Traditions Of India Essay
Faith, family and castes shape just about every aspect of Indian culture -- from birth to death -- and all the trials and parties in between. Indian society is structured around the families people are born into and where they are born. Individuals inherit their social position and stay within it throughout life.
A caste, or jati (meaning "birth"), is the level within the social system that determines who people will marry and often even what line of work they can pursue, where they can live and what they can eat. There are more than 2,000 jati and they fall within four recognized caste groups, or varnas:
- Brahmans -- priests and the most educated
- Kshatriyas -- warriors and landowners
- Vaishyas -- merchants
- Sudras -- craftsmen and workers
A fifth, unofficial group, the Panchamas were historically called the "Untouchables" and in more recent years the Dalit or "Oppressed." About 17 percent of India's population belongs to this lowest of groups and performs farm labor or other manual work thought to pollute or sully higher castes in the system [source: Encyclopaedia Britannica].
In addition to being identified and included as part of a social caste, most Indians remain within family units that cross generations, from youngest to oldest, all living within the same housing quarters or complex. Men in a family line often stay with their birth families until their own fathers die and they start extended families of their own, while women will leave their homes once they marry and become part of another's extended family unit [source: Encyclopaedia Britannica].
Most females in India leave their families at a young age and a family's caste and location have a lot to do with when a girl will be married. In 1929, Indian law forbade marriages for girls under 12 years of age, allowing those 12 and over to become brides, but in 1978 the age limit by law became 18. With parental consent, however, many families follow their religious laws and cultural traditions and arrange marriages for girls before and after puberty [source: Lyn]. And while many in modern-day India embrace the practice of marrying for love and romance among two people, the most common practice is for the families to find mates for their children in an arranged marriage based on caste, religious beliefs and astrology.
Once a bride and groom are promised to one another (and often after a bridal dowry or financial exchange from the bride's family to the groom's takes place), a series of engagement parties, beauty rituals, and family meals and parties begins, leading up to a marriage celebration that lasts from three days to a week. Some couples approach an engagement and wedding never having met until they go home together after the ceremonies as husband and wife.
Along with rich décor and sumptuous feasts, Indian weddings usually feature a bride in red. Believed to symbolize prosperity, luck and fertility, red bridal wear is a traditional favorite, much as white gowns dominate Western weddings. Modern Indian brides sometimes opt for dark hues other than red and choose purple, dark yellow, blue or pink [source: Hindustan Times].
Marriages tend to last for life and the divorce rate in India is very low, estimated at under 10 percent (though that number is hard to verify), and some studies show that the rate is climbing. Men and women are strongly encouraged to stay together as part of their tradition and to work through any issues, even very serious ones, rather than separate or divorce [source: Giridharadas].
Culture is defined as a people’s way of life. It also entails how they dress, how they speak, the type of food they eat, the manner in which they worship, and their art among many other things.
Indian culture, therefore, is the Indians’ way of life. Because of the population diversity, there is immense variety in Indian culture. The Indian culture is a blend of various cultures belonging to belonging to diverse religion, castes, regions follow their own tradition and culture.
Indian Culture is one of the oldest cultures in the world. India had an urban civilization even during the Bronze age. The Indus Valley Civilization (Harappan Civilization) dates back to 3300 BC – 1300 BC.
Distinct cultures cultures different from each other co-exist together in a single country. Thus, In India there is unity amidst vast cultural diversity. The way people live in India is reflected its culture.
Unity in Diversity: India is a land of unity in diversity where people of different sects, caste and religion live together. India is also called the land of unity in diversity as different groups of people co-operate with each other to live in a single society. Unity in diversity has also become strength of India.
Secularism: The word secularism means equality, impartiality, etc. towards all religion. India is a secular country, which means, equal treatment of all the religions present in India.
Traditions: traditional cultural values
- Touching feet of elders: Indian tradition has rich cultural values. In India, younger show great respect to their elders. They tough the feet of their elders daily after waking up and especially on the festive occasions or before starting an important work.
- Namaste: The gesture of the Namaste greeting is also part of the Indian culture. People greet each other by saying “Namaste” while joining their hands. “Namaste” means “Hello”. (Also read, the meaning of Namaste here.)
- Most Indians have a habit of shaking their heads while talking.
Fasting: Many Hindus follow the custom of fasting during any religious occasion like Maha-Shivratri,, Diwali, Karvachauth, etc. Wives go on fasting for their Husband’s long life in many occasions like “Karvachauth”, etc.
Many people belonging to Muslim faith go for fasting for around 30 days during the month of Ramazan.
Atithi Devo Bhava: In India, people feel great when any guest comes to their home. They greet their guests with respect and them with utmost care. Indian believes in the concept of “Atithi Devo Bhava” which means “The Guest is considered equal to God”. Read more about Indian Traditions.
India is birth place of four major religions, such as, Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism.
Other religions exist as minorities here, including Abrahamic religions.
India is called a land of diversity, i.e., people belonging to almost every faith can be found in India. Many religions coexist in India such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrians, Judaism and many more. People of all religions live together with great peace.
Hinduism: Hinduism is one of the oldest religions that originated from India. The religion has preserved its culture since ancient times.
Islam: Islam is one of the prominent religions of India. There is huge impact of Islam in the Indian society.
Christianity: A large number of people in India belong to Christian faith. St. Thomas is one of the people credited for propagating Christianity in India.
Jainism: Jain religion was founded by Mahavira.
Buddhism: Buddhism was brought by Gautama Buddha.
Sikhism: Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak.
India is home to numerous languages, including Sanskrit which is one of the oldest languages in the world. Other languages such as Hindi are commonly spoken throughout the Indian subcontinent, with regional variations.
As India is a land of diversity, different types of languages are found across different places in India. Each area has their own languages and people like to speak in their mother language.
There are innumerable speakers as well as innumerable languages prevailing in India. The prominent languages in India besides English and Hindi are Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Urdu, Gujarati, Punjabi and many more.
Love Marriage and Arranged Marriages
There are two kinds of marriage system prevailing in India; these are Love Marriage and Arranged Marriage. Arranged Marriage system is in the society from ages. Arranged marriage is arranged by the people other than those who are involved in marriage. Newest form of marriage is the Love Marriage system where the marriage is arranged by the people who are going to be married.
Family System: the structure of the family
Family systems in India are flexible, stable and strong. Presently, both the systems, joint family and nuclear, are present in India and they are equally important.
Joint Family System: Many parts of India practice the joint family system in which in which extended members of the family live together. In a Joint Family System, nearly 3 to 4 generations of people live together. There is a culture of showing respect to their elder ones. The senior most or the oldest member of the family is considered head of the family.
Also read: Joint Family: Meaning, Advantages and Disadvantages
Nuclear Family System: But now-a-days, people use to stay alone and nuclear family system comes in India. An important reason for the creation of nuclear family system is the changes in the profession. People come out from their home for better job opportunities and thus ended in staying alone. But that doesn’t mean that the nuclear system is bad for the society and the joint system is good for the society.
Also read: Small Family: Advantages and Disadvantages of a Small Family
Joint Family vs. Nuclear Family: Both the family systems are equally important as in Joint Family System; there is always a hand of elders on their head which is very important for the family. Also in Nuclear Family System, people get their freedom and thus understand the life in a wide way.
Also read: Nuclear family vs. Joint family
There are different types of festivals celebrated in India with joy and happiness. Different people celebrate different festivals as per their religion, caste and culture. People celebrate National festivals like Independence Day, Republic Day as well as religion festivals like Diwali, Holi, Eid, Guru Nanak Jayanti, Mahavir Jayanti, Buddha Purnima, Christmas, New Year and many more.
Read more: Major Festivals of India (National, Religious, Harvest and Seasonal)
Art and Architecture
Art, literature, theater and film (including the world famous Bollywood films), and architecture have flourished in India for centuries and they continue to flourish today. The Ramayana is one of the oldest known epic works of literature.
India has full of talents in the field of art or architecture. Indian Art includes paintings, rangoli, plastic arts like pottery, and textile arts like woven silk, etc. From Ancient ages, paintings are a part of India art. Examples include paintings of Ajanta cave, Paintings of Ellora cave, etc.
Rangoli are the art generally made by the female members of the family. It is an art of colors.
India is rich in architecture and it is one of the great achievements of India. From ages, India has great number of architecture like Rock-cut temples of Mahabalipuram, temples of Thanjavur, Kanchipuram and many more.
UNESCO world heritage sites in India
It seems that wherever you turn in India you will come across a site of historic, natural or cultural importance. India is rich in heritage, and some of the main UNESCO world heritage sites in India are listed below.
- The Taj Mahal: Tourists flock from all over the world to see this resplendent seventeenth century palace. An earlier structure, housed on the same site known as Humayan’s Tomb is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The Great Himalayan National Park: This national park is situated at the base of the world’s tallest mountain.
- Agra Fort: The Yumana river flows serenely past this ancient fort in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
- The Elephanta Caves: Deep inside these spooky caves you will find elegant statues and designs carved by the human hand.
- The Western Ghats: These mountains are renowned for their mysterious forests and their wildlife sancturies.
There are dozens more UNESCO world heritage sites in India to discover, however!
The discussion on Indian culture would remain incomplete if we do not discuss the various classical and fold dance forms of India. India is a land of diverse dance forms. The main Indian dances are Folk Dance and Classical Dance.
The most popular Classical dance forms are Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, Kathak, Manipuri, etc.
Folk dances are mainly performed in any occasion like birth of a child, festivals, harvesting seasons, wedding events, etc.
Folk Dances include Gaur Dance, Chhau Dance, Bihu Dance, Dumhal Dance, Padayani Dance, Dollu Kunitha Dance, Dandiya Dance and many more. These are celebrated in different occasions by the people of India.
Music is something which exists from the beginning of Indian culture. These are vital elements of the Indian culture and a part of human life. There are different instruments like drums, cymbals etc..
Singing is common during festivities and celebrations. These musical instruments can produce different types of melodic sounds which are pleasant to hear and also make the body calm.
In early ages, there were Kalidas, Surdas, Tulsidas, Kabir, etc. who were popular for their music and songs.
The diverse form of Indian culture is reflected in Indian music. There are different forms of music, such as, ghazals, shayari, folk music and many more.
There were many legends that created music in India like Ustad Bismillah Khan, Ustad Zakir Hussain, and Pandit Ravi Shankar, etc. They are great pioneers in their own field.
Also, it is worth to mention that, presently, Indian industry also has many musicians and singers who gave music to their name like Sonu Nigam, Alka Yagnik, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Abhijeet, etc.
Clothing style in India varies from region to region, state to state. Indians wear both traditional dresses and western attire as well.
When a child is born, langotas and loincloths are the only clothing equipment to the cover the whole body of a child.
Apart from all the western clothes, Indians have their own ethnic wear like dhoti, kurta, salwar kameez, sari, sherwani, turban, etc.
Dhoti is a piece of cloth that is draped and tied by men around their waist. Dhoti is also known as Dhuti or Laacha.
Kurta is one of the famous ethnic wear of men in India. Now-a-days, it is generally worn by the people during festive occasions.
Similarly, Saree is the popular choice for female members of the Indian society. A saree is a long garment that women drape gracefully around her body. Saree is the most fashionable dress for Indian women around the world. During religious and cultural events, Indian women are mostly seen in beautiful sarees.
However, sarees are being replaced by salwar-suits as the favorite daily wear because of its comfort.
Indian Handicrafts has its existence in Indian culture from the time of Indus Valley Civilization. There are numerous examples which show that India has its excellence in the field of handicrafts.
Rajasthan has its well established craft-industry. For Rajasthan, it’s a tradition to make handicrafts items. Royal Rajput families of Rajasthan are great patrons of art and craft.
Some of the examples of Indian Handicrafts are carpets, pottery, textiles, jute table mats and many more. People, from all around the world, come to get a look of Indian handicraft. India has rich in heritage and there are wide ranges in Indian handicrafts.
Food (Cuisine): Culinary traditions
From ultra spicy food to delectable confectionery and southern curries flavored with kokum, Indian culinary culture is delicious and diverse.
Not only in taste but also in the way of cooking, Indian foods are totally different from the rest of the world. Indian foods showcase the perfect mixture of tradition, culture, and love. It is evolving from ages and that’s why there are different forms of Indian food.
As per the region and state, different kinds of Indian Foods are available like Bengali food, Gujarati food and many more.
Indian cuisines are characterized by spices and a wide array of ingredients. Based on the area, different forms of food are North Indian food, South Indian food, etc. North Indian food mainly includes items which are bread related like Tandoori roti, Nan, etc. East Indian Food mainly relates to staple food and sweet dishes like Roshogollas, Sandesh, etc. South Indian Food mainly includes items which are made of rice powder like, Idli, Dosa, etc. Chilli is an essential ingredient in most Indian cuisines.
Movies are an important part of the contemporary Indian society. The culture of Indian society finds its place in the movies. The movies of India include the movies or films produced across the country. Movies have gained a large popularity in India and the main role goes to the media. One of the world’s largest and oldest Film Industry is in India. In early 1913, India got its first public screening. The Film was directed by most popular Dadasaheb Phalke and the name of the film was Raja Harischandra. He was awarded as the Father of Indian Cinema.
Indian movies include Bollywood, Tollywood and other regional movies and documentaries based on India. Indian Film Industry is largely known as Bollywood. Bollywood is the name for India’s film industry, and it is indeed located in India – in Mumbai to be more exact. Though the name Bollywood is clearly modeled on the word ‘Hollywood’, the Bollywood film industry is much larger than its US counterpart. In fact, the Bollywood film industry is the largest film industry in the entire world.
Impact of Western Culture on Indian Culture
Clothing: India’s cultural and traditional outfit is now replaced with western dresses. In India, people like to wear western outfits. This change has both positive as well as negative influence to the society. Today, men like to wear Jeans, T-shirts, Shirts, Trousers instead of Kurta Pajama, Dhoti, etc. Similarly, women prefer to wear Tops, Tunics, Jeans, etc. in place of saree, lehenga, and other traditional dresses. The adoption of western dresses has helped the Indian society to match with the other cultures of the world. However, it has moved us away from the beauty of Indian culture that were reflected through our traditional dresses since ages.
Prevalence of English Language: Indians feel proud for their mother language. They are expected to speak, understand, write in their mother language. But in today’s world, English is an important languages for every one. In fact, the largest population who speak English is found in India. The knowledge of english language helps a person in securing a job.
Western Music: The impact of Western Culture on Indian society is far beyond imagination.In the past, people used to listen classical music and release stress from the body and mind. But today, people enjoy listening Rock music, Pop music, Jazz and much more. It help the Indian society to match with the other countries. Loud music, however, damage the hearing sense of people.
Western Food: The introduction of western foods has influenced the eating habits of Indians. People used to stay fit and healthy by eating home-made foods (Ghar ka Khana). Today, people like to eat fast foods like pizza, burger, pasta, etc. instead of chapatti and rice.
Celebration: India is a land of diversity. Indians always try to adapt to new environment and make themselves equal to the rest of the world. Now-a-days people just want a reason to celebrate. They enjoy to roam and hangout with their friends and families. People like to go for vacation unlike the old times where people used to sit in their house. That’s why, in India also, people celebrate the Valentine’s Day, Christmas Day, Women’s Day, Children’s Day and many more. There is a reason behind the celebration of any occasion and people enjoy the day totally.
That was just a small taste of Indian culture. There is more to discover around every corner. India’s culture is amazingly rich, diverse, and steeped in history. It is one of the reasons why the country receives a high number of visitors every year.
If you want to read more on related topics, please find the links below:
List of World Heritage Sites in India: read at Wikipedia.
- Culture of India: read at Wikipedia.
- Paragraph on Indian Culture.
Category: Indian SocietyTagged With: Indian Culture