From my Ramayana Series!
India is a hugely divided country. The most obvious division to outsiders is the religious division between Muslims and Hindus. But a drastically important division, even between Hindus is one of race, geography and language. This is the Aryan-Dravidian divide of North vs South.
- The South: The Southerners are typically known as smaller, darker-skinned people who speak dialects of a completely different language family: Dravidian language group
- The North : The Northerners are typically known as taller, lighter-skinned people who speak dialects from the Indo-Aryan language group whose mother is Sanskrit.
The bitterness between these groups is huge. India’s capital is in the North — Delhi. And the official national government language is a Northern language: Hindi (and also English) but no Southern languages can are official. So to get central government jobs, a person must know both Hindi and English (the language of the previous ruling class).
This division is present in India’s Hinduism too. Even in my US town there are two Hindu temples: a Northern temple and a Southern temple. The Northerners have different local gods and holidays. Holi, for instance, is not celebrated by many Southern Indians.
To uninformed Westerners, India appears a monolithic land. But like many countries and religions, with a little inspection, the tumultuous divisions become clear. My experiences in India were largely from the North. I have only studied northern languages (Hindi & Urdu) but not any southern Dravidian languages. But I recently made some Tamil friends from whom I am learning to look behind my Northern prejudices — both historical and religious. In the next post I will illustrate how this divide is reflected in the Ramayana – one of Hinduism’s most sacred texts.
PS: There is a much smaller third group called “The Tribals” or “The Adivasi” in India. This group had a very large influence on me and I will write about very close Tribal friend later.