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Unglaubliches Indien

What strikes a visitor to India most is its mind-boggling heterogeneity, an awesome plurality that confounds and exasperates and yet evokes a binding interest in the land and its people. Doubtless, the ancient traders and historic marauders who came here from far away lands in search of riches fell in love with the soil and found their destination and place of settlement in the sub-continent rather than a staging post. A staggering variety within its confines in terms of its people, their languages, religions, cults and cultures as also its geographical features and weather which, perhaps, no other country, least of all a democratic nation, can boast of. And yet despite these stunning differences there exists a subtle binding force flowing through one end of the country to the other that underlines its enduringly mysterious unity. Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime minister thus characterized the staggering phenomenon as unity in diversity, a mosaic of cultures and people. That gives India a distinct identity unmatched in the world. Indians never miss an opportunity to assert their pride in their land's assimilative variety.
India is a vast country ranking fourth in the world in size, a sixth of Mankind on a fortieth of the earth's land. In population, a little over 1 billion, it stands second only to neighbouring China. Newcomers are always amazed by the variety of colour, physical stature, anthropological features and sociological characteristics they find among the people of the sub-continent. From Nordic-Aryans and Indo-Europeans to Mediterranean Dravidians one finds almost all the hues of human species on the planet. In between there are people betraying Mongoloid origins, proto-Australoids, Negrito and Western Brachycephals. As you go from North to South, the paleness of people's colour seems to gradually yield to a dark hue. But that is only a general pattern. In a single family, whether in the South or the West, one may find members displaying different colours of skin, hair and eyes. To add to the grandeur of variety, India perhaps has the largest cattle population in the world, about 200 million at the last count.
Equally staggering is the variety of languages. India speaks in about 2000 tongues of which over fifty have their own scripts and literature. Nineteen fully developed languages each having a vast body of literature are officially recognised languages of the state. Name a religion in the world and it has adherents in the sub-continent. While Hindus form an overwhelming majority of 85 per cent, there are Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Zoroastrians living in close harmony all over India. There is a plethora of beautiful temples, magnificent churches, grand mosques, Buddhist Viharas old Synagogues and Parsi Fire Temples spread throughout the sub-continent. Mumbai (formerly Bombay), the Western commercial megalopolis, perhaps, represents exquisitely the grand religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic variety of India in a miniature form. There is in the city an old Armenian Church, a Shinto Temple and a Bahai place of worship, just to mention a few.
In Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, particularly the latter, one may witness several centuries, nay civilizations living cheek by jowl. On the Diamond Harbour Road of Kolkata, emerging out of an air-conditioned cyber cafe, one may stumble on to an aboriginal family living on the footpath, cooking food with firewood, bathing and washing. Across the street, you may have to give way to a hand-cart puller or a bullock cart carrying a mountain of computer packages or vegetables. You might hire a three-wheeler or a two wheeler pulled by a man to rich destination in the neighbourhood. Or jump into a rambling tramcar while city buses careen around and sleek cars whiz past. Far above in the sky, a modern airliner may be zooming away to distant lands and underground the fast metro rumbles away.
Like its people, India's geology, geography and climes present a veritable panorama of the planet's history. Himalaya, world's highest and the youngest mountain system forms a formidable barrier to the north stretching uninterrupted from East to West for about 2,500 km covering an area of 500,000 sq. km. Its snowy glaciers - Siachen, the world's highest - feed India's major perennial rivers creating fertile valleys in the North and the West. Ganga, the sacred river of India, Yamuna, Sindhu and Brahmaputra have spawned civilizations along their fertile banks from the hoary past. Down below in the North-West, there is the oldest mountain systems in the world, the Aravalis, which over millions of years, has lost its glory and substance.