An Outline Of The Cultural Habits And Manners Of India

The cultural habits and manners of the people of a nation have their roots in the ideals and values that a people have their roots in the ideals and values which that nation has cherished and nurtured historically. The ideals and values that people have held dear and have striven to live up to, manifest themselves in the habits, manners, and attitudes of that people. They are a reflection of the cultural heritage of a nation. Historical events, of course, will have their inevitable and inescapable impact on the life of a people, and they have in the case of our nation too. India has had its share of political and economic upheavals: but the vitality of its culture has been such that its fundamentals have remained the same and as strong as ever. It has survived the vicissitudes of history and its spirit has remained intact. The vision that inspired our ancestors five thousand years ago is still with us, giving meaning and purpose to our existence.

Ways of life may vary in this vast subcontinent from region to region; however, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, the basic quality of the culture of the people is spirituality. The sense of the infinite or the vision of a timeless universe is native to the land. Baba says that Indian culture is born of the heart, by which He means that love of God and of all God’s creation is fundamental to Indian culture. In Indian tradition, spiritual values hold supremacy over all materialistic considerations, and the belief that the physical does not get its full sense until it stands in right relation to the supra-physical, i.e., God. In Indian thinking, therefore, everything has to be guided in the perspective of truth. One’s spiritual kinship with all, the oneness of all beings, the unity of all existence, and the universality of the Spirit of God- such eternal truths have been the basic principles that have been guiding, governing and nurturing Indian culture over the ages. Asks Baba: “why is that even if accidentally your foot hits against or touches the body of another person you bow down and do namaskar to that part of the body of that person? ”it is because,” Baba explains, “the Indian belief is that God exists everywhere and that everything is holy and sacred.”

Talking about culture in general, actually no accurate or comprehensive definition of this word, ‘culture’, is possible. Dr. V.K.Gokak has however, provided us with a reasonably good definition, which may be paraphrased as the pursuit of perfection in all walks of life. Besides one’s own habits, attitudes and manners, says Gokak, it covers society as well. It is, as he adds, “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, customs, as well as moral and spiritual values.” In this context, the Indian concept of culture is broad enough to embrace all the aspects of life of its people.

Although Indian culture has its uniquely native qualities that have stood the test of time, it has been indifferent to foreign cultures that have come to its shores. We have absorbed Islamic, Portuguese, French, and most important British influences. The people of India have never closed their doors to outsiders whose culture and religion are different from theirs. India has never prevented the growth of any religious faith; it has always extended its warm hospitality to whosoever came and propagated their faith here. Indians welcomed Jews and the Zoroastrians who were persecuted elsewhere in the world. It may be said that India’s culture, though very Indian at its core, is, in its broad features, a synthesis of many cultures presently.

The impact of the mingling of cultures is particularly evident in the development of Indian fine arts, Indian languages, and in the ceremonies and rituals of the Indian people.

A broad outline of the physical features of our country will tell us why the eating and clothing habits of Indians vary from place to place. India is the seventh largest country in the world. it covers an area of nearly 32,87,782 miles. India’s coastline is over sixty-one hundred kilometers long. the mainland comprises four well-defined regions: the great mountainous zone of THE North and the Northeast; the plains of Ganga and Indus; the desert region; and the Southern peninsula. The important rivers are the Himalayan rivers, the Decan rivers, the coastal rivers, and the inland rivers. There is a tremendous diversity in the country’s climate and physical conditions. India has a great variety of fauna and flora.

The total population of India as on March 1978 is 63.83 crores. Nearly 83% of the population follow Hindu religion. The rest of the population follow other religions, such as Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. Tiny segment of our population is Jewish. Actually, only a small part of the huge population of India lives in our cities. What most city dwellers may not be aware is that nearly 70% of our population lives in rural areas.

We should bear in mind the topography of India and the distribution of its population while talking about the cultural habits and manners of Indians.

FOOD HABITS:

The eating habits of people depend to a great extent on the climate of their region and on its geography. In the cold, mountain states of India, meat eating is common. Fish is the staple food of the coastal people. People in the plain, since they can grow food grains and vegetables, are not dependent on meat and fish for their survival. Although eating habits generally derive from the climate and nature of the region, they are also influenced by the religious sentiments and values of the people. There are millions of Hindus who consider eating non-vegetarian food a perfectly natural thing to do, but there are many more of them who disapprove of it totally. Muslims are generally non-vegetarian, but they do not eat certain kinds of meat.

It is important to explain why so many Hindus are against fish or meat. Killing animals and fish for food is an act of aggression against those helpless creatures of God. This is a strong belief with many Hindus. Another strong belief of theirs is that the flesh of animals and fish is impure (is not Satwic food) and hence is not good for the body. It is their belief that one’s thoughts, words and deeds are influenced by the quality of the food they eat and that vegetarian food promotes a tranquil temperament and benign qualities (Satwic gunas), which would be especially congenial and beneficial for Spiritual life and pursuits. However, it should be clearly understood that vegetarianism is not the same as devotion or spirituality. The latter are chiefly an attitude of the mind, whereas food habits of people generally and largely depend upon family and community traditions, religious beliefs and geographical conditions and resources, and they have to be understood in such contexts.

DRESS HABITS:

Dress habits are partly based on climatic conditions and partly the socio-religious influences. In India, each religion has its own way of dressing, and within each religion, caste and occupational differences express themselves in the type of dress worn by the people. The impact of foreign rule on how people dress is not to be overlooked. By and large, the saree is the most common dress for women and dhoties and jubba for men in India. People in the Punjab have adopted the salwar or baggy trousers as their dress. In Bengal and U.P., the preference is for dhoties, in spite of centuries of Muslim and British influences. The Sikhs do not care for dhoties. They wear loose shirts, breeches, and turbans. The turban has a religious significance. The head dress varies from region to region. In many areas, no head dress is worn. in some parts of the country, men wear hats to indicate their social status. The sherwani and jodhpur have become the dress of men in high government position.

One has to open one’s eye and look around to see the rich variety of styles in dresses worn by Indian men and women. Traditional Indian dresses are ideally suited for the varying weather conditions in India. Young men and women in India have a tendency to look down upon traditionally dressed people who are usually the senior citizens of our country.

This shows lack of culture and understanding if others. The function of clothes is to serve as a vesture for the body and to protect us from heat and cold. Clean clothes are much more important that fancy Western style ones. What one is, is infinitely more important than how one dresses. The best dress, as the ancient Hindu teachers have said, is a good character.

LANGUAGES:

India is one of the richest counties of the world in terms of languages. The government of India has officially recognized 14 Indian languages, each of which has a history of its own. Sanskrit, which is more ancient than Greek or Latin, is the parent language of most Indian languages. Sanskrit was the language in which all great classical literature of India was written, and from it were derived Bengali, Hindi, Gujarati AND Marathi. These languages may be called Aryan languages. Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam languages spoken in the South, are called Dravidian languages. Tamil scholars claim that their language is as ancient as Sanskrit. Although South Indian languages or Dravidian languages are not directly derived from Sanskrit, even they show the great influence of Sanskrit.

All Indian languages are equally good and each of them is spoken by millions of people. It is dangerous to be fanatic about one’s own language. Fanaticism about one’s own language can give rise to linguistic groups which, in turn, will lead to linguistic rivalries. The ultimate result of this would-be chaos and disunity. We should encourage our children to learn as many Indian languages as possible. Knowing more than one Indian language will not only enrich our minds, but will also make us socially and politically more useful in the present cosmopolitan conditions of the country. Linguistic differences are not anything to be angry about. They are a rich heritage of which we must be proud. As Baba has said, “There is only one language, the language of the heart.” A kind heart can establish rapport with anyone.

FINE ARTS
MUSIC:

Indians have been described as a musical people. Our earliest scripture, the Rig- Veda, was originally a collection of hymns sung by sages on the banks of Ganga. Sama- Veda is exclusively in musical form. History tells us that ancient India was full of wandering minstrels and singing saints. Music was a highly developed art in ancient India. One of the greatest treasures on the arts that have come down to us is Bharat Munis Natyasastra which deals with Indian music, dance and drama, in meticulously scientific way.

Ancient India produced an amazing number of classical style and instruments. The impact of music on Indians is universal. Even the most illiterate people of India have their own fascinating folk music. Humming a tune comes naturally to an Indian. Boatmen at the oar, peasant women in the fields, dock-workers heaving a beam or girder, shepherds tending their flock, workers breaking stones on the roadside, men pulling carts laden with merchandise, and priests performing their ceremonies- all sing as they work.

There are two main schools of Indian music: the Hindustani school of North and the Karnataka (Carnataka) school of South India. Although these two schools of music have a few things in common, they do not use the same instruments. Karnataka music is said to be the purer of the two, but Hindustani music is richer in variety. The sitar, sarod, shehnai and tabla are best known Hindustani musical instruments; the veena, violin and the mridangam are the most important instruments played in Karnataka music. Each school has a long history of its own and each school has its brilliant exponent. Both school of music have a strong religious orientation.

India has a rich musical heritage. Even the lives of the people have been deeply affected by folk songs that deal with episodes in the great Indian epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. To be indifferent to our musical heritage is to remain culturally and emotionally impoverished. Among the things that Indians love most, music ranks first.

DANCE:

From earliest times on, dancing was connected with worship in India. In Vedic rituals, dancing played an important role. However, one cannot honestly say that Indians as a people are as fond of dancing as they are of singing. It is of course a fact that dancing never developed as a part of social life in India, as in the West. But India has preserved two forms of dance: classical and folk.

Bharatnatyam is the most beautiful of all the classical forms of dance developed in India. It originated in the South. Today it has exponents and admirers, not only all over India, but also abroad. It is an art that demands years and years of training from its students. To understand and appreciate it, the viewer must master the signs digital and facial, that the dancer uses.

Among North Indian classical dances, the best known is Manipuri. Manipuri does not depend so heavily on signs as Bharatnatyam. Odissi, Katthaka and Kuchupudi are also famous Indian dance forms.

Learning about the history and techniques of these dances is a great intellectual experience; appreciating it on the stage is a deeply satisfying aesthetic experience.

Just as folk songs are an integral part of India’s musical heritage, folk dances are an important part of India’s heritage in dancing. Go to any part of rural India, and you will see villagers dancing and singing when they have a religious ceremony. They dance at festivals and melas. Not all folk dances, nor, for that matter, folk songs are about mythological episodes. Many of them tell us about the lives of the common people and about the heroes and heroines of their community. To know the meaning of Indian folk songs and dances, therefor, is to know something about the past of our rural population and their anecdotes.

ARCHITECTURE:

India has produced some splendid works on architecture. The earliest civilization of India, the Indus Valley civilization, was notes for its architecture in bricks. Books about that civilization tell us that our earliest ancestors had highly advanced notions about architecture. The civilization that followed the Indus Valley civilization, which began the Aryan age in Indian history, introduced a religious element into architecture. The Buddhist Stupa represents the earliest form of religious architecture of this era. The ancient t Buddhists erected many monuments most of which have been either destroyed or ruined. The Stupa of Sanchi is world famous. King Ashoka renovated the Stupa of Sanchi when he became a Buddhist. The Buddhists developed what is known as rock-cut architecture. Among the finest expressions of Hindu architectural designed are the temples of India which are a marvel to behold for native and alien alike. (Hindus build temples wherever they go, even abroad). Many of these mammoth temples of great architectural beauty were destroyed by invading foreigners, but many still remain. The Linga Raja temple of Orissa, the Sun God temple of Konarka, THE Khajuraho temple in MADHYA Pradesh and several others are famous for their architectural excellence. So, do the great temples of the South, built by Dravidian architects. Some of the great temples of the South are the Meenakshi temple in Madurai, the Varadaraja temple in Kanjeevaram, and the Belur, Halebid and Gomatheswar temples in Mysore.

Some of the greatest architectural wonders of India were built by Moghul architects whose names, like the names of the Hindu and Buddhist architects we do not know. The Taj Mahal that Emperor Shah Jahan built needs no introduction. That monumental structure in marble is, as agreed by Indians and foreigners, one of the few architectural wonders of the world. Earlier, during the Moghul period in Indian history, were built several beautiful mosques. One of the rare pillars ever built in the world the Kutub Minar of Delhi, was built during the Slave dynasty of the Moghuls. Fathepur Sikhri which Shah Jehan’s grandfather Akbar built is still one of the great architectural attractions of the North.

The Jains and Sikhs also produced fine specimens of architecture in the North.

Ancient Indians, whether they were Hindus or Muslims or Jains or Sikhs had great talent for architecture, something that modern Indians should be proud of.

PAINTING:

The earliest Indian paintings that have come down to us are frescoes of the Ajanta caves in Aurangabad. Done by unknown Buddhist artists, they tell us how developed the art of painting was in ancient India. Among the best-known schools of painting of ancient times are the Kangra Valley and the Rajasthani schools. The Moghul artists introduced Persian ideas into Indian painting, as they did to Hindustani music. Buddhist, Hindu and Moghul schools of art all show the deep influence of religion on the artists.

People may have different religious ceremonies and practices; but all Indian religions are united in proclaiming one thing, and that is God is one. So, when we look at a Hindu temple, or a Muslim mosque, or Jain temple, or a Sikh Gurudwara, what we see is an expression of faith in God. Divinely inspired art, no matter whether it is Christian or Hindu or Islamic in style and spirit, says the same thing: God is one.

CUSTOMS AND CEREMONIES REALATED TO RELIGION:

The naming of a baby is a big event among Hindus, Muslims and Christians. The Hindus in some areas of the country give as many as three names to a child. The first represents the star under which the child was born (or sometimes the Surname of the family), the second is in honour of one of the elders in the family (or the Father’s name) and the third may be the one the child will actually be called by. Indian Christians, like their counterparts in the West, take the baby to the church for baptism at the hands of the priest or the minister.

In some communities of India, there are initiation ceremonies for the grown-up child. Elders or priests initiate the youngster into life, giving him guidance about how to conduct himself as a Hindu, Christian or Muslim as per their respective religious traditions.

Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Parsees may celebrate the birth or naming of a baby and the confirmation of the child in their faiths differently, but the ceremonies are only outwardly different. Their inner content is the same for all religions. AS Baba has said, “The ornaments may be different, but the gold is the same”.

Indians are known for their fondness for children. Indian adults delight in the company of children. They hug them and fondle them as Westerners seldom do. The physical contact between the children and adults, particularly their parents helps to strengthen the psychological and spiritual bonds between them.

The nest important happy occasion is the wedding in all Indian religions. The Hindu wedding is celebrated in front of the sacred fire, priests chanting the Mantras. The sacred fire is witness of the sacred bond between the bride and the bridegroom. Christian weddings take place in the church before the priest.

All Indians, irrespective of their religion, dress up their brides in bright colours. Although there is much merriment during a wedding and plenty of food to eat, the ceremony itself is a solemn one. The bride and the bridegroom declare in the presence of friends and relatives that they would remain one, no matter what calamity befalls them. For all Indians, the marriage of a man and a woman is the sacred union of two persons who agree to hare each other’s joys and sorrows for a life time. Besides their house-hold companionship, the wife and husband are comrades and co-pilgrims on the spiritual path and they have to strive together for spiritual advancement.

All Indian religions have elaborated funeral rites. Muslims and Christians bury their dead, but Hindus always cremate their dead. The Parsees have their own tower of silence to consign their dead. (The Parsees believe that the earth should not be polluted by dead bodies). The final funeral rite is same in all religions. The Hindus believe in re-incarnation which means that the dead person will be born again in some other form According to Hindu beliefs, birth and death repeat themselves in a cycle until we merge ourselves with God. The Muslims and Christians believe that all the dead will be resurrected on Doomsday or Judgement Day, and will be judged as per their deeds and will be rewarded or punished accordingly.

What we should stress about religious customs in India is that they are not just customs that people blindly follow. They have a meaning and a purpose. They are meant to ease the pain of life and to increase the joys in life; they are meant to guide us through life on the righteous path, which many of us find it difficult to understand.

FESTIVALS:

India is known for its religious festivals. perhaps no country in the world has as many religious festivals as India. All Indian communities have religious festivals, and they have much in common. The sivarathri of the Hindus is a day of fasting and keeping awake at night in an attitude of prayer and supplication. The fasting is for self-purification and self- restraint. Orthodox Hindu fast on every moonless eleventh day of the month, which they call ekadasi. A similar day is observed by Muslims on the 27TH day of Ramzan. It is a moonless night and is known as Shab-e-kaddar. Devotees keep awake and pray for Allah’s blessings. Again, in the 8th lunar month on the 14th night, the devout Muslims keep awake and pray for prosperity. There is another night in the 7th month of the lunar year (27th moonless night) known as shab-e-miraJ ON WHICH THE ORTHODOX Muslims keep awake the whole night. This is known as night of ascension. The prophet Mohammad was supposed to have read communion with God on that night.

THE Christians observe Good Friday as a day of fasting and prayer. They spend three hours in the church (symbolic of the three hours Christ spent on the Cross), reading the Bible, praying, or listening to the service.

It is the day on which Christ was crucified. LENT is an important period for Christians. This season lasts for forty days (excluding Sundays). These forty days have a great significance for Christians, because Christ fasted and lived in the wilderness for forty days before he started his ministry of God on earth. For Christians, these forty days are for meditation, self-examination, self-purification, and for drawing closer to GOD. It begins on Ash-Wednesday. Ash is a symbol of repentance, humility and simplicity. For Christians, it has the same meaning as vibhuthi has for Hindus. The meaning of fasting and keeping awake at night is the same in all religions. Gandhiji fasted whenever he wanted to purify himself. The young students must realize that all religions of the world uphold the same principles of love, sacrifice and self-denial.

All the major religions have festivals related to their prophet’s lives or with God’s incarnations or avathars. Most Hindu festivals commemorate various manifestations of Godhood. Gokulashtami, mahasivarathri, dasara and numerous other Hindu festivals are all centered around God or around the manifestations of God and so are the Muslim’s Ramzan, bakrid and id. Christmas, of course, is a celebration of the birth of Christ.

Rural India celebrates all the festivals of urban India, but in a smaller ay. Rural Hindus and Muslims believe in many village deities. One of the fascinating things about rural festivals is that Hindus, Muslims and Christians often celebrate many festivals together in a spirit of communal harmony. As Baba has said, there is only one caste, the caste of humanity; there is only one religion, the religion of love.

Indians as a people are deeply religious-minded. It has never been possible for Indians to think of life independently of religion. Though emotional and at times superstitious, Indians no matter what their religion is, are a warm and hospitable people. The family plays a very important role in the Indian way of life. The ties among members of an Indian family are much stronger than in a Western family. All Indian religions demand that youngsters show respect to their elders. Looking after parents in their old age is a sacred duty. Indians believe in old traditions, but they are very tolerant of traditions and customs other than theirs. They attach great importance to character and try to develop fine morals in their youngsters.

The Indian outlook of tolerance, forbearance and fortitude is the result of the Indian people’s reverence for their past, it’s myths, rituals, literature, religious customs and its fine arts. We must strive to make our past relevant to our present in a meaningful way.

Let us prove ourselves worthy of our great heritage. Let us try to live in the perspective of truth, uploading the five cardinal principles, the panch Sheela of our sanathana dharma- Sathya, dharma, santhi, prema, and ahimsa. Let us try to spread the SAI MESSAGE of love and purity of life and make the world a happier place for all. VANDE MATARAM!

There is only one Religion, – the Religion of love;

There is only one Caste, – the Caste of humanity;

There is only one language, – the language of the heart;

There is only one God, – HE IS OMNIPRESENT.

Cultural Habits And Manners Of India – Quiz

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