Indian Culture

Characteristics of Indian Culture

  • India is a vast country with a lot of diversity in its social environment with people speaking different languages, having different religions and practicing different rituals. The diversities can also be seen in food habits, dance and music and dress patterns.
  • India is a nation of different races, ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs. The composite and dynamic character of Indian culture is a result of the rich contributions of all these diverse cultural groups over a long period of time.
  • Indian culture has an enduring character. The pattern of a house in an Indian village is not very different from that of a Harappan house which flourished in the Indian subcontinent over 4500 years ago. Some aspects of Harappan culture are still practised, such as, the worshipping of Mother Goddess and Pashupati.

Dynamic Nature of Indian Culture

  • The continuity and change in Indian civilization has gone hand in hand while keeping the basic spirit intact through all these transformations. It has kept on discarding what was becoming irrelevant in the modern age.
  • The vastness of the country and variation in its physical and climatic features is an obvious reason for the variety
  • India is home to many religions of the world like Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism
  • Variety in our culture is due to the intermingling among various ethnic groups. Various ethnic groups like Iranians, Greeks, Kushanas (Central Asia), Shakas (From Centra Asia invaded Afganistan, Pakistan & North West India), Hunas (Himalayan Tribes), Arabs, Turks, Mughals and Europeans also came to India, settled here and intermixed with the local population.
  • The people belonging to other cultures brought their cultural habits, thoughts and ideas, which got amalgamated into the existing
  • Before second century BC, Indians wore clothes which were unstitched. Stitched clothes such as salwars, kurtas, etc. were brought to India, by the Kushanas, Shakas and Parthians. Further shirts, trousers, skirts, etc. were brought by the Europeans.
  • Cultural exchange between different regions is also prominent in India. Bhangra dance of Punjab or the Pongal of Tamil Nadu or the Bihu dance of Assam, all celebrates after a good harvest of crops.
  • Another unifying factor is climate. The system of monsoons is the most important component of the Indian climatic pattern and this gives unity to the whole country.

Secular Outlook of Indian Culture

  • The secular character of Indian culture is a result of the intermingling of people belonging to diverse cultural groups over a long period of time. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsees (followers of Iranian prophet Zoroaster) and Jews live in India.
  • The constitution declares India to be a secular country. Everyone is free to profess, practice and propagate any religion of his/her own choice. The state has no religion of its own and all religions are treated equally by the state. No one is to be discriminated on the basis of religion.
  • In the Western context development of secularism meant complete separation of the church and the state. In India secularism is taken as a more positive concept to cope with the complex social structure in the country with a view to protecting the interests of all, particularly the minorities.

Materialistic and Spiritualistic

  • India is a land of spirituality however the developments of materialistic and non-materialistic culture have been going on alongside.
  • The Harappan civilization was an urban one. It had a systematic town planning, an elaborate drainage system, profound knowledge of mathematics, weights and measures, and a well placed system of external trade. Harappans travelled across the seas to trade with the Sumerians.
  • Discoveries of theories-like “earth rotates around the sun” or “earth is round” were made by Indians without any opposition or resistance by religious or other thoughts in pursuing such knowledge unlike Europe.
  • In philosophical thought even atheistic thinking developed and grew in India. For example, Jainism and Buddhism are silent about the existence of God, yet they flourish side by side of Hinduism.

Cultural Identity, Religion, Region and Ethnicity

  • Indian cultural identities are based on various factors such as religion and region. As a result each Indian possesses multiple identities. One of these identities asserts itself at a certain point of time and prevails over the others, depends on the political, social or economic context in which the person finds himself/herself.
  • Therefore each person may have some things in common with another, but may be vastly different in some other aspects. For example, except belief, forms of worship and rituals, may differ vastly.
  • Culturally, Hindus are not all similar, nor are all the Muslims. Brahmins in Tamil Nadu are quite different from their counterparts in Kashmir. Similarly, Muslims in Kerala and Uttar Pradesh are dissimilar in several aspects of their culture. Regional identities are more real. In Bengal, both Hindus and Muslims take pride in being Bengalis. In Mumbai, Ganesh Puja is celebrated across the religion.

Cultural Influences in India

  • There are at least three significant influences on our culture. They are:

1.Westernization – Influence of western culture

2.Emergent national cultural styles – Specific to time period

3.Popular culture – Product of Mass media, impact of films

  • Popular culture which is the product of mass media is another unifying factor. The impact of films has been tremendous. Radio and television also reshape images and attitudes. Their hold on us is undeniable. Modern media has promoted issues that are of both traditional and public interest.

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