recognize the same. The Greeks, the Romans, the Scythians, the Turks, the Russians, the Arabs and the Europeans left their impression. India's capacity to abroad was so great that they all became Indian.
British rule in India brought a new element. The industrial civilization of the West brought in her influences. It produced changes in thought and outlook. The ideas of democracy of the parliamentary type were brought to India by the West. The English language also was helpful in bringing us in contract with the modern world by science.
For several hundred years India was weak and came under foreign rule. She lost her vitality. In ancient times, Indian missions went out, carrying India's religion, language, culture, habits and art, all over South-East Asia, Western and Central Asia. Ashoka, the great emperor, sent missionaries to spread Buddhism all over the then known world, some of the oldest books in Sanskrit drama have been found in the Gobi desert.
The came a period when narrow-mindedness entered Indian ways of thinking. Religion became a superstition. The ideas of caste cut Indian society into countless divisions. Foreigners took advantage of these and conquered India.
It was Gandhiji who made Indians aware of their ancient heritage which they had forgotten. He led us in our struggle for freedom. In this task he put into practice the basic wisdom of ancient India. That wisdom consisted in freedom from fear and freedom from hatred. To the ideals of truth and non-violence which had been preached long ago by the wise men of old, he have a new shape.
Throughout her past India has preached and practiced toleration and understanding. These have been the basis of Indian religion, philosophy, art and literature. Her sons wet far and wide, unmindful of the dangers in their ways, to spread this message of peace. By adopting peaceful means forgetting our independence, Gandhiji showed the superiority of peaceful methods over force and violence.
The charms and graciousness of the .Indian way of life endures due to the philosophy of life which we have inherited from the past. Religion in India is not a thing to be put on and put off like Sunday clothes. It permeates the whole fabric of Indian life. Whatever we do, however great or small, is colored with religious sentiments. From the planting of a tree to the establishing of an industry, all are regarded as pious acts. Training and education, marriage and procreation, birth and death are all tinged with religious fervour.
It true that our attitude towards life is now rapidly becoming materialistic. The glamour of the western way of life with its glorification of material prosperity and its wonderful achievements in the field, of science and technology has modified our aim and ambitions. A new orientation has been given to Indian life. The ideal now chiefly adored is success or the ability which produces success. The Quit of success has dazzled our eyes and some of us have started looking down up to the old traditions and culture. The results, however, have not been very happy. We are losing our roots. Blind imitation of the west will just make us get lost in blind alley.
However, we must not also resist the winds of change and remain clinging to the past values and principles of life. We must not close our doors to the influences from the outside world. If those influences are good, they will strengthen the basic concepts of our culture and so enrich it as to make it truly representative of the life of our people. What is to be avoided is a blind imitation of cultures and values. Countries become great not because they have achieved progress in material things but because they follow noble traditions and base their life on what has been called by Tagore 'Dharma', or a moral way of life. We should remain true to the real genius of our land, the quality and habit of mind which has preserved us through the ages.