Pankajnath Tiwari :-
Indian culture is one of the oldest and most diverse cultures in the world, with a rich and fascinating history that spans thousands of years. The history of Indian culture can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization, which existed around 2500 BCE in what is now present-day Pakistan and northwestern India. This civilization had advanced urban planning, a system of writing, and a well-developed trade network.
Around 1500 BCE, the Aryans migrated into the Indian subcontinent from Central Asia, bringing with them their language, Sanskrit, and their religious texts known as the Vedas. The Vedic period saw the emergence of Hinduism, which became one of the major religions in India. The society was divided into four varnas or social classes, with the Brahmins (priests and scholars) occupying the highest position.
In the 6th century BCE, two influential figures, Gautama Buddha and Mahavira, the founders of Buddhism and Jainism respectively, challenged the dominance of Hinduism and introduced new religious and philosophical ideas. Buddhism, in particular, spread across India and influenced art, architecture, and social practices.
During the ancient and medieval periods, India witnessed the rise and fall of numerous dynasties and empires. The Maurya Empire, under the reign of Emperor Ashoka (3rd century BCE), was one of the most significant in Indian history. Ashoka embraced Buddhism and propagated its principles of non-violence and tolerance throughout his empire.
From around the 4th century CE, there was a period of intense cultural and intellectual development in India, commonly referred to as the “Golden Age.” This period saw the flourishing of classical Indian arts, literature, and sciences. The Gupta Empire, which ruled during this time, is considered the epitome of this cultural renaissance.
In the medieval period, India experienced the Islamic conquests and the establishment of several Islamic sultanates and the Delhi Sultanate. This period witnessed a fusion of Indian and Islamic cultures, resulting in the development of a unique Indo-Islamic architecture, literature, and music. The Mughal Empire, founded in the 16th century by Babur, played a crucial role in shaping Indian culture and leaving a lasting impact on the country’s art, architecture, and cuisine.
European traders, primarily the Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British, arrived in India during the 15th and 16th centuries, leading to the establishment of various colonial powers. The British East India Company gradually gained control over large parts of India, which eventually led to British colonial rule over the subcontinent.
The colonial period saw significant social, political, and cultural changes in India. The Indian independence movement emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, led by figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Subhas Chandra Bose. After a long struggle, India finally gained independence from British rule in 1947, leading to the formation of the modern Republic of India.
Today, Indian culture is a vibrant tapestry of various traditions, religions, languages, and cuisines. It encompasses diverse art forms, including classical music and dance, intricate handicrafts, and a wide range of architectural styles. Indian literature, such as the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, and the works of great poets and philosophers, continues to inspire and influence people.
Indian culture celebrates festivals throughout the year, with Diwali (Festival of Lights), Holi (Festival of Colors), and Eid being some of the most widely celebrated. The influence of Indian culture can be seen globally, as the Indian diaspora has spread its traditions and practices across the world.
Cuisine: Indian cuisine is known for its diverse flavors, spices, and regional variations. Each region has its unique culinary traditions and signature dishes. Indian cuisine includes a wide range of vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies, such as biryani, samosas, dosas, curries, and a variety of sweets like gulab jamun and jalebi.
Yoga and Meditation: India is the birthplace of yoga and meditation. These ancient practices have gained worldwide popularity for their physical, mental, and spiritual benefits. Yoga focuses on physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and meditation, while meditation aims to calm the mind and achieve inner peace.
Traditional Clothing: Indian traditional clothing varies across different regions, reflecting the diversity of the country. The most well-known attire for women is the saree, a long piece of fabric draped around the body. Men commonly wear kurta-pajama or dhoti-kurta combinations. In some regions, traditional clothing includes the salwar kameez for women and the sherwani for men.
Festivals: India celebrates a multitude of festivals throughout the year, each with its unique customs and rituals. Some notable festivals include Navratri, Raksha Bandhan, Durga Puja, Eid, Christmas, Pongal, and Onam. These festivals often involve music, dance, processions, and feasts, fostering a sense of community and shared celebration.
Classical Music and Dance: Indian classical music and dance forms are highly regarded for their intricacy and beauty. Classical music encompasses two major traditions: Hindustani (North Indian) and Carnatic (South Indian). Instruments such as the sitar, tabla, sarod, veena, and flute are commonly used. Classical dance forms include Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi, Kathakali, Manipuri, and Mohiniyattam, each with its unique style and storytelling techniques.
Traditional Arts and Crafts: Indian culture boasts a rich heritage of traditional arts and crafts. Intricate paintings like Madhubani, Tanjore, and Rajput miniatures, as well as intricate embroidery like Chikankari and Phulkari, are highly valued. Other crafts include pottery, metalwork, stone carving, woodwork, and weaving, each showcasing exceptional craftsmanship.
Languages and Literature: India is a linguistically diverse nation with numerous languages spoken across its regions. Hindi and English are the official languages, but there are also regional languages such as Tamil, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, and many more. Indian literature includes ancient epics, such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana, as well as works of renowned poets and authors like Rabindranath Tagore, Kalidasa, and Premchand.
Traditional Medicine: India has a long history of traditional medicine systems, such as Ayurveda, Siddha, and Unani. Ayurveda, in particular, is a holistic healing system that focuses on the balance between mind, body, and spirit. It utilizes herbs, minerals, massage, yoga, and dietary practices to promote overall well-being.
Philosophy and Spiritualism: Indian culture is deeply rooted in philosophy and spiritual traditions. The ancient texts of the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita expound on profound philosophical concepts, including karma, dharma, and moksha (liberation). Indian philosophy has also given rise to various schools of thought, such as Vedanta, Yoga, and Samkhya, which delve into the nature of existence and the self.
Traditional Games and Sports: India has a rich heritage of traditional games and sports. Some popular traditional games include Kabaddi, Kho-Kho, Pachisi (the precursor to modern-day Ludo), and Gilli-Danda (a game similar to cricket). Traditional sports like wrestling (kushti), archery, and martial arts (such as Kalaripayattu) also have a long-standing history in Indian culture.
Handicrafts and Textiles: Indian handicrafts and textiles are renowned for their intricate designs and craftsmanship. Regions across India specialize in various forms of handicrafts, such as block printing, tie-dye (bandhani), handloom weaving (like Banarasi silk and Kanjeevaram sarees), pottery, and metalwork. These crafts showcase the artistic skills passed down through generations.
Traditional Architecture: Indian architecture showcases a blend of indigenous styles and influences from various dynasties and empires. Ancient temples, such as the temples of Khajuraho, Konark, and Hampi, feature intricate carvings and sculptures. The Mughal architecture of structures like the Taj Mahal and Red Fort in Delhi demonstrates a fusion of Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles.
Folklore and Mythology: India is a treasure trove of folklore, myths, and legends. Stories from ancient epics and mythological texts have been passed down through oral traditions. These tales include the adventures of gods and goddesses, heroic figures like Rama and Krishna, and moral lessons encapsulated in fables like the Panchatantra and Jataka tales.
Film Industry: Indian cinema, popularly known as Bollywood, is one of the largest and most influential film industries in the world. Bollywood produces a vast number of films each year, featuring colorful musical numbers, dramatic storytelling, and a unique blend of entertainment. Indian films have gained international recognition and have a dedicated fan base globally.
Folk Dances: India is known for its vibrant and diverse folk dances, which vary from region to region. Each state and community has its unique dance forms that reflect their cultural traditions and rituals. Some popular folk dances include Bhangra from Punjab, Garba from Gujarat, Bihu from Assam, Ghoomar from Rajasthan, and Kathakali from Kerala.
Traditional Festive Attire: Indian festivals are often accompanied by traditional attire that adds to the celebratory spirit. For example, during Navratri and Garba celebrations, people adorn colorful and embellished traditional costumes like Chaniya Cholis for women and Kediyu or Kurta for men. Similarly, during Pongal in Tamil Nadu, women wear vibrant sarees and men wear traditional dhotis.
Street Food Culture: India is famous for its diverse and flavorful street food. Each city and region has its iconic street delicacies that are a treat for the taste buds. From mouth-watering snacks like samosas, pakoras, and vada pav to popular street food items like golgappas (pani puri), pav bhaji, and dosas, the street food culture in India is an integral part of its culinary heritage.
Traditional Weddings: Indian weddings are known for their grandeur and elaborate rituals that vary across different regions and communities. Weddings in India are multi-day affairs filled with vibrant celebrations, music, dance, and rituals such as the Mehendi (henna) ceremony, Sangeet (musical evening), and the exchange of garlands during the wedding ceremony itself.
Traditional Musical Instruments: India has a rich assortment of traditional musical instruments used in classical, folk, and devotional music. Instruments like the sitar, tabla, sarod, veena, shehnai, santoor, and bansuri are integral to Indian classical music. Each instrument has its unique sound and playing technique, adding depth and richness to the musical traditions of India.
Traditional Jewelry: Indian culture has a deep-rooted love for intricate and ornate jewelry. Traditional jewelry designs vary across regions but commonly feature intricate patterns, gemstones, and craftsmanship. Jewelry such as mangalsutras (a symbol of marriage), bangles, necklaces, earrings, and nose rings hold cultural significance and are often passed down through generations.
Traditional Martial Arts: India has a long history of martial arts, which were developed for self-defense and physical fitness. Martial art forms like Kalaripayattu (from Kerala), Silambam (from Tamil Nadu), Thang-ta (from Manipur), and Gatka (from Punjab) have unique techniques and styles that showcase the rich martial heritage of the country.