In view of the diversity certain people have formed the impression that India was never a united country. But this view is not fully correct because under the facade of diversity India has always enjoyed a deep note of fundamental unity.
Dr. Radha Kumud Mukherjee says that a superficial observer fails to discover this unity. To quote him, "He fails to discover the one in many, the individual in the aggregate, and the simple in the composite."
Sir Herbert Risley also observed, "Beneath the manifold diversity of physical and social type, language, custom and religion which strike the observer in India there can still be discerned a certain underlying uniformity of life from the Himalayas to Cape Clamoring.”
Certain scholars have tried to project the image that the ideal of unity is of recent growth in India and it was to a large extent the result of the efforts of the British Government. This view is not fully correct because India has enjoyed unity right from the earliest times and the founders of the Indian civilization were fully aware of this factor.
This shall be fully substantiated by the following discussion.
Geographically India may not be a united by itself but from times immemorial India has been considered as one country. The single name “Bharata Varsha” given to this country emphasis this unity.
According to the authors of 'Advance History of India,' this name and the sense of unity which it denotes, was ever present before the minds of the theologians, political philosophers and poets who spoke of the thousand Yojans (leagues) of land that stretches from Himalayas to the sea as the proper domain of a single universal emperor."
During the medieval times the Muslim rulers also considered it as one country and made efforts to capture all parts. The nature has also bestowed a geographical unity by providing Himalayas in the North and Ocean in the other three sides of the country and thereby completely separating India from other countries.
The rivers of, India have also been responsible for giving a sense of unity in the country. Some of the rivers are ascribed divine origin and are considered sacred by every Indian. For example, Ganga is worshipped in all the four direction of the country.
Pilgrims from all over the country continue to visit the various holy places situated on its banks. Other rivers like Yamuna and Saraswati are also considered sacred by people all over the country. In short we can say that in spite of the geographical diversity the country has enjoyed a typical unity.
No doubt, the people of India belong to different races but they are so much absorbed in the Hindu fold that they have virtually lost their separate entity. It’s a well known fact that the people of India, to whichever race or region they might belong, are known as Indian of Hindustanis. This is a clear proof of the underlying recital unity of the people.
Although India possesses a variety of language, but she has enjoyed a linguistic unity from the earliest times. In the 3rd century B.C. the Prakrit served as the common language of the people.
According to Dr. Choudhury, Prakrit was the one single language sufficient to bring the message of a royal missionary to the doors of his humblest subject throughout this vast kingdom." After Prakrit, Sanskrit became the common language of the masses. The other local languages which subsequently gained prominence originated out of Sanskrit.
Some of the prominent Indian languages which owe their origin to Sanskrit include Hindi, Gujarati, Telgu and Tamil. In fact Sanskrit served as the lingua franca during the ancient times. During the Medieval times also though the Sanskrit language was not extended royal patronage by the Muslim rulers, the rulers in fete south continued to patronize it and it continued to flourish with the coming of British, English became lingua franca. After independence this role has been taken over by Hindi.
The script of the various languages used in India also possesses a certain amount of uniformity. In fact almost all the scripts are based on the Brahmin script. The literature produced in different Indian languages also possesses an element of unity. Most of the literature in Indian language drew inspiration from the Sanskrit literature and maintained the unity.
No doubt, certain local pieces of literature like Vedas, Puranas, Dharma Sastras and Upanishads were written in Sanskrit and are regarded as the common reissue by the people all over the country.
Religious and Social Unity:
In the religious sphere also despite the manifold diversity a sort of unity has prevailed amongst the various religious sects in the country. India was primarily a Hindu country and its culture was based on Varna Ashrama Dharma Vyavastha, i.e., caste.
People in all the four corners of the country followed these principles. The people also worshipped the same Hindu Gods all over the country, although they were assigned different names in different regions. The Hindu religious works Ramayana and the Mahabharata were also popular throughout the country and Indians both in the north and the south as well as east and west attach great importance to these works.
Similarly, the Vadas, Puranas and other religious scriptures are given due regarded by the people from all parts of the country. Again, every Indian irrespective of his caste, creed and race believes in the doctrine of transmigration of soul, monotheism, immortality of the soul, reincarnation of Karma, deliverance or Moksha etc.
The people staying different parts of the country followed the same religious rites and rituals. Even the religious places of the Hindu like Ayodhya, Avantika, Mathura, Gaya, Kashi, Sanchi and Puri are located in the four directions of the country. Hindu festivals like Holi Diwali are also celebrated in the regions of the country. In fact, people from all religions participated in these festivals. Thus we find that in spite of the religious diversities there has been an undercurrent of cultural unity which to large extent nullified the peculiar effects of various religions.
The religious and cultural unity has also led to unity in the social sphere. The people belonging to various religions have been following common customs both with regard to the dress and eating habits.
In the political sphere the unity of the country has been one of the greatest goals which most of the Indian rulers cherished. No doubt, India was divided into a number of small principalities but the powerful rulers were always keen to bring all these areas under their control. They were keen to assume the title of Chakravarti.
According to Kautilya, Chakravarti king domain extended from Himalayas to the seas. In other words according to Kautilya, the king was’ considered to be a Chakravarti only when he succeeded in extending his power or supremacy over the whole of the country. Usually such titles were assumed by the king after due performance of rites and sacrifices.
In the ancient times Chandragupta Maurya, Asoka and Samudra Gupta carved out all India Empires. During the medieval times also kings like Ala-ud-din Khiliji and AJirangzeb made efforts and succeeded in establishing their control' over the entire country. These Muslim rulers have been provided similar system of administration, uniform laws and customs, common coinage etc. and thus imparted a type of political unity to the entire country. Thus we find that despite the variety of religion, cultures, languages, geographical diversity etc. India has enjoyed some sort of the unity.
Cultural unity amidst various diversities is found in India. In spite of difference in language, religion, dress and manners, Indian culture is homogeneous. In ancient time, the rock-cut architecture to the Mauryan period found its expression throughout India. The Gandhara School of art and Mathura School of art also flourishe in this land. The Indo-Islamic art and architecture were alike in the and corner of India. Superscriptions found from different parts country bore uniformity in many respects though the events and narratives were different.
Similarly, many festivals like Holi, Diwali, Sahara, Rakshabandhan, Idd, Sobebarat, Christmas, and Good Friday are observed throughout the country with their colorful lustier. Further, the Kumbhamela at Allahabad, Hardwar and Ujjain are attended by people from different parts of the country. Similarly many rites like birth-rite, funeral-rite are observed throughout the country, the caste system, family sanctity, modes of offerings, several social ceremonies are celebrated almost in a similar manner in different parts of the country. Thus, the cultural unity in India amidst several diversities is a unique phenomenon.
Unity in Literature:
In different parts of India literature has been written in several languages. The ancient literature like the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Dharmasastras etc. were written in Sanskrit. Basing upon those, literature has been written in different languages. The theme and characters of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Raghuvansam etc. are same in different languages may be Oriya, Kannad, Bengali, Ahamiya and so on. Thus, the influence of Sanskrit is greatly felt over that literature and really it plays a cementing force to bind together the literary traditions of different parts of the country.
India is the birth place of many philosophical systems of the world. The Vedic Philosophy, the philosophy of the Sankhyas, Yogas, Advaita Vedantins, Buddhisas, Jainas, Saivas, Shaktas etc. vary in many respects from each other. Buddha, Mahavir, Shankaracharya, Ballavacharya, Nimbarka, Kabir, Nanak, Sri Chaitanya, Nizamuddin Auliya, Eknath, Tukaram and many other saints preached their philosophy. Monotheism and polytheism have been preached in this subcontinent.
However, the ultimate aim of every philosophy is to lead a life full of bliss and happiness, the concept of Nirvana, Nfoksha, Mukti etc. or the life in this world and the other are certain other aspects of each philosophical system. This unity in Indian philosophical system has allured the attention of the people of the world at large.
Promoter of this Unity:
There are several agencies which have promoted the unity amidst diversity.' The sages, saints, reformers and pilgrims who have visited throughout India sing the glory of several places like Kurukshetra, Allahabad, Hardwar, Rishikesh, Dwaraka, Mathura, Kanchipuram so and so forth. Their description makes Indians feel that they belong to a glorious land, their motherland, India.
In the past, the conquerors like Chandragupta Maurya, Asoka, Chandragupta and Akbar wanted unity of this land which inspired the leaders of the part and inspires the present leaders too to maintain the unity and integrity of our country Among other factors, uniform administration, language and religion modern means of transport and communication, common history and nationalism and the present democratic set up act as agencie for maintaining this fundamental unity of India amidst various diversities Unity in diversity is the basic postulate of Indian culture. It is a wander that in spite of several diversities Indian culture preserves unity. That is quite unique and unparalleled in the chequered annals of history.
That is why, perhaps Herbert Risley has rightly pointed out— "Beneath the many-fold diversity of physical and social type, language, custom and religion which strikes the observer in India, there can still be discerned a certain underlying uniformity of life from the Himalayas to Cape Clamoring.