Some years ago, a well dressed gentleman walked into an up-market departmental store in the Belgravia suburb of London. Once he had found what he was looking for he walked up to the counter and stood in line at the cashiers’. When it was his time to pay up he took out his wallet and with the pound-notes out fell a picture of an Indian Hindu deity. The person standing right behind our protagonist, himself an Indian, saw the picture and immediately warmed to the latter.
Our protagonist, the well dressed man was immediately asked if he was a Punjabi. He was not. He was then asked if he was a Gujrati. He was not. He was then told (firmly) that he then must be from UP. Our friend still replied that he was not. The gentleman asking all these questions, by now very hot under the collar, asked quite abrasively (thinking it was some kind of joke) “so what the hell kind of bloody Indian are you?”
This simple event, describes in a microcosm the socio-cultural & linguistic divide that is prevalent in India. The two Indias divided by the Vindhiya Mountains, have existed separately for nearly 2000 years and were only brought together by the much (and not always rightly) maligned British; and this fact somehow, never has been accepted by the historians of the nationalistic school.
The nationalist school of history, fashioned by the Congress in the early 1900s, was founded to give India some sort of cohesive identity. An identity that had eluded it for all of the 10,000 years of its civilisation. If the country had to be united in its desire to rid itself of foreign rule, then it must have some idea of its own identity and heritage. There must be a valid reason to want to get rid of the invader and the simplest reason was that they were foreign and thus oppressive and somehow seeking to obliterate Indian culture and society.
The problem facing the high-priests of this school was that there was no such identity to be found. India as we know it today, has only existed since the 1930s when the British (somewhat arbitrarily) drew the borders of this country out of the areas that it ruled over. Never before has such a landmass been ruled over by one single entity or polity. So who was to decide who was a foreigner and who was Indian? What were the Indian cultures & values that the British were trying to erase and more importantly why would one want to be called an Indian?
Ironically it was the British who gave us the help we needed. When they carved out a large political entity out of their South Asian dominions, they accidentally gave us not only a nation but also our identities. All those who were born inside that area were Indians. Simple. Off course the problems with that were that the borders drawn were completely arbitrary and later on (in 1962) would be the cause of numerous problems. The other big problem was that there was a lot of recorded history to contest this one-nation theory.
In about 2000 BC, the nomads of central Asia came down through the Hindu Kush mountains and settled in the lush Indus plains. These were the Aryans. Tall & fair, with high cheekbones and long noses, they were at a complete contrast to the original inhabitants of the Indus plains. These were short and dark people who worshiped numerous Gods, mostly of the natural world. Dravidians.
The Dravidian culture and society was far more civilised and socialised and sophisticated that the Aryan nomads’.
The displaced Dravidians went back down south to their homeland and built the stunning temple complexes (in Tamil Nadu, Andra Pradesh & Kerela) that haven’t seen an equal in the North yet. Their language also evolved separately and Tamil , today is the world’s oldest continually spoken classical language. Far older and certainly far more perfectly (sophisticated) structured than Sanskrit – the (so called) mother of all Indian languages.
Not only the language, but also the sociological structure and even the religion was far removed from that of the Aryan North. While the Aryan’s had a simplistic Triumvir of Gods, the South had a complex structure of a multi-layered divine society. The caste system, a plague upon India – even as recently as 2010 – is a Aryan thing.