MUSIC, FESTIVAL, DANCE, CUISINE
India, officially the Republic of India (, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the south-west, and the Bay of Bengal on the south-east, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north-east; and Burma and Bangladesh to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; in addition, India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.
Home to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization and a region of historic trade routes and vast empires, the Indian subcontinent was identified with its commercial and cultural wealth for much of its long history. Four world religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism—originated here, whereas Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam arrived in the 1st millennium CE and also helped shape the region's diverse culture. Gradually annexed by and brought under the administration of the British East India Company from the early 18th century and administered directly by the United Kingdom from the mid-19th century, India became an independent nation in 1947 after a struggle for independence that was marked by non-violent resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi.
India is a pluralistic, multilingual, and multi-ethnic society. It is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.
The climate of India resolves into six major climatic subtypes; their influences give rise to desert in the west, alpine tundra and glaciers in the north, humid tropical regions supporting rain forests in the southwest, and Indian Ocean island territories that flank the Indian subcontinent. Regions have starkly different—yet tightly clustered—microclimates. The nation is largely subject to four seasons: winter (January and February), summer (March to May), a monsoon (rainy) season (June to September), and a post-monsoon period (October to December).
India's geography and geology are climatically pivotal: the Thar Desert in the northwest and the Himalayas in the north work in tandem to effect a culturally and economically break-all monsoonal regime. As Earth's highest and most massive mountain range, the Himalayan system bars the influx of frigid katabatic winds from the icy Tibetan Plateau and northerly Central Asia. Most of North India is thus kept warm or is only mildly chilly or cold during winter; the same thermal dam keeps most regions in India hot in summer.
India, being a multi-cultural and multi-religious society, celebrates holidays and festivals of various religions. The three national holidays in India, the Independence Day, the Republic Day and the Gandhi Jayanti, are celebrated with zeal and enthusiasm across India. In addition, many Indian states and regions have local festivals depending on prevalent religious and linguistic demographics. Popular religious festivals include the Hindu festivals of Navratri, Diwali, Maha Shivratri, Ganesh Chaturthi, Durga puja, Holi, Ugadi, Rakshabandhan, and Dussehra. Several harvest festivals such as Sankranthi, Pongal, Raja sankaranti swinging festival, and Onam, "Nuakhai" are also fairly popular.
Certain festivals in India are celebrated by multiple religions. Notable examples include Diwali, which is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, and Buddh Purnima, celebrated by Buddhists. Sikh Festivals, such as Guru Nanak Jayanti, Baisakhi are celebrated with full fanfare by Sikhs and Hindu. Adding colours to the culture of India, the Dree Festival is one of the tribal festivals of India celebrated by the Apatanis of the Ziro valley of Arunachal Pradesh, which is the easternmost state of India.
Islam in India is the second largest religion with over 135 million Muslims-(followers of Islam), The Islamic festivals which are observed and are declared public holiday in India are; Eid ul Fitr, Eid ul Adha-(Bakr Eid), Milad un Nabi, Muharram and Shab-e-Barat. Some of the Indian states have declared regional holiday's for the particular regional popular festivals; such as Arba'een, Jumu'ah-tul-Wida and Shab-e-Qadar.
Christianity is India's third largest religion. With over 23 million Christians, of which 17 million are Roman Catholics, India is home to many Christian festivals. The country celebrates Christmas and Good Friday as public holidays.
Regional fairs are also common and festive in India. For example, Pushkar fair is one of the world's largest markets and Sonepur mela is the largest livestock fair in Asia.
India has had a long romance with the art of dance. Nātyaśāstra (Science of Dance) and Abhinaya Darpana (Mirror of Gesture) are two surviving Sanskrit documents, both estimated to be between 1700 to 2200 years old.
The Indian art of dance as taught in these ancient books, according to Ragini Devi, is the expression of inner beauty and the divine in man. It is a deliberate art, nothing is left to chance, each gesture seeks to communicate the ideas, each facial expression the emotions.
Indian dance includes eight classical dance forms, many in narrative forms with mythological elements. The eight classical forms accorded classical dance status by India's National Academy of Music, Dance, and Drama are: bharatanatyam of the state of Tamil Nadu, kathak of Uttar Pradesh, kathakali and mohiniattam of Kerala, kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, yakshagana of Karnataka, manipuri of Manipur, odissi (orissi) of the state of Odisha and the sattriya of Assam.
In addition to the formal arts of dance, Indian regions have a strong free form, folksy dance tradition. Some of the folk dances include the bhangra of Punjab; the bihu of Assam; the zeliang of Nagaland; the chhau of Jharkhand; the qauwwalis, birhas and charkulas of Uttar Pradesh; the jat-jatin, nat-natin and saturi of Bihar; the ghoomar of Rajasthan; the dandiya and garba of Gujarat; the kolattam of Andhra Pradesh; the yakshagana of Karnataka ; lavani of Maharashtra;Dekhnni of Goa; Karakattam, Oyilattam, and mayilattam of Tamil Nadu.
Recent developments include adoption of international dance forms particularly in the urban centres of India, and the extension of Indian classical dance arts by the Kerala Christian community, to tell stories from the Bible.
Traditional clothing in India greatly varies across different parts of the country and is influenced by local culture, geography, climate and rural/urban settings. Popular styles of dress include draped garments such as sari for women and dhoti or lungi or panche (in Kannada) for men. Stitched clothes are also popular such as churidar or salwar-kameez for women, with dupatta (long scarf) thrown over shoulder completing the outfit. Salwar is often loose fitting, while churidar is a tighter cut. For men, stitched versions include kurta-pyjama and European-style trousers and shirts for men. In urban centres, people can often be seen in jeans, trousers, shirts, suits, kurtas and variety of other fashions.
In public and religious places, Indian dress etiquette discourages exposure of skin and wearing transparent or tight clothes. Most Indian clothes are made from cotton which is ideal for the region's hot weather. Since India's weather is mostly hot and rainy, majority of Indians wear sandals.
Indian women perfect their sense of charm and fashion with make up and ornaments. Bindi, mehendi, earrings, bangles and other jewelry are common. On special occasions, such as marriage ceremonies and festivals, women may wear cheerful colours with various ornaments made with gold, silver or other regional stones and gems.
Bindi is often an essential part of a Hindu woman's make up. Worn on their forehead, some consider the bindi as an auspicious mark. Traditionally, the red bindi was worn only by married Hindu women, and coloured bindi was worn by single women, but now all colours and glitter has become a part of women's fashion. Some women wear sindoor - a traditional red or orange-red powder (vermilion) in the parting of their hair (locally called mang). Sindoor is the traditional mark of a married woman for Hindus. Single Hindu women do not wear sindoor; neither do over 100 million Indian women from religions other than Hindu and agnostics/atheists who may be married.
Indian food is as diverse as India. Indian cuisines use numerous ingredients, deploy a wide range of food preparation styles, cooking techniques and culinary presentation. From salads to sauces, from vegetarian to meat, from spices to sensuous, from breads to desserts, Indian cuisine is invariably complex. Harold McGee, a favourite of many Michelin-starred chefs, writes "for sheer inventiveness with milk itself as the primary ingredient, no country on earth can match India."
India is known for its love for food and spices. Indian cuisine varies from region to region, reflecting the local produce, cultural diversity, and varied demographics of the country. Generally, Indian cuisine can be split into five categories - northern, southern, eastern, western, and north-eastern. The diversity of Indian cuisine is characterised by differing use of many spices and herbs, a wide assortment of recipes and cooking techniques. Though a significant portion of Indian food is vegetarian, many traditional Indian dishes also include chicken, goat, lamb, fish, and other meats. Fish-based cuisines are common in eastern states of India, particularly West Bengal.
Despite this diversity, some unifying threads emerge. Varied uses of spices are an integral part of certain food preparations, and are used to enhance the flavour of a dish and create unique flavours and aromas. Cuisine across India has also been influenced by various cultural groups that entered India throughout history, such as the Persians, Mughals, and European colonists.
Two main traditions of classical music are Carnatic music, found predominantly in the peninsular regions, and Hindustani music, found in the northern and central regions. The basic concepts of this music includes Shruti, Swara, Alankar, Rāga, and Tāla. Its tonal system divides the octave into 22 segments called shrutis, not all equal but each roughly equal to one quarter of a whole tone of Western music. Melody is based on the system of ragas, which are melody types used as the basis for improvisation.
Hindustani music tradition was developed around 13th and 14th centuries AD. The practice of singing based on notes was popular even from the Vedic times where the hymns in Sama Veda, a sacred text, were sung as Samagana and not chanted. Developing a strong and diverse tradition over several centuries, it has contemporary traditions established primarily in India but also in Pakistan and Bangladesh. In contrast to Carnatic music, the other main Indian classical music tradition originating from the South, Hindustani music was not only influenced by ancient Hindu musical traditions, historical Vedic philosophy and native Indian sounds but also enriched by the Persian performance practices of the Mughals. Classical genres are dhrupad, dhamar, khyal, tarana and sadra.
The present form of Carnatic music is based on historical developments that can be traced to the 15th - 16th centuries AD and thereafter. It is said to have originated in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Carnatic music is melodic, with improvised variations. It consists of a composition with improvised embellishments added to the piece in the forms of Raga Alapana, Kalpanaswaram, Neraval, and, in the case of more advanced students, Ragam Tanam Pallavi. The main emphasis is on the vocals as most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in a singing style (known as gāyaki). There are about 7.2 million ragas (or scales) in Carnatic Music with around 300 still in use today.
Noted artists of Carnatic Music include MS Subbulakshmi, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar (the father of the current concert format), Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Prapancham Sita Raman, TN Seshagopalan and more recently Sanjay Subrahmanyan, Balamuralikrishna, K J Yesudas, N.Ramani, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman, Mysore Manjunath, Mysore Nagaraj, TM Krishna, Bombay Jayashri, Aruna Sairam, etc.
Every December, the city of Chennai in India has its six week-long Music Season, which has been described as the world's largest cultural event. Hence Chennai has become the capital of Carnatic Music since 19th century. It has served as the foundation for most music in South India, including folk music, festival music and has also extended its influence to film music in the past 100–150 years or so.