The history and culture of India is the way of living of the people of Indian subcontinent. India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food, and customs differ from place to place within the country and an amalgamation of several cultures.
Who are we Indians? Difficult to say, with so much of invasion, immigration and interaction with rest of the world. Many empires have disappeared, with out a trace including last British empire after second world war.
India as we know today is very different from the notion of 'ancient India'. Ancient India made up of many independent kingdoms, spanned from Iran, Afghanistan to Indonesia, Tibet to Sri Lanka in present.
Geographically, it is a land of contracts in numerous ways. It provides almost every type of climate, from extreme heat to extreme cold all the year round. The hilly regions in the North and elsewhere are as cold as some of the coldest parts of Europe. Certain areas in South are the hottest in the world.
India is a plural society and a repository of multiplicity of cultures. Indian civilization, stretching over five thousand years, provides the most distinctive feature in the coexistence of unity in diversity.
And one rule, or one food, or one clothing cannot be ascribed to entire Hindus or India. Women living in Hindkush mountains, Himalayan regions do not wear dresses which people in Northern India, or Southern India would have.
Hinduism Start Date?
Hinduism is a generic term to describe different traditions/practices in Indian subcontinent.
During Gautama Buddha time, there was no Hinduism or even concept of religion. There were many large number of sects in India, like Charvaka, ajvika, Sramana, mimasika, saivites, vaishnavas, shakthas, sun worshippers, animists, etc. Later Persians and Greeks gave the name as Hindu to refer to various religious sects east of river Indus.
Current version of Hinduism is based on religious developments during golden age of Guptas (approximate starting point). Shalivahana sahabda (Saka era 78 CE)can be approximate mark. It retained its ancient roots (vedic scriptures, upansishads, dravidian (south indian) scriptures, natural worship, animism, indus-saraswathi valley etc.). Enhanced by local traditions, shanamada and deva-rishi-pithru worship. This version could assimilate declining Buddhist, Jain and other groups, into its fold.
Current Hinduism is not ancient Hinduism, but child or evolved version of ancient Hinduism (ancient belief systems of indian subcontinent).
Sanatana Dharma (सनातन धर्म ) meaning "eternal dharma" or "eternal order" has been used as an alternative, name for Hinduism, by the Hindu revivalism movement.
Because of diverse nature, Hinduism is able to absorb continuously some other useful ideas easily such as greek, far east mid east customs, moghul systems etc. Examples are turkish dress, baba cults, persian/arbic language... mixed into local ones.
History is a dots game
Everything is a dots game of connecting dots. We observe some dots (shapes) and can create our own dots. Every one connects in whatever way he wants and creates shapes. History is also like dots representing some facts or information. Each historian or a story teller create their own story, with his own additions. Few out of many, become popular and gets established as authentic. Others are lost for ever.
We don't record peace. We record things that are Important: war, agreements, leaders. Nobody cares about the half a century of bumper crops except for farmers and taxmen. The famine that killed a million people that one year gets written about. Great empires are more known for their wars and size, rather than their contributions to art, science, culture...
From Early Neolithic culture to 20th century (Tentative period only)
BC or BCE (Before the Current or Common Era) is the era before CE or AD
- 7500 BC: Early Neolithic culture
- 4000 BC: Mehrgarh Neolithic sites in archaeology begins on the "Kachi plain" of now Balochistan
- 3000 BC: Indus Valley (Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, Kot Diji phase of the Indus Valley, Indus signs or script), Saraswathi river, early tamil sangams and south indian civilizations
- 1500 BC: Indo-Iranians, Chaldeans, Akkadians etc, Rigveda (to 1000 BC)
- 800 BC: Upanishads, Shatapatha Brahmana etc..
- 500 BC: Magadha, Kalinga, Darius of Persia
- 300 BC: Alexander, Chandragupta Maurya, Cholas and Pandyas trade with Greek and Rome
- 100 BC: Indo-Greek kings
- 56 BC: Vikrama Samvat calendar
- 78 CE: Saka era or Shalivahana Sakabda
- 100 CE: Kushan (Kanishka, the third Kushan emperor)
- 200 CE: The Sunga state, Sassanid, Satavahanas disintegrate
- 300 CE: Ganga, Pallava, Gupta Empire (150 years golden age), Kadambas
- 400 CE: Shakas Licchavi, Huns, Vakataka
- 550 CE: Chalukyan, Pallava Gupta, Harshavardhana
- 700 CE: Palas, Rashtrakutas, Arabs,
- 800 CE: Cholas, Pratihara, Pallava
- 950 CE: Rajputs, Chandellas
- 1000 CE: Solanki, Chola, Palas, Mahmud of Ghazni,
- 1200 CE: Yadava, Kakatiyas, Turks, Ghurid,
- 1300 CE: Rajputs, Kadambas, Delhi sultanate (slaves, Khalji, Tughluq, Lodi etc),
- 1500 CE: Maratas, Vijayanagar, Mysore, Bahmani (Deccan sultanates), Mughal/Mogul Afghan, Safavids
- 1600 CE: Maratas (Sivaji), Rajputs, Nayakar, Mughal, Europeans, British entry,
- 1700 CE: Britain colonial power, Mysore sultans, Nizam
- 1800 CE: East India Company replaced by British India, Queen Victoria empress of India
- 1900 CE: The Indian National Congress, Muslim League, Justice Party. So called independence from British dynasty, not freedom from British colonial mind set and bureaucracy. Slave attitude continues.
- 2000 CE: New Political alignments, Globalization, IT age. Professionals and commoners can take part in administration, ending in dynasties
Tribes, castes and class
Indians are more than thousands of tribes. Castes or jatis are complex social groups and diverse to fit in to any model. Varna, a theoretical model may be translated as "class," and refers to four social classes. Like Aryan and Dravidian theorey, these are very over simplification of reality. The four varnas can not represent complex systems of thousands of castes. The term Castes, means different things to different Indians. It might be more to do with the tribe to whom one belongs to.
There are more than 50 tribal groups in India. Actual tribes may be few thousands. Most of the tribals belong basically to the Negrito, Australoid and Mongoloid racial stocks. A large chunk of Tribal community or Adivasis, now isolated to distinct regions, especially in the hilly and forested areas. 645 tribes are listed as Scheduled Tribes in India.
Northeast India, considered as one of most culturally diverse regions in India, is a land inhabited by more than 200 known tribes. North East Indian tribes have originated from the ethnic groups of Tibeto-Burmese, proto Austrioloids and some groups of Indo Mongoloids. Arunachal Pradesh consists of around 25 types of tribes and Nagaland has around more than 16 major tribes. They also show a strong cultural link with the neighbouring countries.
India is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world, with some of the most deeply religious societies and cultures. According to the 2011 census, 79.8% of the population of India practice Hinduism followed by Islam (14.2%) and Christianity (2.3%). There are other religions such as Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and the Bahau Faith and tribal religions, such as Sarnaism. Atheism and agnostics also have visible influence in India. There are also numerous cults in India, each practicing their own ideologies and interpretations of the major religions.
More than 150 million people in India are members of Tribes, like Bhil and Gond. Tribes still have their indigenous beliefs, unique to each tribe. They adhere to traditional tribal religions. Some small groups in remote regions like North East, are well organized. Each group believe in their own gods and the ancestors.
There is no such thing as the Indian language. By some counts there are over 200 major languages in India (total may be 1600), with about twenty of them being very prominent ones. Few thousand languages have bbeen lost over 3000 years.
Modern India is a country of very diverse cultures with many languages, religions and traditions. Inspite of all these India is united by Indianness. There is a strong unity among diversity due to:
- Indians tolerate differences among themselves.
- Traditionally Indians welcomed traders and experts from all parts of the world (like arabs, persians, greeks, huns etc) - open society.
- History created by immigrants and invaders who have become locals in the long run
- Unity in diversity - accepting we all children of Bharatha mata (Mother India)
- Interdependence - one region needs resources from other regions.
- Hindusim is not a religion, but way of life for Indians. It unites different belief systems, philosophies, different deities and varied ritual practices. Hinduism has united all Indians, irrespective of their belief system.
- Great epics and stories like Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata (oldest preserved stories) unites India. Versions of this epic is available in all languages. It has stories from all parts of India and unites all Indians. Versions have been adopted as the epics of Southeast Asian countries like Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
- Rich potpourri of social habits, festivals, and customs.
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