India's Art & Culture

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India or Bharat, the fifth largest and the second populated country in the world, is one of the few countries which can boast of an ancient, deep-rooted and diverse culture, which stretches back to 5000 years.  In ancient times, India was known as 'Bharata Varsha', the country of the legendary king of Puranic times called Bharat, and was supposed to be a part of the island continent called 'Jambu Dvipa'. Geologically speaking, India formed part of the Gondwana land and was attached to Antarctica and Australia , before it was liberated from the Antarctica complex about 135 million years ago and started drifting towards the north and finally joining South Asia about 45 million years ago.

The Siwalik foothills of the north-western Himalayas served as home to the fossil primate genus known as Ramapithecus, which lived some 14 million years ago. Researches have also found that a species resembling the Australopithecus lived in India some 2 million years ago. Some anthropologists believe that the Chotanagpur region witnessed the transformation of Homo Erectus to Homo Sapiens.

Extensive archaeological excavations carried out at Mohenjodaro in 1922 brought to light the existence of a highly sophisticated and urbanized culture known as the Harappan Civilization in India dating back to about 2600-2000 B.C., which dominated the north-western part of the Indian Subcontinent. It is believed that this civilisation covered an area of 1600 km from east to west and 1100 km from north to south, which exceeds the area occupied by contemporary civilisations like the Egyptian and Mesopotamian Civilisations.     The next most important phase in the Indian history came centuries later with the advent of Aryans from the northwest of India . The Aryan migration to India was gradual and spread over many centuries. The Aryans developed a remarkable culture, popularly known as Vedic culture, which was markedly different from the Harappan Culture.  

Endless Diversity
There is an endless diversity in India starting from its physical features to Geologic structure, fauna and flora, demographic structure, races, languages, religions, arts and crafts and customs and traditions. India has been variously described as "the Mini World", the "epitome of the world" and an "ethnological museum". The diversity in India is unique. Underneath this diversity lies the continuity of Indian civilization and social structure from the very earliest times until the present day.

India 's culture has been enriched by successive waves of migration, which were absorbed into the Indian way of life.   The successive waves of migration into India started with the Indo-Greeks (2nd Century B.C.), followed by the Kushans (First century A.D.), the incursions from the northwest by Arab, Turkish, Persian and others beginning in the early 8th century A.D. and culminating with the establishment of the Muslim empire by the 13th century, and finally the advent of Europeans -- the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English, the Danes and the French.  These interactions over the years led to introduction of newer elements in India ’s arts, music, literature and customs and traditions, thus enriching our cultural heritage.

From the very ancient times India not only absorbed the foreign cultures into its composite fold, but it also managed to spread the rich elements of its own unique culture in different parts of the world. It is historically recorded that the Chola rulers had cultural contacts with countries like Ilamandalam ( Sri Lanka ), Sri Vijaya ( Sumatra ), Chavakam (Java), Kamboja ( Cambodia ) and Kadaram ( Malay Peninsula ). Evidences of these early Indian contacts are still found in the art and architecture of these countries. The Southeast Asian countries formed a stronghold of Indian culture from the early centuries of the Christian era. The various Southeast Asian languages show strong influence of Sanskrit.  Many earlier kingdoms of these countries had...
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