Updated: Apr 1, 2021
India has turned 73 years old post-independence from the British. However, does it embody the ancient ideas of civilization that spanned beyond the country’s current geopolitical borders? The ancient civilization of ‘Bharat’ had never existed under one political rule or the dominance of a single culture. Diversity has always existed, but the unity lay in similar spiritual discourse. Similarly, the contemporary nation as a whole does not share a common language, common culture, cuisine or any other factors that have served as flexible instruments for stirring up patriotic sentiment in other nations. Indeed, the democratic ideals established in the constitution were surprising features in a country where inequality and differences are vastly prevalent. Here, the concepts of country and nation are being used interchangeably because while India is a recognized country with its constitution and political government, the lack of concrete nationhood has major implications in the definition of the country.
Ironically, one of the significant notions that could strongly materialise the idea of India was the anti-colonial sentiment and the desire for freedom from the British. Presently, it is not that there is a lack of perspectives on the definition of India. An abundance of such viewpoints becomes a matter of which one will prevail in the field of ‘common-sense’ at a particular point in time.
There are the colonialist perspectives generated during the British rule (obviously). At first, a group of scholars known as the “orientalists” became stirred by the notion of life in Eastern societies and classified India as an ‘aggregate of independent village republics’ more or less. To them, each village was a self-sufficient, autonomous unit capable of functioning in isolation. However, they did not elaborate on the interrelations which linked such isolated communities together. In reality, the villages intricately connected in terms of marriage relations, trade and juridical functions. The governing officials also concentrated their study on the villages for administrative purposes, but they no longer romanticized them as independent republics. Instead, they were considered degraded and backward. It is interesting how India has always evoked an image of villages despite not being a country with an exclusive claim to such units of organization.