• India is a plural society. It is rightly characterized by its unity and diversity. A grand synthesis of cultures, religions and languages of the people belonging to different castes and communities has upheld its unity and cohesiveness.
  • Inspite of several foreign invasions, Mughal rule and the British rule, national unity and integrity have been maintained. It is this synthesis which has made India a unique mosaic of cultures. Foreign invasions, immigration from other parts of the world, and the existence of diverse languages, cultures and religions have made India’s culture tolerant, on the one hand, and a unique continuing and living culture, with its specificity and historicity, on the other.
  • Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism and Christianity are the major religions. There is diversity not only in regard to racial compositions, religious and linguistic distinction but also in patterns of living, life styles, land tenure systems, occupational pursuits, inheritance and succession law, and practices and rites related to birth, marriage death etc


  • Ordinarily it means difference but in broad sense it is collective differences i.e. differences which mark off one group of people from other
  • It is also a collective concept. When group of people share similar characteristics be it language , religion etc it shows uniformity in that respect
  • It means integration and sense of one-ness and we-ness
  • While uniformity pre-supposes similarity, unity does not . It may or may not be based on uniformity. It may be born out of uniformity.

Meaning of Diversity

  • Ordinarily diversity means differences. For our purposes, however, it means something more than mere differences.
  • It means collective differences, that is, differences which mark off one group of people from another.
  • These differences may be of any sort: biological, religious, linguistic etc. On the basis of biological differences, for example, we have racial diversity. On the basis of religious differences, similarly, we have religious diversity. The point to note is that diversity refers to collective differences.

Meaning of Uniformity

  • Uniformity means similarity of some sort that characterises a people. ‘Uni’ refers to one; ‘form’ refers to the common ways. So when there is something common to all the people, we say they show uniformity. When students of a school, members of the police or the army wear the same type of dress, we say they are in ‘uniform’.
  • Like diversity, thus, uniformity is also a collective concept. When a group of people share a similar characteristic, be it language or religion or anything else, it shows uniformity in that respect.

Meaning of Unity

  • Unity means integration. It is a social psychological condition. It connotes a sense of one-ness, a sense of we-ness. It stands for the bonds, which hold the members of a society together.
  • There is a difference between unity and uniformity. Uniformity presupposes similarity, unity does not. Thus, unity may or may not be based on uniformity. Unity may be born out of uniformity. We find this type of unity in tribal societies and in traditional societies. However, unity may as well be based on differences.


The sources of diversity in India may be traced through a variety of ways, the most obvious being the ethnic origins, religious, castes, tribes, languages, social customs, cultural and subcultural beliefs, political philosophies and ideologies, geographical variations etc.

A) Racial Diversity: A race is a large biological human grouping with a number of distinctive, inherited characteristics which vary within a certain range.

Sir Herbert Risely classified Indian population into seven racial types.

  1. The Turko Iranian: People having this strain in their blood are mainly found in Baluchisthan and Afghanisthan, which are now outside the political borders of India.
  2. The Indo-Aryan: This strain is mainly found in East Punjab, Rajasthan and Kashmir, especially among the people belonging to the castes of Rajput, Khatri and Jat.
  3. The Scytho-Dravidian: It is a mixed racial type of Scythians and Dravidians. People having this racial ancestry are said to be found in Saurashtra, Coorg and hilly tracts of Madhya Pradesh.
  4. The Aryo-Dravidian: It is an ad-mixture of Indo-Aryan and Dravidian races. They are mainly found in U.P and Bihar. While the Aryan element is more pronounced among the Brahmins and other higher caste people, The Dravidian element is more prominent among the Harijans and other lower caste people of this region.
  5. The Mongolo Dravidian: This racial type formed lout of the intermixture of Dravidian and Mongolian Races, is believed to be Brahmins and the Kayasthas of Bengal and Odisha.
  6. The Mongoloid: This racial element is mainly found among the tribal people of NorthEast Frontier and Assam.
  7. The Dravidian: The people of South India and Madhya Pradesh are claimed to be of this stock.

The inter-mixture of races is so thorough that even in the same family, we find one brother quite fair and the other quite dark. India is thus, a melting pot of races. It has rightly been called as a museum of races

B) Religious Diversity: India is a land where almost all major religions of the world are found. Here we find Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Zorostrianism and Animism. All of these main religions have a number of sects of their own.

  1. Hinduism:
  • It is an amalgamation of Indo-Aryan, Dravidian and Pre-Dravidian religious elements. It is the religion of the majority of the people of India. Hinduism believe in the doctrine of ‘Karma’, ‘Dharma’, rebirth, immortality of soul, renunciation and salvation.
  • Hinduism allows a number of possible conceptions of God. It also prescribes various alternative paths of attaining God. The Sakta, the Shaiva, the Satnami, the Lingayat, the Kabirpanthi, the Bramho Samaj, the Arya Samaj etc. are different sects of Hinduism.
  1. Islam:
  • Islam the religion of the Muslims, originated in Arebia. It came to India towards the last quarter of the 12th century A.D, with the Muslim invasions. The Muslim rulers in India patronized it. They established long dynasties over large chunks of the country and encouraged conversions from Hinduism and Buddhism.
  • Islam does not believe in idol worship. It professes the fatalistic acceptance of Allah’s will and considers Prophet Mohammed as the greatest prophet.
  1. Christianity:
  • Christians in India constitute more than 2% of its population. They are very widely scattered all over the country, but they are mainly concentrated in the south and especially in Kerala where they form nearly 25% of the state’s population.
  • In the North, Christianity has spread rather sporadically and its influence is mainly confined to certain sections of the tribal population and the depressed castes. There are mainly three sects in Christianity. They are (a) Roman-Syrians (b) Roman Catholics and (c) Protestants.
  1. Sikhism:
  • It was founded by Guru Nanak in the 16th century A.D. The Sikhs were originally a part of the Vaishnava sect before they converted to it. Sikhism was later developed by a line of Sikh Gurus, who succeeded Guru Nanak.
  • The Sikh creed involves belief in one God, condemning the worship of other deity; it prohibits idolatry, pilgrimage to the great shrines of Hinduism, faith in omens, charms or witchcraft; and does not recognize ceremonial impurity at birth and death. As a social system, it abolishes caste distinctions and as a necessary consequence, the Brahminical supremacy and usages in all ceremonies, at birth, marriage, death and so on.
  1. Buddhism:
  • It originated in India during the 6th century B.C. Its founder was Gautama the Buddha. Buddhism enjoyed royal patronage for a long period beginning from the Great emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century B.C.
  • As a result, Buddhism spread not only in India but also in countries outside India. It has two sects, namely the Hinayana and the Mahayana. At present Buddhists are found in Sikkim and the adjoining hills, they are also found in Maharashtra as a result of the recent conversions under the leadership of Dr. Ambedkar. However the number of the Buddhists in India is very meager and it represents only less than 1% of the total population
  1. Jainism:
  • Lord Mahavir established Jainism in India in the 6th century B.C. It is very close to Hinduism. Many of the Hindu doctrines are retained in it. Jains like the Hindus, venerate and worship the cows, they often worship in the Hindu temples and also employ the services of the Brahmin priest in their domestic rites.
  • They are even more scrupulous than the Hindus in maintaining caste distinctions. But it differs from Hinduism in its heretical views regarding the sanctity of the Vedas and in its strict insistence on the principle of Ahimsa. Jains represent only a small portion of the Indian population.
  • They comprise about 0.45% of our population. Jains are divided into 3 sects: namely (a) The Digambaras, (b) The Sevetambaras and (c) The Dhundias. Jains are mainly urban people and are found in the town and cities of Punjab, U.P, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra
  1. Zoroastrianism or Parsi:
  • The Parsis or the followers of Zoroaster of Zorathushtra came to India in the 7th century A.D. from Persia in order to escape the forcible conversions to Islam. They worship fire. The expose their dead on the so-called “towers of Silence” to be eaten up by vultures so that the elements- earth, fire and water-are not defiled by the contact of the dead matter.
  • Their number in India is negligible. They are about one lakh in total half of which live in the city of Bombay alone. As such they are mainly urban. They are the most literate and are on the top of the economic ladder of India
  1. Animism:
  • It is mainly a tribal faith. It is a primitive religion, according to which man is believed to be surrounded by a number of impersonal ghostly powers. These powers are said to reside in rocks, rivers, trees, stones etc

C) Linguist Diversity

  • Do you know how many languages are there in India? While the famous linguist Grierson noted 179 languages and 544 dialects, the 1971 census on the other hand, reported 1652 languages in India which are spoken as mother tongue. Not all these languages are, however, equally widespread. Many of them are tribal speeches and these are spoken by less than one percent of the total population.
  • Only 18 languages are listed in Schedule VIII of the Indian Constitution. These are Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.
  • Out of these 18 languages, Hindi is spoken by 39.85 percent of the total population; Bengali, Telugu and Marathi by around 8 percent each; Tamil and Urdu by 6.26 and 5.22 percent, respectively; and the rest by less than 5 percent each
  • This linguistic diversity notwithstanding, we have always had a sort of link language, though it has varied from age to age. In ancient times it was Sanskrit, in medieval age it was Arabic or Persian and in modern times we have Hindi and English as official languages.

D) Caste Diversity

  • India, as you know, is a country of castes. The term caste is generally used in two senses: sometimes in the sense of Varna and sometimes in the sense of Jati.
  • Varna refers to a segment of the four-fold division of Hindu society based on functional criterion. The four Varna are Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra with their specialised functions as learning, defence, trade and manual service. The Varna hierarchy is accepted all over India.
  • Jati refers to a hereditary endogamous status group practising a specific traditional occupation. You may be surprised to know that there are more than 3,000 jati in India. These are hierarchically graded in different ways in different regions.
  • The practice of caste system is not confined to Hindus alone. We find castes among the Muslim, Christian, Sikh as well as other communities.
  • You may have heard of the hierarchy of Shaikh, Saiyed, Mughal, Pathan among the Muslim. Furthermore, there are castes like teli (oil pressure), dhobi (washerman), darjee (tailor), etc. among the Muslim.
  • Similarly, caste consciousness among the Christian in India is not unknown. Since a vast majority of Christians in India are converted from Hindu fold, the converts have carried the caste system into Christianity.
  • Among the Sikh again you have so many castes including Jat Sikh and Majahabi Sikh (lower castes). In view of this you can well imagine the extent of caste diversity in India
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