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India. Bharat. Hindustan. The 29 constituents of India make it what we know it as, an Economically Developing, Socially Secular nation on the road to success. But who really has the power? And what really holds them together?
The phrase “First and the most essential thing to learn about India is that there is not, and never was an India, or even any country of India, possessing, according to European ideas, any sort of unity, physical, political, social or religious…. That men of the Punjab, Bengal, the North Western Provinces, and Madras, should ever feel they belong to one great nation is impossible.” Was made famous by John Strachey, A British Colonial Administrator back in 1888.
Now, considering that the basic policy of the British to hold power in a large but diverse country like India was to divide and rule, this phrase does not come as a surprise.
Since the beginning of time, historically if it were to be recorded, since the emergence of the Nanda Dynasty in 322 BC, India has been a land to many prosperous Dynasties that have intended to widen their empire by acquiring parts of it either by suing for peace or waging a war, either way, none of the historical records state that India was ever considered as a nation on the whole. Just a home for nations whose Rulers could change the minute someone decides to swing a sword.
The name ‘India’ comes from the Indus River, presently in Kashmir, India and parts of Pakistan; and this name was used to refer to only that part of the region that lay after the Indus river, not the country that we now today as India.
The country, because of its abundance in resources, could hardly ever go unnoticed in the eyes of foreign rulers.
Through the steps of History, it can be traced that when the Shungas were ruling in Magadh (present day Uttar Pradesh), the Satvahana Dynasty began ruling present day Maharastra region, at the same time, the North-west region was under the control of the Kushan Kings while the Cholas declared the southern part of the country as ‘Cholamandalam’.
What all these rulers had in common was not that they were to eventually realise that they were all ruling one country that we now live in, but that they were all ruling their own separate countries which just happened to belong to the same landmass.
History plays a very important role in determining future actions and contemporary lifestyles of people.
The subjects that lived under the Monarchy of various different Kings and Queens, developed different languages, artforms, cultural styles of dressing, festivals, cuisines subject to the kind of vegetation grown, as well their mental idea of what they believed as an ideal ‘country’. They began to believe that the boundaries of their own region is the extent of the country and that was in their best interest, the people could not identify themselves as a part of something larger or having a shared interest with another Monarchy.
The American States, with the assistance of the French Monarchy, won independence in 1776 and this movement led to the formation of the United States of America.
The ‘United States’.
Here, one can notice how in a relatively modern society like the USA, the term ‘United’ is used for the country. This implies that the country is seen as a collective roof under which the states reside. This is also mainly because the western culture has not experienced an array of multicultural rulers, which makes the citizens feel like they’re ‘American’ and not ‘From New York’ or ‘From California’.
Where, on one hand, The United States was formed, on the other hand, The Battle of Plassey in 1757 lead to the British Invasion in the country; and along with the British came their ideologies of a uniform law and order and marking territories and boundaries through Administration and not sieges or wars as was previously seen in India.
The irony lies in the fact that even though the British Policy was to divide and rule, the British was most probably the very first organization that actually brought all the independent regions earlier ruled by monarchs, into one big nation called ‘Hindustan’ or ‘India’.
Civil Rights, Law, Police, Education emerged and flourished, but the feeling of belonging to a particular part of the country never really left the people’s minds.
For a country like India, having 29 States and 7 Union Territories, each of which so deeply rooted in tradition, it is difficult to have just one picture of ‘India’ in one’s head.
Coming back from 1947 to the present age, 2018, India stands, neither weak nor strong enough but it stands as a State of Nations.
An important question that arises here, is that, what is the fundamental difference between a state and a nation?
A state is defined as a territory considered as an organized political community under one government. A Nation is defined as a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory.
‘India is a myriad of Culture’. It’s varied Historical descents have also been brought into light.
So, does India really fit into the definition of a Nation?
What India can be categorized as is a State consisting of more number of state-nations. The Country is run by a single Political Party called the ruling party, the head of which, is the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister looks into the overall functioning of these nations that India holds as states of its own. However, some of these state-nations do not have the Ruling Party in power in their respective regions and are essentially tied to the Country only by means of Language or History. Goa and Delhi, to name a few are prime examples. Each of these state-nations in India have the right to exercise their own norms and orders. For instance, Gujarat, being the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi is declared as a Dry State, while alcohol is consumed widely in Punjab.
When talking about the Nations in India perceived as States, two most major case studies are that of Kashmir and The Seven Sisters of the northeast of India. Kashmir demands an autonomous status from the Country, while on the contrary, the seven states of the northeast, in spite of having joined the Union of Nations (that we today know as India) much later, seek to be recognized as a part of it and seek to grow from it.
The various Countries that have come together to form the State of India wish to flourish independently, protect the interests of their respective people, cultures, and traditions but at the same time, have a higher authority hold responsibility for them as well.
India is most definitely not a Nation of States but it IS a State holding many Nations together; and through Seventy years, it has strived to maintain peace and order between these State-Nations, that, if one were to see through lenses of History, constantly at war with one another. It is true that every corner right from Kashmir in the North to Kanyakumari in the South, from Gujarat in the West to Assam in the East, is and will be India, we must not forget that it is the people who ultimately make a Nation strong and these people decide which Nation they serve.
India is often referred throughout old texts as ‘Motherland’, maybe because, this Enormous Subcontinental size of a State stands like a Mother struggling to keep her children close but giving them space to grow by themselves.
Therefore, It can be said that there are 29 Indias but One Indian State.
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