India in its culture and traditions
The culture of India refers to the Dharma, beliefs,customs, traditions, languages, ceremonies, arts, values and the way of life of India and its people. India's languages, religions, dance,
music, architecture, food, and customs differ from place to place within the country. Its culture, often labeled as an amalgamation of these diverse sub-cultures, spans across the Indian
subcontinent and includes traditions that are several millennia old.
Many elements of India's diverse culture, such as Indian religions, yoga, and Indian cuisine, have had a profound impact across the world.
Pakistan and the North Indian States were influenced by the medieval Indo-Persian culture, exemplified by its musical, culinary and architectural designs such as the Taj Mahal, while
South India developed largely independent of foreign influences — three of the four languages classified as classical languages of India belong to the Dravidian language family, namely
Kannada, Tamil and Telugu.
India is the birthplace 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 one. 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 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.
According to a 2002 census of India, the religion of 80% of the people is Hinduism. Islam is practiced by around 13% of all Indians. The country had over 23 million Christians, over 19
million Sikhs, about 8 million Buddhists and about 4 million Jains.
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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 May Day are celebrated with zeal and enthusiasm across India. In addition, many Indian 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, Ugadi, Rakshabandhan, and Dussehra. Several
harvest festivals such as Sankranthi, Pongal, Raja sankaranti swinging festival, and Onam are 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
. 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.
Islam in India is the second largest religion with over 135 million Muslims-(followers of Islam), The Islamic festivals which are observed and are declared public holiday in India are; Eid ul
Fitr, Eid ul Adha-(Bakr Eid), Milad un Nabi, Muharram and Shab-e-Barat. Some of the Indian states have declared regional holiday's for the particular regional popular festivals; such as
Arba'een, Jumu'ah-tul-Wida and Shab-e-Qadar.
Christianity is India's third largest religion. With over 23 million Christians, of which 17 million are Roman Catholics, India is home to many Christian festivals. The country celebrates
Christmas and Good Friday as public holidays.
Regional fairs are also common and festive in India. For example, Pushkar fair is one of the world's largest markets and Sonepur mela is the largest livestock fair in Asia.
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India's population speaks a wide variety of languages such as: · Angika · Assamese · Beary bashe · Bengali · Bhojpuri · Bodo · Chhattisgarhi · Dogri · English · Garo · Gujarati ·
Standard Hindi · Kannada · Kashmiri · Khasi · Kokborok · Konkani · Magahi · Maithili · Malayalam · Manipuri · Marathi · Mizo · Nepali · Oriya · Punjabi · Rajasthani · Sanskrit · Santali ·
Sindhi · Tamil · Telugu · Tulu · Urdu .
Food is integral part of every human culture. For survival needs, people everywhere could eat the same and some simple food. But human cultures, over the ages, experiment,
innovate and develop sophisticated cuisines. Cuisines become more than a source of nutrients, they reflect human knowledge, culture, art and expression of love.
Indian food is as diverse as India. Indian cuisines use numerous ingredients, deploy a wide range of food preparation styles, cooking
techniques and culinary presentation. From salads to
sauces, from vegetarian to meat, from spices to sensuous, from breads to desserts, Indian cuisine is invariably complex. Harold McGee, a favorite of many Michelin starred chefs, wrote
"for sheer inventiveness with milk itself as the primary ingredient, no country on earth can match India."
According to Sanjeev Kapoor, a member of Singapore Airlines’ International Culinary Panel, Indian food has long been an expression of world cuisine. Kapoor claims, "if you looked back
in India's history and study the food that our ancestors ate, you will notice how much attention was paid to the planning and cooking of a meal. Great thought was given to the texture and
taste of each dish.”
India is known for its love for food and spices. Indian cuisine varies from region to region, reflecting the local produce, cultural diversity, and varied demographics of the country.
Generally, Indian cuisine can be split into five categories - northern, southern, eastern, western, and north-eastern. The diversity of Indian cuisine is characterized by differing use of many
spices and herbs, a wide assortment of recipes 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. Fish-based cuisines are common in eastern states of India, particularly West Bengal.
Despite this diversity, some unifying threads emerge. Varied uses of spices are an integral part of certain food preparations, 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
Indian cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines across the globe. In most Indian restaurants outside India, the menu does not do justice to the enormous variety of Indian cuisine
available - the most common cuisine served on the menu would be Punjabi cuisine (chicken tikka masala is a very popular dish in the United Kingdom). There do exist some restaurants
serving cuisines from other regions of India, although these are few and far between. 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
Regional Indian cuisine continues to evolve. A fusion of East Asian and Western cooking methods with traditional cuisines, along with regional adaptations of fast food are prominent in
major Indian cities.
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Traditional clothing in India greatly varies across different parts of the country and is influenced by local culture, geography, climate and rural/urban settings. Popular styles of dress
include draped garments such as sari for women and dhoti or lungi or panche (in Kannada) for men. Stitched clothes are also popular such as churidar or salwar-kameez for women, with
dupatta (long scarf) thrown over shoulder completing the outfit. Salwar is often loose fitting, while churidar is a tighter cut. For men, stitched versions include kurta-pyjama and
European-style trousers and shirts for men. In urban centers, people can often be seen in jeans, trousers, shirts, suits, kurta and variety of other fashions.
In public and religious places, 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.
Indian women perfect their sense of charm and fashion with make up and ornaments. Bindi, mehendi, earrings, bangles and other jewelry are common. On special occasions, such as
marriage ceremonies and festivals, women may wear cheerful colors with various ornaments made with gold, silver or other regional stones and gems.
Bindi is often an essential part of a Hindu woman's make up. Worn on their forehead, some consider the bindi as an auspicious mark. Traditionally, the red bindi was worn only by married
Hindu women, and colored bindi was worn by single women, but now all colors and glitter has become a part of women's fashion. Some women wear sindoor - a traditional red or
orange-red colored powder (vermilion) in the parting of their hair (locally called as mang). Sindoor is the traditional mark of a married woman for Hindus. Single Hindu women do not wear
sindoor; neither do over 100 million Indian women from religions other than Hindu and agnostics/atheists who may be married.
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 this period. 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 Rule, 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
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Literature and Languages
The Rigvedic Sanskrit is one of the oldest attestations of any Indo-Aryan language, and one of the earliest attested members of the Indo-European language family. The discovery of
Sanskrit by early European explorers of India led to the development of comparative Philology. The scholars of 18th century were struck by the far reaching similarity of Sanskrit, both in
grammar and vocabulary, to the classical languages of Europe. Intensive scientific studies that followed have established that Sanskrit and many Indian derivative languages belong to the
family which includes English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Celtic, Greek, Baltic, Armenian, Persian, Tocharian and other Indo-European languages.
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 Samskrta meaning
polished, cultivated and correct (much like proper English), in distinction to Prakrta - the practical language of the migrating masses evolving without concern to proper pronunciation or
grammar, the structure of language changing as those masses mingled, settled new lands and adopted words from people of other native languages. Prakrta became middle Indo-Aryan
leading to Pali (the language of early Buddhists and Ashoka era in 200-300 BC), Prakrit (the language of Jain philosophers) and Apabhramsa (the language blend at the final stage of
middle Indo-Aryan). It is Apabhramsa, scholars claim, that flowered into Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi and many other languages now in use in India's north, east and
west. All of these Indian languages have roots and structure similar to Sanskrit, to each other and to other Indo-European languages. Thus we have in India three thousand years of
continuous linguistic history recorded and preserved in literary documents. This enables scholars to follow language evolution and observe how, by changes hardly noticeable from
generation to generation, an original language alters into descendant languages that are now barely recognizable as the same.
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 Classical 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. As a spoken language, some believe it to be even older than Tamil due to the existence of words which have more primitive forms than in Tamil. Pre-old Kannada (or Purava
HazheGannada) 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.
In addition to Indo-European and Dravidian languages, Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman languages are in use in India. Genomic studies of ethnic groups in India suggests the
Austro-Asiatic tribals were likely the earliest settlers in India. India's language and cultural fusion is not only because of large migrations of Indo-Aryans from central Asia and west
Eurasia through the northwest, the genome studies suggest a major wave of humans possibly entered India, long ago, through the northeast, along with tribal populations of
Tibeto-Burman origins. However, genome studies of Fst distances suggest northeastern Himalayas acted as a barrier, in recent 5000 years, to human migration as well as to admixing.
Languages spoken in this part of India include Austro-Asiatic (e.g. Khasi) and Tibeto-Burman (e.g. Nishi).
According to 2001 India census, Hindi is the most spoken language in India, followed by Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil and Urdu. In contemporary Indian literature, there are two major
literary awards; these are the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship and the Jnanpith Award. Eight Jnanpith awards 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 Assamese, Telugu and Tamil.
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The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the oldest preserved and well-known epics of India. Versions have been adopted as the epics of Southeast Asian countries like Philippines,
Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses in seven books (ka??as) 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-cintamani and Valayapathi.
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India has had a long romance with the art of dance. Natyasastra (Science of Dance) and Abhinaya Darpana (Mirror of Gesture) are two surviving Sanskrit documents, both estimated to be
between 1700 to 2200 years old.
The Indian art of dance as taught in these ancient books, according to Ragini Devi, is the expression of inner beauty and the divine in man. It is a deliberate art, nothing is left to chance,
each gesture seeks to communicate the ideas, each facial expression the emotions.
Indian dance includes eight classical dance forms, many in narrative forms with mythological elements. The eight classical forms accorded classical dance status by India's National
Academy of Music, Dance, and Drama are: bharatanatyam of the state of Tamil Nadu, kathak of Uttar Pradesh, kathakali and mohiniattam of Kerala, kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh,
yakshagana of Karnataka, manipuri of Manipur, odissi (orissi) of the state of Orissa and the sattriya of Assam.
In addition to the formal arts of dance, Indian regions have a strong free form, folksy dance tradition. Some of the folk dances include the bhangra of Punjab; the bihu of Assam; the
zeliang of Nagaland; the chhau of Jharkhand; the qauwwalis, birhas and charkulas of Uttar Pradesh; the jat-jatin and saturi of Bihar; the ghoomar of Rajasthan; the dandiya and garba of
Gujarat; the kolattam of Andhra Pradesh; the yakshagana of Karnataka ; lavani of Maharashtra;Dekhnni of Goa; Karakattam, Oyilattam, and mayilattam of Tamil Nadu.
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. Natyacharya Mani Madhava Chakyar 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 Abhijñanasakuntala, Vikramorvasiya and
Malavikagnimitra; Bhasa's Swapnavasavadatta and Pancharatra; Harsha's Nagananda.
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Music is an integral part of India's culture. Natyasastra, a 2000 year old Sanskrit text, describes five systems of taxonomy to classify musical instruments. One of these ancient Indian
systems classifies musical instruments into four groups according to four primary sources of vibration: strings, membranes, cymbals, and air. According to Reis Flora, this is similar to the
Western theory of organology. Archeologists have also reported the discovery of a 3000 year old, 20 key, carefully shaped polished basalt lithophone in the highlands of Orissa.
The oldest preserved examples of Indian music are the melodies of the Samaveda (1000 BC) that are still sung in certain Vedic Srauta 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 Atiswar. 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 base (known as Raga), sung to a rhythmic cycle (known as
Tala); these principles were refined in the natyasastra (200 BC) and the dattilam (300 AD).
The current music of India includes multiple varieties of religious, classical, folk, popular and pop music.
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.
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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
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.
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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.
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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 Chhatrapati 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.
Contemporary Indian architecture is more cosmopolitan. Cities are extremely compact and densely populated. Mumbai's Nariman Point is famous for its Art Deco buildings. Recent
creations such as the Lotus Temple, and the various modern urban developments of India like Chandigarh, are notable.
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