First Week of School

Monday was my first day of school in India. Many of the classes began with a discussion of the history of India as a background introduction to each specific topic. Here’s a summary of the things I’ve learned about India, which is also known by the Sanskrit name Bharat. India has three seasons. Winter lasts from October through March. Summer is from March to June. And June through October is defined as the monsoon season. Since April and May are the hottest months, schools have summer vacation during this two month period. Thus, the Indian school year begins in June and goes through March.

School desks are sacred because that’s where books, the sources of knowledge, are placed.

Resting your feet, which are considered unclean, on a desk is forbidden at Christ University. The teacher is one step above the parents, and professors are well respected. There is an Indian mantra from the Upanishads that instructs Hindus to “Regard the Teacher as god.” When a professor enters the classroom, students are expected to rise, greet the professor, and wait for permission to be seated. In one of the courtyards on the Christ University campus, there is a stone arch with a gap in the side. The partially completed arch represents the fundamental principle that “Education is never complete.” Indian professors are eager to learn from anywhere and anyone. Professors want to learn from their students as much as they want to teach them.

The characteristic philosophy is that knowledge is valuable regardless of its source.

The history of India is separated into various ages. Beginning with the Indus Valley, India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. During the Vedic Age, Hinduism flourished and Indian society was characterized by equality. Women were granted equal status, and participated equally in both education and religion. Next, the Aryans invaded India and the Aryan period began. In order to maintain control over the population, Aryans instituted slavery. As a result, segmentation of Indian society occurred, and women lost much of their equality. The period of the Aryan invasion marked the beginning of the formation of the Indian caste system. After the Aryan period, India was invaded by the Muslims. Under Muslim rule, the rigid segmentation of people based on caste became more pronounced. Finally, India was colonized by the British. Due to British exploitation of India's natural resources, India lost most of its wealth during this period of colonization. Prior to British colonization, India had been a country filled with artisans and craftsman. However, when the British brought machines to India, many jobs and artisan skills were lost.  India gained independence from the British on August 15, 1947. India has 29 states and 7 union territories. The states of India have been formed along linguistic boundaries. Hindi and English are the official languages of India, but various states also have their own official languages. Overall, there are 22 official languages in India, but it is estimated that 1,652 “mother tongues” are spoken throughout India. Of those languages, 150 are characterized by a sizable speaking population. Bangalore is the capital city of the state of Karnataka. In this state, children learn the national languages of Hindi and English, as well as the state language of Kannada. The language of Hindi is part of the Indo-European language family. 500 million people worldwide speak Hindi.

Hindi has 13 vowels, 36 consonants, and 13 symbols for combining vowels and consonants.

India is the most populous democracy in the world, and is run by both a central, federal government and state governments. The prime minister is the head of the government, the president is head of the constitution, and the chief minister is head of the state. The  government is separated into five main levels:

  1. Central (federal) government controlled by the prime minister and the president

  2. State government controlled by the chief minister

  3. Districts controlled by municipal corporations

  4. Blocks controlled by block development officers

  5. Villages controlled by sarpanchs

India has several important symbols:

  • National animal: tiger

  • National bird: peacock

  • National river: Ganges

  • National aquatic animal: dolphin

  • National sport: field hockey

  • National fruit: mango

  • National flower: lotus

  • National emblem: "Lion capital" - four lions facing each of the four directions

  • National flag: tri-color flag - saffron, green, and white horizontal stripes with a blue wheel in the middle that has 24 spokes

The country of India is divided into the North and South regions. These regions are geographically, linguistically, and culturally distinct. North Indian is more conservative, and many of the states formed based on caste politics. Historically, the people in North India are descended from the Aryans. Consequently, North Indians tend to have fairer skin, and speak languages derived from the Aryan language. In contrast, South India is associated with a group of people called the Dravidians. South Indians have darker skin, and speak languages derived from the Dravidian language. The Northeast region of India contains seven small states, which are known as the "Seven Sisters." The people in this region are descended from Chinese ancestors, and thus have paler skin and Chinese facial features.  Due to geographic differences between the two regions, North and South Indians consume different types of food. North Indian food is characterized by wheat based meals. Because of the extreme climates in the north, Northern food is richer and heavier. South Indian food is characterized by rice based meals. Due to the mild, tropical climate in the south, Southern food is lighter.

Mahatma Gandhi is known as the father of India. Jawaharlal Nehru was the first prime minister of India. Indira Gandhi was the first female prime minister, and Prathibha Patil was the first female president of India.  India is multicultural, multilingual, and multiethnic. There are a staggering number of cultures, languages, religions, and traditions in India.

Consequently, the motto of India is “Unity through diversity.”