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Indian culture

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

An Indian woman carrying on with her work. 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 ones self with outside influences, to choose to adopt or leave foreign practices, ideals and designs, creating a mosaic within ones own identity.

The people

The people of India reflect the countrys rich diversity in terms of religion, language, landscape and culture. However, a common defining feature is this nations focus on the community and on sharing resources, time and celebrations. History and tradition is very important to Indian folk, who make these elements integral parts of their daily lives, worship, dress, food and family customs (e.g. weddings). While the details may differ from one region to the next, they are still common features amongst all Indians. The differences in cultural elements amongst these people are usually as a result of geographical positioning and outside influences. For instance, the clothing and food in the cold Himalayan areas will be very different to those in the far warmer deltas of the East. In addition, some areas

have had more exposure to the western world and are, therefore, more exposed to modern trends and customs. The people in these regions have adopted less traditional approaches to working, studying, marrying and religious practices. Indian people act as a community. Weddings, funerals and births are celebrated by all of the members in a particular

Group of Rural Indian Children with their Grandmother dvillage or town, creating a sense of unity amongst the individuals. People will arrive at the celebrations bearing food and gifts, assisting with the setting up, cleaning and cooking. This cooperation engenders a sense of true community and mutual benefit, drawing these people closer together. The Indian culture trickles down to an individual level, so that each person demonstrates an attitude of tolerance, empathy and responsibility for those around them. The result is an empathetic, cooperative nation that seeks the good of others. This is certainly a desirable attitude to display, coveted by those in lands of unrest. The identity of Indian people has much to do with the caste system. This system originated from the period after the Aryan invasion and saw the people dividing themselves into five castes. Each caste belongs to a certain social, cultural and economic group. The lowest group would be responsible for garbage collection and sewerage eradication as they are considered to be the least cultured and educated. This caste is followed by the shudras, who work on the farms and in the homes of others, but own no land themselves. This has the highest population in India. The vaishyas are farmers or traders who own their own land and business, followed by the warriors, or Kshatriya. The Brahmans refer to the priests and leaders of the country and are considered to be the highest class in India. Within the castes are many grey areas, categories that cannot clearly be defined. While this system has developed and the lines have blurred somewhat in modern times, many Indian people still adhere strictly to the caste system, which dictates that only couples from the same caste can marry, amongst other laws. India is a colourful land, enriched by its complex history and religions as well as by the unique approach of the individuals, seeking to live an integrated and united life. As Indian folk spread across the world, occupying other lands, they continue to maintain this sense of unity, not only

with other Indians, but also with foreigners. This should be viewed as an important example for others to imitate. Mahatma Gandhi Mahatma Gandhi, formally named Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was born in 1869 (Porbandar) and died in1948, after leaving an indelible footprint on the world, its politics and its religions. Gandhi was born into an influential family and received a superior education at University College in London, where he studied law. After efforts to change the legal system in Bombay (known today as Mumbai), Gandhi was transferred to Durban, South Africa, as a legal advisor in 1893. South Africa was known for its racial inequality until the late 20th century. The struggle for human rights among non-white South African residents was a major cause of concern for Mahatma Gandhi and he immediately began his non-violent campaigning for equality across colour-, religious- and racial barriers. His efforts led to major opposition, despite the fact that he always went about his endeavours peacefully and respectfully. He was badly humiliated and attacked by a group of white citizens in 1896. After this episode, Gandhi encouraged non-whites to adopt a method of non-compliance, a peaceful rebellion to the legislated inequalities inflicted upon these people. He termed his attitude Satyagraha, which means truth and firmness in Sanskrit, and aptly describes his approach. After the Boer War, where Gandhi headed up an ambulance service for British soldiers, he established a community in Durban for Indian folk, which he called Tolstoy Farm, after the author Leo Tolstoy. This was in 1910.

1948 Indian postage stamp-Mahatma Gandhi

Four years later, Mahatma Gandhis efforts received some recognition for their consistency and prominence in local government. In response to his ongoing fights, Indian residents of South Africa were able to marry one another legally and were exempt from poll tax. He felt satisfied that he had accomplished an important part of his mission and returned to his homeland. However, this did not mean the end of his efforts, for these continued back home, where he joined the campaign for India to become independent from British rule. For this initiative, he used the same method of firmness and truth; resisting the British Empire, while avoiding violence at all times. This movement became very popular and effective, spreading across the sub-continent and influencing the mindsets and attitudes of citizens and politicians alike. Despite imprisonment, beatings and other significant obstacles, Gandhi accomplished several major achievements in religious and political arenas. This was a man that refused to live a life of opulence, always maintaining a simple lifestyle and refusing the earthly possessions that came with political prominence. He lived on fruit and vegetables and always wore only a loincloth and shawl, which were the identifying clothes of the lowliest people in the Indian culture. He spent his worship time fasting, meditating and praying as a prime example to those around him. For this reason, he was soon dubbed Mahatma, which means that he had a very special soul. Because of his commitment to a method of peaceful rebellion, rather than one of violence, England responded by halting their violent reaction to such a rebellion. It was deemed futile and damaging. Eventually, England stopped interfering with India altogether as a direct result of the extent of Gandhis influence on the country. India eventually gained independence after World War II, shortly before this brave ambassador passed away. Gandhi is revered the world over for his wise observations of mankind, Although a Buddhist, he was able to appreciate many Christian teachings and beliefs, using these to awaken those who claimed to subscribe to such ideals, revealing their own hypocrisies. Some of the better known quotes include: Be the change you want to see in the world. Nobody can hurt me without my permission. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind. The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

Jawaharlal Nehru Jawaharlal Nehru was Indias first Prime Minister, its longest serving Prime Minister, a key figure in the countrys fight for independence from British rule and the successor to the revered

Mahatma Gandhi. He was born in 1889 and died in 1964. His father, Motilal Nehru, was also a prominent figure in the struggle to gain independence and was a politician and a barrister. Jawaharlal Nehru was educated at home and then in Britain. He attended an independent boys school in Harrow and then Trinity College at the esteemed University of Cambridge. He studied law and was a fully fledged lawyer by 1912. At a young age, he became the leader of the Indian National Congress under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi. Nehru was particularly in favour of Gandhis non-violent approach to conveying ideas and achieving difficult, sometimes illegal, objectives in the name of equality and independence. Eventually, he became this groups president. It was during his presidency that Gandhi requested the Civil Disobedience Movement (1930), which was a success and forced Britain to take notice of the dire need for change in the political running of India. This Congress enjoyed widespread popularity and Nehru was elected its president in 1936, 1937 and 1946.

Jawaharlal Nehru on Indian postage stamp In 1945, after serving three years in prison for his part in the Quit India Movement, Nehru played a key function in the negotiations that, just two years later, led to the emergence of the powers of India and Pakistan. This resulted in the subcontinents partitioning and an entirely new procedure of governance being implemented. When India finally gained independence from the rule of Britain and its Queen in 1947, Nehru had the grand privilege of hoisting the flag of the newly governed country. Because of his respect for and adherence to the principles of Mahatma Gandhi, as well as his desires for the country of his birth, this was a particularly proud and significant moment for Nehru. This had lifelong implications for all Indians, and his years of fighting had finally come to fruition. Nehru demonstrated particular concern for the financially inferior and the underprivileged sectors of Indian society. He also supported the ideals of democracy and liberalism. These values and priorities motivated him to institute policies that worked towards bettering the quality of life for these down-trodden ones. Many of the policies implemented are still in use today. Because of

the long-standing nature of his position, he ensured that these principles were inculcated into the minds and hearts of his people over years of repetition and consistency. Since Nehrus rule, his daughter (Indira Gandhi) and his grandson (Rajiv Gandhi) have also been elected as Indias Prime Ministers. Jawaharlal Nehru made some poignant statements during his time in Indias political arena. Some of these include: A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new; when an age ends; and when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance. Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit. Democracy and socialism are means to an end, not the end itself. Facts are facts and will not disappear on account of your likes. Failure comes only when we forget our ideals and objectives and principles. Great causes and little men go ill together. Loyal and efficient work in a great cause, even though it may not be immediately recognized, ultimately bears fruit. Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people. Swami Vivekananda Swami Vivekananda achieved acclaim for his being the most well known and influential spiritual leader of Narendranath, a Hindu religion of India. He was born in Kolkota (then known as Calcutta) in 1863 and died a premature death in 1902 at just 39 years of age. He was the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the founder of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. Vivekananda was especially acclaimed for his poignant philosophies and his positive messages to the young members of Indian society. He also approached many social issues, handling them in line with Hindu teachings and Vedanta philosophies, about which he lectured extensively. Vivekananda was known as a child enthusiastic in sports like wrestling and fencing. He also excelled academically and in the musical field. After school, he attended college and studied western philosophy, western logic, philosophy and the history of Europe. These subjects encouraged him to explore religion and faith more deeply, seeking a supreme God to worship and know. He tried various denominations, but was not satisfied with what he learnt. It was only when he discovered Sri Ramakrishna that he felt he had found a stable, real solution to his

questions about God. This mentor exposed ideas and beliefs that had never been explained to Vivekananda before. When Ramakrishna died of throat cancer in 1886, Vivekananda and other disciples of this great teacher committed themselves to a life of monkhood. They gave up their earthly, physical pleasures and moved into an old house, eating alms and relying on wealthier disciples to sustain them.

Swami Vivekananda Vivekananda established the Ramakrishna Mission, which is one of the biggest monastic orders in Hindu India. This organisation was designed to provide education with the focus on spiritual and moral matters. In the late 1890s, Vivekananda travelled to the United States of America and addressed the Parliament of Religions with the famous introduction, Sisters and brothers of America. These words became the identifying mark of this great speaker and philosopher, earning him global acclaim. His appearance in America is also believed to have sparked the interest in the Hindu system of beliefs in nations other than India. Shortly after this famous address, Vivekananda set up Vedantic centres in New York City and London. He began lecturing to university students in the United States and the United Kingdom, engendering in them a curiosity and interest in the Hindu religion and the ideals it set forth. He continued to travel, teach and expose the intricacies of Hinduism until 1897, when he returned to his homeland, India. It was only five years later that he died.

Some famous quotes of Swami Vivekananda: We are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If what we are now has been the result of our own past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in future can be produced by our present actions; so we have to know how to act. You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul. We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far. You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself. The first sign of your becoming religious is that you are becoming cheerful

Festivals Festivals and religious celebrations form a key part of Indian culture and the lives of the people. These are usually celebrated with a great deal of enthusiasm and are times for the entire community to join together in happy throngs, paying homage to the gods or attending the events that are being celebrated. These festivals take place all through the year and for a variety of different reasons. Some festivals commemorate the beginning of a new season, others are for the birthdays of one of the hundreds of gods and yet others are conducted to remember important historical events. As with many other facets of Indian culture, the different areas of this subcontinent may celebrate the same festival in different ways. However, they are united by their recognition of each celebration, regardless of their methods. There are countless celebrations that take place. A few examples are: Diwali is the most important Hindu festival and involves a great deal of ceremony and joy. It is called the Festival of

An Indian woman holding traditional lamps on the occasion of Diwali festival in India Lights because small clay lamps are lit in everybodys homes beginning on the 15th day of Kartika (a Hindu month, which is usually around November on other calendars) and lasting for five days. This is the beginning of the Hindu and Gujarati New Year. In addition, elaborate fireworks provide further illuminated beauty to this colourful event. Candles are placed all over the house and roof, along with mango leaves and flowers. This festival transcends classes and cultures, uniting the entire nation in festivity. Pongal is a South Indian Hindu festival that lasts for four days and observes the harvest abundance. The overall theme is one of happiness as a result of plenty of food. Each of the four days has its own significance: Day one homes are cleaned and unwanted items are burned in a bonfire. Day two the most important day, the sun god (Surya) is worshipped and the women decorate their courtyards with kolams. Day three the cows and buffaloes are thanked for their hard work in ploughing the fields that are now yielding abundant vegetation. Day four the entire community is outdoors for a picnic. Over the Pongal celebration, the new rice is cooked until it literally overflows from the pots in order to indicate the rich supply of food. Urban cultures generally tend to celebrate only the second day of this festival, while the rural communities continue to maintain traditions. This is possibly due to the fact that the rural folk are far more affected by the harvest. Rakhi is a festival that recognises and honours the bond between siblings. This is in line with Indias focus on family values and a close-knit community. It focuses on the love and connection amongst siblings and is celebrated as an attempt to overcome evil forces that may try to split families. Sisters will pray for their brothers to be healthy, strong and prosperous, while brothers pray for their sisters to be protected and assisted. Even siblings that no longer live in the same country as one another will make an effort to don their traditional gear and celebrate this festival.

Bakri-Id is a Muslim festival, also known as Id-ul-Zuha. This is a day of sacrifice that Muslims celebrate regardless of where they are in the world. The basis for the celebration lays upon an ancient legend that bears remarkable similarity to the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Christian Bible. It tells of Allahs dream, in which he tells his prophet, Ibrahim, to kill his son (Ismail) as a sacrifice. Out of faith, Ibrahim is prepared to do it. Ismail blindfolds him and, when he thinks that he has killed his son, he removes the blindfold to find a dead ram in Ismails place. To show their faith, Muslims sacrifice an animal to Allah on this day. Music The culture of India is defined largely by its music. This is true of many countries, as music bears testimony to the lives, ideals, values and desires of the people that listen to it and produce it. Music has been used in worship for centuries, giving it more import and significance within the culture than many other aspects. India boasts a wide variety of styles in terms of their music. The following are some examples: Classical Music The Classical genre comprises Hindustani music and Carnatic music. Hindustani music can be dated back to about 1000 BCE (Before our Common Era) and was one of the first styles that involved singing to the music notes, rather than chanting the words. This style of music displays distinct Persian influences. The Carnatic music originated in the 1400s of our Common Era (CE) and is completely melodic. The melody is sung vocally, but no words are used. This is about the rhythm and the melodic structure. Folk Music There are many categories of folk music.

The ethnic Indian instrument called the Tanpura with a beautiful design a) Bauls this name comes from batul, a Sanskrit word that means divinely inspired insanity. The instruments used to create this sound are the khamak, ektara and dotara. Bauls is about finding the internal ideal, a rather spiritual and complex process. b) Bhangra this music was formed to celebrate the festival of the Sikhs and is more dynamic and fun in style. These lyrics usually incorporate history and political struggles. c) Bhavageete emotional poetry is accompanied by a light tune for a soft, but penetrative, effect. d) Lavani this remains one of the most popular forms of traditional music and combines the song with a dance. It is usually sung by women and drumming features in its structure as it is performed in a fast tempo. Popular Music The music that is played in Indian movies and Bollywood productions is the most popular, making up almost three quarters of the countrys total music sales. This trend began when classical styles of music were combined with a completely modern approach, making for a unique and interesting style that proved very popular amongst young and old alike. The stars in these films have fast become acclaimed celebrities, even in the western world. It was in the 1970s that musicians in the western world began to use influences from India to enhance their songs and melodies. While this became a sort of cult genre to a small group of

fans, some of it was also popular amongst the more mainstream public. At this stage, it was dubbed fusion and was part of the mass rebellion against what had previously been considered to be normal and right. Today, the world as a whole is characterised by a sort of internationality, where borders are blurred and nations have mingled. There are no longer faraway lands as technology continues to shrink the planet. It is in this way that Indian music has spread its reach to many different genres and continues to influence and be influenced by them.

Sport Although the national sport of India remains hockey, cricket is still its most popular. Other popular sports include football, lawn tennis, chess and golf. India has featured on the global platform for its achievements in cricket. Cricket originated in England as far back as the 1500s, becoming its national sport 200 years later. When the English colonialists started occupying large areas of India, they introduced the local people to this batand-ball team sport. In recent decades, the Indian cricket teams have travelled all over the world for important matches, winning numerous awards and creating sporting heroes for fans everywhere. The national team won the Cricket World Cup in 1983 and the ICC World Twenty20 in 2007. In 2002, they tied with Sri Lanka for the ICC Champions Trophy. The Board of Control for Cricket in India controls and administers this sport. Major local tournaments include the Ranji Trophy, Deodhar Trophy, Irani Trophy and Duleep Trophy. The national football team of India is rising in its skills and acclaim. They have repeatedly won the South Asia Football Federation Cup. While they are not globally acknowledged for their football achievements as yet, the capable team continues to grow and develop.

1951 Asian Games torch. Traditional sports, such as Kabaddi and Gilli-danda, are very popular amongst the locals. Kabaddi was first started in South Asia and involves two teams on opposite halves of the field. Each team takes a turn to send one man into the opposing teams half. This man is called the raider. The raiders job is to wrestle or tag members of the opposite team and then to return to his own half of the field. This is all done without breathing. He may only resume breathing once he is back on his teams territory. Gilli-danda is played mostly by the youngsters living in the rural areas. The gilli and the danda are both wooden sticks, the danda being the longer of the two. The gilli is tapered on either side. The player uses the danda to hit the gilli (similar to a bat and a ball) and the rest of the game is similar to cricket. However, the gilli is not thrown to the player striking it. Rather, it is placed at an angle in a hole in the ground. The striker hits one end of it to cause it to fly into the air, at which time he strikes it. India awards players and coaches for outstanding performances in their fields. The highest awards to receive are the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the Arjuna Award for players and the Dronacharya Award for coaches. India has hosted or is hosting the following important sporting events:

1951 Asia Games 1982 Asia Games 1996 Cricket World Cup 2010 Commonwealth Games 2011 Cricket World Cup While Indias population remains one of the highest in the world, it has achieved relatively few international or Olympic awards. This is due to limited infrastructure, lack of resources, malnutrition and poverty, amongst other determining factors. However, as the economy, literacy rates and education initiatives of this developing country continue to improve, the outlook for a veritable sporting giant is a realistic one. CricketCricket is the most popular sport in India, despite hockeys being its official game. It is managed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, which is the wealthiest cricket board in the world. The national team, nicknamed the Men in Blue, participate in various major tournaments all over the world. These include the Cricket World Cup, ICC World Twenty20 and ICC Champions Trophy. In addition, they play the Under-19 Cricket World Cup and the Women's Cricket World Cup, although these are not as widely broadcast. The national team first played in 1721. Cricket originated in England in the 16th Century of our Common Era (CE). Always considered to be a gentlemans sport, it fast became this countrys most popular game. In the 1700s, it was declared the national sport of England. British colonialists began to colonise much of India as they recognised the lucrative nature of the spice trade, as well as of various other products (such as tea, etc...). Some colonialists also came to this untouched land with the intention of converting the locals, who were mainly Buddhists, Sikhs or Islamists, to Christianity. As the number of English settlers made this their home, they introduced many of their ideals, customs and cultures to the Indian

Large victorian gothic style building in the centre of Mumbai, India. Cricket match being played in the park in front.

people. Cricket was one of these imports. As the country develops politically, culturally and economically, so cricket gains increased acclaim on a global scale. In general, India plays more one-day matches than the much longer test matches. These are faster and are typically more exciting. There are various domestic competitions, which the cricket spectators of the world seldom hear of. The Ranji Trophy is a major local competition and was first played in the 1934-35 season. This tournament is played by teams that represent the Indian states, although there is not a team for every state and some states have more than one team. The Irani Trophy came about during the 1959-60 season and is used to celebrate the start of a new Indian cricket season. The Deodhar Trophy is a one-day tournament that features major players representing their zones (North, South, East, West and Central). For this reason, it has been dubbed the All-star Series. This is exciting, well played cricket. The Inter-State T20 Championship is fast cricket and was instituted after India became a member of the ICC Twenty20. Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players each. There are various types of matches that can be played, including test games (which last for five days), limited overs (which dictate that play will only continue for a certain number of overs), Twenty20 (where only 20 overs are played per side) etc... The basic aim is for one team to try and score as many runs during its batting as possible, while the other bowls and fields, attempting to get their opponents out. Once the team that is batting has had all of its batsmen out, or the available overs are complete, the teams then swop roles and the new batting team tries to outdo their opponents. Games can be won, drawn or lost. A wooden bat is used to strike a hard leather-seamed ball. This ball is fairly small, slightly larger than a tennis ball. Unlike rugby, play is discontinued in the case of rain, as this affects visibility and efficiency. The ball does not bounce properly on wet grass. In addition, bad lighting may cause the game to be paused or abandoned.

Martial artsMartial arts have, for centuries, featured as some of Indias most interesting and popular sports. There is a wide variety of styles, differing according to region, religion and preferences. The first records of martial arts can be found in the Tamil Sangam range of literature, which dates back to the second century BCE (Before our Common Era). Ancient martial arts are referred to in many of the tales, legends and epics of India. Weapons such as rocks, swords, shields, spears, bows, trees, and even fists are recorded. Unarmed battle meant that fighters attacked one another using their fists to punch and pull hair while they kicked, kneed and head-butted one another. When yoga and similar disciplines were introduced into the culture, elements of these techniques began to infiltrate popular martial arts, which focused on discipline, control and internal management. This leant the art form a sense of control and, sometimes, even grace and beauty.

During the Middle Ages, which extended from the 1000s to the 1400s, combat wrestling became a popular sport. It was called malla-yuddha and included punches to the head, strangleholds and hair-pulling. This is also believed to be the origin of warm-up and training exercises, such as push up and squats, which strengthened the wrestlers and helped them to build muscle mass, creating formidable opponents.

A Rajput Khanda,an Indian sword The Mughal era lasted from 1526 to 1857 and saw the surge in mounted archery, in addition to the age-old styles of wrestling. The old curved swords continued to be used, but straight blades became more popular during this time of innovation. Wrestling also evolved as Turkish and Mongolian influences affected the styles. Since 1857, the advancement in technology and weaponry has seen a decline in the popularity of traditional art forms. Swords were replaced by the far more accurate and efficient gun in warfare, and focus was shifted to this tactic of defence. This movement was exacerbated by the British colonialism that took place, as these soldiers introduced the locals to outside influences and trends. Today, martial arts continue as an art form, sparked once again by the rebellion against British rule during the time that India was fighting for its independence. Northern India was the area that was more exposed to the influence from Persia. This had major implications on its development on many levels. Southern India remained committed to keeping ancient traditions alive, and this is particularly evident in the martial arts of these regions. So, while Northern India favours Pehlwani, Gatka and Thang-Ta, Southern India is characterised by its preference for Kalaripayat, Varma ati and Angampora (most popular in Sri Lanka). Individual tribes have also developed their own martial arts, creating an extremely varied smorgasbord of combat techniques across this relatively small subcontinent.

MarriageMarriage is still held as one of the most important institutions in Indian culture. It is considered to be a permanent bond, and the divorce rate is extremely low, at just over 1%. Arranged marriages are still a major part of Indian culture. However, this is not an oppressive measure. Rather, young and old alike generally view it as valued input from the more experienced older generations. Some parents even begin marriage arrangements when their child is born. Love marriages, as local Indians call marriages that have been decided upon by the couple themselves, do occur, but usually in the urban, modernised areas. These areas tend to be more influenced by western cultures. Parents may choose to bless this union, and the couple usually seeks this approval before proceeding with the official marriage. As this trend increases, though, the divorce rate has seen an increase as well. This may be viewed as a breakdown of a previously close-knit society, or as the opportunity for women to gain independence and a measure of power. When parents have assumed the responsibility of finding a mate for their child, there are several factors that are taken into consideration. These include: Age the bride and groom should be mature and the bride should be younger than her groom

A portrait of an Indian wedding couple in their traditional attire Social standing / wealth it is important that both families be of the same social standing Height and appearance the groom generally needs to be taller than his bride, and they should be pleasing to the other one in terms of aesthetics Values the bride and groom should share similar values, based on beliefs and life experiences Personal tastes Background of the potential partners family according to the caste system, individuals of the same ethnic, social and religious backgrounds should be bound together Astrological compatibility Personal expectations these should be shared or agreed upon by both partners

Religion this needs to be common to both of the individuals, and they should preferably subscribe to the same sect Mother tongue Diet both partners should be satisfied with the others dietary preferences and personal habits (e.g. vegetarian, smoker, etc...) Education the male should be more educated than his bride Profession whatever the profession of either of the partners, it should be acceptable to the other The parents discuss all of these matters with their children first, and then seek a suitable partner. They often call for the advice of other, more experienced family members, each with valuable input. Once a suitable couple is paired together and both they and their families are happy with the imminent union, a wedding date is chosen according to the couples horoscopes. Once accepted by the priest, the families will give one another fruit and beautiful cloths as indications of their approval. In most of India, the giver of the bride is considered to be inferior to the taker of her. Therefore, her family will give more gifts than his from the time of the engagement until at least one or two generations have passed. Weddings are large affairs, with as many of the bridal couples family present as possible. This goes on for several days and the brides family is expected to pay for these celebrations. The grooms family is generally responsible for the hire of a band and expensive gifts for the bride. Only if the bride is old enough will she then move into her in-laws home. Otherwise, she will stay with her parents until they decide that she is ready to act as his wife. These processes change slightly from one region to the next and may be different according to the religions of the families.

CuisineIndian cuisine is known the world over for its complex mixture of flavours and spices as well as its novel use of vegetables. However, the variety of dishes is abundant, differing from one region to the next as well as amongst cultures and religions. Much of the community follows a vegetarian diet. In fact, less than a third of the population eat meat on a regular basis. The diet of a culture or community is believed to be an indication of their identity. The cuisine of India has been influenced by various factors, not least of all the lucrative spice trade that occurred between India and Europe. It was during this time that colonialists brought with them foodstuffs, methods and preferences, which shaped and were shaped by traditional Indian cooking. In addition, Persia, Greece and West Asia influenced the subcontinents cuisine as their ties were close, as are their geographical positioning. India boasts a varied climate, which implies a number of different conditions in which to grow an even greater number of crops.

Approximately 9000 years ago, the Indus Valley is believed to have yielded eggplants or brinjals, sesame and humped cattle. Four thousand years later, the production of black pepper, mustard, cardamom and turmeric began, and the

Traditional Indian butter chicken curry with jeera (cumin) rice and a salad. flavours of food took on a new dimension with such spices. Fruit and vegetables were basic foodstuff, eaten by most of the Indian population along with meat, grain and dairy. As Hinduism spread through the area, more people began abandoning meat in their diets and eating only fruit, grains, pulses and vegetables. When this land was colonised by the Europeans, ingredients such as tomatoes, chillies and potatoes were introduced for the first time. The locals incorporated these into their traditional dishes, which then evolved further based on these new flavours. The Islamists brought gravies, kebabs and a range of new fruits (like melons and peaches) into the country. Today, rice remains one of Indias staples, as well as lentils and a variety of peas. Peanut oil and mustard oil are commonly used in cooking, especially in the curries. The most popular spices occurring in Indian cuisine include cumin, turmeric, black mustard seed, chilli, fenugreek, ginger, coriander and garlic. Garam masala is a mixture of at least five dried spices and varies from region to region. Even some Indian desserts contain cardamom, saffron and nutmeg. The different regions are characterised by different cuisine: Northern India this area uses a lot of dairy products and prefers the meat of sheep and goats. Popular dishes include deep-fried flat bread, samoosas, lentils, rotis (flat bread rolled with filling), pickles and kebabs. East India East India specialises in sweets and desserts. Its savoury dishes are not heavily spiced and commonly used ingredients include mustard, cumin and green chillies. Seafood is often included, as are fried or mashed vegetables. Southern India this area is more focused on its use of rice than most other regions and uses coconut extensively. Other popular flavourings include tamarind.

Western India the areas around the coast are characterised by their use of coconut, rice and fish in their cuisine. The inland areas tend to make more use of groundnut, sorghum and millet.

LanguagesThere are thousands of languages currently being spoken by the local residents in India. These are divided into several linguistic families. Over 70% of the population speaks languages belonging to the Indo-Aryan family, while over 20% speak Dravidic languages. There are smaller families or groups, such as Austro-Asiatic one, as well as completely separate languages that are unique to a tribe or village, not belonging to any family. These form the minorities of the languages spoken. During the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of North India spoke Old Indo-Aryan languages. An example of these is Sanskrit, which remains to be the origin of many modern Indian words. Gradually, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Assamese, Saraiki and Marathi began to emerge as separate languages in the northern areas. This is believed to have occurred in around 1000 CE (Common Era), although there is no concrete evidence for this claim as yet. The Dravidian languages originated in South India and include Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.

Tamil Vatteluttu script, 3rd century BC While there is no one official language for the whole of India, Hindi is, in principal, its official language. This is stated in the countrys Constitution as is the right of India not to have a specific national language. Each state can decide upon their own official language. Their decision will likely be based on the religion and culture of the majority of its inhabitants. English is the secondary language and is used in business and education. In addition to these official languages and other linguistic groups, there are also hundreds of languages that are only spoken by certain tribes. These are in the rural areas, isolated from outside influences. These ones also tend to adopt their own religions and cultures, based on their knowledge of the world and their exposure

to the environment. The languages spoken in the urban areas of this subcontinent have been influenced mainly by the Persian, Portuguese and English tongues. This is due to the countrys proximity to Persia and its dealings with Europe during the time when the spice trade was creating a major industry for the English, Portuguese and French. These ones frequently had to deal with and live amongst the Indian folk. Their influence was widespread and significant. Today, Indian residents have access to the media. This has led to a culture of youths watching American and English film and listening to this music. Therefore, even Bollywood productions feature more and more English slang and Americanisms in its dialogue.

LiteratureBecause of the complex array of languages and religions in India, the literature that has evolved out of this context has been deep, multifaceted and intricate; a true reflection of the lives and cultures of the local people. Traditionally, literature was in the form of oral legends and tales, passed from one generation to the next in the form of recited verses or songs. Eventually, they were written down as a stable record of the lyrics or words. Interestingly, much of the literature was religious or was rewritten versions of well-known Sanskrit epics or myths. Therefore, most of the authors remained anonymous. For this reason, ancient authors have not received acclaim for their works or ideas. In the 10th and 13th centuries, literature adopted a particularly romantic approach. Jain romances and the lives of the saints were based on Sanskrit and Pali themes and were very popular amongst the society of the time. Another famous theme during the 12th century was that of sectarianism, where literature was used to try to get otherwise unorthodox ideals and beliefs to be considered to be more acceptable. The bhakti tradition refers to the personal devotion to a Hindu god. It was only in the 15th century that this influence was found in such great proportions in the literature, although some traces of this ideal were found in hymns between the 600s and 900s of our Common Era (CE). The first people to start the trend towards Sikhism composed bhakti hymns, which now form part of this religions sacred scriptures. These were compiled by Arjun in 1604.

Sir Muhammad Iqbal The 1500s saw a distinct use of previous traditional literature in its style, as did the 1700s, where ancient Sanskrit vocabulary and styles permeated much of the then-modern literature. However, the 18th century was also the time of folk drama, ballades, singing and dancing. Indian literature has experienced the outside influence of many factors in terms of style, theme and subject matter. Early literature was influenced by Sanskrit, Buddhist and Jain texts. Later, when Turkish and Persian invasions began, these influences were manifested in the literature and art of India. The Islamic influence was especially evident, not only in Indian literature, but in its culture and religion too. When the British Crown had control of India, a revolution occurred in the world of literature. Not only did an entirely new language and thought process come into this traditional country, but also technological advances, such as the printing press, which revolutionised the production and distribution of literary works. Bengali poets soon adopted the styles typical of well-known greats like TS Eliot. Today, Indian writers produce works in all of the major languages, which amount to 18, as well as in English and some of the lesser known tongues. Famous authors include Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mulk Raj Anand, RK Narayan, Dom Moraes, Nlissim E Zekiel, P Lal, AK Ramanujan, Kamala Das, Arun Kolatkar. R Parthasarathy, Toru Dutt, Sarojini Naidu, M Ananthanarayanan, Bhadani Bhattacharya and many more.

EtymologyIndia enjoys a rich and ancient history, made all the more complex and intense by the importance placed on religion and mythology. In addition, explorers from around the world would visit India, even centuries ago, to discover its natural and mineral value. These outside influences played a key role in the development of the Indian cultures that is firmly established today. The name of this land, recognised as a sub-continent in its own right, demonstrates how these outside influences and complexities affected this country. Essentially, the name India was derived from the Old Persian word for the Indus River. Originally, there were seven main tributaries that ran through north-west India, making up one main river. For this reason, this part of the subcontinent was called Sapta-Sindhu, which meant land of seven rivers. Sindhu generally refers to a body of water (like a river, lake or ocean), and the local inhabitants would refer to the river by this name. When the Old Persian travellers arrived in this area, they were no doubt fascinated by the topographical and geographical features of this beautiful land. When they translated Sindhu into their own tongue, the s became an h in line with

Vintage map of India from the 19th century. Map from 1879 Iranian Sanskrit. So, the river and the land it characterised became known as Hindu. When the Greek businessmen and travellers began their involvement with India, they dropped the h and pronounced the name of this land as Indos, which became Indus in Latin. They

called the local people Indoi, which simply identified them as being the people of this area. This name extended over the entire subcontinent, and was adapted to India by the Romans. Since the 17th Century, the whole of Europe recognised India as the areas official name. Before this, in the medieval time, Inde was more used exclusively. Bharat is recognised and used as the alternative name for India in many of the local languages. In the country, this name is just as widely known and acceptable as the more globally accepted India. It originates from the name of King Bharata, who is a legendary ruler in Hindu Mythology. Interestingly, Bharat is also the word for world in Sanskrit and the other Indian languages, including Hindu. This name likely dates back to before Sindhu or India. In Sanskrit, the a on the end is still pronounced. India is a land of rich diversity and cultural abundance. Its name and the origin thereof demonstrate the evolution and discovery that has taken place in this mystical land over the centuries.

National symbolTo learn about the national symbols of a country is to catch a unique glimpse into the history, culture and priorities of that countrys people. National Flag The design of Indias flag was adopted in July 1947. It is horizontally oriented and is made up of three main bands of colour deep saffron (or orange) at the top, white in the middle and a dark bottle green at the bottom. In the white section, a blue wheel with 24 spokes is situated. This wheel represents the chakra. There are various laws associated with the use and display of the national flag (as in all other countries in the world). In general, though, there are no laws against the general public, educational institutions or private organisations displaying the flag. National Bird The National Bird of India is the exquisite Indian Peacock. This incredible creature is known for its piercing colours of iridescent blues and greens (typical only of the males) as well as for the fanning of its sizeable tail feathers, which ordinarily drag behind them in a beautiful train. Its scientific name is Pavo cristatus. National Flower The Lotus (scientific name: Nelumbo Nucipera Gaertn) is a mystical bloom that is considered to be sacred by the Indian

Lotus flower folk. It appears frequently in artistic renditions as well as in myths and legends. Its original ties to Indian culture date back too far to trace. National Anthem The National Anthem is the song written by Rabindra Nath Tagore, who was a well-known poet. It is called Jana Gana Mana. The entire anthem takes only about 52 seconds to sing. Interestingly, despite this very short playing time, there is a 20-second version that is sung on less formal occasions. In English, the anthem translates to: Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people, Dispenser of India's destiny. Thy name rouses the hearts of Punjab, Sind, Gujarat and Maratha, Of the Dravida and Orissa and Bengal; It echoes in the hills of the Vindhyas and Himalayas, mingles in the music of Jamuna and Ganges and is chanted by the waves of the Indian Sea. They pray for thy blessings and sing thy praise. The saving of all people waits in thy hand, Thou dispenser of India's destiny. Victory, victory, victory to thee. The occasions on which the full versions or the short version will be played have been indicated at the appropriate places in these instructions. The full anthem has to be played for certain events, as stipulated in official Indian legislation. Some of these events include Military events, parades, formal State functions and in the presence of the countrys President. The audience is required to stand to attention when the anthem is being sung, unless they are watching it on television or listening to it on the radio.

National Animal The National Animal of India is the Tiger, known for its graceful power and elegant prowess. The Royal Bengal Tiger is the official Tiger species of this country and can be found in almost all areas of India. To preserve this endangered species, there are almost 30 tiger sanctuaries.

ClothingThe clothing for which India is known is very different from that of most other countries in the world. This is for two major reasons (apart from cultural differences); namely, the climate and the religious specifications. This country is incredibly hot and often wet or humid. However, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam require that their followers be dressed modestly and in a dignified fashion. This may restrict their choice of fabrics and styles somewhat, but the clothing that has been created as a result is effective, fascinating and always beautiful. The more westernised urban areas have begun demonstrating trends towards the clothing of places like North America and the United Kingdom. However, the majority of India still adheres to traditional clothing forms. Women can generally be found in a: Sari this is a strip of material, usually brightly coloured and ornately decorated and embroidered, which can be draped

Woman posing namaskaram action in blue sari over the body in a variety of styles. A commonly seen style is for the sari to be wrapped around the waist and the long end slung over the shoulder. This leaves the waist and stomach somewhat exposed, which is considered to be acceptable in India. Women in saris usually wear a petticoat as well as a blouse (known as a choli) under it. The choli is generally cropped and often without a back so as not to make the woman too hot. Younger girls can get away with half saris. Salwar kameez although this was originally considered appropriate only for Muslims, it is now accepted throughout India. A salwar kameez comprises a loose pair of trousers with a loose shirt. This is most frequently worn in the north-western areas and is paired with a scarf to cover the head. Lehenga this is a skirt that is colourful, made from a lot of fabric to ensure that it sways and swirls as the women move. This is elegant and beautiful, a popular memento for tourists. Mens clothing is a little more varied. Their traditional outfits are called: Dhotis this is a rectangular piece of cloth that wraps around the waist and is then knotted fast. These are most common in Western India and are usually worn with loose shirts, kurtas or lungi. Kurtas a kurta is a loose shirt, usually without a collar, that falls to just above or below the wearers knees. These can actually be worn by women too, and are then known as kurti. Today, these may even be worn with a pair of jeans, as they cover the body shape sufficiently, according to religious traditions. It may open in the front, which can be in the centre or to the side. Lungis - the lungi is better known as a sarong to most. It is a brightly coloured tube of fabric that is wrapped around the waist and tied into a knot. Lungis that are just unsewn strips of

material are cheaper. During ceremonies and celebrations, silk lungis are worn. These are trimmed with a strip of black or white material at the top and bottom to prevent the lungi from fraying. This style is considered to be far cooler than trousers. In many areas, particularly industrialised towns, men can often be seen in common trousers and a short-sleeved shirt. Female visitors to India should don a long skirt or loose trousers, with a shirt that does not reveal the shape of their bodies. This shows respect for their customs and beliefs.

ArtSociety has, for millennia, used art in its various forms to record its history, give testimony to its culture, enhance its religion and express its identity. As the community evolves and experiences developments, technological advances or changes in its climate and location, its art necessarily changes to reflect this altered lifestyle of the individuals (i.e. the communities and the artists that live in them) as well as of the society as a whole. Indian art is usually ornate and elaborate, even appearing somewhat over the top. In fact, this art is characterised by an indulgence in freedom of expression to the extreme, over-emphasising certain styles and elements with very little restriction placed on medium, subject or scale. This tendency is one of the defining features of Indian art that has remained through the ages. When examining the different pieces of art still available, four main periods can be identified. The Ancient Period extended from about 3500 BCE (Before our Common Era) to 1200 CE (Common Era), the Islamic Ascendancy Period was from 712

Ancient male Goddess lord Krishna in wood to 1757, followed by the Colonial Period, which lasted until 1947. Finally, the Independence and Postcolonial Period refers to the time from 1947 to the present. There are various types of art for which India is known and that local artists use to express themselves and convey ideas in new ways. Some of the first pieces of Indian art have been carved into wood and stone or painted on rock faces. The Buddhists began the major trend towards artistic monuments, although there had been sculptures etc... before that (according to written records). The Buddhists began by carving images into the rock faces in caves, and many of the religions and cultures imitated this trend. Another style of Indian art is that of Indian Fresco, which involves making a paste from limestone and painting this onto stones. After a few days, this would set and the natural pigment would create an image of colours and depths that continue to fascinate art enthusiasts today. This method was used to create huge murals in temples, as seen in Pundarikapuram and Aymanam. The folk art of India is one of the most varied in terms of materials used, subject matter and style. This art occurs in the forms of paintings, ceramic creations, metalwork, paper, weaving and even toys. In addition to these more traditional art forms, folk art also includes the dances, music and festivals that characterise certain religions or geographic areas, as these engender selfexpression through a creative means. The wandering nomads were one of the most common creators of visual folk art. This art was enriched by their vast experience and deep spirituality.

Significantly, the Taj Mahal is an iconic piece of folk art, and is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The art that was produced from the early- to mid-20th Century onwards is considered to be contemporary art. As technology advanced and resources increased, artists began to experiment with using different media, more subjects and influences from other countries in the world. This has led to an intriguing array of pieces that cannot rightly be places in one category or genre. Rather, they are characterised by their diversity and the adventurous approach to portraying ideas, ideals and personal creativity. Religions

Religion forms an integral part of Indian life and the norms associated with it. In fact, religion is so important in India that it forms the basis of many of the political, commercial and educational facets of these peoples lives and customs. Religion has always been a defining character of this country, and its history is speckled with people that influenced and moulded religion in some way. Generally speaking, Indians are tolerant of other religions, not promoting a spirit of division or hatred across religious borders. In fact, the constitution requires that its citizens be accepting of one anothers beliefs, values, morals and ideals for the betterment of a cohesive and cooperative land. However, marriages across these lines are usually discouraged, even today. Of the approximately 1.1 billion people in India, over 80% subscribe to the Hindu faith. Hinduism is defined by its loving acceptance of all, as well as its respect for life, whether human or animal. The other religions are represented as follows:

The Festival of Shivaratri - worshippers enter a temple in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, India Muslims: 14% Christians: 2.3% Sikhs: 2% Buddhists: 0.8% Jains: 0.4% The rest are subsidiary religions, usually individual ones as set out by a rural tribe that has not had the outside influence of bibles, mosques or temples. There are two mains religious streams in India into which most other religions can be characterised. These are the Vedic stream (e.g. Hinduism) and the Shramana stream (e.g. Buddhism and Islam). These two categories follow distinct patterns of teachings and beliefs, but have proved to benefit one another, rather than clash, which often results in hatred and violence. While the subscription to various orthodox faiths may have waned, particularly in the modern areas and generations, the celebrations of important festivals and the observance of various key rituals remain major parts of Indian culture. Many of these rituals have to be performed every day, and there are only a very small number of Indians that do not follow these customs. While these customs may vary quite a bit from one village or language group to the next, they are

equally important and are adhered to with great commitment. A good example of this is the Hindu followers morning routine of bathing and then worshipping in the family shrine, where they offer their gods food and light a lamp for them, recite scriptures and sing praises. Likewise, Muslims wash themselves before offering each of their five daily prayers. Even the food of India is influenced by its many religions. Buddhists have promoted the idea of vegetarianism, and it is only the minority of Indians that eat meat as part of their diets. Islam does not allow its members to eat pork, while Hindus are strictly forbidden from eating beef, as its followers considers cows to be sacred. Religious ceremonies and customs come to the fore at events such as weddings, funerals and the birth of a baby. In most cases, wedding dates are chosen according to astrology, babies are often blessed and assigned a god and the dead are sent off to another dimension of life. To examine the various religions that make up this multi-faceted country is to learn about the very essence of India. History

Indias civilised history dates back thousands of years. In fact, cave paintings indicate that the first human civilisations settled in areas of India some 9000 years ago. These paintings can be found in Madhya Pradesh. This settlement of ancient man became the Indus Valley Civilisation, situated in the western part of the country. The Vedic Period followed just after 3300 BCE (Before our Common Era). At around 1500 BCE, the civilisation declined, which was thought to be due to changes in the ecology. This was a significant era as it formed the foundation of much of the modern culture of India and was in existence until the 500s BCE. It was in about 550 BCE that the Mahajanapadas, a group of independent governments, were established. It was only during the fourth and fifth centuries of our Common Era (CE) that the group in the northern territories were united under the rulership called the Gupta Dynasty. This time was known as Indias Golden Age because the cultural and political stability of the country was firmly established during this period, enriching its people. It took only half a century for

Majestic north entrance tower of the Chidambaram Temple (circa 12th century AD) the Islam religion to extend its reaches over the entire country. During the 900s and 1000s, India was invaded by the Turkish and Afghan soldiers, who eventually went on to set up sultanates in the epicentre of Delhi. The Mogul Dynasty was next, established in the early 1500s and lasting for two centuries, followed by the Hindu Chola and Vijayanagar Dynasties. It was only in the early 1600s that the English began to settle in India. In 1619, an outpost was set up in the coastal area of Surat. Later, Calcutta, Bombay and Madras became the sites of the trading stations of the East India Company. The British settlers continued to arrive and settle, eventually occupying most of the area in just over 200 years. In 1857, Britain took complete control over the areas once managed by the East India Company. In some areas, local people were elected as rulers who were still under the control of England. But, most areas were directly controlled by the Crown. Towards the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century, steps started being taken to involve the Indian people in their own government to a far greater degree. The leader in 1920, Mohandas Ghandi, began a series of nonviolent protests and parliamentary resistance initiatives in order to gain independence from British rule. In 1947, India became a dominion and, in 1950, a republic within the Commonwealth. Since gaining such independence, terrorist attacks have become rife in India. Territorial disputes between India and China and India and Pakistan continue. Despite this violence, India is still one of the worlds fastest growing economies. Science and technology in Ancient India. The ancient people of India display a fascinating history with regard to science and technology, which dates back over 6000 years. While some evidence of technological advances has been

discovered prior to the Valley Of Indus Civilisation, it was with this era that the most significant findings remain a matter of intrigue to modern scientists. By about 4500 Before our Common Era (BCE), an effective irrigation system had been implemented to ensure a greater and healthier amount of arable land. This meant that the civilisation could prosper and increase its spread across a far greater area. Due to the greater population over a wider area, formal sewerage and irrigation systems were put into place. By 3000 BCE, water storage systems were developed by this civilisation, which had established formal settlements over much of the land. Just 400 years later, a canal irrigation system was being implemented for an even more effective approach. Another positive effect of increasing the amount of arable land was the increased variety of soils and growing conditions, allowing for a far greater number of different crops, including cotton and sugarcane. These crops further developed the land and civilisation in terms of their own resources and what they could sell. The next major advancement was that of private ablutions. Evidence found in the Indus homes indicates that these bathrooms were situated on the ground floor, while clay pipes carried the soiled water away from the home and to the drainage system. This was in 2800 BCE and, only 100 years later, large sewer systems were put into place for such waste. Pipes would lead to a cesspool, which had stairs leading into it for it to be cleaned on a regular basis. Asphalt was used at the joins of these clay pipes to prevent leaking. In addition to sewerage and drainage, the Indus Civilisation also developed a method of standardisation of weight and measurement. This system was used mainly in connection with construction, at least in its initial stages. Measuring devices have been found with calibration, indicating the level of technological advancement of which these people were capable. Excavation and surveying equipment has also been discovered, as have maps and construction plans. Kilns and ovens have been found in Balakot and Kalibangan, dating back to about 2500 BCE. Some furnaces were used to bake clay good for use around the home and in industry. Underground hearths were also found at Kalibangan. Other significant developments that took place in ancient times, most of which were the models for modern equipment, are the understanding of tides, hydrography, animal-drawn carts and swords. When India was colonised by the Europeans, the skills of these people began to spread all over the world. Today, they are considered to be as a result of modern advancement, not as the centuries-old systems they truly are. Geography of India

India is the seventh largest country in the world. It is situated in south-east Asia and is approximately 3.3 million square kilometres. It has a large coastline, which stretches for just over 7500 kilometres. The Arabian Sea forms its south-west coast, the Bay of Bengal its southeast coast and the Indian Ocean its southern-most coast.

India from space

In the northern areas of this country, the immense and impressive Himalayan Mountain Range characterises the landscape. This mammoth natural wonder has long lured travellers and intrigued visitors from all over the world. These are the worlds highest peaks, with over 100 of its mountains exceeding 7200 metres. This mountain range extends across six countries and has the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Yangtze and Indus rivers flowing through its gorges. There are several peaks in the Himalayas that are holy to those subscribing to the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. However, more than just being awe-inspiring and the ultimate challenge to climbers, the Himalayas also form the boundary between India and China, Bhutan and Nepal. On the west of India are the Punjab Plains, in which Pakistan is situated, and the Thar Desert. This is one of the largest Image of India from space India from space deserts in the world, measuring over 200 000 square kilometres. Unlike many other deserts, Thar is home to a wide diversity of animals and plants. These include the Indian Gazelle, Wild Ass, Laggar Falcon, many eagle species, Bengal fox, some wolf species and many more exciting specimens. The north and north-east are particularly beautiful as they boast the densely forested Chin and Kachin hills as well as the Indo-Gangetic Plain. This plain is formed by the revered and acclaimed Ganges River, which holds spiritual and religious importance for the Hindu locals, who consider its waters to be holy. This is the longest river originating in this subcontinent. It flows across the border into Bangladesh and has a maximum depth of about 30 metres.

There are several islands off the coast of India, including the Maldives, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Indira Point is one of the islands that make up the Andaman, Lakshadweep and Nicobar islands and is recognised as the southernmost tip of India. These islands are accountable for 2094 kilometres of the coastline. Of the total coastline, 43% is sandy beach, 46% is mud or marsh and 11% is rocky.

India is situated on the Indian tectonic plate, which is part of the Indo-Australian Plate. It is believed that what is now known as India began splitting from the main land mass, Gondwana, some 75 million years ago. At this time, all of todays continents were connected as one. The north-westerly movement of Gondwana lasted some 50 million years and resulted in Indias movement towards, and into, the rest of Asia. This collision is believed to be the cause of the Himalayan Mountain Range.

The Himalayas and the Thar Desert are the primary causes for the monsoons, for which India is so well known. This mountain range prevents cold winds from blowing in from Central Asia, while the desert attracts the south-west summer monsoon, which is a particularly wet one.

India is a land of mystery and fascination. Its geography is only one aspect of its intrigue, but plays an integral role in its cultures, societies and natural allure.