Culture and cultural diversity
There is no clear division between religion and culture in India, certainly not from the perspective of many Hindus who, however diverse, constitute the majority community. Throughout this essay the difficulty of separating ‘Hindu’ from ‘Indian’ in various contexts has been noted. Indian culture from food to philosophy has proved remarkably vital and resilient over the millennia, having had important influences on both occupying empires and the majority communities of countries to which Indians have moved. A background ‘Indian culture’ is shared not only by religions with origins in India, such as Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism, but also by South Asian Muslims, Christians, Zoroastrians and those who identify as non-religious. ‘Indian culture’ is, of course, not unitary and there are many regional, linguistic, urban/rural and other differences within such a large and populous subcontinent and globally. Since the first encounters between ‘East’ and ‘West’ thousands of years ago, ideas, artefacts and customs have moved both ways, and in the contemporary globalised context both Indian culture and more specifically Hindu ideas, literature, creative arts, ritual, moral exemplars and meditational practices have influenced wider society. Similarly, as Hindus have settled around the world beyond India, they have made creative adaptations to the cultures in which they find themselves.