Indian culture is an invaluable possession of our society. It is one of the oldest cultures of the world. In spite of facing many ups and downs Indian culture is shining with all its glory and splendour. Culture is the soul of a nation. On the basis of culture, we can experience the prosperity of its past and present. Culture is a collection of values of human life, which establishes it specifically and ideally separates it from other groups.

Besides the architectural creations, monuments, material artefacts, the intellectual achievements, philosophy, treasures of knowledge, scientific inventions and discoveries are also the part of heritage. In Indian context the contributions of Baudhayana, Aryabhatta, Bhaskaracharya in the field of Mathematics, Astronomy and Astrology; Varahmihir in the field of Physics; Nagarjuna in the field of Chemistry; Susruta and Charak in the field of Medicines and Patanjali in the field of Yoga are profound treasures of Indian Cultural heritage. Culture is liable to change, but our heritage does not. We individuals, belonging to a culture or a particular group, may acquire or borrow certain cultural traits of other communities/cultures, but our belongingness to Indian cultural heritage will remain unchanged.

Indian culture is one of the most ancient cultures of the world. The ancient cultures of Egypt, Greece, Rome, etc. were destroyed with time and only their remnants are left. But Indian culture is alive till today. Its fundamental principles are the same, as were in the ancient time. One can see village panchayats, caste system and joint family system. The teachings of Buddha, Mahavira and Lord Krishna are alive even today also and are source of inspiration.

The framework of Indian culture places human beings within a conception of the universe as a divine creation. It is not anthropo-centric (human-centric) only and considers all elements of creation, both living and non-living, as manifestations of the divine. Therefore, it respects God’s design and promotes the ideal of co-existence. This vision thus, synthesises human beings, nature and God into one integral whole. This is reflected in the idea of satyam-shivam-sundaram.

In India, tolerance and liberalism are found in all religions, castes, communities, etc. Many foreign cultures invaded India and Indian society gave every culture the opportunity to prosper. Indian society accepted and respected Shaka, Huna, Shithiyan, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist cultures. The feeling of tolerance towards all religions is a wonderful characteristic of Indian society. Rigveda says : ‘Truth is one’, even then the scholars describe it in various forms.

A special characteristic of Indian culture is its continuous flow. Since, Indian culture is based on values, so its development is continuous. Many centuries passed by, many changes occurred, many foreign invasions were faced, but the light of Indian culture today is continuously glowing. Indian culture can be understood by looking at its present cultural standards.

Language is another source of cultural diversity as well as unity. It contributes to collective identities and even to conflicts. Twenty-two languages are recognised by Indian Constitution. All major languages have regional and dialectical variations besides several other dialects. The situation is further complicated since 179 languages and 544 dialects are recognised in India.

Indian art is inspired by religion and centres around sacred themes. However, there is nothing ascetic or self-denying about it. The eternal diversity of life and nature and the human element are all reflected in Indian art forms. The art of architecture and sculpture was well developed during the Indus valley period. India has the largest collections of folk and tribal artefacts.

The popular term for music throughout India is Sangeet, which included dance as well as vocal instrumental music. The rhymes of the Rigveda and the Samveda are the earliest examples of words set to music. The oldest detailed exposition of Indian musical theory is found in Natyashastra, attributed to the sage Bharata who lived in the beginning of the Christian era. North Indian Hindustani classical music and South Indian Karnatak music are the two major forms of classical music in India. More specific schools of classical music are associated with particular gharanas.

Classical Indian dance is a beautiful and significant symbol of the spiritual and artistic approach of the Indian mind. Traditional Indian scriptures contain many references to nritta (music) and nata (drama). Dance and music are present at every stage of domestic life in India. Our country has a rich tradition of folklores, legends and myths, which combine with songs and dances into composite art forms.

Adaptability has a great contribution in making Indian culture immortal. It is an essential element of longevity of any culture. Indian culture has a unique property of adjustment, as a result of which, it is maintained till today. Indian family, caste, religion and institutions have changed themselves with time. Due to adaptability and co-ordination of Indian culture, its continuity, utility and activity still in vogue.

Receptivity is an important characteristic of Indian culture. It has always accepted the good of the invading cultures. It is like an ocean, in which many rivers come and meet. In the same way all castes succumbed to the Indian culture and very rapidly they dissolved in the Hindutva. Indian culture has always adjusted with other cultures, its ability to maintain unity amongst the diversities of all is the best. The reliability, which developed in this culture due to this receptivity, is a boon for this world and is appreciated by all. We have always adopted the properties of various cultures. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is the soul of Indian culture.

Spirituality is the soul of Indian culture. Here the existence of soul is accepted. Therefore, the ultimate aim of man is not physical comforts but is self-realisation. Nation became culture and culture became nation. Country took the form of Spiritual World, beyond the physical world. When Indian culture originated in the times of Rigveda, then it spread with time to Saptasindhu, Bramhavarta, Aryavarta, Jumbudweepa, Bharata Varsha or India. Because of its strength, it reached beyond the borders of India and established there also.

Religion has a central place in Indian culture. Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Mahabharata, Gita, Agama, Tripitak, Quran and Bible influence the people of Indian culture. These books have developed optimism, theism, sacrifice, penance, restraints, good conduct, truthfulness, compassion, authenticity, friendliness, forgiveness, etc.

The concept of Karma (action) and Reincarnation have special importance in Indian culture. It is believed that
one gains virtue during good action and takes birth in higher order in his next birth and spends a comfortable life. While one doing bad action takes birth in lower order in his next birth and suffers pain and leads a miserable life.

Indian culture lays emphasis on dharma or moral duty. It is believed that performance of one’s duty is more important than asserting one’s right. It also emphasizes the complementariness between one’s own duty and other’s rights. Thus, through the emphasis on community or family obligations, Indian culture promotes interdependence rather than independence and autonomy of the individual.

At the level of marriage, there is a lot of plurality in India. At the level of family, however, there is a striking similarity. For example, the ideal or norm of joint family is upheld by almost every Indian. Every person may not live in a joint household but the system of joint family is still favoured. The family is the defining feature of Indian culture. Although we differentiate between individual identity and family identity, the Western type of individualism is rare in Indian culture.

Another characteristic of Indian culture is social stratification. In every region of India, there are about 200 castes. The social structure is made of thousands of those castes and sub-castes, which decide the social status of a person on the basis of birth.

By fulfilling duties, a person can follow his religion while living in physical comforts and thus can gain salvation. Fulfilling duties is a characteristic of Indian culture. Four goals or duties are—Dharma (religion), Arth (money), Kama (lust) and Moksha (salvation). Religion is related to the fulfilment of moral duties. Money is related to the fulfilment of all needs. Lust is associated with pleasures in life. Salvation is the last goal.

If India’s culture tended to become tolerant, accommodating, open-minded, deeply but not ostensibly spiritual and concerned with the common human welfare, then it is due to the great and relentless efforts of our great ancestors and leaders. Thanks to them our country has achieved a common culture, despite a staggering pluralistic society. And I feel proud to be a part and parcel of this rich heritage and culture.             

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