History of India
India is home to one of the richest and the most ancient civilizations in the world, which existed
over 5,000 years ago. This civilization originated in the Indus River Valley, hence the name given
to it was Indus Valley civilization. It was the origin of many of the ideas, philosophies and movements
which have shaped the destiny of mankind. Its people are thought to be Dravidians, whose descendants
still inhabit the far south of India.
The twin cities of Mohenjodaro and Harappa now in Pakistan were ruled by priests and held the rudiments
of Hinduism. These civilisations are known to possess a sophisticated lifestyle, a highly developed sense
of aesthetics, an astonishing knowledge of town planning and an undecipherable script language. The Indus
civilization at one point of time extended nearly a million square kilometres across the Indus river valley.
It existed at the same time as the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Sumer but far outlasted them. Surviving
for nearly a thousand years the Indus valley civilisation fell to tectonic upheavals in about 1700 BC, which
caused a series of floods.
In 567 B.C. the founder of the Buddhist Religion Gautama Buddha was born. During this time lived Mahavira,
who founded the Jain Religion. The Indian subcontinent is full of caves and monuments devoted to these religions
and are worth a visit.
Two hundred years later, in the 4th century B.C., Emperor Ashoka, one of the greatest King of Indian history,
led the Mauryan Empire to take over almost all of what is now modern India. This great leader embraced Buddhism
and built the group of monuments at Sanchi (a UNESCO world heritage site). The Ashoka pillar at Sarnath has been
adopted by India as its national emblem and the Dharma Chakra on the Ashoka Pillar adorns the National Flag.
They were followed by the Guptas in the north, while in the south part of India several different Hindu empires,
the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Cheras spread and grew, trading with Europe and other parts of Asia till the end
of the 1100s.
Geography of India
The geography of India comprises most of the Indian subcontinent and is situated on the Indian Plate
in the northerly portion of the Indo-Australian Plate. India lies to the north of the equator between
8°4' and 37°6' north latitude and 68°7' and 97°25' east longitude. It is the seventh-largest country
in the world, with a total land area of 3,287,263 square kilometres (1,269,219 sq mi). India measures
3,214 km (1,997 mi) from north to south and 2,993 km (1,860 mi) from east to west. It has a land frontier
of 15,200 km (9,445 mi) and a coastline of 7,517 km (4,671 mi).
Himalayas, the world's highest mountain chain and Nepal as its Neighbouring country dominate India's northern
border. Following the sweeping mountains to the northeast, its borders narrow to a small channel that passes
between Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, then spreads out again to meet Burma in the "eastern triangle."
Apart from the Arabian Sea, its western border is defined exclusively by Pakistan.
North India is the country's largest region begins with Jammu and Kashmir, with terrain varying from arid
mountains in the far north to the lake country and forests near Srinagar and Jammu. Moving south along the
Indus river, the North becomes flatter and more hospitable, widening into the fertile plains of Punjab to the
west and the Himalayan foothills of Uttar Pradesh and the Ganges river valley to the East. Cramped between these
two states is the capital city, Delhi.
The states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, and part of the massive, central state of Madhya Pradesh constitute
West India. Extending from the Gujarat peninsula down to Goa, the west coast is lined with some of India's best
beaches. The land along the coast is typically lush with rainforests. The Western Ghats separate the verdant coast
from the Vindya Mountains and the dry Deccan plateau further inland.
India is the home of the sacred River Ganges and the majority of Himalayan foothills, East India begins with the
states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, which comprise the westernmost part of the region. East India also contains
an area known as the eastern triangle, which is entirely distinct. This is the last gulp of land that extends beyond
Bangladesh, culminating in the Naga Hills along the Burmese border.
India reaches its peninsular tip with South India, which begins with the Deccan in the north and ends with Cape
Comorin. The states in South India are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, a favourite leisure
destination. The southeast coast, mirroring the west, also rests snugly beneath a mountain range---the Eastern Ghats.
Art & Culture
Unity in diversity". It is not just another phrase or quotation. But, these words are highly prudent to a
country like India that is incredibly rich in culture and heritage. Few quotations or statements cannot
describe the pedestal that India holds in the world map because of its colorful and unique culture.
From the times of Mauryas, Cholas, Mughals till to the period of British Empire, India has always been famous
for its traditions and hospitality. The warmth in the relations and euphoria in celebrations make the country
stands out distinctively in the clutter. The country's liveliness and generosity attract a number of tourists.
The cuisines, festivals, music, literature, and theatre..everything is 'special' in this 'land of gods'.
Traditional yet Contemporary
The Indian culture has never been rigid and that's why it's surviving with pride in the modern era. It timely
imbibes the qualities of various other cultures and comes out as a contemporary and acceptable tradition.
That is what unique about the Indian culture..it moves on with the time. There are certain things about India
that are famous worldwide, like -
Way of Greeting - "Namaste", for an Indian it's a way common
way of greeting outsiders and elders. Both palms placed together and raised below the face not
only show the respect for others but it also makes you feel the affection in the greeting. It is
for sure that no 'hello' or 'hi' can create that magic.
Flower Garlands - Indian people are also famous for welcoming
with flower garlands. In the Indian marriages the exchange of garlands between bride and groom is
a ritual in itself. People also offer flower garlands to gods and goddesses during their prayers.
Indian Marriages - Time has changed but the lavishness has
always been an integral and indispensable part of Indian marriages. In India, marriage is still
taken as an institution where not two people but two families get united. So, it always calls for
boisterous celebrations full of music and dance. Within India, every caste and community has its
own way of performing the rituals of marriage. In Hindu marriages, while Punjabis perform the 'Roka'
ceremony in weddings, Sindhis perform the 'Berana'. But most common of all is the ritual of Hast
Milap ceremony popularly called Paanigrahan Sanskar.
Muslims also have their own special way of celebrating the marriage ceremony, popularly called Nikaah.
During the auspicious occasion, the groom's family gives mehar (nuptial gift) to the bride. Parsis
plant a young mango tree in a pot during the marriage ceremony. This ceremony is famous as 'Madhavsaro'
ceremony. Every state has its own special way of celebrating the marriage ceremony.
Indian Dresses - Beauty of Indian women lies in the clothes she
wears. Very traditional and ethnic yet contemporary Indian Saris are famous worldwide. It is worn with
a blouse that covers the upper part of the body. In rural parts a version of sari, called ghagara - choli
is very much popular. Choli is like a short blouse that covers the upper part of the body and ghagara is
like a long skirt. In order to have a graceful and complete look, women folk carry a duppatta, which is a
soft and delicate material of reasonable length thrown over the shoulder.
Though with slight variations, Salwar kameez is a dress that is famous in every part of India. This attire
contains two pieces-kameez, which is a like a long top covering upper part of the body and salwar is like
trousers. Like ghagara choli, salwar kameez is also complemented by dupatta.
For the men, there is no dearth of variety. From dhoti kurta to shirt pants, an Indian man prefers
everything that fits well and looks good. But, traditionally you can see north Indians wearing kurta
pajama, dhoti kurta or sherwani on formal celebrations whereas south Indian men prefer lungi with shirt.
Indian Jewelry - Unique designs, artistic looks and creativity
are always a part of Indian jewelry. Made up of gold and silver, the jewelry actually represents the
culture and tradition of India. In rural India, a resinous incrustation called lac is used for the
personal ornamentation. Specialty of Gujarat and Rajasthan, the lac bangles and bracelets are worn
and liked by the women of all states. Without accessories, a car and a woman are always incomplete.
From earrings, nose-rings, armlets, necklaces to anklets and bracelets, Indian jewelry give a woman
everything that she needs to enhance her beauty.
Mehndi - Mehndi or henna is a kind of paste that is designed
on the palms on the women on special occasions like engagement, marriage or festive celebrations.
The paste is applied for few hours or overnight and washed when it gets dried completely. This gives
reddish-brown color to the palms. In Indian marriages, especially in the north, a special night is
celebrated before the day of marriage in which mehndi is designed on the palms of bridegroom and it
is followed by some colorful dance and music. In certain parts of India, mehndi is a special kind of
ancient folk art.
Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain or Zoroastrian; one can find people of all religions
here in India. India is a secular state and every citizen enjoys an equal right of choosing and following
a particular religion. More than three fourth of Indian population belongs to Hindu religion and you can
find Hindu pilgrimages in every part of the country.
In northern part of India, you can visit various sacred religious places like Vaishno Devi, Amarnath,
Badrinath, Kedarnath, Haridwar and Varanasi and in the southern part of the country you can take the
blessings of God at the Sabrimala, Sringeri, Dakshineshwar-belur math, and Rameshwaram. If you are in
the northeast, you can go to the Kamrup temple that is located on the outskirts of Guwahati on the Nilachal
hills. If you are roaming somewhere around Gujarat and interested in knowing about lord Krishna, then you
must visit Dwarkanath temple that is built at the site where Meera Bai gave up the world. You can also visit
Somnath temple that comprises one of the twelve jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva.
The Muslims have their pilgrimages like Dargah Sharief of Ajmer at Rajasthan and Dargah of Ajan Pir in Assam.
In northeast, there is Poa Mecca. It is believed that here a faithful Muslim can gain one fourth of the spiritual
enlightenment that could be gained at Mecca.
In Punjab, there are number of pilgrimages for Sikhs like Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar, Tarn Taaran in west of
Amritsar, Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib in Anandpur, Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda and Dera Baba Nanak in west of Gurdaspur.
Hemkund Sahib, which is situated at an altitude of 4329 meters, is the highest Gurudwara in the world. The tenth
guru, Guru Gobind Singh, mediated here for years in the mountains and here only he left his body to get united
Another pilgrimage of Sikhs is Manikaran Gurudwara that is situated in Himachal Pradesh and it is famous for its
Hot springs. It is believed that these springs carry uranium and other radioactive materials. Takhat Sachkhand
Sri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib in Maharashtra is another sacred religious place of Sikhs. In India, you can also
find a number of churches in every state. If you are in south, you can visit Medak Church and Gundala church in
Andhra Pradesh, Santa Cruz Basilica in Kochi, Kerela. Northern India also has famous churches like St. Joseph's
Church in Uttar Pradesh and Church of the Sacred Heart in New Delhi. If you are enjoying the valleys of Himachal
Pradesh, then you can get Jesus' blessings in Christ Church and St. Michael's Cathedral at Shimla.
So many religions and so many pilgrimages..but still people are united. It is just because of the Indian values
that bind people together. These values weave people together just like beads in a string.
Day in India starts with Surya Namaskar. In this people offer water to the sun and enchant mantras and prayers.
Indians worship nature and that's what unique about its culture. In Hindu religion, trees and animals are
worshipped like gods. People believe in God and keep fast ('vrata') on every festival. They offer morning's
first fresh meal to cow and night's last meal to dog. Nowhere in the world one can find such generosity.
All the religions here start the day with morning hymns and these rich values are inculcated into the kids
since childhood. Morning prayers and moral education is also a very important part of the education system
Have ever been to any other country in the world where you can find such a great variety? Here people are not
judged by caste, color or creed. They are judged by their values and this is what makes India a unique place
Dance, drama, theatre or music, every art is unique in itself. In India, religions, mythology and classical
literature form the basis of most of the performing arts.
Indian classical dances like Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, Kathak, Manipuri, Odissi and Kuchipudi mainly follow
the codes of natya shastra, mythology and classical literature and epics like Ramayana and Mahabharta.
Another kind of performing art is theatre. Though the folk theatre prevails in each and every language and
region, the professional theatre is popular only in big urban areas or metropolitan cities. Uniqueness of
Indian theatre is the puppet show. For centuries, Puppet shows have been popular in creating awareness about
social issues in masses and inculcating the moral values of truth and honesty in the kids.
For Indians, music is to the soul what food is to the body. Since Vedic period it's been capturing the heart
and mind of every Indian. In the classical Indian music, there are basically two types of schools- the
Hindustani Music (North) and the Carnatic Music (South). 'Raga' arrangement of musical notes is the key in
the classical music. The Indian villages also have their special kind of music that carries colors of folk
tradition. Music of Indian movies is also liked by the masses.
Films They are another kind of performing arts for which India is quite popular in the world. The country
produces more than 1000 movies every year and these movies are not only popular in the domestic market but
also have a wide viewership in the Asian and European countries. Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Kannada, Telugu,
Bengali or Marathi, India produces movie in every language. India film stars are equally loved and liked
like Hollywood actors.
Classical Dance and Music
Indian Classical Dance "..abstraction of Upanishadic thought which is assiduously translated in to well
designed concrete language of artistic media."
It all started with Natya Shastra Said to be written 2000 years ago by Bharata Muni, it is the seminal
source book for dancers and performers. The mammoth book covers all technical and aesthetic aspects of
the art of the Indian Theatre and Dance.From the purpose of natya, to the architectural format, stage
rituals, Rasa, Bhava, Abhinaya, gestic communication, music, types of instruments. 37 chapters that
together form the nucleus of this fascinating performing art. Later century works like Abhinaya Darpana,
Abhinaya Chandrike, also have great relevance to the dancer today.
Legend has it that the Devas (Gods) had vanquished the Asuras (Evil) and were relating the happenings
to Brahma, the God of Creation. The Asuras thought this was a renewed attack and retaliated. Brahma
intervened - "This is only a performance, hence forth it will only be held on earth". And Brahma passed
on all the information on Dance and Drama to Bharata Muni who compiled it as the Natya Shastra. Sculpture
Comes To Life.
Temples were raised to the house the Gods and became the focal point for the community. They also became
centres of learning and contributed to the advancement of such arts as sculpture, painting, music and dance.
Mostly built by Kings, who were also the patrons of arts, encouraging a continuity and enriching rituals of
worship, the earliest basis of the classical performing arts.
It was from the temple that the Devdasi cult (Temple Dancers who performed for the Lord) began. Once a
practice countrywide - the Kulvantalu in Andhra Pradesh, the Maibi in Manipur, the Devdasi in Tamil Nadu
and the Mahari in Orissa, all trace their roots to the temple. The countless sculptures of dance poses in
the temples, hint at the potency of dance as a path to spiritual exaltation and lays out a complete lexicon
of dance techniques.
For instance, it is said that the greater part of vocabulary of Odissi dance is preserved in stone. A rich
heritage to be brought alive by the artist.
Cuisine of India
The Indian cuisine boasts of an immense variety not restricted to only curry. An authentic Indian curry
is an intricate combination of a stir-fried Masala - a mixture of onion, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes;
various spices and seasonings with which meat; poultry, vegetables or fish is prepared to produce a stew-type
dish. Note: the word Masala also means spice.
Food in India is wide ranging in variety, taste and flavour. Being so diverse geographically, each region has
its own cuisine and style of preparation. Indian cuisine, renowned for its exotic gravies seems complicated
for any newcomer. The Mughlai cuisine of North differs sharply from the preparations of the south. The Wazwan
style of Kashmir is luxurious but the same can be said about Bengal's Macher Jhol, Rajasthan's Dal Bati, Uttar
Pradesh's Kebabs and Punjab's Sarson Ka Saag and Makki di Roti. In India, recipes are handed down from generation
The unique and strong flavours in Indian cuisine are derived from spices, seasonings and nutritious ingredients
such as leafy vegetables, grains, fruits, and legumes. Most of the spices used in Indian cooking were originally
chosen thousands of years ago for their medicinal qualities and not for flavour. Many of them such as turmeric,
cloves and cardamoms are very antiseptic, others like ginger, are carminative and good for the digestion. All
curries are made using a wide variety of spices.
In Indian cuisine, food is categorized into six tastes - sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and astringent.
A well-balanced Indian meal contains all six tastes, not always can this be accomplished. This principle explains
the use of numerous spice combinations and depth of flavour in Indian recipes. Side dishes and condiments like
chutneys, curries, daals and Indian pickles contribute to and add to the overall flavour and texture of a meal
and provide balance needed.
In a country as diverse and complex as India, it is not surprising to find that people here reflect the rich
glories of the past, the culture, traditions and values relative to geographic locations and the numerous
distinctive manners, habits and food that will always remain truly Indian. According to five thousand years
of recorded history.
From the eternal snows of the Himalayas to the cultivated peninsula of far South, from the deserts of the
West to the humid deltas of the East, from the dry heat and cold of the Central Plateau to the cool forest
foothills, Indian lifestyles clearly glorify the geography. The food, clothing and habits of an Indian differ
in accordance to the place of origin.
Indians believe in sharing happiness and sorrow. A festival or a celebration is never constrained to a family
or a home. The whole community or neighbourhood is involved in bringing liveliness to an occasion. A lot of
festivals like Diwali, Holi, Id, Christmas, Mahaveer Jayanthi are all celebrated by sharing sweets and pleasantries
with family, neighbours and friends. An Indian wedding is an occasion that calls for participation of the family
and friends. Similarly, neighbours and friends always help out a family in times of need.
Ethnically Indians speak different languages, follow different religions, eat the most diverse varieties of food
all of which add to the rich Indian culture.The beauty of the Indian people lies in the spirit of tolerance,
give-and-take and a composition of cultures that can be compared to a garden of flowers of various colours and
shades of which, while maintaining their own entity, lend harmony and beauty to the garden - India!