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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Culture of India

India's culture is marked by a high degree of syncretism and cultural pluralism. It has managed to preserve established traditions while absorbing new customs, traditions, and ideas from invaders and immigrants. Multicultural concerns have long informed India’s history and traditions, constitution and political arrangements.

Notable monuments, such as the Taj Mahal and other examples of Mughal architecture and South Indian architecture are the result of traditions that combined elements from several parts of the country and abroad. The vernacular architecture displays notable regional variation.
Indian music covers a wide range of traditions and regional styles. Classical music is mainly split between the North Indian Hindustani and South Indian Carnatic traditions. Highly regionalised forms of popular music include filmi and folk music like bhangra. Many classical dance forms exist, including bharatanatyam, kathakali, kathak, kuchipudi, manipuri, odissi and yakshagana. They often have a narrative form and are usually infused with devotional and mythological elements.

The earliest works of Indian literature were transmitted orally and only later written down. These included works of Sanskrit literature, such as the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, and the drama The Recognition of Śakuntalā, and those of the Sangam literature in Tamil. Among Indian writers of the modern era active in Indian languages or English, Rabindranath Tagore is best known. Gitanjali, his anthology of devotional songs, earned him the Nobel Prize in 1913 and, through its poem Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo, inspired many in the Indian independence movement.

Having debuted in 1913 with director Dadasaheb Phalke's Raja Harishchandra, the Indian film industry is today the world's largest, and the Mumbai-based Bollywood's commercial Hindi film its most recognisable face. Established traditions also exist in the regional-language cinema, including Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu. A product of the latter, Pather Panchali , auteur Satyajit Ray's debut film of childhood and death in rural Bengal, is a landmark of world cinema.Indian cuisine is characterized by a wide variety of regional styles and sophisticated use of herbs and spices. The staple foods in the region are rice (especially in the south and the east) and wheat (predominantly in the north).

Traditional Indian dress greatly varies across the regions in its colours and styles and depends on various factors, including climate. Popular styles of dress include the sari for women and the lungi or dhoti for men. India's national sport is field hockey, even though cricket is the most popular sport. In some states, particularly those in the northeast and the states of West Bengal, Goa, and Kerala, football is also a popular sport. In recent times, tennis has also gained popularity. Chess, commonly held to have originated in India, is also gaining popularity with the rise of the number of recognized Indian grandmasters. Traditional sports include kabaddi, kho-kho, and gilli-danda, which are played nationwide. India is home to the age-old discipline of yoga and to the ancient martial arts, Kalarippayattu and Varma Kalai.

Indian festivals come in a vast variety; many are celebrated irrespective of caste and creed. The most popular holidays are Diwali, Holi, Onam, Dussehra, Bihu, Durga puja, the two Eids, Christmas, Ugadi, and Vaisakhi. India has three national holidays. Other sets of holidays, varying between nine and twelve, are officially observed in the individual states. Religious practices are an integral part of everyday life and are a very public affair. Traditional Indian family values are highly respected, although urban families now prefer a nuclear family system due to the socio-economic constraints imposed by the traditional joint family system.

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