Traditional yet Contemporary
The Indian culture has never been rigid and that's why it's surviving with pride in the modern era. It timely imbibes the qualities of various other cultures and comes out as a contemporary and acceptable tradition. That is what unique about the Indian culture..it moves on with the time. There are certain things about India that are famous worldwide, like:
Way of Greeting
"Namaste", for an Indian it's a way common way of greeting outsiders and elders. Both palms placed together and raised below the face not only show the respect for others but it also makes you feel the affection in the greeting. It is for sure that no 'hello' or 'hi' can create that magic.
Indian people are also famous for welcoming with flower garlands. In the Indian marriages the exchange of garlands between bride and groom is a ritual in itself. People also offer flower garlands to gods and goddesses during their prayers.
Time has changed but the lavishness has always been an integral and indispensable part of Indian marriages. In India, marriage is still taken as an institution where not two people but two families get united. So, it always calls for boisterous celebrations full of music and dance. Within India, every caste and community has its own way of performing the rituals of marriage. In Hindu marriages, while Punjabis perform the 'Roka' ceremony in weddings, Sindhis perform the 'Berana'. But most common of all is the ritual of Hast Milap ceremony popularly called Paanigrahan Sanskar.
Muslims also have their own special way of celebrating the marriage ceremony, popularly called Nikaah. During the auspicious occasion, the groom's family gives mehar (nuptial gift) to the bride. Parsis plant a young mango tree in a pot during the marriage ceremony. This ceremony is famous as 'Madhavsaro' ceremony. Every state has its own special way of celebrating the marriage ceremony.
Beauty of Indian women lies in the clothes she wears. Very traditional and ethnic yet contemporary Indian Saris are famous worldwide. It is worn with a blouse that covers the upper part of the body. In rural parts a version of sari, called ghagara -choli is very much popular. Choli is like a short blouse that covers the upper part of the body and ghagara is like a long skirt. In order to have a graceful and complete look, women folk carry a duppatta, which is a soft and delicate material of reasonable length thrown over the shoulder.
Though with slight variations, Salwar kameez is a dress that is famous in every part of India. This attire contains two pieces-kameez, which is a like a long top covering upper part of the body and salwar is like trousers. Like ghagara choli, salwar kameez is also complemented by dupatta.
For the men, there is no dearth of variety. From dhoti kurta to shirt pants, an Indian man prefers everything that fits well and looks good. But, traditionally you can see north Indians wearing kurta pajama, dhoti kurta or sherwani on formal celebrations whereas south Indian men prefer lungi with shirt.
Unique designs, artistic looks and creativity are always a part of Indian jewelry. Made up of gold and silver, the jewelry actually represents the culture and tradition of India. In rural India, a resinous incrustation called lac is used for the personal ornamentation. Specialty of Gujarat and Rajasthan, the lac bangles and bracelets are worn and liked by the women of all states.
Without accessories, a car and a woman are always incomplete. From earrings, nose-rings, armlets, necklaces to anklets and bracelets, Indian jewelry give a woman everything that she needs to enhance her beauty.
Mehndi or henna is a kind of paste that is designed on the palms on the women on special occasions like engagement, marriage or festive celebrations. The paste is applied for few hours or overnight and washed when it gets dried completely. This gives reddish-brown color to the palms. In Indian marriages, especially in the north, a special night is celebrated before the day of marriage in which mehndi is designed on the palms of bridegroom and it is followed by some colorful dance and music. In certain parts of India, mehndi is a special kind of ancient folk art.
Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain or Zoroastrian; one can find people of all religions here in India. India is a secular state and every citizen enjoys an equal right of choosing and following a particular religion. More than three fourth of Indian population belongs to Hindu religion and you can find Hindu pilgrimages in every part of the country.
In northern part of India, you can visit various sacred religious places like Vaishno Devi, Amarnath, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Haridwar and Varanasi and in the southern part of the country you can take the blessings of God at the Sabrimala, Sringeri, Dakshineshwar-belur math, and Rameshwaram. If you are in the northeast, you can go to the Kamrup temple that is located on the outskirts of Guwahati on the nilachal hills. If you are roaming somewhere around Gujarat and interested in knowing about lord Krishna, then you must visit Dwarkanath temple that is built at the site where Meera Bai gave up the world. You can also visit Somnath temple that comprises one of the twelve jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva.
The Muslims have their pilgrimages like Dargah Sharief of Ajmer at Rajasthan and Dargah of Ajan Pir in Assam. In northeast, there is Poa Mecca. It is believed that here a faithful Muslim can gain one fourth of the spiritual enlightenment that could be gained at Mecca.
In Punjab, there are number of pilgrimages for Sikhs like Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar, Tarn Taaran in west of Amritsar, Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib in Anandpur, Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda and Dera Baba Nanak in west of Gurdaspur. Hemkund Sahib, which is situated at an altitude of 4329 meters, is the highest Gurudwara in the world. The tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, mediated here for years in the mountains and here only he left his body to get united with Almighty.
Another pilgrimage of Sikhs is Manikaran Gurudwara that is situated in Himachal Pradesh and it is famous for its Hot springs. It is believed that these springs carry uranium and other radioactive materials. Takhat Sachkhand Sri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib in Maharashtra is another sacred religious place of Sikhs. In India, you can also find a number of churches in every state. If you are in south, you can visit Medak Church and Gundala church in Andhra Pradesh, Santa Cruz Basilica in Kochi, Kerela. Northern India also has famous churches like St. Joseph's Church in Uttar Pradesh and Church of the Sacred Heart in New Delhi. If you are enjoying the valleys of Himachal Pradesh, then you can get Jesus' blessings in Christ Church and St. Michael's Cathedral at Shimla.
So many religions and so many pilgrimages but still people are united. It is just because of the Indian values that bind people together. These values weave people together just like beads in a string.
Day in India starts with Surya Namaskar. In this people offer water to the sun and enchant mantras and prayers. Indians worship nature and that's what unique about its culture. In Hindu religion, trees and animals are worshipped like gods. People believe in God and keep fast ('vrata') on every festival. They offer morning's first fresh meal to cow and night's last meal to dog. Nowhere in the world one can find such generosity.
All the religions here start the day with morning hymns and these rich values are inculcated into the kids since childhood. Morning prayers and moral education is also a very important part of the education system in India.
Have you ever been to any other country in the world where you can find such a great variety? Here people are not judged by caste, color or creed. They are judged by their values and this is what makes India a unique place to live.
Everything is Artistic here!
Nowhere in the world you can find such a great variety in performing and visual arts that you can find in India. From a roadside show to a highly sophisticated drama in the theatre, you can find anything and everything here.
Indian art can be categorized into two main categories- performing arts and visual arts.
Dance, drama, theatre or music, every art is unique in itself. In India, religions, mythology and classical literature form the basis of most of the performing arts.
Indian classical dances like Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, Kathak, Manipuri, Odissi and Kuchipudi mainly follow the codes of natya shastra, mythology and classical literature and epics like Ramayana and Mahabharta.
Another kind of performing art is theatre. Though the folk theatre prevails in each and every language and region, the professional theatre is popular only in big urban areas or metropolitan cities. Uniqueness of Indian theatre is the puppet show. For centuries, Puppet shows have been popular in creating awareness about social issues in masses and inculcating the moral values of truth and honesty in the kids.
For Indians, music is to the soul what food is to the body. Since Vedic period it's been capturing the heart and mind of every Indian. In the classical Indian music, there are basically two types of schools- the Hindustani Music (North) and the Carnatic Music (South). 'Raga' arrangement of musical notes is the key in the classical music. The Indian villages also have their special kind of music that carries colors of folk tradition. Music of Indian movies is also liked by the masses.
They are another kind of performing arts for which India is quite popular in the world. The country produces more than 1000 movies every year and these movies are not only popular in the domestic market but also have a wide viewership in the Asian and European countries. Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Kannada, Telugu, Bengali or Marathi, India produces movie in every language. India film stars are equally loved and liked like Hollywood actors.
- Visual Arts
Beauty lies in the eyes of beholder." But, if you look at the sculptures and paintings in India, then you cannot live without saying that the beauty lies in the hands of Indian Artists. India's history in the paintings is prominently visible in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora, Buddhists palm leaf manuscripts and Jain texts. Either it is free form of Ajanta paintings, leaf paintings or glass paintings; India has always been famous for this kind of visual art. The creativity and use of colors has always been graceful and unique in the Indian paintings. Keeping their culture and tradition in mind, Indian artists also imbibe the qualities of other European artists and this gives a contemporary look to the Indian paintings with a traditional touch. Well-known Indian painting schools are Rajput, Deccan, Kangra and Moghul.
From the Cholas dynasty to the present era, India has been ranked on top in the sculpture, another form of visual art. Deccan temples of Kanchipuram, Madurai & Rameswaram, the Sun temple of Orissa and the Khajurao temple in the Madhya Pradesh, each sacred place is the witness of Indian artisan. The sculptures at Sanchi Stupa throw a light on the life of Buddha and various folk deities. Sculptures of Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda with architectural touch show the social life of Buddha and counterparts. Temples of Ellora and Elephanta caves are the important evident of mastery of Indian sculptures. Flora and Fauna, Deities and various mythological characters; all these form the basis of designs in this beautiful form of visual art.
A very ancient and aesthetic kind of visual art in India is pottery. In this form of art lumps of clay are hand-molded to form toys and deities of worship. Terracotta and blue gaze are the two main varieties of pottery that are famous in India. Pottery also has a great religious significance. On Durga Puja and Ganesh Chathurthi the beautiful idols of Maa Durga and Lord Ganesha show the confluence of pottery, sculpture and painting.
It Calls for Celebrations
The 'Land of Gods' never needs a particular reason to celebrate. Celebration is a fundamental part of every Indian's life. From January to December, every month comes with a particular fair or festival. Makar Sakranti, Basanti Panchami, Holi, Ram Navami, Janamashtami, Diwali, Eid, Mahavir Jayanti, Buddha Purnima, Guru Purv and Christmas; the festival of every religion has a significance and it is celebrated in a boisterous way.
Here people don't need a floor to dance. Celebrations on streets during Durga Puja, Ganesh Chathurthi, Janamashtmi and Holi show the real dancing talents of Indians.
Not only this, the country is famous everywhere for the handicrafts melas and fairs that it organizes during particular intervals. Surajkund Craft Mela that is held every year in February in Haryana attracts a large chunk of masses and foreign tourists. In such fairs and festivals, you can find the real India. Such theme melas and festivals unite the whole nation. People come to know about each other's cultures and traditions and their active participation shows how much they love to know about each other.
Number of religions, number of states and thus number of cuisines. If north India has chole bhature, tanduri chicken, rajma chawal, kadi chawal, dhokla, daal baati churma and biryani to relish, then our south India is not behind in the race. From masala dosa, rava uttpam, rasam, sambar-lemon rice to toran, appam, meen; the south Indian cuisine has a great variety to offer.
The concept of Thali is very famous in India. A thali is served in a very traditional form and in this you can enjoy the complete variety available in a particular cuisine. In small restaurants thali is the cheapest way of getting your mouth full. If you have stepped in to a hotel, then you can enjoy the variety in the form of combo meals.
The variety in Indian peppers like black pepper, coriander seeds, and tamarind, cardamom, saffron and cumin seeds not only enhance the flavor of the food but also add nutritive value to it. The Indian food is incomplete if you don't get something sweet in the end. Have a bowl full of kheer or a little mitha paan to add sweetness and freshness to your mouth.
Despite so many diversities, people in India are united and they feel proud of their culture and tradition. On the world stage, either through international film festivals or through beauty pageants, India displays regularly its talent and culture. Many rulers came but none could bring harm to its culture rather Indians preserved the good values of their cultures too. The flexibility and movement with time make Indian Culture fashionable and acceptable too.