Unity of Indian culture is one of the oldest cultures in the world. India is almost as large as the whole of the continent of Europe without Russia. It covers high mountains within its borders, as well as flat plains, arid deserts and fertile river valleys. With this diversity of geographical features, it combines the diversity of the population. There are lots of ethnic groups, split up into countless castes, professing numerous creeds and speaking about 2 hundred different languages and dialects.
To the superficial observer, the country may look like a huge zoo, a Tower of Babel or a Pandemonium of voices but such an observer is sadly mistaken. Underneath this diversity there lies an essential unity. From Kashmir to Cape Comorin, from Gujarat to Assam it is the same culture that permeates all classes and all costs. The Westerners are of the view that this unity was nurtured in the nineteenth century by a uniform system of administration and the spread of education on modern lines. It is an erroneous view. This sense of unity was ever-present before the minds of our sages and saints.
In the daily prayers of the Hindu, there is a reference to all the rivers of India. The Kumbha Melas were instituted to bring about a national consciousness. Even today the language of our rites and ceremonies is Sanskrit and these rites are the same in Kashmir and Kerala, Bombay and Bengal. India is surely a land of unity in the midst of diversity.
This culture is as old as the hills. Whereas other civilizations and cultures have decayed and consigned to the limbo of oblivion, this culture has lived on from millennium to millennium. The epics of Homer are read today in Greece as ancient works of art but the epics of India, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, even today help shape the lives of millions of Hindu. The idea of filial obedience practised by Rama and of womanly piety practised by Sita still thrills and inspires the Hindu. These books have proved the best preservers of ancient Hindu culture.
Where it lies the strength and durability of this culture? In the first place, it lies in its adaptability. Hinduism, says an American philosopher is self-perpetuating. Not only Hindu religion but the whole culture of the Hindus has been growing, changing and developing in accordance circumstances without losing its essential and imperishable spirit. Secondly, this strength lies in the spirit of tolerance that has marked this culture throughout the ages. The Hindu thinkers never cared for forms but for the spirit. They knew that the Divine Spirit revealed itself in several forms, though its essence in every form of revelation remained one and the same. Even as the several senses discern the different qualities of one object, so also the different scriptures indicate the many aspects of the one Supreme. This culture has laid stress on spiritual values. The Indian sages discovered that man is the centre of a circle whose circumference is nowhere, that his dimensions are infinite in extent and that in his deeper nature he is one and identical with the deepest and ultimate spirit that holds supports, sustains and pervades the Universe.
This unity of Indian culture has been threatened several times by the fleshly and materialistic cultures, but every time it has survived the attack. One such attack has come from the West today but it is bound to meet the fate of the previous attacks.