Geography of India
Cuisine in India
Cuisine in India
Dances of India
Recent History of India
Architecture and Sculpture
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Two basic components of this heritage, which have at the same time shaped this heritage are the land, the natural and physical environment of India, and the people who have inhabited this land. The generations of people who have inhabited India during various periods of her history have interacted with their physical and natural environment. They have also interacted among themselves. Through these processes of interaction – between people and their natural and physical environment and among themselves-the people have created their history, their social, economic, cultural and political life. These processes of interaction have been going on for thousands of years, bringing in changes in the life of the people.
India is a vast country. It extends for nearly 3000 kilometers from Kashmir in the north to Kanyakumari in the south and for the same distance from its western-most parts to its eastern-most parts. Nature has made it into a distinct geographical entity. The Himalayan ranges in the north and the sea in the east, west and south separate it from the rest of the world. The people inhabiting the country from very early times as well as people of other parts of the world have viewed it as a single integral and distinctive unit.
These geographical features, however, while making this country a well-defined unit separated from the rest of the world, have not become a barrier to contacts with the rest of the world. Since the time of the Old Stone Age, people from neighboring as well as distant regions have been coming into India through the mountain passes and the seas and making India their home. The people of India have been formed as a result of these migrations over thousands of years. They are the descendants of groups of people belonging to almost all the ‘racial Groups’ which have gone into the making of the Indian population are the Proto-Australoids, the Palaeo-Mediterraneans, the Caucasoids, the Negroid and the Mongoloids in their varying degrees of mixtures. In historical times, the ethnic groups which have come to India and made India their home include the Indo-European speaking people (the Indo-Aryans), the Persians, the Greeks, the Kushanas, the Shakas, the Hunas, the Arabs, the Turks, the Africans and the Mongols. During the past few hundred years, many Europeans have also made India their home. All there ‘racial’ and ethnic groups have intermingled with one another and few of them can be recognized in their original form. Thus, India has been a crucible of various ‘races’ and ethnic groups. They have all contributed to the making of Indian history and culture.
The migration of people into India has been a major factor in the development of various aspects of India’s life and culture since pre-historic times. In historical times, the importance of this factor is conspicuous in almost every period of India’s history. The people from other cultures and civilizations have brought with them their own traditions, which got intermixed and integrated with the pre-existing traditions. Similarly, people of India have gone to other parts of the world and various elements of culture carried by them have intermixed and have been integrated with the pre-existing cultures there. During the past 2000 years, the influence of various elements of Indian culture has been noticed in many countries of Asia.
The vastness of the country and the great variations in its geographical features- land forms, natural resourses, climate and others – have provided the bases for a great variety in ways of living from very early times. The mountains and the river systems have been an important factor in the emergence of a number of distinct cultural zones within the country. The Vindhya ranges, for example, divided India into north and south with the people of the Indo-European family of languages predominating in the northern, and those of the Dravidian family of languages in the southern parts of the country. These factors, however, have not made any part of the country isolated from the other parts. The physical barriers between different parts were not insurmountable even in early times when means of travel were not developed. The did not prevent the movement of the people from one part of the country to another. Despite the Vindhya ranges, for example, the movement of people from the north to the south and vice versa has been going on from very early times. Thus while geographical factors have deeply influenced the emergence of distinctive ways of living of people in different parts of the country, the interaction between them has been going on. The availability of different natural resources in the country has also furthered links between its diverse parts. These factors have helped the processes of both unity and diversity. The historical development of the country has brought the people together and has led to the growth of a common culture to which all parts of the country have contributed. At the same time, each part of the country has developed its own distinct identity. Because of this, the historical and cultural development of India is often described as one of unity in diversity and the culture of the country as a whole a composite one comprising distinct parts. It has never been a monolith.
As mentioned above, people of all parts of the country have contributed to the emergence of a common culture. No particular part of region of the country has been the main center or source of Indian culture, and different regions during different periods have played a leading role-setting new trends and influencing developments in other parts of the country. This has been true as much of political history as of other aspects of historical development. The first major political power arose in northern India with its center in the region around modern Patna. In the sunbsequent centuries, powerful kingdom and empires were built in north-western India, the Deccan and the south. The Turkish Sultans and the Mughal emperors ruled over large parts of India with their center at Delhi and, for some time, at Agra. In the eighteenth century, the Marathas, after settings up their kingdom in western India, built a vast all-India empire. In this context, it is important to remember the concept of the chakravartin ruler which was developed in India in ancient times. This ideal envisaged political unification of the entire country.
Another feature of India’s culture has been that it did not develop into a finished form in any period. Throughout her long history, India’s culture has been changing and developing due to internal factors and contacts with other cultures. This process of change and development continues. The culture of India, as of any other country, is not a fixed entity. Many aspects of culture, if they retard further progress, get discarded, others are changed, sometimes beyond recognition; some others continue to survive and remain important, while many new elements are added.
A remarkable feature of Indian historical and cultural development has been its continuity. This continuity has few parallels in the history of other civilizations. For example, the cultures of some of the earliest civilizations in human history left little evidence of their influence over subsequent cultural developments of the countries in which they had developed. In India, on the other hand, some elements of the Harappan culture continue to exist to this day.
It is interesting to know the story of the name of our country. The ancient Indians referred to their country as ‘Jambudvipa’ or the continent of the Jambu tree. The ancient Persians referred to our country as the land beyond the river Sindhu (Indus). They, however, pronounced it as ‘Hindu’. The word spread westward and the whole country came to be known by the name of its river. The Greeks called it ‘Inde’ and the Arabs ‘Hind’. In medieval times, the country was called ‘Hindustan’ from the Persian word. The English called it ‘India’ from the Greek ‘Inde’. The present name ‘Bharat’, derived from the ancient usage, means ‘the land of the Bharatas’, an ancient Indian tribe.
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