'Indian Art & Culture' by Dr Ausaf Sayeed)
or Bharat, the fifth largest and the second populated
country in the world, is one of the few countries which can
boast of an
ancient, deep-rooted and diverse culture, which stretches back to 5000
years. In ancient times,
was known as 'Bharata Varsha', the country of the legendary king of Puranic
times called Bharat, and was supposed to be a part of the island
continent called 'Jambu Dvipa'. Geologically speaking,
formed part of the Gondwana land and was attached to
, before it was liberated from the
about 135 million years ago and started drifting towards the north and
45 million years ago.
as home to the fossil primate genus known as Ramapithecus,
which lived some 14 million years ago. Researches have also found that a species resembling the Australopithecus
some 2 million years ago. Some anthropologists believe that the
Chotanagpur region witnessed the transformation of Homo
Erectus to Homo Sapiens.
The Siwalik foothills of the north-western
Extensive archaeological excavations carried out at Mohenjodaro in 1922
brought to light the existence of a highly sophisticated and urbanized
culture known as the Harappan Civilization in India dating back to about
2600-2000 B.C., which
dominated the north-western part of the Indian Subcontinent. It is
believed that this civilisation covered an area of 1600 km from east to
west and 1100 km from north to south, which exceeds the area occupied by
contemporary civilisations like the Egyptian and Mesopotamian
The next most important phase in the Indian history came centuries later
with the advent of Aryans from the northwest of
. The Aryan migration to
was gradual and spread over many centuries. The Aryans developed a
remarkable culture, popularly known as Vedic culture, which was markedly
different from the Harappan Culture.
There is an endless diversity in
starting from its physical features to Geologic structure,
fauna and flora, demographic structure, races, languages, religions,
arts and crafts and customs and traditions.
has been variously described as "the Mini World", the
"epitome of the world" and an "ethnological museum".
The diversity in
is unique. Underneath this diversity lies the continuity of Indian
civilization and social structure from the very earliest times until the
's culture has been enriched by successive waves of migration, which
were absorbed into the Indian way of life.
successive waves of migration into India started
with the Indo-Greeks (2nd Century B.C.), followed by the
Kushans (First century A.D.), the incursions from the
northwest by Arab, Turkish, Persian and others beginning in the early
8th century A.D. and culminating with the establishment of the Muslim
empire by the 13th century, and finally the advent of
Europeans -- the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English, the Danes and the
French. These interactions
over the years led to introduction of newer elements in
â€™s arts, music, literature and customs and traditions, thus enriching
our cultural heritage.
From the very ancient times
not only absorbed the foreign cultures into its composite fold, but it
also managed to spread the rich elements of its own unique
in different parts of the world. It is historically recorded that the
Chola rulers had cultural contacts with countries like Ilamandalam
), Sri Vijaya (
), Chavakam (Java), Kamboja (
) and Kadaram (
Evidences of these early Indian contacts are still found in the art and
architecture of these countries. The Southeast Asian countries formed a
stronghold of Indian culture from the early centuries of the Christian
era. The various Southeast Asian languages show strong influence of
Sanskrit. Many earlier
kingdoms of these countries had adopted Hinduism as their religion,
whose influence is perceptible even today.
presents a picture of unity in diversity to which history provides no
parallel. There is complete harmony in
in each of its cultural elements. Religion and philosophy, which forms
the bedrock of any civilisation, are evident in
in the form of all major religions in the world -- Hinduism,
Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Zorastrianism and
Each state of
has its own language and set of tribes, festivals, arts and crafts and
customs and traditions. While there are the Chenchus
tribes in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, Bhils
and Gonds in Central India,
Dogris, Gujjars and Ladakhis in Jammu and Kashmir and Nagas, Bodos, Mishmis, Gharos and Khasis in the Northeast, there are tribes like the Jarewas,
Onges, Andamanis and Sentinelese
in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
There are some festivals, which are typical of particular states,
cities or towns like the Bonnalu of Andhra Pradesh, Pushkar
of Rajasthan, Rajrani of
Orissa, Teej of Rajasthan and Bogali
. Each region is also
identified with its typical folk and tribal dance forms, like Puli
Vesham of Andhra Pradesh, Keli
, Chhau of
and Otthanthulal of
Kerala. Similar parallels can also be drawn in the folk drama, theatre
and arts and crafts.
Development of Arts and Fine Arts
There was a continuous evolution of drama, music, dance, painting and
folk art forms under the different political rules in
that ultimately led to the development of the definite 'Indian' element
in each of these forms. Thus,
within the ambience of Indian culture one can identify 'Indian Music',
'Indian Dance', 'Indian Theatre', 'Indian Literature', 'Indian Fairs and
Festivals' and so on.
has a very long and unbroken tradition, which is an accumulated heritage
of centuries and traces its roots to Vedic
days. Bharata's Natyashastra (4th
Century AD) is a great, comprehensive work on the science and technique
of Indian drama, dance and music.
advent of Muslim rule in
brought in a changed perspective in the style of Northern Indian music.
The traditional Hindu devotional music form of dhruvapad
got transformed into the classical dhrupad
form of singing under the Muslim rule. The khayal developed as a new form of singing in the 18th
century A.D. and became equally popular among Hindus and Muslims.
Different ragas began to be introduced from the medieval times.
Tansen created many new ragas like Darbari Kanada, Darbari Todi,
Miyan Ki Todi, Miya ki Malhar and
Miya ki Sarang, which until
now, are regarded as the foremost ragas of
Sultan Hussain Sarki of Jaunpur introduced ragas like Jaunpuri
tori and Hussaini Kanada. Amir Khusro is
credited with the creation of the Hemant,
Prabhat Kali and Hem Behag
ragas. A large variety of
foreign musical instruments like Harmonium, Sarod, Shehnai, Sitar, Tabla
and Violin were introduced in
to supplement the ancient musical instruments like Flute, Nadaswaram,
Veena, Gootuvadhyam, Thavil, Mridangam and Plain drum.
The six outstanding Sanskrit playwrights of all times, Shudraka, Harsha,
Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti have made tremendous contributions in the field
of dramatics. Kalidasa's Shakuntala,
King Harsha's Ratnavali,
are some of the outstanding Sanskrit plays, which indicate that India
had a highly sophisticated theatre tradition in the ancient times when
in most other countries it was still in its infancy.
Again in the field of literature, the earliest writing can be traced to
the Rig Vedic poetry in
Sanskrit. The Rigveda
consists of 1028 suktas or
hymns that are distributed in ten books called mandalas.
This is perhaps, the
earliest poetry in the world. The two great Sanskrit epics, the Ramayana
and the Mahabharata composed
by Valmiki and Vyasa respectively, along with the Puranas, constitute the pillars of the Indian literature. The Manu
Smriti (1st century B.C.) is the best illustrator of the Dharma-sastras
or Smritis or the Hindu
religious laws. Kalidasa, Bairavi, Sudraka, Vishnu Sharma, Dandin and
others composed several literary masterpieces in the ancient times.
's contribution to the world was also immense in the field of astronomy,
mathematics and Medicine. Aryabhatta was the first to state that the
earth moves round the sun and that the eclipses are caused by the shadow
of the earth falling on the moon. Aryabhatta's Aryabhatiya,
Dasagitika-Sutra and Aryastasata
belonging to the 5th century, Varahamihira's Pancha-siddhantika, Brahmagupta's Brahmasphuta-siddhanta and Khanda-khadyaka,
and Karana-kutuhala and
Bhoja's Raja-mriganka are
important ancient Indian texts on astronomy.
Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to humans, which was
consolidated 2500 years ago by Charaka, the 'Father of Medicine'.
Another ancient Indian, Sushruta, who is considered as the 'Father of
Surgery', is believed to have conducted complicated surgeries using over
125 different surgical equipments. Usage of anesthesia was also well
known in ancient
. Like-wise, detailed references to anatomy physiology, etiology,
embryology, digestion, metabolism, genetics and immunity are found in
many ancient Indian texts.
's most precious gift to the world is zero (0), which was referred to as
Shunya in ancient texts.
Algebra, trigonometry and calculus also came from
India. One of the best-known achievements of the Indian mathematics is the
decimal system. Its first occurrence was on a plate of the year 595 A.D.
where the date 346 A.D. was written in decimal place-value notation.
Aryabhatta, who calculated the value of π as 3.1416, is also
credited with the creation of Algebraic analysis. Budhayana explained
the concept of the Pythagorean Theorem way back in the 6th century.
has two chapters devoted to arithmetic, algebra and geometry. Bhaskara's
Lilavati was for many
centuries a standard work on arithmetic and mensuration in the East.
The world's first university was established in Takshila in 700 B.C.,
where more than 10,500
students from all around the world studied more than
60 different subjects. The
Nalanda, established in the 5th century B.C., was perhaps the greatest centre of
learning in ancient
India. Described as "The Oxford University of Mahayana Buddhism",
it offered wide range of subjects like literature, logic, grammar,
medicine, philosophy and astronomy.
Sanskrit is the mother of all the European languages.
A report in the Forbes magazine of July 1987 described Sanskrit
is the most suitable language for the computer software. Vaishali, in
is acknowledged as the World's
that had a duly elected assembly of representatives and efficient
administration as early as 6th century B.C.
's culture and heritage is so rich and deep-rooted that it may take
several days or even years to understand all its dimensions.
From the time immemorial
has fascinated many a world traveller like Fahien, Hiuen Tsang, Ibn
Batuta, Alberuni, Ferishta, Vasco da Gama, Marco Polo and several
others. Albert Einstein once said: "We owe a lot to the Indians,
who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific
discovery could have been made."
The great German Indologist Max Muller said: "If I were to look
over the whole world to find out the country most richly endowed with
all the wealth, power and beauty that nature can bestow - in some parts
a very paradise on earth - I should point to
. If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed
the choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of
life, and has found solution of some of them, which well deserve the
attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant - I should point
The following quotation of the great American philosopher and writer
Will Durant sums up the divine land called India, thus "India was
the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's
languages; she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the
Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of ideals
embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of
self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother
of us all."