Diversity of India – Geographical and Cultural contexts

The diversity of India is unique. India has retained its diversity from an ancient time to till date. Being a large country with large population, India presents endless varieties of physical features and cultural patterns. It is a land of diversity in race, religion, caste, language, landforms, flora, fauna and so on. In short, India is “the epitome of the world”. Some of the important forms of diversity in India are:

Geographical Diversity:

Spanning an area of 3,287,263 square kilometers, India is a vast country with great diversity of physical features like dry deserts, evergreen forests, snowy Himalayas, a long coast and fertile plains. Certain parts in India are so fertile that they are counted amongst the most fertile regions of the world, while other are so unproductive and barren that hardly anything can be grown there.

The region of Indo-Gangetic valley belongs to the first category, while certain areas of Rajasthan fall under the latter category. From the point of climate, there is a sharp contrast; India has every variety of climates from the blazing heat of the plains, as hot in places as hottest Africa to freezing points of the Himalayas as in the Arctic.

The Himalayan ranges which are always covered with snow are very cold while the deserts of Rajasthan are well known for their heat. As India is dependent on Monsoons, the rainfall is not uniform across the country. While the places like Mawsynram and Cherapunji in Meghalaya, which are considered to be the places which receives highest amount of rainfall in the world gets rainfall almost all the year, places like Sindh and Rajasthan gets hardly any rainfall in an year.

This variation in the climate has also contributed to a variety of flora and fauna in India. In fact, India possesses the richest variety of plants and animals known in the world. The unique geographic demographics also host a unique eco-system rich with vegetation, wildlife, rare herbs, and a large variety of birds.

Cultural Diversity of India:

Indian culture is one of the oldest and unique. In India, there is an amazing cultural diversity throughout the country. The South, North, and the Northeast have their own distinct cultures and almost every state has carved its own cultural niche. If compare, there is hardly any culture in the world that is as varied and unique as India’s.

India, a place of infinite variety, is fascinating with its ancient and complex culture, dazzling contrasts and breathtaking physical beauty. India is the best place in the world to see the different cultures from modern to ancient and find the similarities in these diversified cultures.

The years of foreign rule, religious movements, and spiritual discoveries in the ancient land of India has given way to a rich culture of social habits, festivals and customs. Indian culture has never been rigid and that’s why it’s surviving with pride in the modern era. It timely imbibes the qualities of various other cultures and comes out as a contemporary and acceptable tradition. The flexibility and movement with time has made Indian Culture fashionable and acceptable too.

  • Linguistic Diversity:

In India there is a good deal of linguistic diversity. The census of 1961 listed as many as 1652 languages and dialects. India’s schools teach 58 different languages. The number of languages is much higher and Census, 2001 recognized 122 languages belonging to five families of Indo-European, Dravidian, Austro-Asiatic, Tibeto-Burmese and Semito-Hamitic. The nation has newspapers in 87 languages, radio programs in 71, and films in 15.  In terms of the number of languages spoken in the country, the situation was complex indeed and yet in terms of the hierarchy between the languages among different groups there was a stable pattern which did not allow India to be reduced into a “veritable Tower of Babel”.

Since most of these languages are spoken by very few people, the subsequent census regarded them as spurious but the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India recognizes 22 languages. These are Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Sindhi, Santali, Boro, Maithili and Dongri.  These languages belong to two linguistic families: Indo-Aryan and Dravidian.

This linguistic diversity notwithstanding, India has always had a sort of link language, though it has varied from age to age. In ancient times it was Sanskrit, in medieval age it was Arabic or Persian and in modern times we have Hindi and English as official languages.

  • Indian Festivals:

India is undoubtedly, a land of festivals. There are festivals for every season, for every legend and myth, every region and every religious place. Some are exclusive to certain communities and religions while others have a national and secular character about them. The numerous and varied festivals that are held throughout the year offer a unique way of seeing Indian culture at its best.

  • Indian Cuisine:

The cuisine in India is classified into three major categories. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Sattva stands for balance, Rajas for Passion and Tamas for indulgence. Food is consumed according to the lifestyle of a person. India is known for its love for food and for its diverse multi cuisine. The cooking style varies from region to region. Major Indian foods include South Indian, Punjabi, Mughali, Bengali, Kashmiri, Rajasthani and Gujarati.

  • Indian Art forms:

Dance, drama, theatre or music, every art is unique in itself. In India, religions, mythology and classical literature form the basis of most of the performing arts.

  • India has thousands of year old tradition of fine arts and classical and folk music and dances. Some of the world-famous dance forms that originated and evolved in India are Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Mohiniattam and Odissi. Indian dance too has diverse folk dance forms such as Bhangra of Punjab, Yakshagana of Karnataka, Bihu of Assam and Chhau of Jharkhand.
  • The music of India plays a very important role in the lives of Indians. The music of India includes multiple varieties of religious, folk, pop and classical music.
  • Indian architecture has evolved through various ages in different regions of the country. Sculpture and architecture in India dates back to the Indus valley civilization, where stone and bronze figurines have been discovered. Indian temple carvings have their unique styles which are world famous.
  • The earliest Indian paintings were the rock paintings, Cave paintings such as Ajanta, Ellora and temple paintings.
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