The culture of India has been extracted from the engrossing traditions, customs and rituals of both immigrants and invaders. It is exemplified by various cultural practices, Indian customs and languages that flourish in India over the centuries. The culture of India is considered approximately 5,000 years old. It is identified from the archaeological proof that an extremely classy urbanized culture known as the Indus civilization influenced the northwestern area of the Indian subcontinent in between 2600 to 1500 BCE.
From then on, India operated as nearly a self-contained cultural and political ground, giving rise to a distinct tradition that was primarily associated with Hinduism as well as Buddhism and Jainism; though the traces of these two religion is comparatively small, but it too flourished in Indus civilization. Throughout Indus valley civilization, the people of Indian subcontinent developed an interest in intellectual fields such as astronomy, mathematics, literature, architecture, fine art, music and dance.
The country is also recognized as the birthplace of various other religions such as Sikhism, while religions like Buddhism influenced not only India, but also many neighboring countries like Sri Lanka, China, Tibet and others. With the assault and invasion of many Islamic rulers, the Indian culture got highly influenced by Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Islamic cultures. While the culture is ancient and varied, ‘Unity in diversity’ is the main slogan that represents Indian civilization across the world and it can even be noticed in its different art forms and traditions.
Architecture and Urbanization
In the Indus valley civilization, India grew as one of the most initial urban societies across the world, along with a wide-ranging trading and business economy to maintain it.
The fenced citadels in a few early cities grew into sophisticated palisades, moats and walls to prevent the mass of Iron Age and medieval cities all over the country. The cities and towns of sub Indian continent can be divided into eight historic types:
- Primitive pilgrimage places, such as Madurai;
- Local market centers and towns, usually one in every 20 miles;
- Equipped towns in medieval periods, such as Gwalior;
- Ancient & medieval seaports, such as Broach (Bharuch)
- Military cantonments set up by the British for the first time in Pune
- Contemporary administrative areas such as New Delhi;
- Industrial centers such as Jamshedpur;
- Modern metropolis such as present day Mumbai and Kolkata.
Architecture in India developed in specific regional styles which are quite apparent and reveal the relative manipulation of the medieval Turkish and Persian invaders in North, Tamil kingdoms in South, British and Portuguese Christianity, and the entire unique facets of the religious shrines of medieval Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam.
The landscape of India is covered by more than half a million villages, while each region having its own unique style of village layout and domestic architecture. Most of the holy places of different religions are mostly located in towns and villages, while major pilgrimage places are scattered everywhere in India and not confined to villages only.
Out of all the art forms, the culture of India are most recognized for its traditional and colorful dance forms. While dance has been an integral part of Indian culture, the traces of dance are even mentioned in ancient mythological dramas and series. The traditional dance forms of India include: Folk, Classical and Contemporary popularly known as: Mohini Attam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, Kathakali and Bharatnatyam. One of the very popular dance forms ‘Kathak’ is extensively followed in North India and it was introduced post Islamic invasion; however, later it evolved into various Hindu gharanas such as Jaipur Gharana, Banaras Gharana, etc. Maximum classical dancing originated from the religious feelings. But in addition to these classical dance forms, there are numerous forms of folk tribal dance such as Bhangra, Bihu, Ghumar, etc. found in India.
People of India have always valued the heavenly association of the music. There are mainly two types of classical music found in India: South Indian Carnatic style and North Indian Hindustani style of singing. Indian music has a wealthy and vigorous folk tradition and is majorly found in rural India. While India has always considered the land of culture and music, India has also adopted the contemporary style of music such as Pop, Jazz and Rock.
Paintings in India have always been one of the most preferred art forms and the best way of expressing ones’ feelings. Through paintings in ancient India, the religious belief, happiness, traditional activities, rituals, etc. also used to get demonstrated. World famous Cave Paintings of Khajuraho, Ajanta and Elora and different temples painting are the evidence of this fact. While most of the Rock art/paintings in India are dominated by Hinduism or Buddhism, paintings found in South Indian temples are also quite vividly rich and vigorous. Indian painting is not only confined to canvas, rocks or paper, it is also done with home-made organic color and wheat popularly known as ‘Rangoli’. It is prevalent and can be seen at the entrance of many Indian homes, especially in the South India.
Style of Dress
Indian culture is world famous for its colorful and diverse culture. The same can be found in the colorful and varied dresses that beautify its people. Indian style of dressing is symbolized by variations, regional and religious with a wide variety of styles, colors and textures. While Sari is mostly in worn central India, traditional attire for Gujarat and Rajasthan are vibrant Ghagra choli. Churidar Kurta is the attire of ladies in North India and half Sari with ling skirt and dupatta are worn by women in South India. However, people have adopted culture each others’ state and wear what they prefer. Western attire is also becoming quite popular amongst the youth in urban India.
People & Lifestyle in India
India is convincingly the only land with the maximum and most diverse assortment of races, cultures, castes, religions and languages. People here various languages with Hindi and being the official languages. However, the most scenic reality is that people here have lived with love and harmony despite their cultural differences.
Food in Daily Life
Rice, wheat, maize, barley, millet, pulses, etc are some of the signature food of people of India across everywhere. While in earlier days non-vegetarian diet was mostly consumed by Sikhs, Jews, Christians and Muslims, it has become one of the favorite cuisines of Hindus too. While Jews, Sikhs and Muslims avoid consuming pork, Hindus will not eat beef for religious reasons. Jains are purely vegetarian and Buddhists prefer all types of diet.
Festivals have great importance in India since ages and most of the festivals have religious basis and majority are associated with the Hindu deities, Gods and Goddesses. Some of the examples of such festivals are Durga Puja, Dusshera, Diwali, Holi and Navratri, to name few. However, India being dominated by Hindu population, festivals such as Id, Christmas, Baisakhi, etc are celebrated with equal zeal and show in India.
Since a major proportion of the Indian population is located in rural India, farming is the biggest employment source of employment. Farmers here produce majority of the cash crops for selling in the local, national and international markets. In some areas, farmers grow plantation crops like coffee, tea, rubber, cardamom, as these are of great economic value and help in bringing in foreign currency. Over the past few years, Indian economy has been growing slowly but steadily due to an extensive range of industries such as mining operations and others.
Amongst all other countries, the United States is the major export market of India in the recent years and it received 17% of exports in the year 1995 & 1996. Tea, clothing and computer software are the three major categories that get exported to the United States. India has grown as a significant importer too and things which it doesn’t produce or finding expensive to produce locally get imported from other countries.
India has had various established transport agents, traders, exporters and importers since the time of the Indus valley civilization and market places came into being since that period. Barter system was the first and foremost trade that inhabited the entire Indian subcontinent during that time followed by the coinage system that was in circulation among urban Indian for 2500 years.
In modern days, investment opportunities merged with constant inflation has formed the base of a widespread export and import trade. The major industries in India are the clothing, coffee, tea, cotton tourism and the manufacture of raw materials.
It is noteworthy that the modern industries were shaped by the British government in the 19th and the early 20th centuries in India. The country however still relies on a huge network of railroad trail and railroads are under the Government control. Roadways also majorly help in local trading and air service has also become an integral part of trading in India today. The initial air service used for postal delivery grew into Air India which was nationalized in the year 1953. During the 1980s many private airlines developed within India, while international air services are being provided by a various foreign airline companies including Air India.
The prominent trading partners of India are The US, the UK, Russia and Germany. Political hostility has resulted in minimal trading relations with the neighboring countries in South Asia, however things are changing and there is now a substantial trans-border trading relationships with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
Division of Labor
While the labor division in India today is mostly based on gender and age. Jobs here are mainly done by the adult men and women; it was decided on the basis of caste and varna in ancient India. There were four major castes in ancient India-
- Brahmins were at the uppermost position of the Varna hierarchy and would do the work of teachers, priests and caretaker of social and ritual ceremonies as well as the authority of moral and social behavior.
- Kshatriyas were mainly the warriors and rulers. Most of the kings and rulers in those days belong to Kshatriya varna/caste.
- Vaishyas were mainly the merchants, skilled traders and minor officials. All the businesses and official works were done by this varna in those days. They were also land owners and engaged in farming and trading. Today, the Vaishya sets have set out victorious gigantic business across the country and abroad.
- Shudras belong to the bottommost category in Varna ranking and were mainly called ‘untouchables’ in ancient India. While they are mainly engaged in artisan activities such as metal work, carpentry, basket weaving and cultivation, they are engaged in all kinds of jobs including official’s grade in modern India.
India is the home to numerous tribes, ethnic groups, religions and castes. The sub-castes and castes in each region are connected to each other via an eternal hierarchical constitution and each caste has its own tradition, name, rank, occupation and specific subculture. Tribes usually do not have a caste hierarchy, but often have their own internal hierarchical organization. While the ethnic conflict and religious wars are a major part of Indian culture, the country will always remain popular for its ‘Unity in diversity’ culture.