By: Fatima Shakir
India, you have probably heard of it, second most populated country, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and the land of the most interesting food in the world. But there’s probably a lot of things you don’t know. For example, did you know that India introduced the aspect of shampoo to the world? Among many facts about India, this one is the biggest source of amazement. The first-ever shampoo was used by locals in India. Dried Indian gooseberry mixed with many other herbs was used to wash hair, a recipe that is still used in the country today. The word ‘shampoo’ is derived from the Hindi word, champo.
India is amazing, and not just because that’s where shampoo came from. India is a culturally diverse and interesting country. The country occupies the greater part of South Asia. Its capital is New Delhi, built in the 20th century just south of the historic hub of Old Delhi to serve as India’s administrative center. Its government is a constitutional republic that represents a highly diverse population consisting of thousands of ethnic groups and likely hundreds of languages.
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 its own languages and people love speaking their mother tongues. 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.
Apart from its many religions and sects, India is home to innumerable castes and tribes, as well as to more than a dozen major and hundreds of minor linguistic groups from several language families unrelated to one another. Religious minorities, including Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains, still account for a significant proportion of the population; collectively, their numbers exceed the populations of all countries except China. Because of the population diversity, there is immense variety in Indian culture. The Indian culture is a blend of various cultures belonging to diverse religions, castes, regions that follow their own tradition and culture.
One of the most culturally prevalent aspects of Indian societies is festivals. 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, and Gandhi Jayanti. They also celebrate religious festivals like Diwali, Holi, Durga Puja, Dussehra, Vasant Panchami, Eid, Guru Nanak Jayanti, Mahavir Jayanti, Buddha Purnima, Christmas, New Year, and many more. The young generation also celebrates Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Friendship day, etc. The various festivals show the vast variety of cultural diversity present in India.
The discussion on Indian culture would remain incomplete without discussing dance forms of India. India is a land of diverse dance forms. 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. The folk dances include Gaur Dance, Chhau Dance, Bihu Dance, Dumhal Dance, Padayani Dance, Dollu Kunitha Dance, Dandiya Dance, and many more. These are celebrated on different occasions by the people of India.
Music is something that has existed from the beginnings of Indian culture. These are vital elements of 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 that are pleasant to hear and make the body calm. In the early ages, there were Kalidas, Surdas, Tulsidas, Kabir, etc. who were popular for their music and songs. The diversity 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 mentioning that, presently, the Indian music industry also has many musicians and singers like Sonu Nigam, Alka Yagnik, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Abhijeet, Arijit Singh, etc.
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 is 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 and the Paintings of the Ellora cave.
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 mausoleum.
- 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 Elephant 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 sanctuaries.
India is a diverse and beautiful land that is full of amazing people, places, and things. Visiting the country is like exploring a unique mix of modernity and traditions. It is big, beautiful, and beaming.