According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English ‘Culture’ means “all the arts, beliefs, social institutions etc. characteristic of a community, race etc”. It is rather an inherent “advanced development of the human powers of the body mind and spirit by training and experience”. They are found perennially in a group of people generally known as a nation. As soon as it is considered insignificant by the people themselves the nation dies. It dies not only as a cultural entity but as a physical one too.
The people have a stream of beliefs based on historical achievements. They have social institutions common to all based on mental and spiritual development. These serve the purpose of glue. These beliefs, development of human powers, mental and spiritual training in the background of national achievements go to make culture a living organism. It differentiates a group—a nation from other groups—other nations.
When we talk of cultural unity we mean a wholesome common under current flowing in the views of a people forming a nation. Anything that goes against these perennial beliefs, social institutions and spiritual experiences is not a source of cultural unity. It serves as a break in the process and may create explosions in national setting.
The culture may die as it has in a number of countries. One can only see the remnants of Roman, Greek or Egyptian cultures in the form of colossal buildings or some classical philosophical works. The human cultural flow has drained out on the sands of invasion of alien beliefs and totally different spiritual experiences of the invaders from the Islamic Arab countries and the Christian enthusiasts.
The theme of cultural unity in India has been talked about in a very simplistic way. The slogan of Unity in Diversity given by the early politicians got bogged down in the false concept of secularism.
The thinkers in this country have been giving the examples of differences in dress, in food, in the ways of worship. These are the things that find variation anywhere, in any country. Even language changes after every 20 or 25 kilometers. They do not basically signify unity or disunity. Even the eating habits have nothing to do with it. A number of people as in the South or East may be totally non- vegetarians. But they make pilgrimage to Varanasi or Mathura where most of the people are vegetarians. Culturally both are on the same platform.
It was only after the Arab invasions that the Cultural Apple Cart lost its balance. The people belonging to a foreign faith did not like to amalgamate with the mainstream of the country as Nehru has mentioned in his famous book ‘Discovery of India’. They stuck to the beliefs of the Arab countries.
The neo converts too followed their footsteps. They grew nearer to foreigners and distanced themselves from the faith, beliefs, social institutions, cultural setup, development of ideas in the past, aspect for the national institutions and the heroes of this land.
Thus instead of unity there was not diversity but alienation. It was rather a permanent divide for centuries together between the invaders and the people. It resulted in the division of the country. Where was the existence of unity between the majority of Hindus and the people believing in Islamic faith propagated by the so called secular forces in the country? Had it been there the country would have not been divided. Culture does not bifurcate a country.
Of course there has been unity among the Hindus. It is deep-rooted. The formation of 5000 castes may be responsible for unhealthy trends and exploitation of the havenots by the haves. But it has not disturbed the cultural unity among the people of the ancient race.
The matrimonial rituals, the way of living, the respect for national institutions, the old traditions, the moral concepts, and the spiritual content remains common and is responsible for the unity of the people known as Hindus. A large number of Christians and educated Muslims too are coming closer to the stream of cultural unity. As soon as they are out of the clutches of fundamentalists they will have better education and follow the concepts of Mohammad Charim Chagla (the first Indian Chief Justice of a High Court in India) to respect our forefathers and be one with the cultural stream of the country for the forefathers of Hindus were the forefathers of converted Muslims and Christians too bogged-stuck in mire.