You’ve seen those tourism ads: Incredible India. Since I first arrived in this country a month back, it’s been nothing short of incredible. India can fascinate and overwhelm you at the same time. It is incredible in many ways: its size, its development challenges, its diversity, and its rich cultural heritage.
Luckily for me, I have had the good fortune to experience the latter. India’s cultural heritage dates back thousands of years. And India has managed to preserve it while many others have failed. You don’t need to go deep into the hinterland to experience it. A drive through Delhi alone will take you through several phases of its history. And a four-hour drive out of the capital to Agra will take you back 400 years to the Mughal Empire. Everything is well preserved. And everyone seems to be passionate about preserving this heritage, as evident in the JIYO Exhibition that I’ve just attended.
In the five weeks I’ve been here, I’ve learned how my own culture in Indonesia has intertwined with its parent civilization here in India. Before Islam came to the Indonesian archipelago eight centuries ago, it was predominantly Hindu with vast cultural and economic ties with the sub-continent. A trip to the hinterland of Java will prove this very point. In Jogjakarta, many of the street signs are written in Sanskrit. Statues of Rama and Krishna are still present in many Indonesian cities. And the Borobudur Monastery in Central Java, with its stone carved façade depicting the Mahabharata, provided further proof of these strong ties.
This exposure to India made me think back about my own ancestry. At least I can now claim that there is a little piece of India within me.