The Indian culture has enjoyed an international reputation for the brass and bell metal work. The technology of metalworking had been entrenched in the Indian Culture by 2500 B.C. This technology then was manifested in myriad exquisite and sturdy images and icons.
These images and icons are still found in temples. They are still being produced in household niches such as lamps, platters and other items required for acts of worship. The metals being used for these products are mostly gold, silver, copper, brass, bronze, and other mixed metals and alloys.
Infact the world-famous dancing figure of Nataraja, which is a strong element of the Indian Culture, is a work in the Chola tradition. This piece of art epitomizes the achievement of art in the Indian Culture.
In fact an even more remarkable fact is that most of the everyday household equipments that people in India use are art objects. The simplest of equipments ranging from the kitchen ladle, to the nutcracker, the water-pot, are all perfect examples of the artistic bend in the Indian Culture.
Since at least the eighteenth century, India has been associated in the European imagination as preeminently a land of religion. By the late nineteenth century, Europeans (and increasingly Americans) were coming to India as a landthat promised spiritual release from the weariness of the material life. In the twentieth century, this reputation appeared to be solidified. The struggle for independence came to be waged under the leadership of Gandhi, whose unflinching advocacy of non-violence endeared him to admirers as a man of religion and peace; and in the 1960s, when the enduring image of India was as a land suffused spirituality, Westerners flocked to India to avail themselves of the spiritual advice and teachings of countless number of Indian gurus. This image has taken something of a battering in recent years, and today Westerners, when they think at all of India, think of the country as engulfed by religious 'wars' and hatred, as ensnared by perpetual Hindu-Muslim conflict; meanwhile, the gross materialism of middle-class Indians, given naked encouragement by the state, indigenous and foreign corporate interests, the culture of modernity, and international finance organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank, has all but eroded the image as a land of sublime spirituality. What is indubitably unique about India as a 'land of religions' is that it is the birthplace of several major world religions. Three-fourths of the people describe themselves as adherents of Hinduism, the oldest continuous faith in the world. Though today Hinduism has spread to all parts of the world, taken there by Indian migrants, Hinduism has, and will continue to have, an indelible association with India; and perhaps in no other case is the association between a faith and a land so close as it is with Hinduism. This religion produced a vast corpus of texts: preeminent among them have been the Rig Veda, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, and the Bhagvata Purana; and the commentaries of Shankaracharya; modern-day classics include the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, the Gita-Rahasya of Tilak, and Conversations with Sri Ramana Maharishi.
India is a land of great diversity, in fact the Indian society is more heterogenous than any other society in the world. Four of the major racial groups have met and merged in the India scoiety and as a result there is a complex demographic profile in the Indian society. The Aryans have managed to establish a dominant presence in the Indian society in the regions of the northwest and the Gangetic plain. However the people of the Mongoloid descent have managed to remain undisturbed in the Himalayan region. The affinity of the Mongoloids with the southeast Asian world is remarkable. This affinity is reflected in the motifs that the Mongoloids use in their crafts. Though the Mongoloid people have left a heavy influence on the racial pattern of the eastern tribes of Orissa and Bihar, they stayed on within the central parts of India.
Music has always occupied a central place in the imagination of Indians. The range of musical phenomenon in India, and indeed the rest of South Asia, extends from simple melodies, commonly encountered among hill tribes, to what is one of the most well- developed "systems" of classical music in the world. Indian music can be described as having been inaugurated with the chanting of Vedic hymns, though it is more than probable that the Indus Valley Civilization was not without its musical culture, of which almost nothing is known. There are references to various string and wind instruments, as well as several kinds of drums and cymbals, in the Vedas. Sometime between the 2nd century BC and the 5th century AD, the Natyasastra, on Treatise on the Dramatic Arts, was composed by Bharata. This work has ever since exercised an incalculable influence on the development of Indian music, dance, and the performing arts in general.
A martial arts tradition from the coastal state of Kerala, Kalaripayatuu "the arts of the gymnasium" -- is believed to have a history extending back to the first century AD. It has been suggested that kalaripayatuu was taken by a Buddhist monk from the Malabar coast to China, where it led, in turn, to those martial arts that are now familiar in the West, namely judo, karate, and kung fu. Those proficient in Kalaripayatuu are said to have constituted themselves in medieval times into elite suicide squads, known as "chavars". At some point, the Nairs began to dominate the sport. The Madhya [Middle] Kerala Sampradayam [School] is noted for its accuracy, foot movements (kalams, said to number 64), and striking power; it acquired considerable popularity in the Middle East, where Arab traders who came to the Malabar coast in search of spices first introduced it. The Kadaanada [North Kerala] Sampradayam is known for its emphasis on speed, flexibility, stamina, body balance, and remarkable neuromuscular coordination. At the present moment, Kerala has two kalaris, or gymansia: in principle, the one founded by C. V. Narayanan Nair caters to Hindu students, and the one founded by Haji Ennam Kuty attracts Muslim students, but in fact students from both faiths intermingle. As with many other phenomena, such as yoga -- which in the West has largely been reduced to hatha yoga, or a set of exercises, so occluding the various profound associations yoga in India has had with sadhana (discipline), moksha (spiritual emancipation), brahmacharya (such restraint as makes one capable of approximating the divine) -- the modern instruction of kalaripayatuu has divorced the self-defence aspect of the art form from the philosophy and rituals associated with it over the centuries.
One of the most enduring achievements of Indian civilization is undoubtedly its architecture, which extends to a great deal more than the Taj Mahal or the temple complexes of Khajuraho and Vijayanagara. Though the Indus Valley sites of Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, and Lothal provide substantial evidence of extensive town planning, the beginnings of Indian architecture are more properly to be dated to the advent of Buddhism in India, in the reign of Ashoka (c. 270-232), and the construction of Buddhist monasteries and stupas. Buddhist architecture was predominant for several centuries, and there are few remains of Hindu temples from even late antiquity. Among the many highlights of Buddhist art and architecture are the Great Stupa at Sanchi and the rock-cut caves at Ajanta.
Though no country in the world is as strongly associated with vegetarianism as India, a number of recent studies have purported to establish that by far the greater majority of Indians are non-vegetarians. The history of vegetarianism in India begins not with the Aryans, as is commonly believed by Hindus, but in the aftermath of the introduction of Buddhism and Jainism in the sixth century BCE. Though orthodox Hindus are shocked to hear it, the early Aryans were almost certainly beef-eaters. Unlike the Indus Valley people, who were agriculturists and traders, the Aryans were a pastoral people, and they slaughtered cattle as food. Neither the early Indus Valley people nor the early Aryans venerated the cow. Though the Buddha was an exponent of ahimsa, or non-violence, he was not himself a vegetarian, and it is said that his last meal contained pork. Nonetheless, given the Buddhist emphasis on ahimsa, vegetarianism received much impetus. The Buddhas slightly older contemporary, Mahavira, the founder of the religion that would come to be known as Jainism, took the precepts of ahimsa much further, and it is the complete reverence for all forms of life that made it impossible for those who embraced Jainism to practice agriculture. The upper castes, who found members of their community deserting the "Hindu" fold for Buddhism or Jainism, increasingly came to adopt vegetarianism.
Fairs & Festivals
Though India is often and justly described as a land of many religions and innumerable languages, it might well be described as a land of festivals as well. One conventional authority, the Encyclopedia Brittanica, rather unabashedly and with the customary cavalier attitude with which India can be treated, says of Hindu festivals that these arecombinations of religious ceremonies, semi-ritual spectacles, worship, prayer, lustrations, processions (to set something sacred in motion and to extend its power throughout a certain region), music, dances (which by their rhythm have a compelling force), magical acts -- participants throw fertilizing water or, during the Holi festival, coloured powder at each other -- eating, drinking, lovemaking, licentiousness, feeding the poor, and other activities of a religious or traditional character. No example is adduced of "lovemaking", but one might reasonably infer that the reference is to some tantric practices. more about fairs & festivals...
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