India’s astounding diversity of religions, languages, and cultures is unique and unparalleled. The society of vast subcontinent, varied and complex in its rich heritage, is among the oldest in the world.
Five thousand years of history have nourished the growth of a great civilization. It has been vitalized through cross-cultural contact and characterized by unity in diversity of culture and race, caste, religion, and language. In India there are examples of virtually every known type of societal division; six major religions- Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism; two major language families- Aryan and Dravidian, with 18 official languages and innumerable dialects and tribal languages; three racial strains- Aryan, Dravidian, and proto-Australoid; and over 4000 castes, hierarchically ranked, endogamous, and occupational.
The great Indian tradition unites the diverse cultural regions, but within its elastic framework are a myriad of sects and local traditions. Perhaps by more than anything else, traditional India has been characterized by localism, a fragmentation not simply of cultural-linguistic regions but of villages themselves. It’s a known fact that over 600,000 India villages kept on functioning as autonomous republics through centuries.
Gandhi’s dream had always been to create a modern India that would offer Asia and the world a living example of his social ideals. To his followers, those ideals still constitute a lifebuoy thrown out to mankind by a strangely sane old man in a world going mad. The Mahatma was wholly opposed to those who argued that India’s future lay in imitating the industrial and technological society that colonized her. India’s salvation he argued “lay in unlearning what she has learned in past decades.” He challenged almost all the Western ideals that had taken root in India. Science should not order human values, he argued, technology should not order society, and civilization was not the infinite multiplication of human wants but their deliberate limitation to essentials that could be equitably shared by all.
Culturally diverse and complex, with mainly rural, traditional, and agrarian population, India now is also a major industrial power experiencing rapid urban growth and rural-urban migration. It is a nation undergoing significant political, economic, and social change, while at the same time struggling to maintain many of its traditions and customs. India today is unfolding a story of a billion plus people, or more precisely, one sixth of the world’s population, on a big move as India's large and complex systems rapidly moving top-down and the country emerge as one of the fastest growing economies of the world. The shadows of a vibrant consumer society are taking shapes and urban population is exposed to massive change in life style, consumption habits, and cultural conditioning.
These are certainly the times of doubts and chaos as what is on the big move is not merely an economy but also a society that represents one of the most ancient civilizations of the world. India is not simply the largest democracy in the world; majority of its population is of young people with ever growing aspirations. In her 5000 years of history, Indians never failed in creating a definite order in the psychic vibrations of their younger generations and the generations to come, but now in an era of Globalization and rapid economic growth, what course the history takes remains to be unfolded.