India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality. India is the only country in the world to have so many religions and beliefs. The culture of India is an amalgamation of these diverse sub-cultures spread all over the Indian subcontinent and traditions that are several millennia old.
Regarded by a few historians as the "oldest living civilization of Earth", the Indian tradition dates back to 8000 BCand has a continuous recorded history since the time of the Vedas, believed variously to be 3,000 to over 5,500 years ago.Several elements of India's diverse culture such as Indian religions, yoga and Indian cuisine have had a profound impact across the world.
Religions and spirituality
Dharmic religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, are indigenous to India.
India is the birth place of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, collectively known as Indian religions. Indian religions, also known as Dharmic religions are a major form of world religions along with Abrahamic ones. Today, Hinduism and Buddhism are the world's third- and fourth-largest religions respectively, with over 2 billion followers altogether, and possibly as many as 2.5 or 2.6 billion followers. India is also the birthplace for the Lingayat and Ahmadiyya faiths.
India is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world, with some of the most deeply religious societies and cultures. Religion still plays a central and definitive role in the life of many of its people.
The religion of 80% of the people is Hinduism. Islam is practiced by around 13% of all Indians. Sikhism, Jainism and especially Buddhism are influential not only in India but across the world. Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and the Bahá'í Faith are also influential but their numbers are smaller. Despite the strong role of religion in Indian life, atheism and agnostics also have visible influence along with a self-ascribed tolerance to other people.
According to Eugene M. Makar, a respected industry consultant, traditional Indian culture is defined by a relatively strict social hierarchy. He also mentions that from an early age, children are reminded of their roles and places in society. This is reinforced by the fact that many believe gods and spirits have an integral and functional role in determining their life. Several differences such as religion divide the culture. However, a far more powerful division is the traditional Hindu bifurcation into non-polluting and polluting occupations. Strict social taboos have governed these groups for thousands of years. In recent years, particularly in cities, some of these lines have blurred and sometimes even disappeared. Important family relations extend as far as gotra, the mainly patrilinear lineage or clan assigned to a Hindu at birth.In rural areas & sometimes in urban areas as well, it is common that three or four generations of the family live under the same roof.The patriarch often resolves family issues.
Names and language
Indian names are based on a variety of systems and naming conventions, which vary from region to region. Names are also influenced by religion and caste and may come from the Indian epics. India's population speaks a wide variety of languages.
Languages and literature
Time is always referred as Kaala Chakra in India. In Ancient India the time was divided in Four yugas. The calendar which most Indians follows goes in accordance to this. There by, measuring the dates of Vedas came in later days.
With its oldest core dating back to as early as 1500 BC, the Rigvedic Sanskrit is one of the oldest attestations of any Indo-Iranian language, and one of the earliest attested members of the Indo-European language family, the family which includes English and most European languages. Sanskrit has had a profound impact on the languages and literature of India. Hindi, India's most spoken language, is a "Sanskritized register" of the Khariboli dialect. In addition, all modern Indo-Aryan languages, Munda languages and Dravidian languages, have borrowed many words either directly from Sanskrit (tatsama words), or indirectly via middle Indo-Aryan languages (tadbhava words). Words originating in Sanskrit are estimated to constitute roughly fifty percent of the vocabulary of modern Indo-Aryan languages,and the literary forms of (Dravidian) Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.Part of the Eastern Indo-Aryan languages, the Bengali language arose from the eastern Middle Indic languages and its roots are traced to the 5th century BC Ardhamagadhi language.
Tamil, one of India's major classical languages, descends from Proto-Dravidian languages which was spoken around the third millennium BC in peninsular India. Tamil literature has existed for over two thousand years and the earliest epigraphic records found date from around the third century BC.Another major Dravidian language, Kannada is attested epigraphically from the mid-1st millennium AD, and literary Old Kannada flourished in the 9th to 10th century Rashtrakuta Dynasty. Pre-old Kannada (or Purava HaleGannada) was the language of Banavasi in the early Common Era, the Satavahana and Kadamba periods and hence has a history of over 2000 years.The Ashoka rock edict found at Brahmagiri (dated to 230 BC) has been suggested to contain a word in identifiable Kannada.
According to 2001 India census, Hindi is the most spoken language in India, followed by Bengali, Telugu, Marathi and Tamil.In contemporary Indian literature, there are two major literary awards; these are the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship and the Jnanpith Award. Seven Jnanpith awards each have been awarded in Kannada, six in Hindi, five in Bengali, four in Malayalam, three each in Marathi, Gujarati, Urdu and Oriya and two each in Telugu and Tamil.
The Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata are the oldest preserved and well-known epics of India. Versions have been adopted as the epics of Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses in seven books (kāṇḍas) and 500 cantos (sargas), and tells the story of Rama (an incarnation or Avatar of the Hindu preserver-god Vishnu), whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon king of Lanka, Ravana. This epic played a pivotal role in establishing the role of dhárma as a principal ideal guiding force for Hindu way of life.The earliest parts of the Mahabharata text date to 400 BC and is estimated to have reached its final form by the early Gupta period (ca. 4th c. AD). Other regional variations of these, as well as unrelated epics include the Tamil Ramavataram, Kannada Pampa Bharata, Hindi Ramacharitamanasa, and Malayalam Adhyathmaramayanam. In addition to these two great Indian epics, there are five major epics in the classical Tamil language Silappatikaram, Manimekalai, Civaka-cintamaniand Valayapathi.
Cows depicted in the decorated goppuram of the Kapaleeshwarar temple in Chennai.
The varied and rich wildlife of India has had a profound impact on the region's popular culture. Common name for wilderness in India is Jungle which was adopted by the British colonialists to the English language. The word has been also made famous in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. India's wildlife has been the subject of numerous other tales and fables such as the Panchatantra and the Jataka tales.
In Hinduism, the cow is regarded as a symbol of ahimsa (non-violence), mother goddess and bringer of good fortune and wealth. For this reason, cows are revered in Hindu culture and feeding a cow is seen as an act of worship.
Family plays a significant role in the Indian culture. For generations, India has had a prevailing tradition of the joint family system. It is a system under which extended members of a family parents, children, the children’s spouses and their offspring, etc. live together. Usually, the eldest male member is the head in the joint Indian family system. He makes all important decisions and rules, and other family members abide by them.
For centuries, arranged marriages have been the tradition in Indian society. Even today, the vast majority of Indians have their marriages planned by their parents and other respected family-members, with the consent of the bride and groom. They also demand dowry, which has been outlawed by the Indian government, but Indian society and culture still promotes and maintains it. They get around the prohibition by not letting the authorities know. Arranged matches are made after taking into account factors such as age, height, personal values and tastes, the backgrounds of their families (wealth, social standing), their castes and the astrological compatibility of the couples' horoscopes.
In India, the marriage is thought to be for life and the divorce rate is extremely low 1.1% compared with about 50% in the United States.The arranged marriages generally have a much lower divorce rate, although divorce rates have risen significantly in recent years for love marriage.The divorce rates of marriage is increasing now a days(3.5%)
"Opinion is divided over what the phenomenon means: for traditionalists the rising numbers portend the breakdown of society while, for some modernists, they speak of a healthy new empowerment for women.
Namaste, namaskar or Namaskara or Namaskaram, Vanakkam (Tamil) or Asssalamu alaikum (Urdu / Persian) Sat Shri Akal (Punjabi) is a common spoken greeting or salutation in the Indian subcontinent. Namaskar is considered a slightly more formal version than Namaste but both express deep respect. It is commonly used in India and Nepal by Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs, and many continue to use this outside the Indian subcontinent. In Indian and Nepali culture, the word is spoken at the beginning of written or verbal communication. However, the same hands folded gesture is made usually wordlessly upon departure. Taken literally, it means "I bow to you". The word is derived from Sanskrit (namah): to bow, obeisance, reverential salutation, and respect, and (te): "to you". As explained by an Indian scholar, in literal terms Namaste refers to 'That which is of God in me bows to that which is of God in you'.
India, being a multi-cultural and multi-religious society, celebrates holidays and festivals of various religions. The four national holidays in India, the Independence Day, the Republic Day, the Gandhi Jayanti,and 1st may are celebrated with zeal and enthusiasm across India. In addition, many states and regions have local festivals depending on prevalent religious and linguistic demographics. Popular religious festivals include the Hindu festivals of Navratri, Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Durga puja, Holi, Rakshabandhan and Dussehra. Several harvest festivals, such as Sankranthi, Pongal and Onam,"Nuakhai" are also fairly popular.
Certain festivals in India are celebrated by multiple religions. Notable examples include Diwali, which is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, and Buddh Purnima, celebrated by Buddhists and Hindus. Islamic festivals, such Eid ul-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and Ramadan, are celebrated by Muslims across India. Sikh Festivals , such as Guru Nanak Jayanti, Baisakhi are celebrated with full fanfare by Sikhs and Hindu. Adding colors to the culture of India, the Dree Festival is one of the tribal festivals of India celebrated by the Apatanis of the Ziro valley of Arunachal Pradesh, which is the easternmost state of India.
Traditional clothing in India greatly varies across different parts of the country and is influenced immensely by local culture, geography and climate. Popular styles of dress include draped garments such as sari for women and dhoti or lungi for men; in addition, stitched clothes such as churidar for women and kurta-pyjama and European-style trousers and shirts for men, are also popular.
In India, a person's social status is perceived to be symbolized by his or her attire. Indian dress etiquette discourages exposure of skin and wearing transparent or tight clothes.Most Indian clothes are made from cotton which is ideal for the region's hot weather.Since India's weather is mostly hot and rainy, majority of Indians wear sandals.
Worn by women on their forehead, the bindi is considered to be a highly auspicious mark in Hindu religion.Traditionally, the red bindi (or sindoor) was worn only by the married Hindu women, but now it has become a part of women's fashion. Some Indian traditions consider the bindi to be representative of the third eye.
India's clothing styles have continuously evolved over the course of the country's history. Ancient Vedic texts mention clothes made from barks and leaves (known as phataka). The 11th century BC Rig-veda mentions dyed and embroidered garments (known as paridhan and pesas respectively) and thus highlights the development of sophisticated garment manufacturing techniques during the Vedic age.In 5th century BC, Greek historian Herodotus describes the richness of the quality of Indian cotton clothes.By 2nd century AD, muslins manufactured in southern India were imported by the Roman Empire and silk cloth was one of the major exports of ancient India along with Indian spices.Stitched clothing in India was developed before 10th century AD and was further popularized in 15th century by Muslim empires in India.Draped clothing styles remained popular with India's Hindu population while the Muslims increasingly adopted tailored garments.
During the British Raj, India's large clothing and handicrafts industry was left paralyzed so as to make place for British industrial cloth. Consequently, Indian independence movement leader Mahatma Gandhi successfully advocated for what he termed as khadi clothing light colored hand-woven clothes so as to decrease reliance of the Indian people on British industrial goods. The 1980s was marked by a widespread modification to Indian clothing fashions which was characterized by a large-scale growth of fashion schools in India, increasing involvement of women in the fashion industry and changing Indian attitudes towards multiculturalism. These developments played a pivotal role in the fusion of Indian and Western clothing styles.
The cuisine in India is classified into three major categories. Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Satva which stand for balance, Rajas stands for passion, and Thamas stands for indulgence. Food is consumed according to the lifestyle of the person. For example: A King has to be aggressive to defend his country, he would be taking food which would give much passion and that aggressiveness which is required. When a person tries to lead his life in want of self realisaiton, he would prefer a Satvic food or known as Sattvic diet, which would help to keep his mind in balance. Thamasic food or known as Static foods is to be taken only if its required, like consumption of Alcohol. This is the reason why in many Indians try to abstain drinking.
The multiple varieties of Indian cuisine are characterized by their sophisticated and subtle use of many Spices and Herbs. Each family of this cuisine is characterized by a wide assortment of dishes and cooking techniques. Though a significant portion of Indian food is vegetarian, many traditional Indian dishes also include: chicken, goat, lamb, fish, and other meats.
India is known for its love for food and spices, and it plays a role in everyday life as well as in festivals. Indian cuisine varies from region to region, reflecting the varied demographics of the country. Generally, Indian cuisine can be split into 5 categories northern, southern, eastern, western and north-eastern.
Despite this diversity, some unifying threads emerge. Varied uses of spices are an integral part of food preparation, and are used to enhance the flavor of a dish and create unique flavors and aromas. Cuisine across India has also been influenced by various cultural groups that entered India throughout history, such as the Persians, Mughals, and European colonists. Though the tandoor originated in Central Asia, Indian tandoori dishes, such as chicken tikka made with Indian ingredients, enjoy widespread popularity.
Indian cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines across the globe.Historically, Indian Spices and Herbs were one of the most sought after trade commodities. The Spice trade between India and Europe led to the rise and dominance of Arab traders to such an extent that European explorers, such as Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus, set out to find new trade routes with India leading to the Age of Discovery.The popularity of curry, which originated in India, across Asia has often led to the dish being labeled as the "pan-Asian" dish.
Bharatanatyam, one of eight designated classical dance forms of India.Indian dance too has diverse folk and classical forms. Among the well-known folk dances are the bhangra of the Punjab, the bihu of Assam, the chhau of Jharkhand, the Odishi of Orissa, the ghoomar of Rajasthan, the dandiya and garba of Gujarat, the Yakshagana of Karnataka and lavani of Maharashtra and Dekhnni of Goa. Eight dance forms, many with narrative forms and mythological elements, have been accorded classical dance status by India's National Academy of Music, Dance, and Drama. These are: bharatanatyam of the state of Tamil Nadu, kathak of Uttar Pradesh, kathakali and mohiniattam of Kerala, kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, manipuri of Manipur, odissi of the state of Odisha and the sattriya of Assam.
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. It strictly follows the Natya Shastra. Nātyāchārya Māni Mādhava Chākyār is credited for reviving the age old drama tradition from extinction. He was known for mastery of Rasa Abhinaya. He started to perform the Kalidasa plays like Abhijñānaśākuntala, Vikramorvaśīya and Mālavikāgnimitra; Bhasa's Swapnavāsavadatta and Pancharātra; Harsha's Nagananda.
The music of India includes multiple varieties of religious, classical, folk, popular and pop music.The oldest preserved examples of Indian music are the melodies of the Samaveda (1000 BC) that are still sung in certain Vedic Śrauta sacrifices; this is the earliest account of Indian musical hymns.It proposed a tonal structure consisting of seven notes, which were named, in descending order, as Krusht, Pratham, Dwitiya, Tritiya, Chaturth, Mandra and Atiswār. These refer to the notes of a flute, which was the only fixed frequency instrument. The Samaveda, and other Hindu texts, heavily influenced India's classical music tradition, which is known today in two distinct styles: Carnatic and Hindustani music. Both the Carnatic music and Hindustani music systems are based on the melodic mode (known as Rāga), sung to a rhythmic cycle (known as Tāla); these principles were refined in the nātyaśāstra (200 BC) and the dattilam (300 AD).
Prominent contemporary Indian musical forms included filmi and Indipop. Filmi refers to the wide range of music written and performed for mainstream Indian cinema, primarily Bollywood, and accounts for more than 70 percent of all music sales in the country.Indipop is one of the most
popular contemporary styles of Indian music which is either a fusion of Indian folk, classical or Sufi music with Western musical traditions.
The earliest Indian paintings were the rock paintings of pre-historic times, the petroglyphst it was common for households to paint their doorways or indoor rooms where guests resided.Cave paintings from Ajanta, Bagh, Ellora and Sittanavasal and temple paintings testify to a love of naturalism. Most early and medieval art in India is Hindu, Buddhist or Jain. A freshly made coloured flour design (Rangoli) is still a common sight outside the doorstep of many (mostly South Indian) Indian homes. Raja Ravi Varma is one the classical painters from medieval India.
Madhubani painting, Mysore painting, Rajput painting, Tanjore painting, Mughal painting are some notable Genres of Indian Art; while Nandalal Bose, M. F. Husain, S. H. Raza, Geeta Vadhera, Jamini Roy and B.Venkatappa are some modern painters. Among the present day artists, Atul Dodiya, Bose Krishnamacnahri, Devajyoti Ray and Shibu Natesan represent a new era of Indian art where global art shows direct amalgamation with Indian classical styles. These recent artists have acquired international recognition. Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, Mysore Palace has on display a few good Indian paintings.
The first sculptures in India date back to the Indus Valley civilization, where stone and bronze figures have been discovered. Later, as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism developed further, India produced some extremely intricate bronzes as well as temple carvings. Some huge shrines, such as the one at Ellora were not constructed by using blocks but carved out of solid rock.
Sculptures produced in the northwest, in stucco, schist, or clay, display a very strong blend of Indian and Classical Hellenistic or possibly even Greco-Roman influence. The pink sandstone sculptures of Mathura evolved almost simultaneously. During the Gupta period (4th to 6th century) sculpture reached a very high standard in execution and delicacy in modeling. These styles and others elsewhere in India evolved leading to classical Indian art that contributed to Buddhist and Hindu sculpture throughout Southeast Central and East Asia.
Indian architecture encompasses a multitude of expressions over space and time, constantly absorbing new ideas. The result is an evolving range of architectural production that nonetheless retains a certain amount of continuity across history. Some of its earliest production are found in the Indus Valley Civilization (2600–1900 BC) which is characterised by well planned cities and houses. Religion and kingship do not seem to have played an important role in the planning and layout of these towns.
During the period of the Mauryan and Gupta empires and their successors, several Buddhist architectural complexes, such as the caves of Ajanta and Ellora and the monumental Sanchi Stupa were built. Later on, South India produced several Hindu temples like Chennakesava Temple at Belur, the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu, and the Kesava Temple at Somanathapura, Brihadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur, the Sun Temple, Konark, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple at
Srirangam, and the Buddha stupa (Chinna Lanja dibba and Vikramarka kota dibba) at Bhattiprolu. Angkor Wat, Borobudur and other Buddhist and Hindu temples indicate strong Indian influence on South East Asian architecture, as they are built in styles almost identical to traditional Indian religious buildings.
The traditional system of Vaastu Shastra serves as India's version of Feng Shui, influencing town planning, architecture, and ergonomics. It is unclear which system is older, but they contain certain similarities. Feng Shui is more commonly used throughout the world. Though Vastu is conceptually similar to Feng Shui in that it also tries to harmonize the flow of energy, (also called life-force or Prana in Sanskrit and Chi/Ki in Chinese/Japanese), through the house, it differs in the details, such as the exact directions in which various objects, rooms, materials, etc. are to be placed.
With the advent of Islamic influence from the west, Indian architecture was adapted to allow the traditions of the new religion. Fatehpur Sikri, Taj Mahal, Gol Gumbaz, Qutub Minar, Red Fort of Delhi are creations of this era, and are often used as the stereotypical symbols of India. The colonial rule of the British Empire saw the development of Indo-Saracenic style, and mixing of several other styles, such as European Gothic. The Victoria Memorial or the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus are notable examples.
Indian architecture has influenced eastern and southeastern Asia, due to the spread of Buddhism. A number of Indian architectural features such as the temple mound or stupa, temple spire or sikhara, temple tower or pagoda and temple gate or torana, have become famous symbols of Asian culture, used extensively in East Asia and South East Asia. The central spire is also sometimes called a vimanam. The southern temple gate, or gopuram is noted for its intricacy and majesty.
Sports and Martial arts
Field Hockey is the national Sport in India, and the India national field hockey team won the 1975 Men's Hockey World Cup and 8 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze medals at the Olympic games. Cricket is the most popular Sport in India. The India national cricket team won the 1983 Cricket World Cup, the 2011 Cricket World Cup and the 2007 ICC World Twenty20, and shared the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka. Domestic competitions include the Ranji Trophy, the Duleep Trophy, the Deodhar Trophy, the Irani Trophy and the Challenger Series. In addition, BCCI conducts the Indian Premier League, a Twenty20 competition.
India is the host of 2010 Commonwealth Games, played in New Delhi. It hosted a spectacular display of Indian culture and heritage to the entire world during the opening ceremony of the games.
Chess is commonly believed to have originated in northwestern India during the Gupta empire,where its early form in the 6th century was known as chaturanga. Other games which originated in India and continue to remain popular in wide parts of northern India include Kabaddi, Gilli-danda, and Kho kho. Traditional southern Indian games include Snake boat race and Kuttiyum kolum.
Indian martial arts
One of the best known forms of ancient Indian martial arts is the Kalarippayattu from Kerala. This ancient fighting style originated in southern India in 12th century BC and is regarded as one of the oldest surviving martial arts.In this form martial arts, various stages of physical training include ayurvedic massage with sesame oil to impart suppleness to the body (uzichil); a series of sharp body movements so as to gain control over various parts of the body (miapayattu); and, complex sword fighting techniques (paliyankam). Silambam, which was developed around 200 AD, traces its roots to the Sangam period in southern India.Silambam is unique among Indian martial arts because it uses complex footwork techniques (kaaladi), including a variety of spinning styles. A bamboo staff is used as the main weapon.The ancient Tamil Sangam literature mentions that between 400 BC and 600 AD, soldiers from southern India received special martial arts training which revolved primarily around the use of spear (vel), sword (val) and shield (kedaham).
In northern India, the musti yuddha evolved in 1100 AD and focussed on mental, physical and spiritual training.In addition, the Dhanur Veda tradition was an influential fighting arts style which considered the bow and the arrow to be the supreme weapons. The Dhanur Veda was first described in the 5th century BC Viṣṇu Purāṇa and is also mentioned in both of the major ancient Indian epics, the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata. A distinctive factor of Indian martial arts is the heavy emphasis laid on meditation (dhyāna) as a tool to remove fear, doubt and anxiety.
Indian martial arts techniques have had a profound impact on other martial arts styles across Asia. The 3rd century BC Yoga Sutras of Patanjali taught how to meditate single-mindedly on points located inside one's body, which was later used in martial arts, while various mudra finger movements were taught in Yogacara Buddhism. These elements of yoga, as well as finger movements in the nata dances, were later incorporated into various martial arts. According to some historical accounts, Indian Buddhist monk Bodhidharma was one of the main founders of the Shaolin Kungfu.