The vast and the mystic land of India is perhaps the only nation in the World that presents a ingenious explode of cultures, languages, religions and races. Each and every aspect of the nation is remarkable and great, which is beyond any comparison. Describing the country completely is much more difficult that remain apathetic about it.
Identification : Indian sub-continent comprises the largest part of land area of the Asian Continent. It shares its area with India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan , Afghanistan , Bangladesh, Tibet and Maldives. The country has distinguishable and varied landforms that range from plains to mountains and desert to beaches. The nation houses several topical islands as well as forests.
Location and Geography : Located on the southern part of the continent of Asia, the Indian subcontinent touches three large bodies of water bodies. The Indian peninsula has the Bay of Bengal to the east, the Arabian Sea to the west, and the India Ocean to the south. The country shares its borders with countries like Pakistan in the west, China and Nepal in the north to north eastern part, Bhutan in the north east and Burma in the west. India is geographically located at 28° 36.8′ N and 77° 12.5′ E in the northern hemisphere of the globe and covers an area of 3, 287, 263 sq. km. India is the 7th largest country in the World in terms of its geographical area.
Demography of India
India being a vast land is an abode of several races and has a large population of 1.2 billion people along with the highest people per kilometre square ratios with an incredulous 362 people per square kilometre. India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. As per 2011 census, population of India was 1,210,193,422; Females: 5,86,469,174 and Males: 6,23,724,248. Birth rate: 20.97 births/ 1, 000 populations, Growth rate: 1.344 %, Death rate: 7.48 deaths/ 1, 000 population and Fertility rate: 2.62 children born/ woman. The population is still primarily rural, with 73 percent of the population in 1997 living outside the cities and towns.
History of India
The history of India dates back to several thousands of years and boasts of a rich historical past. In a recent finding in the state of Tamil Nadu indicated the presence of the first anatomically humans in the area and tools crafted by proto-humans that have been dated back to two million years have been discovered in the North-western part of the country. The Indus valley civilization, the first civilization of the World saw its genesis in India around 2500 BC. India has been a place that has been ruled by several small and big dynasties. The nation has witnessed the fall and rise of several dynasties, battles, invasions by foreign nations and birth of some of the major religions of India have contributed towards the rich history of the country. The history of country has as well contributed towards the evolution of Indian culture.
Indian culture is one of the oldest cultures of the World that dates back to some 5000 years. The culture of India is often illustrated as “Sa Prathama Sanskrati Vishvavara”, which means the first and supreme culture of the World. Well-known for the wide ranging diversities, every region of the country displays a unique, vibrant and distinct culture. The culture of the nation despite being diverse has certain common features.
Indian Culture is the art of living
Culture is basically a collective build up of beliefs, knowledge, values, religion, etc. Culture is also defined as customs, social behaviour and ideas of a particular group of people or society. In short, it can be stated as a way or an art of living. Indian culture is no different from this concept and can be described as consisting of the following features.
Humanity : Humanity is indigenous to Indian culture and every culture of the country propagates the virtue of humanity. Indians are known all over the globe for their mild and calm nature and does not display any harshness in their principles and ideals.
Unity: Unity is another aspect of Indian culture. India being a vast nation with a population of about 1 billion, people belonging to different sex, caste, creed, religion and languages resides here. Although, there are several diversities and differences, Indian culture is a union of old traditional values and the modern principles.
Tolerance : Another indigenous aspect of India culture is tolerance. Tolerance is a virtue that is inherited by every Indian and is taught in every culture of the country. Tolerance in Indian culture has been interpreted as concept narrower than that of religious liberty because it is traditional, Hinduism, does not proselytise, which means that a religion, which does not proselytise cannot be intolerant. The co-existence to different sex, caste, creed, religion and languages displays that tolerance is a major feature of India’s culture.
Secularism : It is not because the Indian Constitution states that India is a secular nation, but secularism has always been a part of the Indian culture. In India, every religion is given equal respect and every religious festival is celebrated with equal zest by every individual. This is one of the most unique aspects of the culture of India.
Closely knit Social system: In India the social system is closely knit and socializing is a common aspect of every culture of the nation. The Joint family system that still exists in India is an example of it, where several generations reside together sharing the love, happiness and spirit.
Indian Culture is traditional yet modern
The culture of India dates back to the time of Indus Valley Civilization and is still surviving with honour. This is because Indian culture has always been flexible and has accepted the changes that came with time and has always kept pace with the modern era. However, there are certain things about Indian culture that are still intact. These include:
Way of greeting : India has a very unique way of greeting and welcoming people. ‘Namaste’, the traditional way of greeting in India means “I bow to (respect) that what is good in you.” This is a very common way of greeting not only the guests but also the elder people. While doing ‘Namaste’, people join both the palms, raised below the face. This gesture not just shows respect but also displays the meekness and affection of people. Besides this, Indian people are as well known for the unique way of welcoming guests. Flower garlands are used for welcoming people, which is followed by the traditional way of greeting i.e. ‘Namaste’.
Festivals of India : Festivals are an integral part of Indian culture. India being a nation that has multiple cultures and religions, numerous festivals are celebrated all throughout the year. Every festival, irrespective of the religion is celebrated with great zest and grandeur. India is also referred to as the land of festivals, where some festivals are celebrated regionally, others are celebrated nationally. Every region and every culture have their own ways of celebrating festivals by keeping intact the main reason and essence of it.
Indian Weddings : Indian weddings are renowned all over the globe for its lavishness and even in the modern times, it is celebrated with same grandeur and fervour. Weddings have always been an indispensable part of Indian culture as it is considered as a sacred sacrament and is an occasion that is celebrated in a grand way. Weddings in India are a complete family affair as marriage is not considered as a relationship between two people but as a relationship between families and especially between the girl and her husband’s family. Indian weddings, especially in Hindu marriages, consist of many traditional customs and ceremonies which the bride and bridegroom and their families have to go through before and on the actual wedding day and even today many families adhere to the traditional customary rituals associated with marriages.
Arranged marriage has always been as part of Indian culture. It is an age old tradition that is followed, where both the bride and the bridegrooms are selected by their families. The practice of arranged marriages began as a way of uniting and maintaining upper caste families. The process begins with practices like matching the horoscope of the couple for checking the compatibility, the background of the families and their castes. Arranged marriages are never forced and before the marriage becomes official the would-be bride and groom have the opportunity to meet each other and decide whether or not a relationship is something that they would wish to pursue.
Indian Dresses and Jewellery
Traditional Indian dresses vastly differ from region to region, which is a result of the cultural influence. However, common Indian attire that women of all regions wear is Sari. It is usually 6 yards long piece of cloth, which is draped starting from the waist-line and worn with a blouse. Besides, Sari, salwar kameez is also common attire worn by the women folk. The traditional dress for men is the dhoti, an unstitched piece of cloth about 5 yards long that is tied around the waist and legs. Men also wear a kurta, a loose shirt that is worn about knee-length. For special occasions, men wear a sherwani, which is a long coat that is buttoned up to the collar and down to the knees. Jewellery is a part of Indian clothing, which completes the dressing of a woman. Traditional Indian jewellery designs vary from region to region and are usually made of gold or silver, which represents the Indian culture and traditions.
Indian Food Culture
Food being an essential part of every human culture, understanding a culture on the basis of its cuisine becomes easier. Indian Cuisine reflects the rich culture of the country along with the diversity as it hems in a wide array of different regional cuisine. Indian Food is well-known all over the World for the use of different spices and herbs. By and large, Indian cuisine can be split into five categories, namely northern, southern, eastern, western, and north-eastern. The diversity of Indian cuisine is characterised by varying use of many spices and herbs, a wide range of recipes and cooking techniques. Despite this diversity, one unifying string that is witnessed in every cuisine of the country is the use of spices and herbs, while preparing any dish. Rice, lentils, chutney, pickle, wheat and pulses are some of the common dishes that are prepared in every part of the country.
Languages in India
India is a vast nation that has 29 states and 7 Union Territories with about 400 living languages that are spoken in different parts of the country and 22 official languages. Hindi is considered as the national language of the country. The evolution of language within India may be distinguished over three periods: old, middle and modern Indo-Aryan. The classical form of old Indo-Aryan was Sanskrit, which is now known as the mother of all languages. The existence of such a huge number of language mirrors the rich cultural heritage of India.
Religions in India
Religion provides a theistic code of morals as well as codes of behaviour for society and culture. Religion has become a major influence in the World and people in all cultures there are a set of beliefs that go beyond both the self and the natural world. All religions have values, which are guides to behaviour, such as do good, avoid wrong, etc. and these values form a culture. India being the birthplace of the World’s largest and oldest religion, Hinduism, its influence can be very well witnessed in Indian culture. Besides Hinduism, the country is also the birthplace of Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, which as well have influenced the way of living of the people. The culture of the country has been highly influenced by the existence of different religion and a reason is a reason for existence of diversified culture.
Art is an indispensable part of Indian culture and everything in the country is quite artistic. It is the only country, where a huge variety of art exist in terms of both visual arts and performing arts. Dance and music forms an integral part of Indian culture. Indian art can be categorised into performing arts and visual arts.
Performing Arts in India
Dance, music, drama and theatre are different forms of performing arts and form a part of the rich cultural heritage of the country. Moreover, the classical literature, religions and mythology are the origins of each of these performing arts.
Indian Dance: The existence of Dance in India dates back to over 2,000 years. The subject matters are derived from mythology, legends and classical literature and Indian Dance are mainly of two types, namely classical and folk. Classical dance forms are based on Nātyaśāstra (Science of Dance) and Abhinaya Darpana (Mirror of Gesture), which are the ancient books and have rigid rules of presentation. Important among them are Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, Kathak, Manipuri, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Mohiniattam and Sattriya. Each of these dance forms are from different regions. Bharata Natyam though it derives its roots from Tamil Nadu, has developed into an all India form. Kathakali and Mohiniattam is a dance form of Kerala. Kathak is a classical dance form revitalised as a result of Mughal influence on Indian culture. Manipur has contributed to a delicate, lyrical style of dance called Manipuri, Kuchipudi is a dance form owing its origin to Andhra Pradesh. Odissi from Odisha and Sattriya Dance, which is recently added to the list of classical dance forms, is from the state of Assam. Apart from the classical dances, Indian culture is also influenced by the folk dances. Every region has their respective folk dances, which reflects the culture of that region.
Indian Music: An integral part of the India culture is the music. Since Vedic period music been capturing the heart and mind of every Indian. Besides Indian Classical music, which is mainly of two types – Hindustani and Carnatic, there are numerous folk music. The folk music of different regions stands as a mirror to the Indian culture. Songs that are sung are usually based on the folklore of the region.
Drama and Theatre: Another form of performing arts is drama and theatre. Indian drama and theatre has a long history alongside its music and dance. Kalidasa’s plays like Shakuntala and Meghadoota are some of the older dramas, following those of Bhasa. One of the oldest surviving theatre traditions of the world is the 2,000-year-old Kutiyattam of Kerala.
Indian Cinema : Indian cinema has highly influenced the culture and has also helped in giving a global platform. The country produces more than 1000 movies every year and these movies are not only popular in the domestic market but also have a wide viewership in the Asian and European countries. Hindi, English , Punjabi , Kannada, Telugu, Marathi or Bengali , India produces movie in almost every language.
Visual Arts in India
Visual Arts include paintings, sculptures and architecture. The existence of visual arts in India dates back to several thousands of years and is an indispensable part of Indian culture.
Paintings: Cave paintings from Ajant & Ellora, Bagh, and Sittanavasal and temple paintings provides an evidence of the culture of visual arts in India. Most early and medieval art in India is Hindu, Buddhist or Jain. Raja Ravi Varma is one the classical painters from medieval India. Madhubani , Rajput painting, Mysore , Tanjore and Mughal painting are some distinguished Genres of Indian Art.
Architecture: Indian Architecture is also a form of visual arts that has evolved with time, encompassing a range of new style as a result of cultural influence. Indian Architecture is an amalgamation of different style of architecture and the existence of different historical monuments stands as an evidence to it. Some of its earliest production are found in the Indus Valley Civilisation (2600–1900 BC) which is characterised by well planned cities and houses.
Sculptures: Sculptures are an indispensable part of visual arts. The first sculptures in India date back to the Indus Valley civilisation, where stone and bronze figures have been discovered. The sculptures that are made in the northwest part of the country, displays the unification of Indian and Classical Hellenistic or possibly even Greco-Roman influence.
Caste and creed are part of Indian culture and society and an elaborate caste system exist in India. The Indian society has a hierarchy of indigenous, birth-ascribed groups, each of which was traditionally characterised by their occupation and had its own level of social status. As people are not permitted to change the caste they are born to, the entire family belongs to a single caste, thus developing a subculture, which is passed on generation after generation.
Gender role and status
India being a majorly “Patriarchal” society, male folks of the society play a dominant role. According to Indian culture and traditions, women are considered to the home makers and are expected to obey her father, then her husband, and then her son, while a man is expected to work hard and earn for his family. The opinion of the male head of household is especially given importance in all matters, although in some families older women are highly influential but remains behind the scene.
Indian culture is synonymous to the word hospitality. Every Indian is hospitable by nature and can go to a significant way to make the guests feel comfortable. Mantra of “Atithi Devo Bhava” which means “Guests are God” is followed by the people of India. Even the poor can go to a considerable extent to make their guests feel at home.