The Diversity of India
by Vikas Kamat
First Online: October 14, 2001
Page Last Updated: January 01, 2015
India is truly a complex nation -- that's why it is often
referred to as a sub-continent. The diversity of India has posed tremendous
integration problems since its formation, yet in the very diversity that her
population finds enormous pride and joy.
The following is an introduction to the diversity of India in
terms of geography, religions, races, food and living habits of her people.
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.
See: States and Regions of India -- Browse Kamat's Potpourri by geography; includes links to people, maps, and articles.
The unique geographic demographics also hosts a unique eco-system
rich with vegetation, wildlife, rare herbs, and a large variety of
Virtually every major religion has a strong
connection with India (including Christianity -- some people claim Jesus
Christ meditated in India in his early years). Buddhism was born in
India (not China), so were Sikhism, Jainism, and of course
The Zoroastrians, the Jews (living in India since 600 B.C.), the people of Bahai faith, all are found
in India in substantial numbers.
God is Indian -- India is the most religious country in the world. A profile of India's great religions, and influence of some of the foreign faiths.
There are also numerous cults in India, each practicing their own
ideologies and interpretations of the major religions.
Yellamma Cult, The
Tantric Cults, and the Bhakti Movement
There is no such thing as the Indian language.
By some counts there are over 200 languages in India (almost 1600,
if you include dialects),
with about twenty of them being very prominent ones. Imagine a
nation where the population does not understand their national
anthem or the President's address to the nation. That is India for
The Indian currency is printed in 15 languages.
Most forms (like job application, tax forms) in India are hence
printed in three languages -- English, Hindi, and a prominent local
See: Languages of India -- A comprehensive list of languages of India arranged in alphabetical order. Yes, all four hundred of them!
Clothing and Attire
Perhaps India remains the only country where unstitched
clothing is still popular. The Saree, Lungi, Dhoti, Turbans are all
worn this way. It is the way of wearing is where the styles differ.
Tailored Indian clothing includes Salwar-Kameez, collarless
jackets, Kurtas, and western attires for both men and women.
See : Indian Attire Through the Centuries , Kamat Saree Sapne -- The history, mystery and magic of the Indian Saree
Many types of headgear are prevalent in India -- these include
rumals, topis, and turbans.
Diversity in Food
The food habits of the one billion Indians varies by
the availability of raw materials, cooking traditions, local spices,
and interestingly their religious faiths. For instance, some Jain
communities do not kill life to feed themselves -- including plants!
This means they only consume fruits, milk and leaves only.
Many communities do not eat meats respecting the life on the
Some communities define meat as "anything that moves"
-- thus they consume muscles, but not fish!
Besides the staples, the spices play an important role in Indian
food. There are so many spices to appeal to different parts of the
body that the English language does not have adequate adjectives to
describe them. For example, the hotness that touches the taste-buds
is different than the hotness that makes your gums swell !
India also has a number of sweet dishes, mostly based on sugar,
milk, and unbleached sugar (called jaggery in India). The Bengal
is famous for its milk-based sweets.
In general Indian food is rich in oil and in spices. Rice and
wheat are the primary bases for Indian food. The coastal areas
fashion seafood delicacies, while the desert areas have mastered
cooking with minimal use of water.
See: Degrees of
The years of foreign rule, religious movements, and
spiritual discoveries in the ancient land of India has given way to
a rich potpourri of social habits, festivals, and customs. To
appreciate the Indian culture, an introduction to the religious
heritage of India is necessary. Please see topics on the Bhakti
Movement, Hinduism, Festivals, and other Topics
on the Indian Culture.
India also has a very rich native or tribal culture. See topics
on the life of some of the tribes of India at the Tribals
of Bastar and Children of
the Forest God.