We, the people of India are a rich tapestry of cultures, faiths and festivals. The people and communities of India are best seen in the regional context. The regions are ancient and culturally cohesive and go back to the pre-historic period. Even our earliest literature refers to the Andhras, Vangas, Angas and Cheras. The Mahabharata is truly a story of all the communities in India. The Aini-i-Akbari was the first national gazetteer of India which lists the dominant lineages drawn from different communities in various parts of Akbar’s empire. The ‘people of India’ project was the first plan-Indian survey of all the commuities in India from 1984 to 1996.
Mostly Indians are a highly mixed people. Yet their likeness appears to be more prominent than their differences. The number of genes in which they differ are only few in comparison to the vast number of genes they have in common. There is a much greater homogenization among communities in terms of morphological and genetic traits at the regional level. In fact, most communities within a region of state many traits. This has been significantly brought out in the anthropomorphic survey of population in various states.
The people of India as per the constitution of India in a collective sense are identified into five human groups namely the Scheduled Castes. The Scheduled Tribes, the Religions and Linguistic Minorities, the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes, and the Anglo Indians.
All these groups are spread all over the country and most of them have been heterogeneous un terms of their perception of themselves, their differing versions of origin, their kinship structures, their life cycle ceremonies, their occupations which have now diversifies and so on. These communities derived their identities from their environment, their resources, their occupation and their original territory or villages.
The roots in the local cultural system, is an outstanding characteristic for the communities, no matter what religion they are attached with.
Indian society is marked by division and hierarchy. There are no communities without divisions. On the face of it, segments including exogamous divisions or groups, synonyms, surnames and titles add up to a mind boggling figure of about eighty thousand. However, at some different platform, they form an interesting tapestry market by different levels of perception, status and identity. A wide range of interaction is also shown by them including sharing of linkages and commonalities among communities in a linguistic regional and inter-regional context.
Further it is seen that all the communities and races living in India are also placed in a hierarchical order. Hierarchy differs from region to region. Based on the different perceptions, communities are ranked in a low, middle and high order. Ther has been an overall pervasive impact of the development process. As the movement towards the political equality grows and it gets translated into economic terms, there has been communities from the lower order move into the middle zone. This explains the burgeoning middle class, an amorphous category which encompasses a whole range of people moving up and going down into a arena of economic activity. We, the people of India, highlight the rise of the middle class over a large social spectrum including most communities and from almost all regions.
Among the people of India, there are still some communities which do not have adequate representation in the classified ranks of the society. Similarly, the remotest communities have been drawn into the vortex of Indian politics, and they are the participants in the recent political processes going on in the country. However, this process has still to move forward so as to encompass each section of people in order that our democracy, the social base of which is widening, becomes truly fully participative one. Further, it is a fact that the people of India are located within the civilization vocabulary cutting across various language barriers. Our late Prime Minister had truly said that India is a cultural unity amidst diversity, a bundle of contradictions held together by strong but invisible threads of lobe and affection.
Another thing which is very interesting about the people of India is that we share traits far more than the traits that we do not share. A reason for this could be the fact that most communities have emerged from the same ecological, ethnic, socio-cultural background, even though later they embraced different religious or other ways of life. Contrary to the general impression and inspite of the higher value attached to vegetarianism, only about twenty percent of the Indian communities are vegetarian. Mild culture has spread in the wake of the white revolution and a large number of communities report the consumption of milk. In the eating habits of the People of India, there has been a general shift from non –vegetarianism to vegetarianism. However, at the same time, there has been a sharp increase in the consumption of alcoholic beverages by men in various Communities with growth in economy in the post green revolution phase, there has been a diversification of occupations among the People of India. Today, there are very few communities whose members follow only one occupation.