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INDIAN CULTURE

Culture of India

India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality. The culture of India is an amalgamation of these diverse sub-cultures spread all over the Indian subcontinent and traditions that are several millennia old.

Regarded by some historians as the "oldest living civilization of Earth", the Indian tradition dates back to 8000 BC and has a continuous recorded history since the time of the Vedas for over 5,500 years Several elements of India's diverse culture — such as Indian religions, yoga and Indian cuisine have had a profound impact across the world.



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Religions and spirituality
Close-up of a statue depicting Maitreya at the Thikse Monastery in Ladakh, India. Dharmic religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, are indigenous to India.

Religion in India and Indian religions

India is the birth place of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, collectively known as Indian religions. Indian religions, also known as Dharmic religions are a major form of world religions along with Abrahamic ones. Today, Hinduism and Buddhism are the world's third- and fourth-largest religions respectively, with over 2 billion followers altogether. and possibly as many as 2.5 or 2.6 billion followers. India is also the birthplace for the Lingayat and Ahmadiyya faiths.

India is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world, with some of the most deeply religious societies and cultures. Religion still plays a central and definitive role in the life of many of its people.

The religion of 80% of the people is Hinduism. Islam is practiced by around 13% of all Indians. Sikhism, Jainism and especially Buddhism are influential not only in India but across the world. Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and the Bahá'í Faith are also influential but their numbers are smaller. Despite the strong role of religion in Indian life, atheism and agnostics also have visible influence along with a self-ascribed tolerance to other people.

A respected industry consultant, traditional Indian culture is defined by a relatively strict social hierarchy. He also mentions that from an early age, children are reminded of their roles and places in society.This is reinforced by the fact that many believe gods and spirits have an integral and functional role in determining their lifeSeveral differences such as religion divide the culture. However, a far more powerful division is the traditional Hindu bifurcation into non-polluting and polluting occupations. Strict social taboos have governed these groups for thousands of years. In recent years, particularly in cities, some of these lines have blurred and sometimes even disappeared. Important family relations extend as far as gotra, the mainly patrilinear lineage or clan assigned to a Hindu at birth. In rural areas & sometimes in urban areas as well, it is common that three or four generations of the family live under the same roof. The patriarch often resolves family issues.

The earliest Indian paintings were the rock paintings of pre-historic times, the petroglyphst it was common for households to paint their doorways or indoor rooms where guests resided.

Cave paintings from Ajanta, Bagh, Ellora and Sittanavasal and temple paintings testify to a love of naturalism. Most early and medieval art in India is Hindu, Buddhist or Jain. A freshly made coloured flour design (Rangoli) is still a common sight outside the doorstep of many (mostly South Indian) Indian homes. Raja Ravi Varma is one the classical painters from medieval India.

Madhubani painting, Mysore painting, Rajput painting, Tanjore painting, Mughal painting are some notable Genres of Indian Art; while Nandalal Bose, M. F. Husain, S. H. Raza, Geeta Vadhera, Jamini Roy and B.Venkatappa are some modern painters. Among the present day artists, Atul Dodiya, Bose Krishnamacnahri, Devajyoti Ray and Shibu Natesan represent a new era of Indian art where global art shows direct amalgamation with Indian classical styles. These recent artists have acquired international recognition. Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, Mysore Palace has on display a few good Indian paintings.

Sculpture

The 5th century Buddhist vishvakarma cave at Ellora, Maharashtra.

Main article: Sculpture in India

Marble Sculpture of female, ca 1450, Rajasthan

The first sculptures in India date back to the Indus Valley civilization, where stone and bronze figures have been discovered. Later, as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism developed further, India produced some extremely intricate bronzes as well as temple carvings. Some huge shrines, such as the one at Ellora were not constructed by using blocks but carved out of solid rock.

Sculptures produced in the northwest, in stucco, schist, or clay, display a very strong blend of Indian and Classical Hellenistic or possibly even Greco-Roman influence. The pink sandstone sculptures of Mathura evolved almost simultaneously. During the Gupta period (4th to 6th century) sculpture reached a very high standard in execution and delicacy in modeling. These styles and others elsewhere in India evolved leading to classical Indian art that contributed to Buddhist and Hindu sculpture throughout Southeast Central and East Asia.

Architecture

Main article: Architecture of India

Considered to be an "unrivaled architectural wonder", the Taj Mahal in Agra is a prime example of Indo-Islamic architecture.

Indian architecture encompasses a multitude of expressions over space and time, constantly absorbing new ideas. The result is an evolving range of architectural production that nonetheless retains a certain amount of continuity across history. Some of its earliest production are found in the Indus Valley Civilization (2600–1900 BC) which is characterised by well planned cities and houses. Religion and kingship do not seem to have played an important role in the planning and layout of these towns.

During the period of the Mauryan and Gupta empires and their successors, several Buddhist architectural complexes, such as the caves of Ajanta and Ellora and the monumental Sanchi Stupa were built. Later on, South India produced several Hindu temples like Chennakesava Temple at Belur, the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu, and the Kesava Temple at Somanathapura, Brihadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur, the Sun Temple, Konark, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangam, and the Buddha stupa (Chinna Lanja dibba and Vikramarka kota dibba) at Bhattiprolu. Angkor Wat, Borobudur and other Buddhist and Hindu temples indicate strong Indian influence on South East Asian architecture, as they are built in styles almost identical to traditional Indian religious buildings.

The Umaid Bhawan Palace in Rajasthan, one of the largest private residences in the world.

The traditional system of Vaastu Shastra serves as India's version of Feng Shui, influencing town planning, architecture, and ergonomics. It is unclear which system is older, but they contain certain similarities. Feng Shui is more commonly used throughout the world. Though Vastu is conceptually similar to Feng Shui in that it also tries to harmonize the flow of energy, (also called life-force or Prana in Sanskrit and Chi/Ki in Chinese/Japanese), through the house, it differs in the details, such as the exact directions in which various objects, rooms, materials, etc. are to be placed.

With the advent of Islamic influence from the west, Indian architecture was adapted to allow the traditions of the new religion. Fatehpur Sikri, Taj Mahal, Gol Gumbaz, Qutub Minar, Red Fort of Delhi are creations of this era, and are often used as the stereotypical symbols of India. The colonial rule of the British Empire saw the development of Indo-Saracenic style, and mixing of several other styles, such as European Gothic. The Victoria Memorial or the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus are notable examples.

Indian architecture has influenced eastern and southeastern Asia, due to the spread of Buddhism. A number of Indian architectural features such as the temple mound or stupa, temple spire or sikhara, temple tower or pagoda and temple gate or torana, have become famous symbols of Asian culture, used extensively in East Asia and South East Asia. The central spire is also sometimes called a vimanam. The southern temple gate, or gopuram is noted for its intricacy and majesty.

Contemporary Indian architecture is more cosmopolitan. Cities are extremely compact and densely populated. Mumbai's Nariman Point is famous for its Art Deco buildings. Recent creations such as the Lotus Temple, and the various modern urban developments of India like Chandigarh, are notable.