CULTURE OF INDIA
India is blessed with rich culture and heritage. The culture of India is one of the oldest cultures in the world. Right from the medieval period there prevail diverse cultural diversities in form of dances, languages, religions, people, their customs, and festivals. Every state of India has its own distinct cultures and has carved out its own cultural niche. In spite of so much of cultural diversities, Indian's are closely bond and makes India as a great country perhaps because of its common history. Dating back to over 5000 years old civilization, India's culture has been adorned by migrating population, which over a period got absorbed into the Indian way of life. This great Indian culture comprises of Indian music, Indian Dance, Indian cuisine, costumes and Indian Festivals.
ARTS & CRAFTS OF INDIA
Indian art and craft has made its special place and is well renowned all over the world. The history of Indian crafts dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization. The major art and craft of India includes Indian handicrafts like paintings, sculptures, textile, jewelry, stone and woodcrafts and much more. These tradition craft have withstood the devastation of time and continue to evolve in a influential and pulsing manner.
The first thing that startles most visitors to India is the sheer abundance of color. Just look around you - the many idols of gods and goddesses, the clothes, the trucks and all the knick-knacks in the dozens of shops you see at Delhi's Janpath are a riot of color.
All this is the work of thousands of unsung, unappreciated artisans and crafts persons who make magic with their very hands. They are the ones who make those fabulous tie-and-dye skirts, those fantastically embroidered Gujarati cholis, that lacquered furniture and that beautifully studded silver jewellery. India may be a land of farmers but it is equally a land of artisans.
Unfortunately, Indian arts and crafts have been teetering on the edge of extinction for a long time. Demand for indigenous arts and crafts nose-dived with the setting up of large-scale industry in India. After all, in a poor country like India, machine-made saris - to give you but one example - are cheaper and therefore more affordable than handloom saris. The list is endless. This has left artisans with little choice but to abandon their age-old professions and become common laborers, factory workers or government clerks. In either case, the loss has been of ours.
Thankfully, efforts have been made by both government and non-government agencies to keep our art and craft tradition alive and kicking. Here then is an overview of the major arts and crafts of India.
Enjoy the mouth-watering delicacies of Indian food. Rich and diverse Indian cuisine is simply tempting and irresistible. The North Indian, South Indian and East and West Indian Cuisine have their own flavor and specialties. Traditionally, meals are eaten while sitting on the floor with the fingers of the right hand.
All those who think Indian cuisine begins and ends with curry, get ready for a big surprise. The character of cuisine in India is essentially regional; reasons for this must be found in the sheer size of the country which forced every area to develop a style of cooking of its own. In times gone by transportation was a problem, and this meant that each area had to come up with a style of food which made do with the locally available materials. As a result, not only dishes, but flavors, colors, methods of cooking, down to even the style of cutting the vegetables prior to be cooked changes as often as the landscape does.
Cuisine Adopted by Different Religion
What has helped along this diversity is the amazing number of religions and the sects and sub-sects within them; each of them often have strict dietary codes. For example, Hindu Brahmins may not eat onions, ginger and garlic, meat which meant that a special cuisine came up around that bias and so on. Whereas Christians and Muslims favors meat eating.
The most striking contrast in eating habits shows up between the meat-and-bread eating northern regions and the pulse-and-rice southern regions.
RELIGIONS OF INDIA
India is a land of many religions with its deep historical roots. It is the home to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, and has also given adequate space to migratory religions like Islam and Christianity. Indian religion is not reachable without understanding its religious beliefs and practices, which have a large impact on the society and its people.
India - A Country of Diverse Religion
Four main religion were born in India while the others came with invaders, travelers and missionaries from abroad.
Despite the multitude of faiths prevalent in India, the country has by and large, been free of any internecine strife. Hindus constitute an overwhelming majority in the country and it is a creed which is renowned for its catholicity of outlook.
For Hindus, religion is a tool to achieve a one-to-one communication between god and man. However, Hinduism became too ritualistic; and in the 6th century B.C., a great social churning took place in the country - out of which emerged Jainism and Buddhism.
Jains place self-conquest above all else - it is one of the most ascetics of faiths, with its votaries living in the most spartan manner imaginable.
Buddhism, on the other hand was exported to the Far East, although its philosophy was almost snuffed out in the land of its origin. An iconoclastic faith like Buddhism could not compete with ritualistic Brahminism that cleverly co-opted Buddha into their 'holy pantheon of gods'.
Dominance of Islamic Religion
By the 12th century, India began to get colored with a distinctly Islamic flavor as wave after wave of Islamic hordes descended on the country. Drawing sustenance from the Koran and the Sunnah (sayings of Prophet Mohammad), their missionary zeal was unmatched.
Although Islam (which has two main sects - the Shias and the Sunnis) is as distinct from Hinduism as chalk from cheese, the two faiths learnt to coexist with each other, cheek by jowl and the confluence of the two religions produced a cultural syncretism, which is exemplified by the Urdu language - an amalgam of Persian and Hindi and out of the fusion of the two cultures arose new religious denominations - uniquely Indian, which characterized the Hindu-Islamic interface.
The best example of that synthesis are the Ahmediyas - a sect that abides by the Holy Koran and the Prophet, yet practices idolatry which is a decidedly Hindu custom.
If you think that Christianity came to India with the Europeans - you would be off the mark by 1500 years. For St. Thomas came to India in 50 A.D. and brought the teachings of Jesus along with him - even before the Messiah was adopted by Europe. But the Europeans did bring with them a scientific temper and the Indian Renaissance of the 19th century, was largely due to their influence.
As Albert Einstein said "religion without science is mere superstition" and men like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Swami Vivekananda strove to inculcate a rational outlook among their countrymen.
Vivekananda put it eloquently when he said that "I do not believe that a god, who cannot provide me food to eat on earth, will ever give me paradise in heaven".
India Used Religion in Positive Manner
Suffice to say in the end that we could actually work miracles if we used religion in a positive manner. India is a land which has always been tolerant of people belonging to different races and religions.
After all the Jews who have been persecuted the world over, have never been discriminated against in India.And the Zoroastrians fled Iran in the eighth century and sought sanctuary in India, when they suffered maltreatment in the former country. Small wonder then that most major religions have made their presence felt in India.
Indian Dance art is also one of the age-old traditions prevailing in India. Using the body as a medium of communication, Indian dance has developed as easily understood art form. Dance in India has ooze into several other zones like poetry, sculpture, architecture, literature, music and theatre.
The ancient Indian Vedic scriptures are the greatest heritage of India. The depth of these ancient texts is so immense that one can choose ones path to attain salvation as per ones spiritual proclivity. These sacred texts are evolved over a period of time, hence made the Hindu religion the most in-depth and the most reformed religion.
Ancient Scriptures and Folklores of India
The search for Self and the Ultimate Truth has been the Holy Grail that man has sought after ceaselessly down the ages. Why? What? Whence? Whither? The answers to these questions have persistently eluded man, and perhaps that is how things were meant to be.
The term Upanishad ('upa' near; 'ni' down; 'shad' to sit) means sitting down near; this implies the students sitting down near their Guru to learn the big secret.
In the splendid isolation of their forest abodes, the philosophers who composed the Upanishads contemplated upon the various mysteries - whether common, or metaphysical. There is no exact date for the composition of the 18 principal Upanishads. They continued to be composed over a long period, the core being over 7th -5th centuries BC. The Upanishads were originally called Vedanta, which literally means the conclusion to the Vedas.
The Mahabharata originally called Jaya (victory), with perhaps some justification, is said to be the longest poem in the world. 100,000 stanzas strong, the epic has a story which is as relevant to the world today as it was then.
The Mahabharata is an amazing tale full of drama, scheming, jealousy, human foibles and failings. The legendary author of the epic is called Vyasa, which means the compiler so we don't really know the real name of the writer; although it has been suggested that a whole team of Brahmins composed it under the alias of Vyasa.
Bhagwad Gita - Holy Book of Hindus
The Bhagwad Gita (the blessed Lord's song) is a 700-verse section of the Mahabharata and occurs just before the great battle between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. It is written as a conversation between Arjuna, the third of the Pandava brothers, after Yudhishtra and Bhima, and Lord Krishna, the statesman-god. The path, as laid down by the Bhagwad Gita, is still considered ideal way of life by Indians.
The Ramayana is about Utopian ideals and lofty principles which creates the perfect: the virtuous elder brother, the obedient, ever-devoted younger brothers and the self-sacrificing, ever-loving wife. All those who appear to be flawed in some way - like Dhashratha, the father of lord Rama, Keikeyi, the step-mother, and above all Ravana the villain - seem to have been put in the story only as examples of how-not-to-be and to enhance the goodness of the principle characters.
The Panchtantra means five sections (panch, five and tantra, sections) and has 87 stories. The stories were most probably written down in the second century BC, although they had been around for a pretty long time by then, as is evinced by various Sanskrit works. Simple, though brilliant, these fables always have morals (in verse format) in the end. The moral of the story is clearly most important; for the story is made to fit the moral and not the other way around. Many of these maxims are taken from older books, like the Vedas, and are sometimes straight quotations.
The Jatakas are Buddhist parables and tales - loose parallels of the Panchtantra actually. They tell the tales of Buddha in his previous lives (when he was called Bodhisattva or Buddha-to-be), which included incarnations in the form of a snake and an elephant. These stories reflect the travails and experiences that the he had to go through to attain the wisdom of the Buddha.
LANGUAGES & LITERATURE IN INDIA
One of the earliest known writing systems came from India, probably around 2500 BC. There are numerous linguistic communities prevailing in the sub-continent of India, each of which shares a common language and culture. Some Indian languages have a long literary history--Sanskrit literature is more than 5,000 years old which gave birth to other Indian languages and literatures.
India has nothing less than 1652 mother tongues, if all the various dialects of each parent language are to be included! Enough to confuse a linguist. But not so for a multitude of cultural groups in continuous flux. Most of the languages are limited to a small number of peoples, and only 33 of them are spoken by more than a lakh people.
Hindi - The official Language of India
The Indian Constitution (Article 343) declares Hindi to be the official language of the Union. The Khariboli dialect written in the Devanagri script is the chosen one. Hindi is also the mother tongue of about 20% of the Indian population, in the area known as the 'Hindi-belt' or the 'cow-belt' of northern India.
This includes the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Haryana and Himachal Pradesh also have Hindi as their official language. Like the other languages of the north, it is of an Indo-Aryan origin. But in south India, it's quite a different scene altogether. The Dravidian languages bear little resemblance to their Indic or Indo-Aryan counterparts.
English remains the additional official language; it is the authoritative legislative and judicial language. In fact, one could say that English is the official language in India for all practical purposes.
Apart from the more widely spoken English and Hindi, there are the various regional languages. Each state has its own language which is also its official language. The Constitution of India lists 18 such regional languages.