India - A Land of Unity in Diversity
The history of ancient India is interesting because India proved to be a melting pot of numerous races. The pre-Aryans, the Indo-Aryans, the Greeks, the Scythians, the Hunas, the Turks, etc., made India their home. Each ethnic group contributed its might to the making of Indian culture. All these peoples mixed up so inextricably with one another that at present none of them can be identified in their original form. Different cultures mingled with one another through the ages. Many pre-Aryan or Dravidian terms occur in the Vedic texts. Similarly, many Pali and Sanskritic terms appear in the Sangam literature.
Since ancient times, India has been the land of several religions. Ancient India witnessed the birth of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. But all these cultures and religions intermingled with one another. Although Indians people speak different languages, practice different religions, and observe different social customs, they follow certain common styles of life throughout the country. Therefore, our country shows a deep underlying unity in spite of great diversity.
In fact, the ancients strove for unity. They looked upon this vast subcontinent as one land. The name Bharatavarsha or the land of Bharata was given to the whole country, after the name of an ancient tribe called the Bharatas. Our ancient poets, philosophers and writers viewed the country as an integral unit. This kind of political unity was attained at least twice during the Mauryan and Gupta Empires.
The unity of India was also recognized by foreigners. They first came into contact with the people living on the Sindhu or the Indus, and so they named the whole country after this river. The word Hind is derived from the Sanskrit term Sindhu, and in course of time the country came to be known as 'India' in Greek, and 'Hind' in Persian and Arabic languages.
Efforts for the linguistic and cultural unity of the country were made through the ages. In the third century B.C., Prakrit language served as the lingua franca of the country. Throughout the major portion of India, Asoka's inscriptions were written in the Prakrit language. Also, the ancient epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, were studied with the same zeal and devotion throughout the country. Originally composed in Sanskrit, these epics came to be presented in different local languages. Although the Indian cultural values and ideas were expressed in different forms, the substance remained the same throughout the country.
Hence, India has emerged a multi-religious and multi-cultural society. However, the underlying unity and integrity and the plural character of Indian society remain the real strength for the development of the country.