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.
The Siwalik foothills of the north-western
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.
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
’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.