INDIAN CULTURE 10
The Indian culture is composed of many aspectsthat provide the ideal identity of a community that is influenced byits religion and social philosophies. Top on the cultural issues thatidentify the culture of Indians are religion and philosophy. Majorinfluence is the Dharmic religions have been attributed to thedevelopment of Indian culture and are believed to shape the much ofthe Indian literature and philosophy. Since the Paleolithic period,Indians practiced economic and social practices that became importantaspects of their culture. Development of agricultural settlements andcommunities followed the Paleolithic period. The discussion on thecountry will present religion and philosophy as their majorinfluences of their culture. This discussion will further explore theelements of culture that are shaped by religious issues in theculture-rich country.
India is a South Asian country which has one ofthe most ancient and rich cultural backgrounds in the world. Indianculture has remained resilient to the changing world orders,including the wave of globalization and is still revered andappreciated by the Indians. Indian culture is rooted in the lives ofthe people and has been influenced by different factors includingreligious philosophies and traditions. Due to globalization, certainfeatures of Western culture have been borrowed and accepted in theIndian culture. A multi-cultural exchange, together with othersocioeconomic partnerships with the international community, muchinterdependence has been achieved.
As an Asian, I appreciate the diversity of thecultures practiced and upheld by Indian people. These cultures arealso shared by other South Asian countries like Pakistan and Nepal. Iuphold and identify with the customs and beliefs that this cultureentails. I want to provide in-depth information about the Indianculture to the audience of people that are interested in learningabout the South Asians. The aim of this correspondence is to analyzethe Indian culture in terms of the general historical Indianbackground and different features of Indian culture.
History of the Indian Culture
India covers much of the South Asiansubcontinent together with other neighboring countries likeBangladesh (Keay, 2011). Indian culture is one of the ancientcivilizations. Indian culture is a merger of different cultures andis identified by most people of the Indian subcontinent including theneighboring countries (Mishra & Singh, 2002). Indian culture hasbeen shaped by a historical background that spans a thousand ofyears.
India’s first urban civilizations across theIndus Valley and west India were formed at around 2700 BCE. Indianculture spread to other Asian countries during the Common Era andmedieval periods (Stafford, 2006). Religion, form of governance andadministration, architecture and writing systems spread to otherparts of India during this time. These early developments andcivilizations were phased off at around 1500 BCE and a variety ofkingdoms mushroomed following years of war and conquests across theIndian subcontinent. These periods were punctuated by invasions byforeigners and this gave birth to the earliest religions such asHinduism and Buddhism (Stafford, 2006).
Western societies and Europeans did not valuethe Indian culture since it was deemed an inferior culture. Westernpowers viewed India as an evolving society and therefore, disregardedit as primitive and inferior to their culture (Stafford, 2006). Thisled to colonization of India and other culturally inferior continentslike Africa and the Far East. Indians, however, made major advancesand achievements in the fields of architecture, mathematics andmedicine, which raised their image in the world (Mohammada, 2007).They invented Taj Mahal architecture, zero in mathematics andAyurveda and Yoga medicine (Keay, 2011).
The Present Sites
India has many states and territories whichcomprise of people of different cultural orientation. These differentregions have personalized cultures with variations in language andreligion. Their music and art also vary accordingly in the vastIndian population. The Indian population of more than 1 billioncitizens is spread over many states and territories. This largepopulation affects the living standards of many people with manypeople living in poverty (Mishra & Singh, 2002). Governments inmany South East Asians countries have tried to counteract thesedisparities, especially for minorities by providing better facilitiesand bridging the income gap (Mishra & Singh, 2002).
The Issues: Religion and Philosophy
Indian cultural identity involves affiliationto any of the languages and religious philosophies of the Indiansubcontinent (Mohammada, 2007). These philosophies guide the way oflife of the people, including their customs, behavior, food, clothingand religion. Ethnic relations also shape the cultural identity ofthe Indians. India houses many ethnic groups, castes and tribes.Caste system forms the Indian social stratification and hierarchicalstructure based on the family names, occupations, ranks and specificsubcultures (Mohammada, 2007).
India religion is vast and diverse. ManyIndians ascribe to one of the four main religions, Hinduism,Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism (Stafford, 2006). Christianity andIslam are also recognized religion in India with 13% of Indians beingMuslims. Hinduism and Buddhism are the 3rdand 4th largestworld religions respectively. 84% of Indian population ascribe toHindu religion (Stafford, 2006). Hindu religion has many variationsdepending on the geographical regions. These variations includeVaishnava, Smarta, Shakteyaand Shaiva.Christians, Sikhs and Buddhist account for a small percentage of thepopulation.
Religion has a very important role in the livesof Indian people. India, as seen, has the most diverse religiousaffiliations and deeply rooted religious societies. However, atheismand agnosticism have also flourished in India, especially within theSramana andCarvaka movements(Raman, 2012). These atheist groups dispute the relevance andaccuracy of Hinduism by questioning the existence of creator deitiesand ritualism (Raman, 2012).
Indians have many philosophical orientationsbased on the Brahmanical traditional classification which outlinesthe orthodox and the heterodox philosophies (Webber, 2000). Orthodoxyand heterodoxy are based on the philosophy’s regard of Vedas,being the only source of world knowledge.
The main orthodox Indian philosophy is theHindu philosophy. Hindu philosophy is based on the Yoga, Nyaya andSamkhaya pillars or schools of thought (Webber, 2000). The otherthree are Vaisheshika, Mimamsa and Vedanta schools of Hinduphilosophy. These Hindu philosophies are the approved orthodoxschools of thought that are widely followed in the Indiansubcontinent. Indians also believe in heterodox philosophies whichinclude Jain and Buddhist as well as Ajivikaand Carvaka (Webber,2000). Other traditional classifications of philosophical schools areSaiva, Rasesvaraand Vidyaranya.
Indian philosophies were formalized during theCommon Era period at around 1000 BCE (Webber, 2000). There was a lotof competition and integration amongst the different schools duringthis era. Some schools were assimilated into others while somesurvived. Jainism and Buddhism survived as well as Vedantaand Advaita.Schools like Saivaand Ajivikadid not survive and were assimilated into other schools and some oftheir doctrines became extinct. Subsequent years up to the 20thcentury were colored with reformulations and various commentariesfrom traditional philosophers like Ram Mohan Roy (Brekke, (2002).
Philosophies and religion influence the socialinteraction in India. For instance, greetings in India are veryreserved and include the famous Namaste and Namaskar greetings inHindi (Keay, 2011). These greetings express a lot of respect for oneanother, especially male and females in different age brackets. Thefamily structure in India is based on caste system which each personbelonging to a specific caste (Tenhunen & Saavala, 2012). Eachcaste has a specific family name, occupation, social status andspecific subculture. The caste system is based on the social statusof each family and the generations of each caste cannot betransferred to another caste. That means that no person can changefrom one caste to another.
One of the aspects that are highly influencedby religion in India is visual culture and physical representationsof cultural practices. Visual art and music and architecture form anintegral part of Indian culture. Indian music is characterized byvarious music forms, music instruments and dance styles (Kak, 2002).Traditional music was heavily influenced by the Samavedamelodies and other Hindu texts. These melodies were based on thetonal structure of seven key notes as produced by a flute.Traditional Indian classic music has two distinct styles, namelyCarnatic and Hindustani music styles (Kak, 2002). These styles aresang using a rhythmic cycle (Tala)and follow a melodic base (Raga).
Perhaps paintings and sculptures form the mainelements of religious representations for the Indians. Paintings andsculptures form part of the important visual arts in Indian culture.They are seen in houses, caves, temples and other religiousmonuments. They express love, naturalism and religious deities inaccordance with Indian religions (Tenhunen & Saavala, 2012).
Sculptures also influenced poetic writings.Writings like the poem Pranaby Gopal express the post modernistic perspectives of South East Asia(Paudel nd). One notable sculpture is the vishvakarmaBuddhist sculpture found in the Ellora cave. Indian architecture isalso very unique which makes various expressions across time andspace. The famous Taj Mahal is an important work of the Indo-Islamicarchitecture (Tenhunen & Saavala, 2012).
Solution and Future Direction
The solution to understanding the future of the Indian culture isbased on the understanding of the Indian religion and philosophies.This is because every aspect of the Indian culture is shaped by thetwo factors. Top among the elements to understand the future of theculture is family structures. The Indian population embraces a jointfamily system as their family structure. This means that the familylives together under one roof, including the parents, children andtheir spouses and offspring. The head of the family is the eldestmale in that family.
With the advent of globalization andurbanization this trend has changed and many Indians have embracedmuch smaller nuclear families (Tenhunen & Saavala, 2012).Marriage is a very important transition in Indian lives. Arrangedmarriages have always been the way forward in India for manycenturies. In the current world today the same custom continues,although some families have adopted the western method of allowingchildren to pick their own spouses.
Historically, the arranged marriages were organized by the parentsand other respectable family members and usually occurred at a tenderage. Currently the age of marriage for women was increased to 21years. Some tribes and regions still marry their daughters before theage of 18 years. Traditionally, women paid the bride price or dowrysince it was considered that the woman had claimed on their family’swealth (Tenhunen & Saavala, 2012). Wedding rituals are veryimportant in India and usually involve extensive decorations andcolors mixed with music, dances and costumes depending on thereligion.
In the future, women will have more equalrights. Currently, women and men are legally equal and have equalclaim to inheritance (Tenhunen & Saavala, 2012). Inheritance wastraditionally patriarchal and many women had no claim on inheritanceof family property. Divorce rates in India are low due to the strictmarital customs and religious beliefs that guide the Indians.
In the future, the Indian clothing willcontinue to be the same and influenced by the same philosophies.Indian clothing is also very diverse and varies from region to regionwithin the subcontinent. Women use Bindi for makeup which is worn onthe foreheads. Traditionally Hindu married women wore red Bindi andSindoor. Other popular clothes for women are Churidar,Salwar Kameez and dupatta(Kalman, 2009). Dhotiis unstitched clothing which men tie around the waist and legs. Mostof the Indian clothes are made from cotton and others from silk,which are ideal for the climatic conditions in the region (Kalman,2009). Men also wear turbans on their heads.
The Indian culture is shaped by religion andthe philosophies that people ascribe to. Since formalization duringthe Common Era period, the Indian religion philosophies became theleading influences of the culture of the people. Currently, thesociety adopts social structures and arts that are rooted on theirreligion and philosophies. The culture that is currently richlyrepresented by visual arts, music and family structures will beconsidered to have similar perspectives in the future. Since theseaspects are anchored on the religious perspectives, India’scultural future and development will be influenced by religion andphilosophies as their main bases of the Indian culture.
Brekke, T. (2002). Makers of Modern Indian Religion in the LateNineteenth Century (Vol. 1). Oxford University Press on Demand.
Chapman, P. (2009). India Food and Cooking: The Ultimate Book onIndian Cuisine. New Holland Publishers.
Kak, S. (2002). Early Indian Music. Buenconsejo, J.(Ed., 2003). Asearch in asia for a new theory of music, 59-76.
Kalman, B. (2009). India: the culture. Crabtree Publishing Company.
Keay, J. (2011). India: A History. Revised andUpdated. Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Mallikarjun, B. (2004). Indian multilingualism,language policy and the digital divide. Language in India, 4(4)
Mohammada, M. (2007). The foundations of the composite culture inIndia. Aakar Books.
Mishra, N & Singh. S.K., (2002). Status of Minorities inSouth-East Asia. Authors Press. Jawahar Park. Delhi.
Paudel nd, Prana,PDF Poem, Course materials
Raman, V. V. (2012). Hinduism and Science: SomeReflections. Zygon, 47(3), 549-574.
Stafford, N. (2006). Finding Lost: The Unofficial Guide. Ecw Press.
Tenhunen, S., & Saavala, M. (2012). Anintroduction to changing India: culture, politics and development.Anthem Press