A multi-cultural society that has a place for everyone
By Indrawattie Natram
WHETHER you are a Hindu or a Muslim or any faith or religion, India is a place that can make you feel at home. It is a country of rich, diverse culture and a multicultural society where people speak 122 major languages and 1599 other languages, according to the Census of India 2001. But despite these vast differences, the hospitality of the people is unexplainable.
Unity in diversity is the beauty of India and despite whichever country you are visiting from you are assigned equal rights with warm welcome irrespective of your gender, caste, class, community, language or religion.
My visit to India in early November 2017 had given me the opportunity to experience the country as a young professional. It had captured my eyes with its magnificent beauty and traditional values.
Ancient, wild and colourful, India is definitely a place to behold.
Whether breathing in the spice-filled air of the outdoor markets, tasting the myriad flavours of local cuisines or letting your eyes takes in the rich luscious green hillsides and plantations, my experience in India was truly a magnificent one.
I can safely say “Athithi Devo Bhava”, which means “The Guest is equivalent to God” is correct since Indians consider it a huge honour to accommodate guests and they go out of their way to satisfy them.
I was given one of the most wonderful and prestigious opportunities through the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India’s 44th Know India Programme to experience India. The programme affords members of the young Indian Diaspora the opportunity to indulge in the rich cultural heritage of the blessed land. The main objective of the ministry was to familiarise the Indian Diaspora Youth, in the age group of 18-30 years with development and achievements made by the country and to bring the Indian Diaspora closer to the land of their ancestors. The programme provides a unique forum for students and young professionals of Indian descent to visit India, share their views, expectations, experiences and to bond closer with contemporary India.
The 44th Know India Programme hosted 40 participants from nine countries, namely Trinidad and Tobago, Figi, Mauritius, Myanmar, Guyana, Israel, Malaysia, South Africa and Suriname.
The first and last phase began with participants exploring the capital city of Delhi by visiting historic monuments, religious sites, universities, NGOs, industrial areas, cultural training institutions and learning the art of Yoga.
Delhi, which is considered the soul of India, can be easily recognised from other states due to its busy traffic and the usual hustle. On arriving in India, the lights of the city were truly magnificent. The honking of the vehicle horns was definitely something different than in the Caribbean.
During the tour, I was afforded the opportunity to set my foot on the Jama Mosque. This mosque is known to be one of the largest and most well-known in India, and it was built in the 17th Century. The mosque is flanked by Red Fort and the old city of Chandni Chowk.
Other interesting places visited was Red Fort itself, Raj Ghat which lies on the banks of the River Yamuna, Humayun’s Tomb, Qutub Minar, India Gate, Rashtrapati Bhavan (The President’s house), Akshardham Temple, the National Museum, Laxminaryan Temple and the Lotus Temple.
Of all the tours in Delhi, my heart was captivated when we visited the Akshardham temple. The architectural design is beyond the explanation of words. The Hindu temple complex displayed millennia of traditional Hindu and Indian culture, spirituality and architecture. The Akshardham experience was truly an enlightening journey through India’s glorious art, values and contributions for the progress, happiness and harmony of mankind.
Visiting the wonders of Agra was inspirational. Agra is famed with one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal symbolises the love of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. The edifice is adorned with white marble and is the finest example of the Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Islamic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian Architectural styles.
The second phase of the trip was a visit to Andra Pradesh. There I was able to experience the different cultures in Vijayawada, Rajahmundry and Visakhapatnam. The most welcoming stay was in this State, mostly because my ancestors resided here and I felt at home. Andra Pradesh has major cultural landmarks, including the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, and an ornate hilltop shrine to Hindu Vishnu, in the southern part. The beaches in the area were pristine and the people were very hospitable. The team on arrival was greeted with lively Tassa drumming and fresh rose garlands.
Telangana which is one of the largest states in south India is also known for its hospitality and multicultural and pluralistic society. Hyderabad, the capital city is the fifth largest city in India. Some of the wonders include Char Minar, Faluknama Palace, Chowmahalla Palace, Qutub Shahi Tomb, Golconda Fort, Warangal Fort and Thousand Pillar Temple.
Excluding all the major differences, India was an exciting place, from the phenomenal buildings and history to the spicy and delicious foods, such as Garlic Naan, Mutton Biryani, Channa Daal, Butter Chicken, Tandoori Chicken, Chaat Patri, Chicken Tikka, Dhokla, Kheema and Keer.
India is indeed a beautiful land and is rightly called a paradise given its lush green scenic landscapes in various states, and crystal-clear beaches that will leave you awestruck. Blessed with natural beauty and ecological diversity, India as a country has a lot to offer to tourists, travellers and even students. I am particularly happy that Guyana and India have recently developed some closer ties and as such Guyanese of Indian descent can no longer see themselves as strangers to their foreparents’ land.