The India culture is multi-faceted to say the least, mostly due to its wide variety of religions as well as the many languages spoken. These are made even more diverse by the existence of indigenous groups and tribes that are each unique in their faith and linguistic repertoires, all of which dwell together in one land.
One of the main features of Indian culture is its rigid hierarchy within the social arenas. Social classes are defined and maintained by specific hereditary groups, which are sustained by ensuring that all members marry within a specific class, ethnic group or social group. This is called endogamy. These groups are termed castes and this caste system is strictly adhered to in the vast majority of the families and societies of India. The family is headed by the patriarch (the father) and usually includes a number of generations within one household. This has not changed much in recent years, although urbanisation is resulting in more households consisting of just the parents and their children.
The Indian culture does not advocate divorce and, although most marriages are arranged by the parents and other relatives, the divorce rate is far lower than in many other lands. The bride and groom have to consent to their families’ choices, and marriages are generally long term. Half of the women are married before the age of 18 years. The culture of this country is particularly syncretic in nature. This means that there are a number of different beliefs and faiths being combined in an effort to create a unity despite basic differences. Usually, it is key thoughts, motivations and ideals that are identified and merged as bases for the entire society, rather than trying to get everyone to subscribe to one faith, religion, political opinion and so on. Cultural pluralism is another term used to define Indian culture. This refers to the large number of small groups (of languages, religions, social sectors, etc…) within one country, each of which enjoys the general acceptance of the remaining population. This sort of culture is not only about living without warring against one another, but about seeking qualities in the other groups that are worth imitating and integrating these into the larger society. Even certain aspects of the lives and cultures of immigrants or those entering into India for political reasons are considered, refined and, if desirable, adopted.
Of course, any culture is also defined by its cuisine, art, religion and similar components. India is known the world over for its superior food and the fascinating blends of spices that create such stimulating taste sensations. Rice is a staple food in India, although wheat is also recognised as such, particularly in the northern areas. Black pepper and chilli are amongst the favourite flavourants.
Indian clothing is rich in colour and the fabrics boast detailed embroidery, beadwork and embossing. The specific styles and colours used vary in the different areas of the country. Women generally wear draped saris, and men can wear a lungi (also a draped item) or the more conventional shirt and trousers. Clothing is designed to be in line with religious requirements, while also keeping the heat and sun at bay in this hot land.
The music of India is varied. Regional folk music is juxtaposed by the popular music being aired on the radio or television at the time. Generally, traditional Indian music has two facets – Folk and Classical. This is also true of their dances. Their theatre performances as well as their recent films usually include dance and music in the storyline to create a dynamic and emotional presentation.
To learn about the culture of another country is to enrich one’s self with outside influences, to choose to adopt or leave foreign practices, ideals and designs, creating a mosaic within one’s own identity.