Occupying a considerable portion of South Asia, India is a country of one of the most diverse populations, representing a constitutional republic government. Since the ages of the Indus Valley Civilization, India was a politically and culturally quite self-sufficient territory. It was not until the British established their colony in the country that a Western and foreign culture massively impacted and influenced the country. The beauty of Indian culture stems from its rich history.
Here, we explore the position where the country currently stands in its cultural aspect. Despite modernization and westernization, Indian culture and traditional practices are retained with considerable vigor. In its deepest pockets, many lead a predominantly Orthodox lifestyle. However, the country as a whole is as colorful and complex as the plethora of people it is home to.
Languages in India
India, a country of 28 states and seven union territories, has no official language. In a survey conducted by the Times of India, the results showed that almost 60% of citizens speak a language other than Hindi. According to the 2011 Language Census, 121 languages are spoken by 10,000 or more people in India.
The 121 languages are presented in two parts: the 22 languages that are part of the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and the languages not included in the Eighth Schedule. The latter comprises 99 languages plus the total of the “other languages” category, which encompasses all languages that reported less than 10,000 speakers each at the all-India level.
The Eighth Schedule of the Constitution includes languages like Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Urdu, Maithili and Dogri to name a few. -ones.
According to the latest census of 2011, more than 19,500 languages or dialects are spoken across India as a mother tongue.
Religion in India
India is characterized by a massive population of people belonging to a diverse list of religions. Identified as the cradle of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, India is home to a varying number of religious communities, many of which are minorities including Muslims, Christians, Judaists, etc. India not only comprises the vast majority of Hindus but also the second largest group of Muslims within a single country.
The largest democracy in the world, India is religiously pluralistic and multi-ethnic, and the Constitution guarantees security, freedom of expression and equal human rights for minorities. However, for the past decade, the country has experienced very high levels of hostilities and social brutality that have sprung from religious issues.
Food Culture in India
Just like the country’s diversity and enrichment in its culture, so is its cornucopia of various types of cuisines, comprising of recipes prepared usually from spices, herbs, vegetables, locally grown fruits and grains. Indian cuisine is influenced by occupation, such as the seafood dishes of the Maharashtra fishing community, religion, such as the rich meat and biryani preparations influenced by Islamic rule, ethnicity, such as the dishes varied sweets of Bengali festivals and regional delicacies.
Wheat, rice and pulses are staples of the Indian diet. The gourmet variety is rich in different types of Indian spices including coriander, cardamom, turmeric and cinnamon. The condiment of “chutney”, prepared from fruits, vegetables, herbs and nuts is very popular in Indian cuisine. While a considerable part of the population is vegetarian, relying mainly on “paneer” and cereals, lamb and chicken meat preparations are common as main dishes for non-vegetarians.
While historical events such as invasions, trade relations and colonialism have played a role in introducing certain foods to this country, Indian cuisine has also influenced foreign cuisines around the world, especially those of India. Europe, Middle East, East Africa, Southeast Asia, North. America and the Caribbean.
Indian art and architecture
Prehistoric rock art in India is an ancient art form based on carvings, engravings or designs on rock rocks. The oldest examples are the Bhimbetka petroglyphs found in central India which are believed to be at least 290,000 years old. Buddhism originated in India sometime in the 6th century BCE and resulted in the carving of stone and bronze pieces of religious themes. Ajanta and Ellora caves are home to magnificent examples of Indian rock paintings and carvings, which are valuable Indian heritage sites that have upheld the greatest Indian culture.
Artistic creation flourished under the patronage of the Islamic rulers of the Mughal Empire, established in the 16th century. This era saw the birth of the impressive Taj Mahal.
During colonial rule in India, the British established art schools that promoted European styles, while in Europe the demand for Indian objects increased. Western and Eastern traditions therefore influenced each other and developed a romanticized Indian style of fused practices.
Since independence, Indian artists have sought out new styles and techniques to further experiment with contemporary art movements. However, reliance on and inspiration from historical and ancient practices is still prevalent.
Indian architecture has seen countless intricacies and extravagant feats. Many Hindu temples featured very distinctive towers in the shape of truncated pyramids and had hundreds of carvings adorning the walls. Mughal architecture incorporated Islamic elements. Arches and domes were prevalent and decoration was full of stylized geometric patterns.
The main traditions of Indian classical music are North Indian classical music called Hindustani, South Indian and Sri Lankan Carnatic expression and East Indian expression called Odissi.
Classical music, based on ‘raga’ and ‘taal’, dates back to the Vedic scriptures where chants developed a system of musical notes and rhythmic cycles. Today, Indian classical music is taught in several institutions, and it is a prerequisite for learning under the expertise of a qualified teacher, integrating skills of observation, listening and memorization. Indian traditions of dance and drama have prevailed for years. Major traditional Indian dance forms include Bharata Natyam, Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri, Kuchipudi and Kathakali. Drawing on themes from mythology and literature, the dance forms feature unique presentations of postures, gestures and movements and are traditionally performed to the melody of classical music.
Traditional Indian clothing
Traditional Indian clothing encompasses various types of drapery woven from silk, cotton or wool. Women wear saris. Each ethnicity has a unique draping style. Salwar Kameez and Kurti embrace the modern lifestyle. Men wear dhoti, pajamas, shirt, sherwani or ashkan. According to customs, they can also be associated with jackets and caps. For winter, there are exquisite shawls, such as those from Assam, which depict the unique embroidery and style of their specific regions of origin. Ritual and cultural performers wear elaborately designed costumes that relate to their ethnic traditions.
Indian customs and festivals
India’s festivals bring people together in celebratory harmony, often regardless of religion, such as Ganpati Utsav in Maharashtra or Durga Puja in West Bengal. Diwali is a brilliant festival of lights and sounds, with firecrackers lighting up the night sky. Harvest festivals are celebrated everywhere, such as Pongal of the Tamils, Lohri of the Sikhs and Poush Sankranti of the Bengalis. While Dussehra and Navratri are greeted with grandeur, those like Holi and Raksha Bandhan are mainly aimed at bringing people together with warmth.
It is not easy to define the culture of India in a compartmentalized business. Each ethnicity and religion that the earth is home to has its unique nuances and rich heritage. It is a land where multiculturalism is an important socio-political aspect which, if not allowed to persist, will lead to a serious deterioration in the lives of a significant part of the population.