India may have hundreds of X factors that distinguish it from other countries. For this post I have taken three broad factors which in themselves will cover a whole range of other factors. Of course India has also many negative aspects. But when we talk of X factors, it should be positive. After going through the post, the reader may also suggest what X factor they have noticed in India.
Diversity and Multi-culturalism
To gauge India’s diversity and multi-culturalism fairly it should be compared against other large nations like China, Russia, US, Brazil or Australia. Large nations have high probability of being diverse.
Maybe, other big nations are diverse in terms of geography, but when it comes to people no country is as diverse as India. No other country has so many languages, so many religions including their sects and sub-sects, such range of differences in dress, food and cultural celebrations. Visiting India is like having glimpses into so many different worlds.
This diversity is observed not only across India but also in different regions. Take the case of Odisha. The coastal Odisha and the tribal Odisha are two different worlds even though some times the physically distance is negligible. Odisha itself may have more than fifty dialects.
While granting citizenship a direct or indirect condition of many European countries is that you must assimilate with their culture. Countries like Switzerland make it explicitly clear. US has a lot of migrant population. After after some years they usually become Americanized and assimilate with their culture. But all those who came to India over the last two millennia have continued to maintain their distinct identity.
Such diversity has often confused those who tried to find out something that they could call as distinctively Indian. India was a multicultural country even in ancient times. Its ability to integrate all contradictory and conflicting elements and make them exist side by side without trying to assimilate them is perhaps something that is distinctively Indian.
Birth Place of all Dharmic Religions
All religions have their own distinctive qualities. However based on certain similarities and place of origin the prominent religions have been divided into two groups – the Dharmic religions and the Abrahamic religions. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism that originated in India are known as Dharmic religions. Religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam that originated in the middle east come under the group of Abrahamic religions.
The concepts of karma and re-birth are the common elements in all the Dharmic religions even though they have significant differences in their underlying philosophies. The Abrahamic religions do not believe in karma and re-birth.
Jianism , Buddhism and Sikhism have some elements of Vedanta in them. Over the years the Dharmic religions took elements from one another and influenced one another. Coincidentally, for legal purposes Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs are considered as Hindus. E.g. Hindu Succession Act is applicable also to Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs.
Both Hinduism and Buddhism influenced the cultures of Asia. The South East Asian countries are predominantly Buddhist. However they have a Hindu past still they follow a mixture of Hindu and Buddhist traditions. China and Japan absorbed many elements of Buddhism and integrated them with their existing cultures.
Yoga, Ayurveda and Meditation
Yoga, Ayurveda and Meditation originated in India and today they have emerged as strong health care alternatives. With their basic premise that the mind is not different from the body, they provide a holistic system of treatment and preventive health. Even though they do not have answer to all the modern maladies, they can complement well with other methods of treatment for speedy recovery. Their role in preventive health care has been proved beyond doubt.
Yuval Noah Hararai in his book – 21st Lesson for Twenty First Century – writes that a group of Jews in his country have started claiming that Yoga was invented by the Jews. In US and other Western countries Yoga is widely practised. But rarely did they attribute its origin to India till 21st Jun was declared as International Yoga Day due to the initiative of PM Modi. Yoga is also practised in many weird ways in the US and many strange practices are being passed for as yoga. So there is Hot Yoga. Then there is Nude Yoga and so on.
Some years back companies in US tried to patent Neem and Haldi even though such elements have been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years. All such things happen when we don’t lay claim to our own heritage.
Last Sunday in his Man Ki Baat even our PM highlighted the fact that we accept our own traditional methods only after they come back to us via West after being ratified there. In stead, why can’t we do scientific research on our own effective traditional methods and ratify them?
Of course there is no need to blindly accept everything of past. At the same time it does not make sense to consider everything of past as useless. After all, Thomas Alva Edition had no hesitation in saying that he was standing over the shoulders of the giants of the past. China has also admitted that while treating Corona they used traditional methods side by side with modern medical methods.
By the way, Israeli Professor Yuval Noah Harari, whose books provide beautiful insights into the past, the present and the future of human civilisation, is a regular practitioner of Vipassana.
What according to you is the X- Factor of India?
PS : This is the alphabet X post of my April A to Z challenge 2020. My theme this year is ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh’ where in I explore various facets of India and also some places and events of India I have been closely associated with.
All posts of the AtoZChallenge can be accessed here.