INDIAN CULTURE AND HERITAGE
One of the oldest and distinctive cultures of the world, the Indian culture is the result of the country’s rich and long history, ancient heritages, varied demography and unique geography. The different parts of India, the north, the south, the east and the west make a wonderful display of their distinctive culture that have fascinated people all over the world.
The language, dance, religions, music, various customs and architecture form the rich culture of Indian. In fact, the culture of India is perfect combination of varied sub-cultures that are spread throughout the Indian sub continent along with century old Indian tradition.
Among other things, the different religions are one of them that represent India. The religious culture of India is one of the most diverse in the whole world. The Indian sub-continent is the birthplace of various religions of the world, which include Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. All these religions are collectively called Indian religions. Religions in India play an important role in the lives of majority of Indian. The religious culture among the various Indians has been imbibed since the early years of consciousness.
Apart from the major Indian religions, some other important religions like Christianity, Muslims, Jews, Parsis sects have been living side by side in India from time immemorial and are also representative of the religious culture of India.
When talking about religions, the festivals that are the most essential parts of the different religions of India must be mentioned. Some of the integral festivals that are representative of the religious culture of India are Holi, Id, Durga Puja, Christmas, Diwali, Guru Nanak Jayanti, Ramadan and many more.
Since majority of people in India are Hindu, the Hindu culture plays an important role in making the whole gamut of Indian culture. The different Hindu festivals, the rituals, norms and customs, cuisine and attire make a perfect display of the Hindu culture of India.
The languages form an important part of the rich culture of India. India is a land of various languages namely Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, Assamese, Kashmiri, Tamil, Urdu, Marathi and more. In fact, each of the different states of India is representative of the respective language culture. According to history, one of the oldest languages of India is Rigvedic Sanskrit, which dates back to 1500 BC.
The society of India is a perfect exhibition of the culture of India. The traditional Indian society is represented by family, festivals, names, marriages and many more. In this regard it must be mentioned that marriage is one of the most essential parts of the Indian society. India is rich in its marriage culture, arranged marriage for centuries have been considered the tradition of the society of India.
Dance forms in India
Here are some of the most popular dance forms of India :
Chhau: This dance form originated in the region of Seraikella and is performed on the eve of the spring festival every year. The mask is the main focus of this dance. It is a traditional art form and is still performed all over the country.
Bhangra: Bhangra is a popular folk dance of Punjab, North India. It is a dance performed on special occasions like weddings and festivals. The dance symbolizes and reflects the happiness of the Punjabi farmers.
Mohiniattam: Mohiniattam is one of the major classical dance styles of India. It is an elegant dance form that originated from the land of Kerela and today, the dance form has spread to other parts of India as well.
Manipuri: Manipuri is a popular dance of the state of Manipur. The main theme of the Manipuri dance is the love of Radha and Lord Krishna. In the 18th century the Manipuri dance blossomed into a classical dance form.
Myriad Emotions: It is a dance form in which myriad emotions are portrayed by the artist dancers. It originated from the Kuchipudi village, in the Krishna district of Andhra and its origin dates back to as far as the 2nd century B.C. Innumerable emotions ranging from pride to anger are expressed.
Odissi Dance: It is one of the oldest classical dances of the country. The dance themes mainly centers on the eternal love stories of Radha and Krishna. The Odissi dance can be distinguished from other dance form by the colorful costumes, ornaments, dance steps and fine display of emotions of love and pangs of separation.
Kathakali: Kathakali is a unique dance form of Kerela and dates back to the 17th century. The themes are mostly religious. The costume of the Kathakali dance is intricate and is one of the distinctive traits of this dance.
Bharat Natyam: Bahrat Natyam is India’s ancient classical dance style. It originated from the land of Tamil Nadu and has come a long way since the time of its invention and days in the temples. This dance form is famous not only in India but also abroad. It is regarded as the most elegant of all the dance form in India.
Indian Music Forms
Tradition – A story of Strings: The string instruments have reached great heights in recent times. The endless moments of ecstasy and pleasure one can derive by listening to the soothing sound of the string instruments, cannot be actually surpassed by any other form of instruments.
Carnatic Music: The carnatic music of the South Indian exposes the rich history and culture of the past. It is considered to be the richest and oldest music tradition in the world. The south Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerela, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are famous for their strong presentation of the Carnatic music.
Hindustani Music: The Hindustani Music has assumed a role of immense significance. It is based primarily on the raga system, which is a melodic scale comprising of notes. Each raga acquires a distinctive character of its own. Hindustani music is catchy, rhythmic and takes us to the depth of the Indian culture.
India, an amalgamation of different ethnic groups, varied cultures and different languages offers a lot of vivid colors in its wedding ceremonies. Be it a Hindu marriage, Christian wedding, Punjabi shaadi or a Muslim marriage, India gives you sneak peek into all. Traditional Indian wedding is a rainbow of colors. People of every religion and region celebrate this auspicious ceremony in their own special style. If in northern India you can be a part of Sikh weddings, Buddhist weddings, Arya Samaj weddings, in southern India Marathi marriage, Gujarati wedding, Telugu wedding and Christian wedding ceremonies will win your heart over. In eastern part of India you will come across Bengali wedding ceremonies. Find all about this splendid cultural affair in detail here.
Arya Samaj Wedding
Maithil Brahmin Wedding
INDIAN CUISINE RECEIPE
List of historical monuments of India
Here is a list of the most popular monuments of India:
Adilabad : The Fourth Fort of Delhi: Adilab is the fourth fort of Delhi, built by Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq. Much of the fort now lies in ruins but, the basic structure has survived.
Adlaj Vav : An Architectural Marvel: The structure of the Adlaj Vav echoes the Indo-Islamic style of architecture. It is a unique water work, a five storied step-well and is located in a small village of Adlaj, 19 km from Ahmedabad.
Agar Sain Ki Baoli: A step-well, known for its traditional Hindu style of architecture, Agar Sain Ki Baoli is located at the heart of the city of Delhi. The history of its origin is shrouded in mystery and there are a number of plausible assumptions about the age and name of its builder.
Agra Fort: A UNESCO World Heritage site, Agra Fort is a massive building built by Akbar the great. The fort is made of red sandstone and is located on the banks of the Yamuna River.
Akbar’s Tomb: A Mughal architectural masterpiece, Akbar’s Tomb is located in Sikander, which is a small suburb of Agra. The tomb is a bright red-tired structure and is different from previous Mughal buildings.
Alai Darwaza: Alai Darwaza is a magnificent gateway and belongs to the period of Delhi Sulatanate (1191-1526). It was built by Ala-ud-din Khilji in 1311 and showcases a new style of architecture.
Bada Imambada: It is an important tourist attraction in Lucknow. The design pattern of the monument is the main attraction here. It reflects the era in which it was built. The great hall is presumed to be the largest hall in Asia.
Bandnore Fort: It is a seven storied fort located in the colorful state of Rajasthan. The fort reflects the fascinating history of the past and typifies the medieval Indian military style of architecture.
Bijai Mandal: The structure of the Bijai Mandal is a matter of controversy. It is neither a fort nor a tower. It is an oblong building which houses a number of rooms within in. The intriguing structure was built by Muhammad Bin Tughlaq, the second ruler of the Tughlaq dynasty.
Cellular Jail: The Cellular Jail is located in Port Blair. The jail symbolizes the hardships and inhuman treatment, which the inmates had to encounter during their struggle to attain freedom from the clutches of the British.
Charminar: A famous mosque and monument in the city of Hyderabad, Charminar stands as a pivotal structure around which the glory and history of Hyderabad prevails. The Charminar was built by Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah, the Sultan of Golconda in 1591.
Chittorgarh Fort: The fort is an exemplification of the Rajput style of architecture and highlights the story of the Rajput rulers who laid down their life fighting.
Fatehpur Sikri: It is a majestic city of the Mughal dynasty and was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. The Fatehpur Sikri is an amalgamation of different architectural traditions.
Ferozshah Kotla: The citadel was built by Ferozshah Tughlaq. Ferozshah Kotla was the capital city of Ferozshah Tughlaq.
Fort St. Georgefirst Fort of the Colonial Era: Built in 1640, it is the first fort that was built by the British in India. It is located on the coastal areas of the Bay of Bengal and is illustrative of the military architecture.
Golconda Fort: The fort reflects the grandeur of the military architecture. It was used as a defensive structure during the 17th century.
Hauz-I-Alai: It is a unique water work built by Ala-ud-din. It was built with an aim to surmount the problem of water scarcity in the capital city of Siri.
Hawa Mahal: Located in the pink city of Jaipur, the structure of the Hawa Mahal is a perfect blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture. It is an important landmark of the Jaipur city.
Humayun’s Tomb: Built by Haji Begum in 1569-70, the Humayun’s Tomb enhances the Mughal style of architecture. The tomb is located in the eastern part of Delhi.
Itmad-Ud-Daulah’s Tomb: A highly elaborate edifice the Itmad-Ud-Daulah was built between 1622 and 1628 by Nurjahan. It reflects the Islamic style of architecture.
Jantar Mantar: The Jantar Mantar reflects the existence and spirit of science in ancient India. The intriguing structure was built in 1725 by Sawai Jai Sing II.
Kalinjar Fort: The Kalinjar Fort is the abode of a number of monuments and sculptures, which conform to the Hindu style of architecture. It was built in the 7th century AD by Kedar Burman.
Purana Quila: The structure amply reflects the medieval military style of architecture. It was built in the 16th century by Humayun and Sher Shah Suri.
Quitab Minar: Built by Qutub-ud-din Aibak in 1193, the Qutub Minar is an important tourist spot in Delhi. It is a red sandstone tower, which extends to a height of 72.5 m.
Rohtas Fort: The Rohtas Fort stands as a good example of the military style of architecture. The fortress houses a number of buildings in its precincts.
Sher Mandal: Sher Mandal is an attractive structure built in the 16th century by Sher Shah Suri. It was here that the second Mughal emperor Humayun fell to his death.
Siri Fort: It is a defensive fort built by Ala-ud-din Khilji. It was built with an aim to protect the people of his city from the Mongols invaders.
Taj Mahal: No monuments can surpass the Taj Mahal, in terms of the beauty rendered. Built by Shah Jahan in 1632-53, the Taj Mahal marks the peak of Mughal architecture.
The Gol Gumbaz: The Gol Gumbaz is the resting place of Muhammad Adil Shah, the seventh ruler of the Adil Shahi dynasty. Built in 1656, it stands as one of the most important building of Bijapur (Karnataka).
The Red Fort: The Red Fort stands as a good example of the Mughal military architecture. It was built by Shahjahan in 1638-46. It invariably stands as a symbol of India’s Independence.
Tughlaqabad Fort: It is a massive fort which dates back to the period of the Delhi Sultanate. It was built in the 14th century AD by Ghiyas-ud-din-Tughlaq and symbolizes the Tughlaq power.
Victoria Memorial: Built by Lord Curzon in 106-21, the Victoria Memorial is a wonderful example of the colonial style of architecture. It is located in the heart of the Calcutta city and houses a range of beautiful artifacts.
ASTROLOGY IN INDIA
Astrology is the study of planetary influences and their affect on the world and everything in it. Astrology is usually limited to human beings-their nature, and their affairs.
Indian Astrology is considered to be one of the oldest, most accurate and consistent form of astrology all over the world. It is a natural cosmic science based on real astronomy. The birth chart cast on the Indian System makes adjustments for the fact that our Universe (Zodiac) is moving and not fixed (the Big Bang theory). This system is over 7000 years old and proves that ancient Indians had a great grasp of astronomy much before any other civilization.Also the Indian system takes into account the fact that the zodiac is epileptic and not circular, due to which the twelve houses in a birth chart are not 30 degree each but vary according to the time of birth. Due to these differences the birth chart, cast on the Indian system would come out different from that done on any other system and is considered much more accurate. Indian astrological studies consist of 27 constellations, in 12 lunar mansions. The movements of the two luminaries – Sun and Moon, five major planets (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and Mercury) and the two nodal points of the Moon i.e., Rahu and Ketu are considered, and their positions marked. Indian Astrology does not recognize extra Saturnine planets like Pluto, Neptune and Uranus.
The Moon is taken as a very important planet for predictions, though it is a satellite of the earth. The complete predictive mechanism is based on the Moon Sign and not the Sun Sign. The Moon, at the time of birth is found in a particular position or in a particular star, which is taken as the star of a person. This star is used to find the major and sub-periods of a person’s life. The Moon changes its Zodiac sign in 2¼ – 2½days compared to the Sun, which is stationary on a sign for 30 days. Therefore for every “12? changes in a year for the Sun, the Moon changes nearly “146? times, resulting in greater accuracy in prediction.
Also the Moon signifies the Mind. Since the Moon is the heavenly body closest to the earth, the magnetic influences of all other planets reach the Earth through the Moon. Also since the mind is ruled by the Moon and all influences on the Human Being whether physical, mental, psychological or supernatural is effected through the human mind, the moon is very significant. The human body which is ruled by the Sun may or may not respond to the mental / psychological / supernatural influences.
A Horoscope is thus based on detailed mathematical calculations detailing the longitude and latitude of planets at the time of birth. This portion is a science, since a horoscope if cast correctly will be same every time even if made by different people. On the other hand, the interpretation of the horoscope is a Fine Art and involves experience as well as Intuitive Powers for prediction.
This leads to two different astrologers giving differing predictions.The Vedas (1500 B.C.), which are the oldest religious literature available, bear references to this science. “Jyothisha or Astrology” is one of the limbs of the “Vedas”. Hindus were the original masters who had the thorough knowledge of astronomy and many rituals and religious rites were related to the position of planets and their motions.
Long before Kepler, Copernicus, Brahe, Galilio and other galaxy of astronomers were born, the Hindu sages had already gained much knowledge on the stellar or planetary universe.
Indian Astrology has been divided into three main branches of study: Siddanta, Samhita and Hora. Siddantas are those who are devoted to the astronomical study of celestial bodies Samhitas deal with mundane astrology, earth quakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, rainfall, weather conditions economic conditions and effects of sunspots. Another very important branch is the Phalitha Jyothisha branch, which concentrates on the system of predictions. This branch has six sub-divisions, namely, Jathaka, Gola, Prasna, Nimitta, Muhurta and Ganitha.
Apart from these schools of planetary interpretations, we have the Nadi system which gives pen pictures of life and destiny patterns of people born at 12,24,48 second intervals. These have been written on palm leaves. Very few experts can read and understand these, but the results and predictions are found to be amazingly accurate.
In India Astrology is taken very seriously and serves various purposes:
1. To predict future events.
2. To match the birth-charts of couples at the time of marriage to ensure a successful married life.
3. To provide Life reading containing issues of a person’s personal life.
4. To determine the Muhurath (the best time to start any auspicious ceremony).
5. To determine which stars are affecting one’s life.
6. To provide a remedy for problems.
7. To determine the right Gemstone to be used to become successful.
TRADITIONAL INDIAN CLOTHING
Indian attire is as varied as it’s subcultures. Just as each region has its own language, food and lifestyles, so also it has its own traditional mode of dressing. A half sari worn to college in the southern states would be subject to ridicule in the northern or western regions. Intermingling due to social changes and improvement in communication has managed to give India a pan-Indian look. People from all subcultures are slowly giving way to a more uniform form of dressing. Men these days usually wear a trouser along with a shirt and women wear the sari or the salwar. Traditional clothes are still worn in traditional ceremonies or in the interior pockets of the country. Also more and more women are taking to western wear (the skirt and the pant, with shirts), specially the youth and people in large cities.Many Indian women wear earrings, nose ornaments and brightly colored bangles. Some paint a dot of color or apply a readymade Bindi, on their foreheads. The bindi is also a fashion statement and may be matching to the color of the dress or to the personality (large, small etc).
Six yards of cloth, that is all there is to the saree. Yet, this dress worn by millions of Indian women is, by far, the most elegant. It is not merely an outfit but an ornament, lending both grace and glamour to the wearer. More important, the saree epitomizes the continuity of an age-old tradition that has withstood the onslaught of many different cultures, to emerge today as a visible symbol of the resiliency, continuity and timelessness of the Indian way of life.
Each region displays a different style of draping it. This is shaped by the lifestyle and the religious inclination. The urban Indian style is by far the most common. Stiff tangails, flowing silks, elegant chiffons and heavy brocades – all of them can be easily maneuvered into this style. Tied around the waist, the saree forms a skirt with the pleats positioned in front thus allowing for free movement. The pallav or the part draped over the left shoulder is either pleated and pinned up the convenience, or is left flowing loose for glamour. This seemingly cumbersome garment is in reality an extremely versatile, meaningful and adaptable one. It suits every possible occasion, every possible activity. Washing and cleaning, carrying firewood back from the forest in the anchal (pallav) or walking long distances, can all be easily executed in a saree.The saree is worn with a short blouse or a choli, covering the upper body. The blouse is also worn with a skirt called a lehenga or ghagra. A long scarf called a duppatta (aka orna, orni, etc.) is commonly found to be part of various dresses including the salwar- Kameej and Ghagra – Choli or the Half saree. Headgear is a prominent part of the Indian attire.
The ladies generally use the dupatta or the pallav (edge) of the saree to cover their heads. The men use turbans and caps of various types. The Muslims use a different cap (topi) from those in the northeast and the Sikh turban forms an essential part of his identity and is very different from the ones worn by others on festive occasions.
Indian Mythology is not only old (1200 B.C), but also vast. The hymns of the Rig Veda are considered the oldest mythological heritage. At this time man had faith in everything around him and godliness was attached to every wonder he saw or experienced. Thus was formed the triad of the early Vedic Gods – Agni, Vayu and Surya. The Vedic Gods were mere abstractions, intangible and illusive but in the post-Vedic phase or in the Puranas the gods assumed substantial shape and individual character.
The two Itihasa or epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata were compiled in the late Vedic period. The heroes of the Vedic age gradually dislodged the shadowy gods and found their place in the Puranas. The Puranic Gods who had their seeds and roots in the Vedas gave rise to the concept of Trimurti. Thus emerged the transition of Hindu mythology from Vedic Gods (the Cosmic Trinity: Agni, Vayu and Surya) to Puranic Gods (the Hindu Trinity: Brahma – Vishnu – Mahesha). Om or Aum symbolizes the essence of Hinduism. It means oneness with the Supreme, the merging of the physical being with the spiritual. The most sacred syllable, the first sound of the Almighty – the sound from which emerges each and every other sound, whether of music or of language. In the Upanishads this sacred syllable appears as a mystic sound, regarded by scriptures as the very basis of every other sacred mantra (hymn). It is the sound not only of origination but also of dissolution. The past, present and future are all included in this one sound and all that transcends this configuration of time is also implied in Om.
The Indian pantheon consists of 33 Crore Gods. Although these gods are not individually worshipped expect for some, they have a special place in the Hindu mythology and are often seen in temples or in paintings or pictures beside the main three triads and their various manifestations. Here are some of the significant ones:
HANUMAN: the monkey god – devotee of Rama
INDRA: King of the abode of gods
YAMA: the god of death
GAYATRI: personification of the Vedic hymn
GANGA: personification of the holy river
KAMADEVA: god of love
KUBERA: god of wealth
NARADA: the wandering seer who features in almost all the Puranas
VARUNA: the god of oceans
SOMA: the moon god
VISHWAKARMA: the divine architect of the universe Other than these lesser gods there are a host of celestial beings. These are often mentioned in the various Vedas and Puranas and are much a part of the Hindu mythology as the lesser gods. Celestial beings:
APSARAS: These are beautiful ladies, who dance in the court of Indra. Indra also uses them to lure the saints and sages who by their severe penance endanger his superiority as the ruler of Swarga (Paradise of Indra). In the Vedas they were personification of vapor and in the Puranas the ballet girls in Swarga. RAMBHA, URVASI and MENAKA are the most celebrated of them.
GANDHARVAS: Gandharvas are the celestial musicians who play in the court of Indra and also when some divine act of the gods had been completed in the interest of humanity. They are said to have a great partiality for women and are said to be exceptionally handsome.
KINNARAS: are mythical beings, with a body of a man and head of a horse. They are singers at the court of Indra. They are also sometimes said to be the minstrels of Kubera’s palace at Mount Kailasa, which is also the abode of Shiva.
SIDDHAS: are classes of spirits of great purity and holiness, who dwell apart in the sky or mid-air between earth and heaven.
YAKSHA: They are the guardians of wealth and attendants of Kubera, employed to guard his gardens and treasure. They live in ALKA-PURI (yaksha-puri). The female of Yaksha is known as YAKSHINI.
Animals have a special place in Hindu mythology. One comes across various animals in Hindu mythology some, which have been personified and given a form as the centuries passed. These animals have been symbolic as the vehicles and carrier of various gods or one, which have helped the gods in various times. Some of them appear as independent divine creatures and are worshipped in various ways.
The various animals in Hindu Mythology:
AIRAVATA the elephant – vehicle of Indra
AKUPARA the tortoise – on which Earth or Prithvi rests
ANTELOPE – vehicle of Vayu and Chandra
ARVA- mythical being half horse and half bird – one of the horses of the moon
BUFFALO – vehicle of Yama
CERBURA – the three headed infernal dog of the Krishna legend
CROW – vehicle of Shani
DOG and HORSE – vehicle of Shiva as Bhairava
GARUDA the king of birds – half man and half eagle or vulture, vehicle of Vishnu
JAMBAVANT, the king of bears – ally of Rama
KAMADHENU – the cow of plenty
MAKARA or JALAMPA the mythical sea monster – vehicle of Varuna (god of water)
MOUSE – vehicle of Ganesha
NANDI the bull – vehicle of Shiva and Parvati
PARAVANI the peacock – vehicle of Kartikeya
PARROT – vehicle of Kamadeva
RAM, the he-goat – vehicle of Agni
SARAMA – dog of Indra
SHESHNAG or ANANTA the infinite – the king of Nagas, vehicle of Vishnu or the bed on which Vishnu rests
SWAN – vehicle of Saraswati and Brahma
TARKSHYA – winged horse personifying the sun
TIGER and LION – vehicle of Parvati as Kali and Durga
UCHCHAIH-SRAVAS – the eight headed king of horses produced during the churning of oceans
In Hindu religion and mythology, the nine planets occupy an important role. The planet deities are referred to as the NAVAGRAHA and are supposed to have a significant impact on the lives of individuals. Hindus worship these planets as deities, so that they may bring peace and harmony and avert any mishap.
Of the Navagrahas the first seven Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, lend their names to the days of the week: Sunday to Saturday respectively. The other two Rahu (Ascending node) and Ketu (Descending node) are also fabled as planets, the former as a planet with a head and no body and the latter as a planet with a body and no head. The Navgrahas are propitiated because of their sinister effects (Saturn, Rahu and Ketu) and for their favorable influences (Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Mars, the sun and the moon). In addition to the nine planets, twenty seven nakshatras (constellations) through which the moon passes and twelve signs of zodiac of the sun, regarded as deities, are consulted at births, marriages and on al occasions of family rejoicing, distress or calamity. Shanti (Peace) propitiation ceremony is held to appease any unfavorable constellations.
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