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Indian Heritage & Culture
by Manoj Gursahani

Introduction

India is a diverse country, a fact that is visibly prominent in its people, culture and climate. From the eternal snows of the Himalayas to the cultivated peninsula of far South, from the deserts of the West to the humid deltas of the East, from the dry heat and cold of the Central Plateau to the cool forest foothills, Indian lifestyles clearly glorify its geography.

There was a time when India was known as the land of snake charmers. Then people started identifying it as the land having the majestic Taj, the ferocious Tiger and the great desert of Thar. But with each turn that the wheel of time took, Indians have proved to be a lot more. From time immemorial, India has been seen as a mystery land. A land full of paradoxes, it causes travelers to marvel and also to despair during their journey through India. Like an enigmatic lady, India has always attracted the attention of the world for various reasons.

The famous traveler and writer, Mark Twain, wrote after his sojourn through India in 1896: "So far as I am able to judge nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his round. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked. Always, when you think you have come to the end of her tremendous specialties and have finished hanging tags upon her as the Land of Giant Illusions, the Land of Stupendous Mountains and so forth, another specialty crops up or another tag is required." It was best, he decided, to discard the labels and call it simply the Land of Wonders.

Heritage & Culture

The Indian culture varies like its vast geography. People speak in different languages, dress differently, follow different religions, eat different food but are of the same temperament. So whether it is a joyous occasion or a moment of grief, people participate whole-heartedly, sharing the happiness or pain. A festival or a celebration is never constrained to a family or a home. The whole community or neighborhood is involved in bringing liveliness to an occasion. Likewise, an Indian wedding is a celebration of union, not only of the bride and groom, but also of two families, maybe cultures or religion too! Similarly, in times of sorrow, neighbors and friends play an important part in easing out the grief.

Over the ages, India has experienced hundreds of years of foreign invasions and influence, yet it still manages to absorb and change everything the world cares to impose on it, remaining at its core untouched. If anything, it has developed into a multi-linguistic, home for masses of many religions. Although India has modernized to a great extent, old traditions and ancient cultural rhythms continue to have a strong hold over the functioning of the nation.

Since ancient times, the spiritual land of India has displayed varied hues of culture, religion, race, language, and so on. This variety in race, culture, religion, etc., accounts for the existence of different ethnic groups who, although, live within the sanctums of one single nation, and profess different social habits and characteristics. Regional territories in India play an important role in differentiating these ethnic groups, with their own social and cultural identities. The religions that are prevalent in the country are Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism, with the freedom for citizens to practice any religion they want to. The Constitution of India has recognized 22 different languages, out of which, Hindi is the official language and is spoken in most of the urban cities of India. Other than these 22 languages, there are hundreds of dialects that add to the multilingual nature of the country.

India is a land of festivals and fairs. Virtually celebrating each day of the year, there are more festivals celebrated in India than anywhere else in the world. Each festival pertains to different occasions, some welcome the seasons of the year, the harvest, the rains, or the full moon. Others celebrate religious occasions, the birthdays of divine beings and saints, or the advent of the New Year. A number of these festivals are common to most parts of India. However, they may be called by different names in various parts of the country or may be celebrated in a different fashion. Some of the festivals celebrated all over India are mentioned below.

· Janmashtami
· Holi
· Dassehera
· Christmas
· Rakshabandhan
· Deepawali
· Id-ul-Zuha
· Ramnavami
· Guru Nanak Jayanti

Science

The global image of India is that of an upcoming and progressive nation. True, India has leaped many boundaries in all sectors- commerce, technology and development etc., in the recent past, yet she has not neglected her creative genius. Wondering what it is? Well, it the alternative science that has been continuously practiced in India since times immemorial. Ayurveda is a distinct form of medicine made purely of herbs and natural weeds, which can cure any ailment of the world. Ayurveda has also been mentioned in the Ancient Indian epics like the Ramayana. Even today, when the western concept of medicine has reached its zenith, there are people looking for alternative methods of treatment for its multifarious qualities.

With increasing complexities in one's life these days, people are perpetually looking for a medium through which they get some peace of mind. This is where another science, that of meditation and spirituality comes into the scene. Meditation and Yoga are synonymous with India and Indian spirituality. Meditation is one of the most important components of Yoga, which is a mind-body therapy involving a series of exercises. The word 'meditation' covers many disparate practices from visualizing situations, focusing on objects or images, thinking through a complex idea, or even getting lost in a provocative book, all qualifying as meditation in the broad sense. However in Yoga, meditation generally refers to the more formal practice of focusing the mind and observing oneself in the moment. Many people from India and abroad are resorting to yoga and meditation to de-stress and rejuvenate their mind.

Another widely followed phenomena in India is the Doctrine of Karma, that preaches that every person should behave justly as every act or deed comes back in a full circle in one of the births of an individual.

 

About the Author:
Manoj Gursahani is the Chairman of UK ecommerce travel portal- uk.travelmartindia.com. Visit the blog for more travel related issues, travel tips and destinations