Unity in Diversity | Sociology IQ
UNITY IN DIVERSITY
India is a mixed society in both character and spirit. There is diversity not only in language, religion and cultures but also in life styles, occupational pursuits, rites and rituals related to birth, death and marriage and in inheritance and succession laws. Beneath these diversities root a remarkable force of unity. A magnificent synthesis of diversity of culture, religion and language is able to maintain its unity despite foreign invasions and colonial rule. The unique feature of Indian unity is that it is civilizational going back to ancient times and continuing to the present day. The accord of diversity has been the underlying ideology by which different elements of the society are integrated without misplace their specific identity that has given Indian society a steady character of pluralism.
Factors of Unity in diversity
Geographical factor: India is a land of diverse geographical features varying from mountains in the north to oceans enveloping the south and from desert in the west to dense forests in the east. The climatic regions found in India vary from tropical to temperate and from arid to even polar. The inaccessible barriers of mighty Himalayas and ocean on all sides have made India geographical entity cut-off from the rest of the world. The significant variety of climate, topography and consequently diverse conditions of life prepared the Indian psyche to accept differences. Further the vastness of the land offered room for newcomers to settle. The reality that India has continued to remain an agricultural economy for more than 3000 years has led to the development of common viewpoint. The network of shrines and pilgrim centres grow across the region has been an important source of unity.
A distinct Cultural factor: The story of Indian culture is one of continuity, synthesis and enrichment. Culture is also a source of unity as well as diversity in India. The immense variety of customs and habits visible in the material traits such as dress, habitation, art and craft, food etc make India a living example of cultural diversity. Social institutions of caste and joint family, similarities in art forms engraved on temple walls generate a feeling of unity in India. One of the best example of unity in diversity in India was seen in May 2004 when a Roman Catholic political leader i.e. Sonia Gandhi made way for a Sikh man i.e. Manmohan Singh to be sworn in as prime minister by a Muslim i.e. President APJ Abdul Kalam.
Religious factor: As discussed above India is a multi-religious society. Religion is both an element of unity and diversity in India. All religious groups are differentiated internally. Caste is found in Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism.
To one side from religious tolerance, we have religious places in pilgrim centres like Tirupati, Varanasi and Ajmer Sharif etc that go afar any single religious community. Uniformly some religious festivals are celebrated by all religions. While Hindus celebrate Diwali, Dushehra and Holi both from ritualistic and cultural aspects, other religious communities celebrate these festivals culturally. Similar inference can be drawn on Christmas and Id-ul-fitr. The section on ‘Multi-religious society’ discusses in detail the paradoxical nature of religion as both integrative and divisive force in India.
Political factor: India’s continuity as a civilization is socio-cultural rather than political. Though the idea of a central empire bringing the whole country within its fold is visible throughout history, India was never a unified political unit under a single state. The diversity in physical features, variety of races, castes, creeds, and languages has made it difficult to establish an all-India empire. Unity of India is in its institution as a nation. While religion and culture were the forces of unity historically, freedom movement generated another force of unity in the form of nationalism.
The constitutional heritage and the ideas of its forerunner expressed in the preamble like Secularism, Democratic, Socialism, Equality, Liberty and Justice give India a sense of political and executive unity.
Language factor: Language is another origin of cultural diversity as well as unity. Language too, like religion, can forge collective identity as well as be a source of conflict. Linguistic diversity has present executive and political problems in India. Linguistic separatism has a strong emotional appeal and often been used for political mobilizations in India. This aspect is dealt in detail in the chapter on Regionalism. Though there is puzzling diversity in languages in India, there is a basic unity found in the ideas and expressions in them.
The biggest challenge to national integration comes from poverty, inequality, unemployment, regional imbalances in development etc.
The emergence of identity through caste lines, religious groups, ethnicity, gender etc. and their mobilization for narrow political ends is a threat to national collective consciousness. We are all minorities in India. No one group can assert its dominance. The variations are many, along and within, religion, language, region, culture, class and gender.
Therefore the central problem of India in the 21st century is the challenge of accommodating the aspirations of different groups in the vision of ‘New India’.