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Seven amazing facts we could tell our kids about India

Nalanda

India, it is often said, is not a country but a continent. From north to south and east to west, the people are different, the languages are different, and the country is different. India is so complex that it baffles anybody who tries to define it in a few words or even pages. It becomes increasingly difficult talking about India and put it all in some 800 words, especially with NRI kids and NRI teens who are born or brought up overseas and who know India mainly through media.

“What makes a nation, is the past, what justifies one nation against others is the past”, says the noted historian Eric Hobsbawm. Hence, when talking of a nation, it becomes very imperative that the past should also be talked about as much of India’s glory lies in the past. The past of India is as fascinating and interesting as among countries and civilizations, India is perhaps the oldest and the most ancient.

The heritage of the past plaited with the contemporary dynamism of India has left everyone spellbound despite her alluring contrasts and striking features.  Here are seven things we could tell our kids about India’s past and present.

1. India has a continuous civilisation – India is a tens of thousands years old country with a rich legend and history. One website claims India to be 34000 years old. The people of India have had a continuous civilization since 2500 BCE going by the Indus valley civilisation.

2. Ancient India ~ Land of wisdom – Awareness about ancient India being a knowledge society, the university being an Indian invention and the different knowledge streams is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the knowledge tradition of India goes. Adding on to this, Swami Vivekananda remarks “In philosophy we are even now head and shoulders above any other nation, as Schopenhauer, the great German philosopher has confessed. In music India gave to the world her system of notation, with the seven cardinal notes and the diatonic scale, all of which we enjoyed as early as 350 BCE, while it came to Europe only in the 11th century. In philology, our Sanskrit language is now universally acknowledged to be the foundation of all European languages….”

3. Ancient India – a knowledge society. India was a knowledge superpower. In 2001, a strategic taskforce report was published by the Planning Commission of India titled “India as a knowledge superpower”. In the foreword to the report, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India mentioned that “India is an ancient civilization with a rich heritage. It has a vast storehouse of knowledge in various fields, but general awareness of much of it is inadequate.” Another member of the same planning commission who later on, became the President of India – Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kal?m elaborated in his book ‘Ignited Minds’ that “Ancient India was a knowledge society and a leader in many intellectual pursuits, particularly in the fields of mathematics, medicine and astronomy.” So what if India had a glorious past? What now? In response to such relevant questions, Dr. A.P.J.Kalam offers a wonderful advice to create a knowledge society in India and calls for using our ancient scriptures with the modern scientific methods to create a new source of knowledge that is useful for the generations to come.

4. India has the biggest democracy in the world - India is the biggest democracy in the world. Spanning an area of 3,287,263 square kilometers, India is a vast country and includes dry desert areas, evergreen forests, snowy Himalayas, a long coast, and fertile plains. With a billion people, the Republic of India is the world’s largest democracy. Over a fifth of the world’s population is crammed into a subcontinent. A Wikipedia article even says that ‘A serious claim for early democratic institutions comes from the independent “republics” of India, sanghas and ganas, which existed as early as the sixth century BCE and persisted in some areas until the fourth century CE. 

5. Culturally Rich and economically powerful. India is blessed with a rich culture and heritage. Take a tour to India and you will find how the rich history, languages, religion, arts and crafts, performing arts and cuisine play a key role in forming its rich culture and traditions. These days India is economically powerful too.

6. Diversity – There are many Indias within India. India has diversity not only in people but also in religion, languages, clothing, music, arts, dance, architecture, food habits, customs and culture. Virtually every major religion has a strong connection with India. Buddhism was born in India, so were Sikhism, Jainism, and of course Hinduism.  The Zoroastrians, the Jews (living in India since 600 B.C.), the people of Bahai faith, all are found in India in substantial numbers.

7. Land of many races- India is truly a complex nation and composite of cultures and races- that’s why it is often referred to as a sub-continent. First, there is a difference between ‘race’ and ‘ethnic group’. Race is used to denote people that share common physical and genetic traits. Whereas ethnic group denotes people who have common cultural, behavioral, linguistic, ritualistic, or religious traits. There are 2000 or more ethnic groups in India and according to anthropological records has more than 6 or 7 races.

“India is an ancient civilization with a rich heritage. It has a vast storehouse of knowledge in various fields, but general awareness of much of it is inadequate.” – Indian Planning Commission report 2001.

India and her culture is thus rich and diverse and as a result unique in its very own way. What else could we tell our kids about India?

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