Dr. Soma Guha Das
Dept. of English
None can tell, at whose beckoning, vast waves of humanity
In currents unstoppable, from the unknown here arrived,
To merge into the Great Sea!
Here Aryans, non-Aryans, Dravidians, Chinese
Sakas, Hunas, Pathans, Moguls in one body, were united.
The doors today have opened in the West, bearing gifts,
Behold, they arrive—
All shall give and take, mingle and be mingled in, none shall
From the shore of the sea of Bharata’s great humanity!
–Rabindranath Tagore, “The Indian Pilgrimage”
These acute lines by the great poet beautifully condense the bounteous diversity of India. The country’s multicultural society is an example of its multi-layered history of cultural encounters and its inherent capability to accommodate diverse people and their indigenous cultures. This plurality of the Indian milieu, of not having a ‘national’ culture but a diversification mix of sub-cultures within a larger entity, recognizes the country its distinct character. The intermingling of varied and often contending cultural elements has yielded a richness of life, ways of thinking, traditions, rituals, customs and varied religious belief that are the hallmark of the Indian civilization. Amitava Ghosh epitomizes the same scenario in these words, “If there is any pattern in Indian culture in the broadest sense it is simply this: that the culture seems to be constructed around the proliferation of differences (albeit within certain parameters). To be different in a world of differences is irrevocably to belong”(250).
However, the tradition of absorption of different cultural influences into the Indian ethos, it is amazing that Indians have carried with them their unique ability of adapting to the new and the diverse whenever they have had to cross the boundaries of their native culture. A tradition that emerges in the twentieth century is that of the migration of people of the Indian subcontinent to other cultures, especially those of the West. In the introduction to Narratives for a New Belonging, Roger Bromley writes about migration as “quintessential experience” of the twentieth century (qtd. in Pandurang). In the postcolonial era especially from the nineteen-sixties, huge migrations from the Third World to the New World led to the converging of antithetical cultures. The ramifications of these cross-cultural encounters have become a fascinating subject of study since the last few decades of the past century.