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Different Facets of Indian Culture

  • Categories
    Culture: the Soul of India
  • Published
    10th May, 2022

Introduction:

  • We Indians have a strong sense of pride in the distinctiveness and diversity of their culture. Be it the country’s agricultural expansions and technological advancements in infrastructure, science and engineering are sources of pride. But a considerable amount of pride stems from India's rich artistic cultural exports of music, fine arts, literature and spirituality.
  • In this article, we shall be looking into the incredible cultural diversity between languages, geographic regions, religious traditions and social stratifications. In recognition of this large demographic diversity, we shall be looking for common themes and principles that contribute to the values, attitudes, beliefs and norms of the dominant society.

About Culture:

  • Early anthropologists considered culture as an evolutionary process, and "every aspect of human development was seen as driven by evolution,". "In this view, societies outside of Europe or North America, or societies that did not follow the European or Western way of life, were considered primitive and culturally inferior. Essentially this included all the colonized countries and people, such as African countries, India, and the Far East."

The English word ‘Culture’ is derived from the Latin term ‘cult or cultus’ meaning tilling, or cultivating or refining and worship. In sum, it means cultivating and refining a thing to such an extent that its end product evokes our admiration and respect. This is practically the same as ‘Sanskriti’ of the Sanskrit language. The term ‘Sanskriti’ has been derived from the root ‘Kri (to do) in the Sanskrit language. Three words came from this root ‘Kri; prakriti’ (basic matter or condition), ‘Sanskriti’ (refined matter or condition) and ‘vikriti’ (modified or decayed matter or condition) when ‘Prakriti’ or the raw material is refined it becomes ‘Sanskriti’ and when broken or damaged it becomes ‘vikriti’.

  • However, Indians made significant advances in architecture (Taj Mahal), mathematics (the invention of zero) and medicine (Ayurveda) well in advance of many western civilizations.
  • Culture encompasses religion, food, what we wear, how we wear it, our language, marriage, and music and is different all over the world. Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts.
  • Culture can also be described as shared patterns of behaviours and interactions, cognitive constructs and understanding that are learned by socialization. Thus, culture can be seen as the growth of a group identity fostered by social patterns unique to the group.

Features of Indian culture:

  • Indian culture is as many-sided as life. It includes the intellectual and social aspects of any human being. It also takes account of the aesthetic instinct as well as the spiritual impulses of the human being. It has also, in effect, an appeal to the subconscious as a force making for the formation of character.
  • The map of India shows it as a vast country with a lot of diversity in its physical and social environment. We see people around us speaking different languages, having different religions and practising different rituals. You can also see these diversities in their food habits and dress patterns. Besides, look at the myriad forms of dance and music in our country. But within all these diversities there is an underlying unity which acts as a cementing force. The intermingling of people has been steadily taking place in India for centuries. A number of people of different racial stock, ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs have settled down here.

General Characteristics of Culture:

  • Culture is learned and acquired: Culture is acquired in the sense that there are certain behaviours which are acquired through heredity. Individuals inherit certain qualities from their parents but socio-cultural patterns are not inherited. These are learnt from family members, from the group and from the society in which they live. It is thus apparent that the culture of human beings is influenced by the physical and social environment through which they operate.
  • Culture is shared by a group of people: A thought or action may be called culture if it is shared and believed or practised by a group of people.
  • Culture is cumulative: Different knowledge embodied in culture can be passed from one generation to another generation. More and more knowledge is added in the particular culture as time passes by. Each may work out the solution to problems in life that passes from one generation to another. This cycle remains as the particular culture goes with time.
  • Culture changes: There is knowledge, thoughts or traditions that are lost as new cultural traits are added. There are possibilities of cultural changes within a particular culture as time passes.
  • Culture is dynamic: No culture remains in the permanent state. Culture is changing constantly as new ideas and new techniques are added as time passes modifying or changing the old ways. These are the characteristics of culture that stems from the culture’s cumulative quality.
  • Culture gives us a range of permissible behaviour patterns: It involves how an activity should be conducted, and how an individual should act appropriately.
  • Culture is diverse: It is a system that has several mutually interdependent parts. Although these parts are separate, they are interdependent with one another forming culture as a whole.
  • Culture is ideational: Often it lays down an ideal pattern of behaviour that are expected to be followed by individuals so as to gain social acceptance from the people with the same culture.

Continuity and Change:

  • Despite major changes and upheavals significant threads of continuity can be traced throughout the course of Indian history right up to the present day. Indian culture, over the last three millennia, has successfully, but quietly, observed the best assimilable parts from other religions and cultures, from time to time and integrated them into itself.

Variety and Unity:

  • A large number of languages and dialects are spoken in our country which has led to the growth of a great variety of literature. People belonging to the eight great religions of the world co-exist here in a harmonious manner.
  • India is the home of many forms of dance and music which we normally use for festivals and social functions like marriages or the birth of a child. Different styles of music and dance, both folk and classical, exist in the country. So also, are numerous festivals and customs. This wide variety has led to the making of Indian culture both composite one and rich and beautiful at the same time.
  • An important reason for the variety in our culture is the intermingling among various ethnic groups. Since time immemorial, people from far and near have been coming and settling here.

Various ethnic groups like Iranians, Greeks, Kushanas, Shakas, Hunas, 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 culture. It was only around the second century BC that stitched clothes such as salwar, kurtas, topees, etc. were brought to India, by the Kushanas, Shakas and Parthians. Before that Indians wore clothes which were unstitched. The latest is the introduction of shirts, trousers, skirts, etc. which were brought by the Europeans in the eighteenth century.

Cultural Identity, Religion, Region and Ethnicity:

Our cultural identities are based on various factors such as religion and region. As a result, each Indian possesses multiple identities. Which 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. Thus, each person may have some things in common with another but may be vastly different in some other aspects. Even in the forms of worship and rituals, there is a sectarian and regional differences.

  • In principle, different religious groups owe their allegiance to different religious doctrines. For instance, the Vedas and Shastras may be sources of inspiration for Hindus, the Koran and Hadees for Muslims, and the Bible for Christians. However, at the level of rituals and lifestyles, there is a lot of intermingling among followers of different religions.
  • Ethnic culture is strong among the tribal groups. For example, in the small state of Nagaland, there are more than a dozen tribes and they differ from each other in their dress, speech and beliefs. Bastar district of Chhattisgarh has several groups claiming different ethnic origins.

RELIGION

  • Religion is the science of the soul. Morality and ethics have their foundation in religion. Religion played an important part in the lives of the Indians from the earliest times. It assumed numerous forms in relation to different groups of people associated with them. Religious ideas, thoughts and practices differed among these groups, and transformations and developments took place in the various religious forms in course of time. Religion in India was never static in character but was driven by an inherent dynamic strength.

Pre-Vedic and Vedic Religion:

  • From the archaeological findings in the pre and proto-historic sites, it seems that these people believed in the sanctity of the creative force and venerated the male and female aspects of divinity. It appears that they were worshippers of the forces of nature like the sun and the moon.

The nature of the religious beliefs and practices of the Aryans is also known from the Rig Veda, they believed in many gods like Indra, Varuna, Agni, Surya and Rudra. Sacrifices, and ritual offerings of food and drink to fire in honour of the Gods, constituted the main religious practices. The Sama Veda and the Yajur Veda elaborated the different aspects of the sacrificial acts and this ritualism was further elaborated in the Brahmanas. The Atharva Veda contained a great deal of animistic beliefs. The seers entertained doubts about the utility and efficacy of Vedic ritualism.

Folk Cults:

  • The worship of Yakshas and Nagas and other folk deities constituted the most important part of primitive religious beliefs, in which Bhakti had a very important role to play. There is ample evidence about the prevalence of this form of worship among the people in early literature as well as in archaeology.
  • Vasudeva/Krishna Worship: A Sutra in Panini’s Ashtadhyayi refers to the worshippers of Vasudeva (Krishna). The Chhandogya Upanishad also speaks of Krishna, the son of Devaki, a pupil of the sage Ghora Angirasa who was a sun-worshipping priest.

Vaishnavism:

  • The history of the Vaishnava movement from the end of the Gupta period till the first decade of the thirteenth century AD is concerned mainly with South India. Vaishnavism began as a strong movement in the south, led by Tamil Vaishnava gurus known as Alvars.
  • Vaishnava poet-saints known as alvars (a Tamil word denoting those drowned in Vishnu-bhakti) preached single-minded devotion (ekatmika bhakti) for Vishnu and their songs were collectively known as

Shaivism:

  • Unlike Vaishnavism, Shaivism had its origin in antiquity. Panini refers to a group of Shiva worshippers as Shiva-bhagavatas, who were characterised by the iron lances and clubs they carried and their skin garments.
  • Shaiva Movement in the South: The Shaiva movement in the South flourished at the beginning through the activities of many of the 63 saints known in Tamil as Nayanars (Siva-bhakts). Their appealing emotional songs in Tamil were called Tevaram Stotras, also known as Dravida Veda and ceremonially sung in the local Shiva temples. The Nayanars hailed from all castes.

Jainism:

  • The Jina or Jaina means ‘the conqueror’. According to Jain tradition, their religion is quite old, even earlier to Aryan Brahmanism. Jainism is a very ancient religion. As per some traditions, it is as old as the Vedic religion.
  • The Jain tradition has a succession of great teachers or There were 24 Tirthankaras the last of which was Vardhaman Mahavira. The first Tirthankara is believed to be Rishabhanath or Rishabhadev. The 23rd Tirthankara was Parshvanatha who was born in Varanasi. He may have lived in the 8th or 7th century BC.
  • All the Tirthankaras were Kshatriyas by birth. Indian culture has been deeply influenced by Jainism ideas such as Ahimsa, and the positive way through which Jainism has contributed to the development of language, literature, art and architecture.

Teachings of Jainism:

  • Mahavira rejected Vedic principles.
  • He did not believe in God’s existence. According to him, the universe is a product of the natural phenomenon of cause and effect.
  • He believed in Karma and the transmigration of the soul. The body dies but the soul does not.
  • One will be punished or rewarded as per one’s karma.
  • Advocated a life of austerity and non-violence.
  • Stressed on equality but did not reject the caste system, unlike Buddhism. But he also said that man may be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as per his actions and not birth.
  • Asceticism was taken to a great length. Starvation, nudity, and self-mortification were expounded.

Buddhism:

  • The sixth century B.C. is considered a wonderful century in history. Great thinkers like Buddha, Mahavira, Heraclitus, Zoroaster, Confucius and Lao Tse lived and preached their ideas in this century. Among them, the most successful were Jainism and Buddhism whose impact on the Indian society was remarkable.
  • Buddhism started in India over 2,600 years ago as a way of life that had the potential of transforming a person. The religion is based upon the teachings, and life experiences of its founder Siddhartha Gautam, born in circa 563 BCE.
  • The main teachings of Buddhism are encapsulated in the basic concept of four noble truths or ariya-sachchani and an eightfold path or astangika marg.

Four noble truths:

Suffering (dukkha) is the essence of the world.

Every suffering has a cause – Samudya.

Suffering could be extinguished – Nirodha.

It can be achieved by following the Atthanga Magga (Eight-Fold Path).

Eight-Fold Paths: The path consists of various interconnected activities related to knowledge, conduct, and meditative practices.

Right view

Right intention

Right speech

Right action

Right livelihood

Right mindfulness

Right effort

Right concentration

  • Contribution of Buddhism to Indian Culture:
  • The concept of ahimsa was its chief contribution. Later, it became one of the cherished values of our nation.
  • Its contribution to the art and architecture of India was notable. The stupas at Sanchi, Bharhut and Gaya are wonderful pieces of architecture.
  • It promoted education through residential universities like those at Taxila, Nalanda and Vikramasila.
  • The language of Pali and other local languages developed through the teachings of Buddhism.
  • It also promoted the spread of Indian culture to other parts of Asia.

SCHOOLS OF INDIAN PHILOSOPHY:

  • India down the ages attempted to grapple with the fundamental problems of life and thought. Philosophy in India began with a quest after the highest truth- truth not as mere objective certitude, but as being closely linked with the development of personality and leading to the attainment of the highest freedom, bliss and wisdom.
  • Philosophy arose in India as an enquiry into the mystery of life and existence. Indian Philosophy refers to several traditions of philosophical thought that originated in the Indian subcontinent.
  • Over centuries, India’s intellectual exploration of truth has come to be represented by six systems of philosophy. These are known as Vaishesika, Nyaya, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva Mimansa and Vedanta or Uttara Mimansa.
  • The six systems of philosophy were developed over many generations with contributions made by individual thinkers. However, today, we find an underlying harmony in their understanding of truth, although they seem distinct from each other.

VEDIC PHILOSOPHY

Orthodox Schools of Indian Philosophy:

Orthodox (astika) schools, originally called Sanatana dharma, are collectively referred to as Hinduism in modern times. The ancient Vedas are their source and scriptural authority. Hinduism consists of six systems of philosophy & theology.

  • Samkhya (Kapila): Samkhya is the oldest of the orthodox philosophical systems, and it postulates that everything, in reality, stems from Purusha (self, soul or mind) and Prakriti (matter, creative agency, energy). Purush cannot be modified or changed while Prakriti brings a change in all objects.
  • Yoga (Patanjali): Yoga literally means the union of two principal entities. Yogic techniques control the body, mind & sense organs, thus considered as a means of achieving freedom or mukti.
  • This freedom could be attained by practising self-control (yama), observation of rules (niyama), fixed postures (asana), breath control (pranayama), choosing an object (pratyahara) and fixing the mind (dharna), concentrating on the chosen object (dhyana) and complete dissolution of self, merging the mind and the object (Samadhi).
  • Nyaya (Gautama Muni): Nyaya Philosophy states that nothing is acceptable unless it is in accordance with reason and experience (scientific approach). Nyaya is considered as a technique of logical thinking.
  • Nyaya Sutras say that there are four means of attaining valid knowledge: perception, inference, comparison, and verbal testimony.
  • Vaisheshika (Kanada): The basis of the school's philosophy is that all objects in the physical universe are reducible to a finite number of atoms and Brahman is regarded as the fundamental force that causes consciousness in these atoms.
  • Vaisheshika system is considered as the realistic and objective philosophy of the universe.
  • Reality according to this philosophy has many bases or categories which are substance, attribute, action, genus, distinct quality and inherence.
  • Vaisheshika thinkers believe that all objects of the universe are composed of five elements–earth, water, air, fire and ether.
  • They believe that God is the guiding principle. The living beings were rewarded or punished according to the law of karma, based on actions of merit and demerit.
  • The Vaisheshika and Nyaya schools eventually merged because of their closely related metaphysical theories (Vaisheshika only accepted perception and inference as sources of valid knowledge).
  • Purva Mimamsa (Jaimini): This philosophy encompasses the Nyaya-vaisheshika systems and emphasises the concept of valid knowledge. According to Purva Mimamsa, Vedas are eternal and possess all knowledge.
  • According to Mimamsa philosophy, Vedas are eternal and possess all knowledge, and religion means the fulfilment of duties prescribed by the Vedas.
  • It says that the essence of the Vedas is dharma. By the execution of dharma, one earns merit which leads one to heaven after death.
  • Vedanta: The Vedanta, or Uttara Mimamsa, the school concentrates on the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads (mystic or spiritual contemplations within the Vedas), rather than the Brahmanas (instructions for ritual and sacrifice). The school separated into six sub-schools, each interpreting the texts in its own way and producing its own series of sub-commentaries:
  • Advaita (Adi Shankara): It states that both the individual self (Atman) and Brahman are the same, and knowing this difference causes liberation.
  • Visishtadvaita (Ramanuja): It believes that all diversity is subsumed to a unified whole.
  • Dvaita (Madhvacharya): It considers Brahman and Atman as two different entities and Bhakti as the route to eternal salvation.
  • Dvaitadvaita (Nimbarka): It states that the Brahman is the highest reality, the controller of all.
  • Shuddhadvaita (Vallabhacharya): It states that both God and the individual self are the same, and not different.
  • Achintya Bheda Abheda (Chaitanya Mahaprabhu): It emphasizes that the individual self (Jīvatman) is both different and not different from Brahman.

Unorthodox Schools of Indian Philosophy:

Schools that do not accept the authority of Vedas are by definition unorthodox (nastika) systems. The following schools belong to heterodox schools of Indian Philosophy.

  • Charvaka (Brihaspati): Charvaka is a materialistic, sceptical and atheistic school of thought.
  • According to Charvaka, there is no other world. Hence, death is the end of humans & pleasure is the ultimate object in life.
  • It is also known as the Lokayata Philosophy-the philosophy of masses.
  • Buddhist philosophy (Siddhartha Gautama): Buddhism is a non-theistic philosophy whose tenets are not especially concerned with the existence or nonexistence of God. Buddha considered the world as full of misery and considered a man’s duty to seek liberation from this painful world. He strongly criticized blind faith in the traditional scriptures like the Vedas
  • Jain philosophy (Mahavira): A basic principle is an anekantavada, the idea that reality is perceived differently from different points of view, and that no single point of view is completely true.
  • According to Jainism, only the Kevalins, those who have infinite knowledge, can know the true answer, and all others would only know a part of the answer.

INDIAN ARCHITECTURE

Harappan Period:

  • The excavations at Harappa and Mohenjodaro and several other sites of the Indus Valley Civilisation revealed the existence of a very modern urban civilisation with expert town planning and engineering skills.
  • The most important features of Harrapan architecture are their superior town planning skills and cities that have been built on a clear geometric pattern or grid layout. Roads cut each other at right angles and were very well laid out.
  • Town planning (Salient features):
  • Fortification walls
  • Use of geometrical tools
  • Gateways
  • Bastions
  • Citadel and Lower town
  • Grid Pattern
  • Drainage System
  • Reservoirs
  • Great Bath
  • Granaries

Many thick layers of well-baked bricks laid in gypsum mortar were joined together to make the whole construction very strong. The strength of the buildings can be seen by the fact that they have successfully survived the ravages of at least five thousand years.

  • The Vedic Aryans who came next, lived-in houses built of wood, bamboo and reeds; the Aryan culture was largely a rural one and thus one finds few examples of grand buildings. This was because Aryans used perishable materials like wood for the construction of royal palaces which have been completely destroyed over time.

Early Historic Period:

  • An important phase of Indian architecture began with the Mauryan period. The material prosperity of the Mauryans and a new religious consciousness led to achievements in all fields. Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador of Seleucus Nikator who visited the Mauryan court described Chandragupta Maurya’s palace as an excellent architectural achievement.
  • In the Mauryan period (322-182 BC) especially under Ashoka architecture saw a great advancement. Mauryan art and architecture depicted the influence of Persians and Greeks.
  • During the reign of Ashoka, many monolithic stone pillars were erected on which teachings of ‘Dhamma’ were inscribed.
  • The stupas of Sanchi and Sarnath are symbols of the achievement of Mauryan architecture.
  • The blending of Greek and Indian art led to the development of Gandhara art which developed later.

Dravida style of Temple Architecture:

  • The Dravidian style of temple architecture of South India was pioneered by the Pallavas who reigned in parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and northern Tamil Nadu until the ninth century. Although they were mostly Shaivite, several Vaishnava shrines also survived from their reign.
  • The early buildings are generally attributed to the reign of Mahendravarman I, a contemporary of the Chalukyan king, Pulakesin II of Karnataka. Narasimhavarman I, also known as Mamalla, who acceded the Pallava throne around 640 CE, is celebrated for his architectural works

Famous Dravidian temples in India:

  • The magnificent Shiva temple of Thanjavur called the Rajarajeswara or Brihadeshwara temple, built in the Dravidian style was completed around 1009 by Rajaraja Chola, and is the largest and tallest of all Indian temples
  • Other famous Dravidian temples in the south are- Annamalaiyar Temple in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, Meenakshi temple, Tamil Nadu, Airavatesvara temple etc
  • Cave architecture:
  • The development of cave architecture is another unique feature and marks an important phase in the history of Indian architecture. Famous among these were the Ajanta and Ellora caves of Maharashtra, and the Udaygiri cave of Orissa. These caves hold Buddhist viharas, chaityas as well as mandapas and pillared temples of Hindu gods and goddesses.
  • Rock-cut temples: Temples were hewn out of huge rocks. The earliest rock-cut temples were excavated in western Deccan in the early years of the Christian era.

Nagara Style or North India Temple style:

  • The Nagara style of temple architecture that became popular in northern India is known as Nagara. In North India, it is common for an entire temple to be built on a stone platform with steps leading up to it.
  • Another unique characteristic is that it does not usually have elaborate boundary walls or gateways.
  • The garbhagriha is always located directly under the tallest tower.
  • There are many subdivisions of Nagara temples depending on the shape of the shikhara.
  • Amalaka or Kalash which is installed on Shikhara is another characteristic feature of this form of temple style
  • Kandariya Mahadev Temple in Madhya Pradesh is an example for Nagara style of temple architecture
  • Other examples of Nagara style of temples in India are- the Sun temple, Konark, Sun temple at Modhera, Gujarat and Ossian temple, Gujarat.

Free-standing temples: The temple building activities that began during the Gupta rule continued to flourish in later periods. In southern India, the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, Hoyshalas and later the rulers of the Vijaynagar kingdom were great builders of temples.

  • In north and eastern India, magnificent temples were also constructed and the style followed by them is referred to as the Nagara style. Most of them consisted of the shikaras (spiral roofs), the garbhagriha (sanctum) and the mandap (pillared hall).
  • Orissa has some of the most beautiful temples such as the Lingaraja temple built by the Ganga rulers and the Mukteshwara temple at Bhubaneshwar and the Jagannath temple at Puri.
  • Sun temple at Konark
  • Mount Abu in Rajasthan is known for the Dilwara temple dedicated to Jain Tirthankaras.

Vesara style of Temple architecture:

  • Vesara is a combination of Nagara and Dravidian style of temple architecture styles. The term Vesara is believed to have been derived from the Sanskrit word vishra meaning an area to take a long walk. Many historians agree that the Vesara style originated in what is today Karnataka.
  • The trend was started by the Chalukyas of Badami (500-753AD) who built temples in a style that was essentially a mixture of the Nagara and the Dravida styles, further refined by the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta (750- 983AD) in Ellora, Chalukyas of Kalyani (983-1195 AD) in Lakkundi, Dambal, Gadag and epitomized by the Hoysalas (1000-1330 AD).

Medieval Period Architecture:

  • With the arrival of Turks during the thirteenth century came a new technique of architecture- the architectural styles of Persia, Arabia and Central Asia. The engineering features of these buildings were the domes, arches and minarets.
  • The palaces, mosques and tombs built by the rulers had these features which were blended with the features of the indigenous architecture and a new synthesis in architecture was achieved.
  • The earliest building of this period is Quwwatul Islam Mosque at Delhi and the Qutub Minar.
  • Ala-ud-din Khalji enlarged the Quwat-ul-Islam Mosque and built a gateway to the enclosure of the mosque. This gateway is called the Alahi Darwaja and is one of the most beautiful architectural designs even today. Decorative elements were used to make the building outstanding in its beauty. He also built the Hauz Khas in Delhi which was a hydraulic structure.
  • The architecture of this period also shows how indigenous styles were adopted and utilised by the builders. During these years, the Turks were still in the process of settling down. The rulers were threatened by the Mongols, who made sudden invasions from the north. This is why the buildings of this period are strong, sturdy and practical.

Evolution of this form of architecture during the medieval period:

Bahamani: The Bahamani sultans borrowed from the styles of Persia, Syria, Turkey and the temples of Southern India. The Jama Masjid at Gulbarga is quite well known. The courtyard of this mosque is covered with a large number of domes and is the only mosque in India which has a covered courtyard.

Indo-Islamic Architecture:

  • The establishment of the Muslim rule at the end of the 12th century brought together two great architectural traditions. Eventually, this led to a greater synthesis and fusion of the best in both traditions which manifested in some of the most beautiful Indo-Islamic monuments in the Indian sub-continent. Mosques and mausoleums were centres of Islamic architecture in India.
  • Regional Kingdoms:
  • With the establishment of regional kingdoms in Bengal, Gujarat and the Deccan, beautiful buildings having their own style were constructed.
  • The Jama Masjid, the Sadi Saiyyad Mosque and the shaking towers at Ahmadabad are a few examples of this architecture.
  • In the Deccan, the Sultans erected several buildings. The Jama Masjid at Gulbarga, the Madarsa of Mahmud Gawan at Bidar, Ibrahim Rauza, Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur and the fort at Golconda are just a few famous buildings.
  • The rulers of Vijayanagar, an empire which was established during this period also erected many beautiful buildings and temples and had a number of achievements to their credit. Though only ruins remain but the temples of Vithalswami and Hazar Rama at Hampi are good examples.

Mughals

  • The advent of the Mughals brought a new era in architecture. The synthesis of style which began earlier reached its zenith during this time. The architecture of the Mughal style started during Akbar’s rule.
  • The Bulund Darwaza reflects the grandeur of the mighty Mughal empire. This building was made following Akbar’s victory over Gujarat. The Arch of the Buland Darwaja is about 41 m high and is perhaps the most imposing gateway in the world.
  • The tomb of Salim Chishti, Palace of Jodha Bai, Ibadat Khana, Birbal’s House and other buildings at Fatehpur Sikri reflect a synthesis of Persian and Indian elements.
  • During the reign of Jehangir, Akbar’s Mausoleum was constructed at Sikandra near Agra. He built the beautiful tomb of Itimad-ud-daula which was built entirely of marble.

Shahjahan was the greatest builder amongst the Mughals. He used marble extensively. Decorative design in inlay work, (called Pietra Duro) beautiful arches and minarets were the features of his buildings. The Red Fort and Jama Masjid of Delhi and above all the Taj Mahal are some of the buildings built by Shahjahan. The Taj Mahal, the tomb of Shahjahan’s wife, is built in marble and reflects all the architectural features that were developed during the Mughal period.

TOWNS AND CITIES IN INDIA

  • Starting from the Harappan civilization, (also known as Indus-Saraswati Civilization by some historians), India has had a very long history of town planning, which can be traced back to 2350 B.C.
  • Kalibangam in Rajasthan and Surkoda in Kutch had similar city structures. From 600 B.C. onwards, we come across more towns and cities that were associated with both Aryan as well as Dravidian civilizations. These were Rajgir, Varanasi, Ayodhya, Hastinapur, Ujjain, Sravasti, Kapilavastu and Kausambhi besides many others.
  • With the coming of the Muslims to India, the scene changed. Islamic influence became evident in the towns. Mosques, forts and palaces now dotted the urban scene. According to Abul Fazal, there were 2,837 towns in 1594 A.D.
  • Later, during the 16th century, the Europeans came to India through the sea route and thus began the establishment of new port towns like Panaji in Goa (1510), Bombay in Maharashtra (1532), Machilipatnam (1605), Nagapattnam (1658), Madras (1639) in the south and Calcutta (1690) in the east. By the beginning of the 20th century, Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Madras (now Chennai) had become well known important cities for administration, commerce as well as industries.

INDIAN PAINTING

  • Painting is one of the most delicate forms of art giving expression to human thoughts and feelings through the media of line and colour. Many thousands of years before the dawn of history, when man was only a cave dweller, he painted his rock shelters to satisfy his aesthetic sensitivity and creative urges.

Prehistoric Paintings:

  • Prehistory can be defined as events that occurred before the existence of written records in a given culture or society. Excavation at these places brought to light old tools, pottery, habitats, bones of ancient human beings and animals, and drawings on the walls of caves. The history of art and painting in India begins with the pre-historic rock painting at Bhimbetka caves (M.P.) where we have drawings and paintings of animals.
  • The Buddhist text Vinayapitaka (4th–3rd century) describes the existence of painted figures in many royal buildings.
  • The play Mudrarakshasa (5th Century A.D.) mentions numerous paintings or Patas. The 6th Century AD text on aesthetics-Kamasutra by Vatsyayana has mentioned painting amongst 64 kinds of arts and says that it was based on scientific principles.
  • The Vishnudharmottara Purana (7th century A.D.) has a section on a painting called Chitrasutra which describes the six organs of painting like the variety of form, proportion, lustre and portrayal of colour etc. Thus, archaeology and literature testify to the flourishing of painting in India from pre-historic times. The best specimens of Gupta paintings are the ones at Ajanta. Their subject was animals and birds, trees, flowers, human figures and stories from the
  • Mural Paintings are done on walls and rock surfaces like roofs and sides. Cave no. 9 depicts the Buddhist monks going towards a stupa. In cave no. 10 Jataka stories are depicted. But the best paintings were done in the 5th – 6th centuries AD during the Gupta age.

A mural is any piece of artwork that is painted or applied directly on a wall. More broadly, mural art also appears on ceilings or any other large permanent surface. Mural paintings usually have the distinguishing characteristic of having the architectural elements of the space they are painted on being harmoniously incorporated into the picture.

  • Ajanta Caves: The world-famous paintings at Ajanta fall into two broad phases. The earliest is noticed in the form of fragmentary specimens in caves nos. 9 & 10, which are datable to the second century BCE.
  • Ellora Caves: Wall paintings at Ellora, are of great importance and sanctity. A number of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples were excavated between the 8th and 10th centuries CE. From the living rocks. The most impressive of these is the Kailash Nath temple.

As the style is concerned, Ellora's painting is a departure from the classical norm of Ajanta paintings. Of course, the classical tradition of modelling of the mass and rounded soft outline as well as the illusion of the coming forward from the depth is not altogether ignored.

  • Badami cave paintings: Badami was the capital of the early Chalukyan dynasty which ruled the region from 543 to 598 CE. Paintings in this cave depict palace scenes. One shows Kirtivarman, the son of Pulakesin I and the elder brother of Mangalesha, seated inside the palace with his wife and feudatories watching a dance scene.
  • Vijayanagara Murals: The paintings at Tiruparakunram, near Trichy, done in the fourteenth century represent the early phase of the Vijayanagara style.

In Hampi, the Virupaksha temple has paintings on the ceiling of its mandapa narrating events from dynastic history and episodes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

DECORATIVE ART:

  • The artistic expression of the Indian people is not limited to painting on canvas or paper only. Decorative painting on walls of homes even in rural areas is a common sight. Rangoli or decorative designs on the floor are made for auspicious occasions and pujas whose stylised designs have been passed on from one generation to the other. The designs are called rangoli in the North, alpana in Bengal, aipan in Uttaranchal, rangavalli in Karnataka, Kollam in Tamilnadu and Mandana in Madhya Pradesh. Usually, rice powder is used for these paintings but coloured powder or flower petals are also used to make them more colourful.
  • Mithila Painting: Mithila painting also known as Madhubani folk art is the traditional art of the Mithila region of Bihar.
  • Kalamkari Painting: The literal meaning of Kalamkari is a painting done by kalam (pen). This art got enriched as it came down from one generation to another. These paintings are made in Andhra Pradesh. It is hand-painted as well as block printing with vegetable dyes applied on cloth. Vegetable dyes are used for colour in the Kalam Kari work.
  • Orissa Patachitra: Similar to Kalighat Pats, one comes across another kind of Pats which are found in the state of Orissa. The Orissa Pata Chitra, mostly painted on cloth are more detailed and more colourful and most of these depict stories of Hindu gods and goddesses.
  • Phad Paintings: Phad is a type of scroll painting. The paintings depicting exploits of local deities are often carried from place to place and are accompanied by traditional singers, who narrate the theme depicted on the scrolls. This type of painting is the most famous painting of Rajasthan, mainly found in the Bhilwara district.
  • Gond Art: A very highly sophisticated and abstract form of Art works are also produced by the Santhals in India. The Gond tribe of the Godavari belt who are as old as the Santhals produce figurative works.
  • Warli Painting: Warli painting derives its name from a small tribe inhabiting the remote, tribal regions of Maharashtra. These are decorative paintings on floors and walls of ‘gond’ and ‘Kol’ tribes’ homes and places of worship.
  • Kalighat Painting: Kalighat painting derives its name from its place of origin Kalighat in Kolkata. Kalighat is a bazaar near the Kali temple in Kolkota. Patua painters from rural Bengal came and settled in Kalighat to make images of gods and goddesses in the early nineteenth century. These paintings on paper made with watercolours comprise clear sweeping line drawings using bright colours and a clear background.

INDIAN LANGUAGES AND LITERATURE

  • In the 19th century, the first literature Rigveda was created in India. It was written in Sanskrit and became the foundation of many religious scriptures and literary works laterwards. Also, the Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda were written by the Aryans followed by Indians. Other famous literary works are Ramayana written by Rishi Valmiki and Mahabharata written by Rishi Vyasa in India.
  • The Biographies of kings like the Mughal Empire, Baburnama, and Akbarnama are also precious literature by which we can know about the era. Other than this, foreign travellers have written some scriptures like Fa Hein and Hussein Tsung which provide knowledge about Indian people’s traditions and lifestyles.

The Role of Sanskrit:

  • Sanskrit is the most ancient language in our country. Sanskrit is the mother of many Indian languages. The Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and Dharmasutras are all written in Sanskrit. There is also a variety of secular and regional literature. By reading about the languages and literature created in the past, we shall be able to understand our civilization better and appreciate the diversity and richness of our culture. All this was possible because of the language that developed during that time.
  • It was Sanskrit that gave impetus to the study of linguistics scientifically during the eighteenth century. The great grammarian Panini, analysed Sanskrit and its word formation in his unrivalled descriptive grammar The Buddhist Sanskrit literature includes the rich literature of the Mahayana school and the Hinayana school also.
  • Sanskrit is perhaps the only language that transcended the barriers of regions and boundaries. From the north to the south and the east to the west there is no part of India that has not contributed to or been affected by this language.

The great literacy works, which marked the golden era of Indian literature include ‘Abhijanam Shakuntalam’ and ‘Meghdoot’ by Kalidasa, ‘Mricchakatika’ by Shudraka, ‘Swapna Vasavadattam’ by Bhasa, and ‘Ratnavali’ by Sri Harsha. Some other famous works are Chanakya’s ‘Arthashastra’ and Vatsyayana’s “Kamasutra’.

Vedas and Puranas

  • The Vedas are the earliest known literature in India. The Vedas were written in Sanskrit and were handed down orally from one generation to the other. In Hindu culture, Vedas are considered as eternal and divine revelations. They treat the whole world as one human family Vasudev Kutumbakam. There are four Vedas, namely, the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. Each Veda consists of the Brahmanas, the Upanishads and the Aranyakas.
  • The Puranas occupy a unique position in the sacred literature of the Hindus. They are regarded next in importance only to the Vedas and the Epics. Puranas are mythological works which propagate religious and spiritual messages through parables and fables. They have a potent influence in the development of the religious lives of the people.

Buddhist And Jain Literature in Pali, Prakrit and Sanskrit:

  • The religious books of the Jains and the Buddhists refer to historical persons or incidents. The earliest Buddhist works were written in Pali, which was spoken in Magadha and South Bihar. The Buddhist works can be divided into canonical and non-canonical.
  • The canonical literature is best represented by the “Tripitakas”, that is, three baskets - Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka. Vinaya Pitaka deals with the rules and regulations of daily life.
  • The non-canonical literature is best represented by the Jatakas are the most interesting stories on the previous births of the Buddha.

Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam Literature: The four Dravidian languages Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam developed their own literature. Tamil being the oldest of these languages began writing earlier and produced the Sangam literature - the oldest literature in Tamil.

Tamil or Sangam Literature:

  • Tamil as a written language was known since the beginning of the Christian era. It is, therefore, no wonder that considerable Sangam literature was produced in the early four centuries of the Christian era, although it was finally compiled by 600 AD.
  • Besides the Sangama texts, we have a text called Tolkkappiyam, which deals with grammar and poetry. In addition, we have the twin epics of Silappadikaram and Manimekalai. These two were composed around the sixth century AD.

Northern Indian Languages & Literature:

  • The studies have indicated that all the scripts of present northern Indian languages, except that of Urdu, have had their origin in old Brahmi. A long and slow process had given them this shape. If we compare the scripts of Gujarati, Hindi and Punjabi, we can easily understand this change. As for the spoken word, there are over 200 languages or dialects spoken in India at present. Some are widely used while others are limited to a particular area.
  • A large number of people speak Hindi in its different forms that include Braj Bhasha, and Avadhi (spoken in the Oudh region), Bhojpuri, Magadhi, and Maithili (spoken around Mithila), and Rajasthani and Khadi Boli (spoken around Delhi). This classification has been made on the basis of literature produced by great poets over a length of time.

The language used by Surdas and Bihari has been given the name of Braj Bhasha; that used by Tulsidas in the Ramacharitamanasa is called Avadhi and the one used by Vidyapati has been termed as Maithili. But Hindi, as we know it today is the one called Khadi Boli. Though Khusrau has used Khadi Boli in his compositions in the thirteenth century its extensive use in literature began only in the nineteenth century. It even shows some influence of Urdu.

Persian And Urdu:

  • Urdu emerged as an independent language towards the end of the 4th century AD. Arabic and Persian were introduced in India with the coming of the Turks and the Mongols. Persian remained the court language for many centuries. Urdu as a language was born out of the interaction between Hindi and Persian.
  • After the conquest of Delhi (1192), the Turkish people settled in this region. Urdu was born out of the interaction of these settlers and soldiers in the barracks with the common people.
  • Urdu became more popular in the early eighteenth century. People even wrote accounts of later Mughals in Urdu. Gradually it achieved a status where literature-both poetry and prose started being composed in it. The last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar wrote poetry in it.

Among the best prose writers were people like Pandit Ratan Nath Sarshar, who wrote the famous Fasanah- i-Azad. Even in the early days, Munshi Prem Chand, who is supposed to be a doyen of Hindi literature, wrote in Urdu. Urdu has given us a new form of poem that is called a nazm. Urdu was patronised by the Nawabs of Lucknow, who held symposiums in this language. Slowly it became quite popular. Pakistan has adopted Urdu as the state language.

Development of Literature during the Mughal Period

  • There was a tremendous development in the field of literature during the Mughal time Babar and Humauan were lovers of literature. Baber was himself a great scholar of Persian. He wrote a book known as Tuzek-e-Babari which is highly esteemed by Turkish Literature.

Humayun was a lover of learning and had established a big Library. Humayun Nama tops the books written in his times. Akbar was very fond of learning. ‘Akbar Nama’, Sur Sagar, and Ram Charitamanas are prominent among the books written during his time. Malik Muhammad Jayasis Padmavat and Keshav’s Ram Chandrika were also written during the same period. Jahangir greatly patronized literature. Many scholars adorned his court. He too was a scholar of a high calibre and wrote his life story. During Shah Jahan’s time, there was a well-known scholar named Abdul Hameed Lahori. He wrote Badshah Nama. The literary activities suffered during Aurangzeb’s time.

  • Urdu literature started developing during the last days of the Mughal emperor. This credit goes to Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan and Mirza Galib. The language of Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan was very simple and impressive. His compositions inspired the other Urdu writer Mirza Galib, who was a famous poet of his time. He made an important contribution to uplifting Urdu poetry. There were some other writers also who took interest in Urdu poetry and enriched the Urdu literature. Maulvi Altab Hussain Ali, Akbar Allahabadi and Dr Mohammed Iqbal are some famous names.

Among the noted Hindu poets of this period were Kabir, Tulsidas, Surdas and Rahim. Kabir's dohas are still so popular today while Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas has become the most sacred book of the Hindus. Behari’s Satsai written during Akbar’s reign is very famous. Akbar also got many Sanskrit books like Bhagwad Gita and Upanishads translated into Persian.

Hindi Literature:

  • There was a tremendous growth of regional languages like Hindi, Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, Marathi and Gujarati during this time. In the South, Malayalam emerged as an independent language in the 14th The rise of the Bhakti movement and the use of these regional languages by the various saints helped in their growth and development. Prithviraj Raso is supposed to be the first book in the Hindi language.
  • Hindi literature looked to Sanskrit classics for guidance and Bharata’s Natyashastra was kept in mind by Hindi writers. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries there started a movement in southern India that was called the Bhakti movement. As its influence reached the north, it started affecting the prose and poetry that were being composed in Hindi.
  • Hindi evolved during the Apabhramsa stage between the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. and the 14th C. It was characterized as Veer Gatha Kala e., the age of heroic poetry or the Adi Kala (early period). It was patronised by the Rajput rulers as it glorified chivalry and poetry. The most famous figures from this period were Kabir and Tulsidas.
  • During the last 150 years, many writers have contributed to the development of modern Indian literature, written in a number of regional languages as well as in English. One of the greatest Bengali writers, Rabindranath Tagore became the first Indian to win the Nobel Prize for literature (Geetanjali) in 1913.

Bankim Chandra Chatterji (1838-94) wrote novels originally in Bangla. They came to be translated into Hindi and became very popular. Vande Mataram, our national song, is an excerpt from his novel, Anand Math. Among other names who have enriched Hindi literature, is that of Munshi Prem Chand, who switched over from Urdu to Hindi. Surya Kant Tripathi, ‘Nirala’, achieves recognition because he questioned the orthodoxies in society. Mahadevi Verma is the first woman writer in Hindi to highlight issues related to women. Maithili Sharan Gupt is another important name. Jaishankar Prasad wrote beautiful dramas.

INDIAN HANDICRAFTS

  • India is a virtual treasure house of the most exquisite handicrafts. Simple objects of daily life have been crafted with a delicate design which gives expression to the creativity of the Indian artisan. Every state of India can boast of some unique creation which is special to the region, for example:
  • Kashmir is famous for embroidered shawls, carpets, Namdar silk and walnut wood furniture.
  • Rajasthan is famous for its tie-and-dye (bandhnï) fabrics, jewellery, using precious stone and gems, blue glazed pottery and minakari work.
  • Andhra Pradesh is famous for Bidri work and Pochampalh saris while Tamil Nadu is well known for bronze sculpture and Kajeevaram silk saris.
  • Mysore is well known for silk, sandalwood items and
  • Kerala is famous for ivory carvings and rosewood furniture.
  • Chanderi and Kosa silk of Madhya Pradesh,
  • Chikan work of Lucknow,
  • Brocade and silk saris of Benaras,
  • Cane furniture and goods of Assam,
  • Bankura terracotta modelling and handloom items of Bengal
  • These are just a few examples of unique traditional decorative arts and crafts which constitute the heritage of modern India. These arts have been nurtured for thousands of years and provided employment to a great number of artisans who carried forward the art to the next generation. Thus, we see how the Indian artisans with their magic touch can transform a piece of metal, wood or ivory into objects of art.

DANCES OF INDIA

  • Dance can be simply defined as the moving of an individual rhythmically to music, typically following a set sequence of steps.
  • The Rig Veda mentions dance (nrti) and danseuse (nrtu) and compares the brilliant dawn (usas) to a brightly attired danseuse. In the Brahmanas, Jaiminiya and Kausitaki dance and music are mentioned together. The Epics are full of references to dances on earth and heaven. Natya Shastra composed by Bharat Muni in the 1st century AD is considered by many as the Fifth Veda.
  • In traditional Indian culture, the function of dance was to give symbolic expression to religious ideas. The figure of Lord Shiva as Nataraja represents the creation and destruction of the cosmic cycle.
  • Gradually dances came to be divided as folk and classical. The classical form of dance was performed in temples as well as in royal courts. The dance in temples had a religious objective whereas in courts it was used purely for entertainment.

Classical Dance: The Sangeet Natak Academy in India recognizes nine classical dance forms – Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Kathakali, Sattriya, Manipuri, Chhau and Mohiniyattam.

  • Folk dances evolved from the lives of common people and were performed in unison. In Assam, people celebrate most of the harvesting season through Bihu. Similarly, Garba of Gujarat, Bhangra and Gidda of Punjab, the bamboo dance of Mizoram, Koli, the fisherman’s dance of Maharashtra, Dhumal of Kashmir, and Chhau of Bengal are unique examples of performing arts that gave expression to the joys and sorrows of the masses.

INDIAN MUSIC:

  • ’Sangeet’ ‘is formed by the combination of two words sam+geet. ‘Sam’ means complete in all respect or proper while ‘geet’ means to sing. However, it does not involve only singing. It includes instrumental music and dance as well.
  • It is generally believed that Indian classical music has its origins in the religious observances of the Aryan people who arrived in India some 3,000 years ago.
  • The Aryans brought with them their sacred texts known as the Vedas, meaning ‘knowledge’ forming the core of ancient Hindu scriptures with their worship rituals largely centring on the highly structured and organised recitation of these verses. Thus, the roots of Indian classical music can be traced back to its origin in the recital of Vedic hymns of the Hindu temples.

Classical Music:

  • It is generally believed that Indian classical music has its origins in the religious observances of the Aryan people who arrived in India some 3,000 years ago.
  • The Aryans brought with them their sacred texts known as the Vedas, meaning ‘knowledge’ forming the core of ancient Hindu scriptures with their worship rituals largely centring on the highly structured and organised recitation of these verses.
  • Thus, the roots of Indian classical music can be traced back to its origin in the recital of Vedic hymns of the Hindu temples.
  • The seven swars of music – Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni represent different scriptural deities: SA – Agni, RE – Brahma, GA – Saraswati, MA – Shiva, PA – Vishnu, DHA – Ganesha, NI – Surya

Divisions Of Indian Classical Music:

During the medieval period, Indian classical music was broadly based on two traditions, the Hindustani classical music prevalent in North India and the Carnatic music of South India.

  • Hindustani Classical Music:
  • Hindustani classical music may be traced back to the period of the Delhi Sultanate and to Amir Khusrau (AD 1253-1325) who encouraged the practice of musical performance with particular instruments.
  • Different styles of Hindustani music are Dhrupad, Dhamar, Thumri, Khayal and Tappa.
  • The most popular ragas are: Bahar, Bhairavi, Sindhu Bhairavi, Bhim Palasi, Darbari, Desh, Hamsadhwani, Jai Jayanti, Megha Malhar, Todi, Yaman, Pilu, Shyam Kalyan, Khambaj.

Devotional music like kirtan, bhajan, ragas contained in the Adi Grantha and singing in the Majlis during Muharram also deserve a special place i

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