Updated December 6, 2020
The assimilation or amalgamation of other culture into itself is the key feature of Indian society to make unique. India has been integrated with the different elements of society without letting them lose their separate identity right from ancient times. Indian culture is like the ancient palimpsest on which layer upon layer of thought, belief, ideas etc. has been incorporated. In the course of time, India has evolved its own culture which is eclectic, receptive and heterogeneous. In other words Indian culture, over the last three millennia, has successfully, but quietly, observed the best assimilable parts from other religions and cultures, from time to time and integrated them into itself.
Since the ancient time Indian society is harbouring the different identities, languages, religions and ethnicities etc. and the essence of the Indian society lies on these elements. So, Indian society is considered to be unique because of its ability to nourish and sustain its culture. There are a few peculiarities which substantiate this fact:
Continuity and Changes–
Many great cultures had developed in different countries and regions of the world. Many of them have perished or have been replaced by other cultures. However Indian culture has had an enduring character. Despite major changes and upheavals significant threads of continuity can be traced throughout the course of Indian history right up to the present day.
The evidence to show that cultures existed even before the matured phase of Harappan civilization has been clarified by the archaeologist. You might aware that Harapan Civilization was flourished in the Indian subcontinent over 4500 years ago. This tells us that there is a long history behind us. And yet what is amazing is that even today the pattern of the house in the village is not different from the Harappan Civilization house pattern. You can see that some aspects of Harappan cultures still practised, like Worshipping of Goddess, Trees and Pashupati.
You can also trace the fact that Buddhist, Vedic, Jain and many other traditional cultures are practised even today. So, the continuity and change in our cultures gone hand in hand. In fact, a remarkable feature is that although our cultures change along with time, the basic spirit of our cultures is continued. In our long history, there have been periods of ups and downs. Due to which movements have grown and reforms brought about. The revolutionary changes were brought about in the Indian thought and practices. Yet the thread of basic philosophy of our cultures continued and still persists. Thus, the feature of the Indian cultures is that it continues along with the changes.
Variety and Unity-
India through the ages has shown remarkable assimilation of thoughts, belief, faith, or ideas. This has contributed to the variety and richness of our culture. The vastness of the country and variation in its physical and climatic features is an obvious reason for the various reason for the variety. Uttar Pradesh uses mustard oil while Kerala uses coconut oil for cooking. This is because Uttar Pradesh is a plain area where mustard oil is produced in plenty whereas Kerala is a coastal state, favourable for the coconut production. There is a similarity in the dance of Pongal in Kerala, Bihu in Assam or Bhangra in Punjab, they celebrate after a rich harvest.
India is the home of many forms of dance and music which we normally use for festivals and social functions like marriages or the birth of a child. A large number of languages and dialects are spoken in our country which has led to the growth of a great variety of literature. People belonging to eight great religions of the world co-exist here in a harmonious manner. Numerous styles of architecture, sculpture and painting have developed here. Different styles of music and dance, both folk and classical, exist in the country. This wide variety has led to the making of Indian culture both composite one and rich and beautiful at the same time.
The second important reason for the variety in our culture is the intermingling among various ethnic groups. We find people belonging to different racial stocks like the Proto- Australoids, the Negroids and the Mongoloids living in India. Various ethnic groups like Iranians, Kushanas, Shakas, Mughals, Europeans etc. also came to India, settled here and intermixed with the local population. The people belonging to other cultures brought their cultural habits, thoughts and ideas, which got amalgamated into the existing culture. You will be surprised to know that it was only around second century BC that stitched clothes such as Salwars, kurtas, topees, etc. were brought to India, by the Kushanas, Shakas and Parthians. In eighteenth-century European brought shirts, trousers, skirts, etc.
Another unifying factor is climate. Despite geographical diversity and climatic variations, India experiences an inherent unity. The system of monsoons is the most important component of the Indian climatic pattern and this gives unity to the whole country. The coming of the monsoon has ensured that agriculture remains the main occupation of the people of India.
The composite nature of our culture is reflected in our music, dance forms, drama and art forms like paintings, sculpture and architecture as well. Our literature in different languages also reflects this composite nature.
The secular character of Indian culture is a result of the intermingling of people belonging to diverse cultural groups over a long period of time. There have been instances of occasional conflicts here and there, but by and large, people have lived together peacefully for centuries. The popular cultural traditions of India are the best examples of such cultural synthesis in which a large number of people belonging to different religious groups come together.
You are aware that there is a great variety of thoughts and habits in our country. Among such a variety, the dominance of one particular thought is not possible. You will recall that Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsees and Jews live in India. The constitution declares India to be a secular country. Everyone is free to profess, practise and propagate any religion of his/her own choice. The state has no religion of its own and all religions are treated equally by the state. No one is to be discriminated on the basis of religion.
The people have, to a large extent, developed a broad outlook and they believe in the concept of life and let others live. Right to freedom of religion ensures the secular nature of our polity. Despite there is diversity, people live with peace and harmony for long centuries, this makes the Indian society unique in sustaining its culture.
The concept of coexistence has not been confined in the geographical and political boundaries of the country only. India always promotes the message of peace harmony to the entire world. Even, India is one of the members of the founder of the non-aligned movement. It has founded in 1946. India has been raising a strong voice against racialism and colonialism. It has protested against the formation of power blocks in the world. It has contributed to the progress of the world.
A Cosmic Vision:
The framework of Indian culture places human beings in the centre of the universe, as a divine creation- which celebrates Individuality and differences of opinion in the society.
India is a diverse country, intermixing of communities of all kinds. These peculiarities of Indian culture make the Indian society unique in flourishing and sustaining its culture. Principle of Sarva Dharma Sambhava (equal respect for all religions) is rooted in India’s tradition and culture. It is one of the key features of the Indian culture which makes her unique.