India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality. 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 some historians as the "oldest living civilization of Earth", the Indian tradition dates back to 8000 BC and has a continuous recorded history for over 2,500 years. Several elements of India's diverse culture such as Indian religions, yoga and Indian cuisine have had a profound impact across the world.
India's culture has many faces
Religions and Spirituality
India has traditionally been a land of faith and spirituality – it is home to the adherents of all the major religions of the world. Out of these, four were born in India while the others came with invaders, travellers and missionaries from abroad. While India is the cradle of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, Islam can be compared to an adopted child as it has been part of our social and cultural fabric for centuries.
Religions and spirituality in India
Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Baha’ism also have their followers in India but they are very small in number. 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.
India, being a multi-cultural and multi-religious society, celebrates holidays and festivals of various religions. The three national holidays in India, the Independence Day, the Republic Day and the Gandhi Jayanti, 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 Makar Sankranti, Pongal and Raja Parba are also fairly popular.
Names and Languages
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, there are 22 national languages have been recognized by the Constitution of India, of which Hindi is the official Union language. Besides these, there are 844 different dialects that are practiced in various parts of the country. If you can see the Indian currency note, the amount in words shall be printed in 15 languages.
The Food 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.
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.
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.
Ayurveda (Sanskrit: आयुर्वेद; Ayurveda, "the complete knowledge for long life") or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to India and practiced in other parts of the world as a form of alternative medicine. Ayurveda stresses the use of plant-based medicines and treatments. Hundreds of plant-based medicines are employed, including cardamom and cinnamon. Some animal products may also be used, for example milk, bones, and gallstones. In addition, fats are used both for consumption and for external use. Minerals, including sulphur, arsenic, lead, copper sulphate and gold are also consumed as prescribed. This practice of adding minerals to herbal medicine is known as Rasa Shastra.
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 and 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.
The music of India includes multiple varieties of religious, folk, popular, pop, and classical music. The oldest preserved examples of Indian music are the melodies of the Samaveda that are still sung in certain Vedic Śrauta sacrifices. India's classical music tradition is heavily influenced by Hindu texts. It includes two distinct styles: Carnatic and Hindustani music.
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 is some notable Genres of Indian Art.
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.
Reliefs at a temple
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.