As I stepped into Vellore Fort, the lofty Jalakandeshwarar Temple came into my immediate attention. The temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, was built during the reign of Vijayanagaram King Sadasivadeva Maharaya.
After visiting the temple, I found myself in front of the Chand Sahib mosque - a rectanglular lime and brick structure, built by Nawab Chand Sahib of Carnatic empire.
In another corner of the fort complex exists St John's Church - built by the erstwhile Government of Madras for the officers and staff of East India Company.
There are innumerable shrines of all religious groups throughout the country; but these three shrines are not only located in a single town. They also make the divine presence felt within a single complex named Vellore Fort in Tamil Nadu!
It remains a fact that no single political entity has built all these shrines. It is also a fact that these temples, mosques and churches are all assets or legacy of medieval India - heterogeneous since centuries with amalgamation of cultures across the globe.
Then the homebound train journey was another reflection of the land of the remarkable diversity named India - be it in linguistic and religious angle or in terms of physical features.
Not only did Tamil signboards, as in Katpadi Junction, yield place to Telugu version as the train crossed into Andhra Pradesh; the rocky terrain and barren hillocks of Vellore region also gave away to lush green fertile plains of Rayalaseema with forested hills of various shapes and sizes appearing in the horizon!
Next morning, Odiya signboards greeted me at Berhampore with increased greenery. Not to speak of the typical Kalinga style architecture of the temples right up to Balasore! Then Danton Railway station welcomes us with Bangla script!
And what an amalgamation of religious heterogeneity witnessed around the railway track in Southern Andhra Pradesh! Amidst green fields and hills, the rural and semi-urban habitations were presenting us with scenes of temple and mosque in one frame, mosque and church in the other with another gifting us a church and temple!
Although not known exactly what is the historical social cultural context of the region, but there lies no doubt to the fact that Southern Andhra is an astonishing beautiful eye-soothing melting pot (a salad bowl with all ingredients coexisting close to each other by keeping respective identities intact) of Hinduism, Islam and Christianity!
Although the stretch from Tamil Nadu to West Bengal, along the Eastern coast, represents a mere slice of this vast country (with its Western Northern Central and North-Eastern parts gifting unique specialities of its own); still it bears testimony to all sorts of diversities which form the hallmark of India!
And this colourful mosaic of innumerable languages, religion, race, architecture, cuisine, music, culture physical/geographical features ie this essence of diversity is the best thing about being an Indian in my dictionary of life.
However, it must also be kept in mind that true love and respect merit constructive criticism as well, else complacency and vanity are bound to denigrate our object of affection also or the thing which we appreciate the best. So mere shout or thought of "I love my India" will not save my dear country from the path of destruction if we do not learn to stand unitedly and protest against the dark forces which are hell-bent on demolishing the Idea of India by posing grave assault upon its very foundation ie diversity.
By imposing a particular language and tenets of a particular religious school of thought upon this heterogeneous country, an orthodox imperialist camp is working all-out to kill the diversities in the name of "unifying" the nation!
So if we truly love India or desire to retain the best thing about being an Indian, we must also challenge the divisive elements so that the merchants of hatred can be permanently uprooted from this great country of ours.
In these vitiated times of hatred and dominant mindset with fanatic display of muscle; Vellore Fort represents the divine essence of multicultural India. Let this amalgamation continue to thrive in this country not only for the sake of humanity, but also for the survival of "Bharat Tirtha" (the pilgrimage named India) as envisaged by Rabindranath Tagore while welcoming and embracing diversities of all possible hues.