Every place has a different look about it. Just like every individual has a personality of their own, every place has its own defining characteristics. These characteristics are what are known as a place’s culture. How the people talk, behave, dress, think, etc. has a huge effect on the culture of that place and vice versa!
So, what are these defining characteristics when it comes to India? What are the basic features that can define this country- in short, what is the Indian culture like?
The basics of Indian culture
India is a land of many landforms. From mountains to seas, you will find everything over here. We know that the geographical location of a place has a major role to play in defining the life of the people of that region, and hence, it affects culture as well. Now, since India has so many types of landforms, most of which are inhabited, it is but natural that there are quite a lot of cultures that will find here. So what is India culture is general? Well, India is thus a happy amalgamation of different types of cultures, each of which has learned to accept the differences as well as appreciate the similarities. Remember the proverb- “unity in diversity”? Well, that is what India is all about.
The Indian constitution, which was written after its independence in 1947, highlights certain primary characteristics that would constitutionally define this country. India is a secular and democratic republic. While being democratic and a republic have a direct effect on the political system prevalent in the country, the policy of being secular has an impact on people’s daily life. Being a secular country, India promotes the policy of non-violence or tolerance. Everyone can practice the religion of their own choice, as long as it does not hurt the other. However, riots concerning religion have broken out in the country from time to time, but probably deeper political implications play a part here. Nevertheless, peaceful co-habitation amongst religions is something that is observed in most of the cities in India. In fact, if you visit Varanasi, which is believed to be the main place for the Hindus, you will find both Hindus and Muslims, sitting by the ghats, sharing a quite talk amongst themselves. Thus, though not a perfect example of it, yet India is a country that promotes universal brotherhood and harmony, with a deep support for non-violence.
There are certain pan-Indian customs and practices that help us in drawing a commonality between all the cultures that are found here.
First and foremost, it is how people greet other people. While Hindus, generally, say “Namaste” to each other, Muslims exchange greetings by saying “adab”. Whatever may be the language or form of greeting, everyone bows a little in respect when they see the other. The younger ones bow down and touch the elders feet when they meet them. The forms of greetings exchanged here all point to respect towards the other and of course, humility.
Another very important concept of every Indian household is that a guest is like a god, and he or she must be furnished with everything he or she needs. A guest must be treated with utmost respect and made to feel comfortable. If need be, the head of the household should not think twice before giving up his bed to his guest. This is primarily the reason why people say that India as a country is in general very hospitable. There is a saying that is very popular here- “Athiti Devo Bhava,” which means that a guest is like a god, and hence, when you visit this country, you will see that people are basically very friendly by nature over here and always ready to help you out with any query that you might have.
Artistic and literary India
India is extremely rich when it comes to literature and the practice of art. The two most celebrated literary “schools” that had developed here were the Sanskrit school, prevalent mainly in the northern parts of the country while the southern part was dominated by another language- Tamil. Most the ancient Indian literature is identified as one of the best in the world today. India is also well-known for the art forms that are practiced here. Just like the West had Aristotle for defining performance, similarly, Bharata wrote a huge compendium, defining the various forms of plays, methods of acting, etc. in his Natyashashtra. Apart from the mainstream urban proscenium theatre, the real beauty lies in the indigenous performances that are observed in some of the “tribal” areas of the country. Music and dance are something that is common to every household, may it be urban or rural!
Do you know what is the most defining part of the Indian culture is? It is how people dress themselves. There are certain very specific forms of dresses that are worn by Indian men and women. The style of dressing of the present day Indian is an amalgamation of both the traditional as well as the modern.
While the women dress in sarees or salwars mostly when it comes to sticking to the traditional outfits, they carry off a pair of jeans and a top with equal ease. Men stick to dhotis and kurtas along with western outfits as well. Each region has a specific dress of its own which becomes a major identifying marker. If the people from all the states of India be asked to gather together, each in their respective cultural dresses, you will have no difficulty in identifying who is from which part of the country!
Generally, traditional Indian dresses are extremely colourful, and a lot of importance is attached to jewellery. Both men and women are often seen to wear bangles or karas when it comes to Rajasthan. In fact, pieces of evidence point to the fact that both king and queens of ancient India wore jewellery.
India, being as huge and diverse as it is, is almost difficult to capture in words. In fact, the most significant part of the Indian culture is that you have to feel it in order to understand it. A walk through the streets and alleys of India is what will help you to realise what the culture of this country is all about!