This was an article i wrote about a year ago, will be published in the next issue of Bharati (IITMadras), I don’t see any signs of the magazine hitting the hostals, i decided to make it my blog. Upon the suggestion from the editor, the title ‘composite culture in india’ was changed to ‘assimilative indian culture’
Assimilative Indian culture
Few countries in the world have such an ancient and diverse culture as India’s. Stretching back in an
unbroken sweep over 5000 years, Indian culture, down the ages, has developed in to a highly composite culture which has been enriched by waves of migration which were absorbed into the Indian way of life. The assimilative culture has manifested itself into a strong force. This manifestation is the result of co-existance of so many different cultures that were fused into ours in the course of time. As a result out culture became enriched.
The source of different elements of the Indian culture is not unique. The dynasties like that of Aryans, Mugals etc. have infused diversity in our culture. The roots of Indian civilization stretch back in time to pre-recorded history.
Indus valley civilization is one of the earliest knows civilizations in India. The prosperity of this civilization is well known. Even in the 4th or 3rd millennium BC, the urban developement, that had taken place was phenomenal. Roads were built perpendicularly, vast granaries, brick built houses were very common. Though it was mainly an agrarian society, its advancement in urban planning is undisputed. Recent excavations have shown remarkable similarities between the current indian culture and the indus valley civilization. Recent historians and research suggest the the Aryan (vadic) civilization and Indus vally civilization are one and the same.
Our culture is, to large extent, influenced by the aryans. They intermingled with the people, and gradually associated themselves with the social framework. They were the ones who developed the language of sanskrit, which even today is considered to be the most organised language. They composed the hymns of the four vedas, which are the fundamental base of hinduism. Hinduism constitutes eighty percent of today’s population. Earlier, vedas were written on the banks of saraswati and then on the gangetic plains owing to a natural shift that dried saraswati river. Ramayana and Mahabharata is thought is have been written during this period.
6th century BC saw the rise of the two significant religions in the country, jainism and buddhism. Their popularity spread owing to their message of non violence and practicality. In the Third century BC, it was the turn of the Mauryan empire to hold the rule in the country. They extended their empire over the entire sub-continent. The greatest king of this empire, Ashoka, converted to Buddhism later in life and spread the message through a script called Brahmi.
In 326 BC, Greeks tried and succeed in invading India. Through the passages of time and wars, Greek established their supremecy. The interaction between the two cultures resulted in a change in art form. Sculptures made during that era mark a Greek influence. After Ashoka’s death, the Mauryan empire perished.
4th century AD saw the Gupta empire rule the nation. Hindism consolidated its position. This era saw the emergence of the classical art forms and development of various facets of Indian culture. This age registered considerable progress in literature and science, particularly in astronomy and mathematics. Aryabhatta, who lived during this age, was the first Indian who made a significant contribution to astronomy.
Meanwhile, South india remained largly unaffected by the changes in the northern part of the country. Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism established themselves comfortably. The great dynastyies here were the Cholas, Pandyas, Cheras, Chalukyas and Pallavas. The dravidian Architecture flourished during this period. This region was propelled by the trade links with the African nations. New sea routes were discovered for the development of trade. Arab traders permanently settled down in Kerala. They were allowed to practice their religion. This further led to the enrichment of the ‘Indian Culture’. St. Thomas brought christianity into the country during this period.
The impact of mugal reign in India is phenomenal. Our life style changed in every walk of life including the cloths we wear, the language we speak, architecture, of which Taj Mahal is the best example. This was not just one sided. Even the Islamic culture was influenced by us. Urdu, for instance, began to written in the devanagri script. Islamic Sufi cult and hindu bhakthi cult made their presence felt. Followers of Guru Nanak, who founded the Sikh religion, soon became popular. The co-existence of hindus and muslims brought more glory to the Indian culture. The mightiest king of Mugal empire, Akbar himself set an example by getting married to a hindu princess. Marathas played a significant role in shaping the Indian culture. Though their kingdom did not grow in size, they had a considerable hold over their region.
Final intruder into India were the Britishers. French, Dutch and portuguese had their eyes on India, but succumbed to the power of Englishmen. The effect of British on the nation need not be told. However, it is important to mention that foundation of industrialization and commercialization was laid by them.
The need for public awareness on the independence triggered the wave of social reforms. This brought major changes the social outlook of the country. Festivals were used to campaign for the Public outcry against British. For instance, Bal Gangadhar Tilak popularised Ganesha festival in Maharastra. Even to this day it is celebrated in a large scale in that region. Social reforms in society took place during that period.
Our culture did not decay as a result of wars, battles or invasions. The influx of their culture preserved our culture and helped it grow. To this day the people are fascinated by the composite culture of ours. Emerging sceanario of our composite culture is tough to predict. The growth of our culture is unparalleled. Truely our culture symbolizes unity in diversity.