Any visitor to India will tell you that the moment you step off the plane, your senses are overwhelmed by the experience of this unique country.
Probably the universal first impression for newcomers is the immense crowds of people everywhere you look. With its population of 1.1 billion people in a land area slightly larger than one-third that of the United States, India’s people generally live in very tight quarters.
Another distinct impression is that India is a land of contrasts. For example, India’s twenty-three official languages are evidence of incredible diversity shaped by invasions and incursions. Yet India is a land of syncretism where many established traditions were maintained while customs and ideas of invaders were absorbed. Other contrasts are also evident.
Most women wear traditional saris or salvars, but in the cities it is not unusual to see a woman in jeans and stiletto heels. On the other hand, you are just as likely to see men walking the streets with a dhoti draped and tied around their waists as you are to see men in Western-style business suits and ties.
The economic status of the population also reflects dramatic contrasts. The last decade has brought India economic growth of over 7% annually. This phenomenal growth was fueled in large part by exports by software service industries employing well-educated Indians skilled in the English language. The result for that segment of the population has been newfound prosperity. Yet in spite of all the growth, about 28% of the population still earns less than $10 per person per month.
The dense traffic you see in cities and on highways is also a picture of contrasts. Sedans, motorcycles, bikes, auto rickshaws, pedestrians, cows, and sometimes even elephants crowd the roads and compete for space. For many visitors, traveling the highways and byways of India is the most unnerving experience of their stay. The former US ambassador to India, Daniel Moynihan, called it “functional anarchy”.
The spiritual dimension of Indian life is particularly interesting. Hinduism is the dominant religion with 80% of Indians identifying themselves as such. The dichotomy that stands out about Hinduism is that it involves a constant search for God, yet the search never ends. Even the most devout Hindus are hesitant to say they have really found the true God.
Openness to God
This continual seeking results in an openness to God. Because Indians are open to the spiritual dimension, those who receive God’s grace experience transformation in a Book of Acts sort of way. Dramatic experiences, visions and miracles are part of the testimonies of many Indian Christians. . Of course, there are nominal Christians in India, just as there are most anywhere. But among those who are wholeheartedly following Him, the Lord is doing amazing Kingdom work in India.