I believe that publicly proclaiming things about India’s identity requires a lot of study and analysis. I have done neither. What I am stating is just an outcome of the thoughts that crossed my mind after going through a few essays in the book “The Argumentative Indian” by Amartya Sen.
Whenever I have thought about our identity, as Indians, I have often wondered: Who are we? Where did we come from? How did we evolve? What are our roots? In the West, India is often described as “a mainly Hindu country.”
True. A Majority of us are Hindus by choice. But, as a nation, our lives, our culture and our history draws influences from all our past rulers – The Buddhists, The Islamic rulers including the Mughal dynasty, the Chinese towards the eastern frontiers and down south by the French and Portuguese. Our evolution draws from a pot-boiler of influences and this often makes me wonder if Hinduism can be directly mapped to India and vice versa. Based on my limited reading and observation, I can only conclude that “Hinduism extends beyond India and India extends beyond Hinduism”
Another book which wonderfully brings out the diversity that we truly are, is “INDIA: From Midnight to the Millenium” by Shashi Tharoor. Some of the ideas in the book left an inedible impression on my mind. In fact, one particular line which stuck on to me was also noticed by Amartya Sen, (who subsequently mentioned it in his writings), and I quote:
“The only possible idea of India is that of a nation greater than the sum of its parts.”