WELCOME, WELCOME TO THE KARMABHOOMI OF SARDAR VALLABHBHAI PATEL – THE UNIFIER OF A SEGMENTED, FRAGMENTED INDIA.
My name is Prerna Somani, and I am privileged to speak on the Cultural Diversity of India before the august house.
‘Sa Prathama Sanskriti Vishvavara’ – The Indian culture has been recognized as the first and the supreme culture in the entire world. A divine culture. A divine sanskriti.
So many speakers here today have and will talk about India and its cultural identity. And they’ll talk about the endless diversity in India starting from its physical features, to the geological structure, fauna and flora, demographic structure, races, languages, religions, arts and crafts and customs and traditions – and that’s all very well; but is that all? Is that all our diversity is about? With all due respect, it is right to limit the dimensions of culture to only its representational aspects ? I beg to differ.
Culture, as I understand, is an amalgamation of activities and ideologies that bestow value to our mundane existence. It is our culture than raises us above the level of mere living, moving beings; that makes us aware of the bigger picture, a larger consciousness, a greater purpose. Think about it – subtract your cultural identity from your personality; what are you left with? Absolutely nothing. Our life derives meaning from the culture we follow. And I know I speak for all of us when I say – we are sincerely, immensely, and endlessly proud of being born into the Indian Culture.
Since time immemorial, cultural diversity has been one of the defining attributes of the Indian social scene. However, it is because of India that the definition of ‘culture’ has gained so much diversity in itself. From Kashmir to Kankyakumari, from Kutch to Kohima the kaleidoscope of our cultural cultivation has led to the development of this unique feeling of Indian-ness. This feeling of Indian-ness is difficult to capture in words because of its expansive reach and dynamic nature, but it is shines in small celebrations and symbols of our lives.
Take the Ashok Chakra, for instance. To a farmer, it signifies the wheel that runs his plough; to a potter, it is the instrument of his art; to a scientist, it is the symbol of progress and change; to an artist, it signifies unending dynamism, to an athlete, it projects the idea of consistent movement and speed; for historians, it is the mark of Ashoka and for the philosopher, it is the icon of dharma.
Underneath all this diversity lies the continuity of Indian civilization and social structure from the very earliest time until the present day. India’s culture has been enriched by successive waves of migration, which were absorbed into the Indian way of life.
Take Mehendi, or henna for instance. This symbol of festivity is pervasive through all marriage celebrations regardless of race, region or religion. It is an ornament of auspiciousness, a celebration of femininity, a metaphor for fertility, a fashionable tradition, a mark of ‘suhaag’. Doctors appreciate its medicinal value, while philosophers see it as a tangible representation of the designs of our spirits.
One symbol, diversified interpretations.
Diversified interpretations, converging in one symbol.
Swami Vivekanada, the patron saint of this Youth Fest, used to quote a beautiful hymn in his speeches. ‘As the different streams having their sources in different places mingle in the water of the sea, so O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.’
One sea. Different rivers.
Different sources. Different rivers. All converging in one destination. One Sea.
One Stage. Different speeches.
Different speeches, by different speakers all converging on one stage.
One India. Diversified population. Diversified audience.
Diversified population. Diversified audience. One India.