Culture of India :
BY Sormista Pal : Kolkatta - India
India has acquired a very distinctive pedestal on the world map for its extraordinarily rich culture and heritage. “Unity in Diversity“ are the words which are just apt to describe the culture of a country like India. Here in India “Unity in Diversity” are not just mere words. It is truly practiced in actuality. The congenial relation that all Indians share amongst each other, the exhilaration and bliss in celebration of all festivals make India unparallel worldwide. From the era when the Mauryas, Cholas and the Mughals invaded and ruled India till the period of the British Empire, India has always been famous for its tolerance, traditions and cordiality. Indian Culture is a combination of several languages, religious festivals, art, food, dance, crafts, music and various other ingenious entities. The vivacity of Indian culture, its dynamism, liberality allures countless tourists from all corners of the world.
"The Indian way of life provides the vision of the natural, real way of life. We veil ourselves with unnatural masks. On the face of India are the tender expressions which carry the mark of the Creator's hand". .....George Bernard Shaw
The overview of India’s culture is gigantic and very colorful. The reflection of it can be seen in some of the ideologies practiced in India.
Swami Vivekananda, while delivering speech in Chicago, on 11 September 1893 said "the most ancient order of monks in the world, the Vedic order of sannyasins, a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance."
India occupies the first position when it comes to secularism. Here, in India all religions are equally respected, needless to say, in India freedom of worship is widely practiced. When any type of calamity strikes the nation all religions despite of their cultural difference come forward to extend their support. India has suffered terrible oppression from several foreign invaders in different periods, mentioned in history, in spite of all distress, cruelty, India’s oneness, its unity, culture has remained unbroken and undamaged. In fact, India is a nation which follows the policy of non violence. Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha Movement is evidence to it.
Over the period, India has absorbed all virtues of various foreign cultures, thereby emerging as a nation with a traditional yet contemporary culture which is widely acceptable. India has always affectionately welcomed all types of positive foreign traits and has made them a part of its own ethnicity. This is the secret behind the multi-colored culture of the country. The flexibility of Indian culture keeps the culture of the nation up-to-date, thus helping it to survive with all pride and honor in this modern era.
India is a land of varied languages like Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Oriya, Rajasthani, Sanskrit, Bengali, Gujarati, Manipuri, Assamese, Marathi, Konkani, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam. Hindi is the national Language of the country, but regional languages and several tribal languages are very much alive in the country.
Here, in India, the manner of greeting plays a very important role. The technique of greeting varies from state to state, religion to religion, community to community. For example - in most of the Hindu families “Namaste” happens to be the common way of greeting. Namaste is done by placing both the palms together and raised below the face. Another unique way of greeting is by touching the feet of elders. Muslims greet by saying “adab” which is done by raising the right hand in such a way that the palm facing inwards and is in front of the eyes with the finger tips touching the forehead. Such ways of greeting not only makes the greeted person feel esteemed but also makes the greeter feel very much loved in return.
Flower is another very important element in Indian society. No occasion is complete without flowers. Indians begin their worship or “puja” by offering flower garlands to the deities. In Hindu marriages there is a ritual of exchanging flower garlands between the bride and the bridegroom. In India, on special occasions, people welcome guests with flower garlands.
Like flowers, Mehendi or henna forms an integral part of Indian culture. On special occasions women make a paste of henna and then they create designs with the paste on their palms, known as mehendi. Mehendi or henna gives a reddish brown shade to the palms. In India marriages are incomplete without Mehendi. Especially in North Indian marriages, the night before the wedding day is reserved for mehendi ceremony. In some parts of India, mehendi otherwise is considered to be a distinctive ageless folk art as well.
Marriages in India are believed to be an extremely sacred and revered institution which not only unites the bride and the bridegroom, but at the same time unites their families. Each and every caste, community, religion, has its own unique rituals related to marriage. Needless to say that time has been unable to change the richness and luxuriousness of Indian marriages. Even today Indian marriages call for garish celebration and overexcitement crammed with loud, cheerful music and dance.
There is a great variety in Indian outfits, both for men and women. Every state of India has its exclusive attire. Indians like to wear both ethnic as well as modern contemporary outfits. But of all Indian outfits, Indian sarees are renowned in the entire world. Like the massive size of the country the range of the variety of Indian sarees is also vast. In fact, each and every state manufactures innumerable variety of sarees, thus, one can very well presume that diverse array of sarees are available in India. Ghaghra cholis with dupatta are worn by women. Mostly in rural areas Salwar kameez accompanied with a dupatta is another staple outfit for women in India. There is a wide variety of clothes for Indian men, too. Indian men prefer to wear clothes which are comfortable and make them look good. The range of clothes for Indian men starts from traditional dhoti kurta to the very contemporary shirts and trousers, like Indian women. There is unquestionably no scarcity in the variety of clothes for Indian men.
In Indian society jewelleries occupy a very significant seat. It is an essential part of Indian culture. Like Indian dresses Indian jewellery is also very famous worldwide for its uniqueness, artistic and creative looks .Here, in India the style of jewellery also varies from community to community, state to state and from religion to religion. In Indian society jewellery is passed on from generation to generation as legacy. In India, jewelleries are not only worn for fashion but certain jewelleries like “mangalsutra” etc. are believed to be objects of marital bliss.
Since India is a secular country, each and every citizen has the right to choose and follow a religion of his or her choice. Religions which are very common in India are Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, Buddhism and Jainism. Besides these religions, there are several other religions which are followed in India. Almost in every state of India there are pilgrimages for more than one religion. In addition to deity worship, nature worshipping is also very popular in India. The most prevalent one is the SURYA NAMASKAR or the Sun Salutation. Almost all the Hindus start their day by worshipping the Sun God. Amidst diversity in religions, Indians stay together happily being united, merely because of the elusive Indian values and traditions which bind them concurrently.
Festivals and celebration are elemental parts of every Indian’s life. There is no dearth of celebration, festival, fair in India. There are festivals for every season, every region, and every religion. Indian festivals call for shopping, decoration, delicious cuisines, music, dance, so they are exceptionally vibrant in all respect. Some of the festivals celebrated in India are Diwali (festival of Lights), Holi (festival of colours), Dussera, Ganesh Chaturthi, Baisakhi, Mahavir Jayanti, Guru Nanak’s Birthday, Janmastami, Buddha Purnima, Eid etc. Pushkar fair is renowned all over the world. Tourists from all over the world come to India for attending Pushkar fair. In Our Motherland, festivals and fairs begin from January with Makar Sankranti and ends in December with Christmas, every month has to offer one or the other festival, here every religion, every community celebrates its festival in a glorious way.
Various states, various religions, various communities and thus various kinds of culinary delights are there. If north India has biriyani, chhole bature, murg musallam, paneer makhni, chicken tandoori, palak paneer in store, then south India is not trailing from any aspect….south India has its store ready with various types of dosas, idlis, uttapam….chhetinad chicken, rasam, sambar, lemon rice , toran, appam, etc.. Similarly, if rossogolla from Bengal (eastern India) is world famous then dhokla from Gujarat (western India) also occupies a high pedestal in the world of cuisine. India had joyfully accepted foreign cuisines and has added them in the list of Indian cuisines. For example, Biriyani… actually a mughal culinary delight is now an important item in the list of Indian cuisine.
India has an extensive collection of performing art as well as visual art in its stock. Performing arts include Dance, drama, theatre or music….every element is exceptional in its own way. Indian classical dance forms include Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, Kathak, Manipuri, Odissi and Kuchipudi. These dance forms follow the ciphers of natyashastra which are mostly based on Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata and several other classical literatures as well.
In India, theatre occupies a very weighty platform. Long time ago, puppet shows marked the beginning of Indian theatre. Puppet shows taught moral values to children and the society as a whole. Folk theatre is still common in various regions of India and it is practiced in several regional languages of India, but professional theatre is practiced only in metropolitan cities and in other urban areas.
Indian Classical music can be divided into two parts - Hindustani Music (North) and Carnatic Music (South), such music is based on arrangements of musical notes known as RAGA. Besides Indian Classical music, folk music and music from movies of various languages are also very popular in India. From the Vedic period, music has captivated the minds of Indians in such a way that music can be termed as the soul of all Indians.
Indian films are very popular worldwide and so are the actors and actresses. India produces numerous films in almost every Indian language. They are in demand not only in national market but also in international market.
Visual art of India is also not behind the race. It includes paintings, sculptures, pottery, etc. Rajput, Deccan, Kangra and Moghul School of paintings are legendary Schools of Indian paintings or popularly known as GHARANAS. Indian paintings are famous in the whole world for its intricacies and elegant colours.
Sculpture is another field in which India excels to a large extent. The Sun temple of Odisha, Khajurao temple in Madhya Pradesh, Deccan temple in Kanchipuram, Madurai and Rameswaram, Sanchi Stupa, temples of Ellora and Elephanta caves are examples of excellent, proficient and regal Indian craftsmanship which attracts uncountable tourists from all over the world every year.
Pottery is again an age-old, amazing form of visual art of India which has a very high demand in the international market. In pottery, artisans use lumps of clay and hand- mould them into various toys, deities and several other objects. In India pottery has an important role to play in the field of religious celebrations, the extremely beautiful idols of all deities are the result of splendid amalgamation of painting and pottery.
Today India is a progressing country, showcasing its talents everyday in various fields like sport, beauty pageants, international film festivals etc. but the culture, traditions and values of India remains unbroken and undamaged. In this subcontinent billions of people from several communities, religions, speaking different languages are living together in perfect harmony and peace, thereby demonstrating and confirming the fact that in India, unity exists amidst diversity in every sphere of life.
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