For the journal, see Indian Literature (journal).
Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages.
The earliest works of Indian literature were orally transmitted. Sanskrit literature begins with the oral literature of the Rig Veda a collection of sacred hymns dating to the period 1500–1200 BCE. The Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabharata appeared towards the end of the first millennium BCE. Classical Sanskrit literature developed rapidly during the first few centuries of the first millennium BCE, as did the TamilSangam literature, and the Pāli Canon. In the medieval period, literature in Kannada and Telugu appeared in the 9th and 11th centuries respectively. Later, literature in Marathi, Odia and Bengali appeared. thereafter literature in various dialects of Hindi, Persian and Urdu began to appear as well. Early in the 20th century, Bengali poetRabindranath Tagore became India's first Nobel laureate. In contemporary Indian literature, there are two major literary awards; these are the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship and the Jnanpith Award. Eight Jnanpith Awards each have been awarded in Hindi and Kannada, followed by five in Bengali and Malayalam, four in Odia, three in Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu and Urdu, two each in Assamese and Tamil, and one in Sanskrit.
Indian literature in archaic Indian languages
Main article: Vedas
Examples of early works written in Vedic Sanskrit include the holy Hindu texts, such as the core Vedas. Other examples include the Sulba Sutras, which are some of the earliest texts on geometry..
Epic Sanskrit literature
Main article: Indian epic poetry
Ved Vyasa's Mahabharata and Valmiki's Ramayana, written in Epic Sanskrit, are regarded as the greatest Sanskrit epics.
Classical Sanskrit literature
Main article: Sanskrit literature
The famous poet and playwright Kālidāsa wrote one epic: Raghuvamsha (Dynasty of Raghu) ; it was written in Classical Sanskrit rather than Epic Sanskrit. Other examples of works written in Classical Sanskrit include the Pāṇini's Ashtadhyayi which standardized the grammar and phonetics of Classical Sanskrit. The Laws of Manu is a controversial text in Hinduism. Kālidāsa is often considered to be the greatest playwright in Sanskrit literature, and one of the greatest poets in Sanskrit literature, whose Recognition of Shakuntala and Meghaduuta are the most famous Sanskrit plays. Some other famous plays were Mricchakatika by Shudraka, Svapna Vasavadattam by Bhasa, and Ratnavali by Sri Harsha. Later poetic works include Geeta Govinda by Jayadeva. Some other famous works are Chanakya's Arthashastra and Vatsyayana's Kamasutra.
The most notable Prakrit languages were the Jain Prakrit (Ardhamagadhi), Pali, Maharashtri and Shauraseni.
One of the earliest extant Prakrit works is Hāla's anthology of poems in Maharashtri, the Gāhā Sattasaī, dating to the 3rd to 5th century CE. Kālidāsa and Harsha also used Maharashtri in some of their plays and poetry. In Jainism, many Svetambara works were written in Maharashtri.
Many of Aśvaghoṣa's plays were written in Shauraseni as were a sizable number of Jain works and Rajasekhara's Karpuramanjari. Canto 13 of the Bhaṭṭikāvya is written in what is called "like the vernacular" (bhāṣāsama), that is, it can be read in two languages simultaneously: Prakrit and Sanskrit.
Main article: Pali Canon
The Pali Canon is mostly of Indian origin. Later Pali literature however was mostly produced outside of the mainland Indian subcontinent, particularly in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.
Pali literature includes Buddhist philosophical works, poetry and some grammatical works. Major works in Pali are Jataka tales, Dhammapada, Atthakatha, and Mahavamsa. Some of the major Pali grammarians were Kaccayana, Moggallana and Vararuci (who wrote Prakrit Prakash).
Indian literature in common Indian languages
Main article: Assamese literature
See also: Category:Assamese-language books, Buranjis, and Assamese poetry
The Charyapadas are often cited as the earliest example of Assamese literature. The Charyapadas are Buddhist songs composed in the 8th to 12th centuries. These writings bear similarities to Oriya and Bengali languages as well. The phonological and morphological traits of these songs bear very strong resemblance to Assamese some of which are extant.
After the Charyapadas, the period may again be split into (a) Pre-Vaishnavite and (b) Vaishnavite sub-periods. The earliest known Assamese writer is Hema Saraswati, who wrote a small poem "Prahlada Charita". In the time of the King Indranarayana (1350–1365) of Kamatapur the two poets Harihara Vipra and Kaviratna Saraswati composed Asvamedha Parva and Jayadratha Vadha respectively. Another poet named Rudra Kandali translated Drona Parva into Assamese. But the most well-known poet of the Pre-Vaishnavite sub period is Madhav Kandali, who rendered Valmiki's Ramayana into Assamese verse (Kotha Ramayana, 11th century) under the patronage of Mahamanikya, a Kachari king of Jayantapura.
Assamese writers of Vaishnavite periods had been Srimanta Sankardev, Madhabdev, Damodardev, Haridevand Bhattadev. Among these, Srimanta Sankardev has been widely acknowledged as the top Assamese littérateur of all-time, and generally acknowledged as the one who introduced drama, poetry, classical dance form called Satriya, classical music form called Borgeet, art and painting, stage enactment of drama called Bhaona and Satra tradition of monastic lifestyle. His main disciples Madhabdev and Damodardev followed in his footsteps, and enriched Assamese literary world with their own contributions. Damodardev's disciple Bhattadev is acknowledged as the first Indian prose writer, who introduced the unique prose writing style in Assamese.
Of the post-Vaishnavite age of Assamese literature, notable modern Assamese writers are Lakshminath Bezbaruah, Padmanath Gohain Baruah, Hemchandra Goswami, Hem Chandra Barua, Atul Chandra Hazarika, Nalini Bala Devi, Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya, Amulya Barua, Navakanta Barua, Syed Abdul Malik, Bhabananda Deka, Jogesh Das, Homen Borgohain, Bhabendra Nath Saikia, Lakshmi Nandan Bora, Nirmal Prabha Bordoloi, Mahim Bora, Hiren Gohain, Arun Sharma, Hiren Bhattacharyya, Mamoni Raisom Goswami, Nalini Prava Deka, Nilamani Phukan, Arupa Kalita Patangia, Dhrubajyoti Bora, Arnab Jan Deka, Rita Chowdhury, Anuradha Sharma Pujari, Manikuntala Bhattacharya and several others.
A comprehensive introductory book Assamese Language-Literature & Sahityarathi Lakshminath Bezbaroa originally authored by leading Assamese littérateur of Awahon-Ramdhenu Era and pioneer Assam economist Bhabananda Deka together with his three deputies, Parikshit Hazarika, Upendra Nath Goswami and Prabhat Chandra Sarma, was published in 1968. This book was officially released in New Delhi on 24 Nov 1968 by then President of India Dr Zakir Hussain in commemoration of the birth centenary celebration of doyen of Assamese literature Lakshminath Bezbaroa. After almost half a century, this historic book has been recovered and re-edited by Assamese award-winning short-story writer & novelist Arnab Jan Deka, which was published by Assam Foundation-India in 2014. This second enlarged edition was officially released on 4 December 2014 on the occasion of 150th birth anniversary of Lakshminath Bezbaroa and 8th Death Anniversary of Bhabananda Deka by Great Britain-based bilingual magazine Luit to Thames (Luitor Pora Thamsoloi) editor Dr Karuna Sagar Das.
Main article: Bengali literature
See also: Bengali novels, Bengali poetry, and Bengali science fiction
The first evidence of Bengali literature is known as Charyapada or Charyageeti, which were Buddhist hymns from the 8th century. Charyapada is in the oldest known written form of Bengali. The famous Bengali linguist Harprashad Shastri discovered the palm leaf Charyapada manuscript in the Nepal Royal Court Library in 1907. The most internationally famous Bengali writer is Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 for his work "Gitanjali". He wrote the national anthem of India and Bangladesh namely, "Jana Gana Mana" and "Amar Sonar Bangla", respectively. He was the first Asian who won the Nobel Prize. Rabindranath has written enormous amount of poems, songs, essays, novels, plays and short stories. His songs remain popular and are still widely sung in Bengal.
Kazi Nazrul Islam, who is one generation younger than Tagore, is also equally popular, valuable, and influential in socio-cultural context of the Bengal, though virtually unknown in foreign countries. And among later generation poets, Jibanananda Das is considered the most important figure. Other famous Indian Bengali writers were Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Sunil Gangopadhyay etc.
Sukanta Bhattacharya(15 August 1926 – 13 May 1947) was a Bengali poet and playwright. Along with Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam, he was one of the key figures of modern Bengali poetry, despite the fact that most of his works had been in publication posthumously. During his life, his poems were not widely circulated, but after his death his reputation grew to the extent that he became one of the most popular Bengali poet of the 20th century.
Bengali is the second most commonly spoken language in India (after Hindi). As a result of the Bengal Renaissance in the 19th and 20th centuries, many of India's most famous, and relatively recent, literature, poetry, and songs are in Bengali.
In the history of Bengali literature there has been only one pathbreaking literary movement by a group of poets and artists who called themselves Hungryalists.
Main article: Bhojpuri § Bhojpuri literature
Main article: Chhattisgarhi § Chhattisgarhi Literature
Literature in Chhattisgarh reflects the regional consciousness and the evolution of an identity distinct from others in Central India. The social problems of the lower castes/untouchables were highlighted in the writings of Khub Chand Baghel through his plays ‘'Jarnail Singh’' and '‘Unch Neech’'.
Main article: Indian English literature
Further information: Indian English
In the 20th century, several Indian writers have distinguished themselves not only in traditional Indian languages but also in English, a language inherited from the British. As a result of British colonisation, India has developed its own unique dialect of English known as Indian English. Indian English typically follows British spelling and pronunciation as opposed to American, and books published in India reflect this phenomenon. Indian English literature, however, tends to utilise more internationally recognisable vocabulary then does colloquial Indian English, in the same way that American English literature does so as compared to American slang.
India's only Nobel laureate in literature was the Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote some of his work originally in English, and did some of his own English translations from Bengali. India's best selling English-language novelists of all-time are the contemporary writers like Chetan Bhagat, Manjiri Prabhu and Ashok Banker. More recent major writers in English who are either Indian or of Indian origin and derive much inspiration from Indian themes are R. K. Narayan, Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Raja Rao, Amitav Ghosh, Rohinton Mistry, Vikram Chandra, Mukul Kesavan, Raj Kamal Jha, Vikas Swarup, Khushwant Singh, Shashi Tharoor, Nayantara Sehgal, Anita Desai, Kiran Desai, Ashok Banker, Shashi Deshpande, Arnab Jan Deka, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kamala Markandaya, Gita Mehta, Manil Suri, Manjiri Prabhu, Ruskin Bond, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Bharati Mukherjee.
In category of Indian writing in English is poetry. Rabindranath Tagore wrote in Bengali and English and was responsible for the translations of his own work into English. Other early notable poets in English include Derozio, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Toru Dutt, Romesh Chunder Dutt, Sri Aurobindo, Sarojini Naidu, and her brother Harindranath Chattopadhyay.
In the 1950s, the Writers Workshop collective in Calcutta was founded by the poet and essayist P. Lal to advocate and publish Indian writing in English. The press was the first to publish Pritish Nandy, Sasthi Brata, and others; it continues to this day to provide a forum for English writing in India. In modern times, Indian poetry in English was typified by two very different poets. Dom Moraes, winner of the Hawthornden Prize at the age of 19 for his first book of poems A Beginning went on to occupy a pre-eminent position among Indian poets writing in English. Nissim Ezekiel, who came from India's tiny Bene Israel Jewish community, created a voice and place for Indian poets writing in English and championed their work.
Their contemporaries in English poetry in India were Jayanta Mahapatra, Gieve Patel, A. K. Ramanujan, Arun Kolatkar, Dilip Chitre, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Eunice De Souza, Kersi Katrak, P. Lal and Kamala Das among several others.
Younger generations of poets writing in English include G. S. Sharat Chandra, Hoshang Merchant, Makarand Paranjape, Anuradha Bhattacharyya, Nandini Sahu, Arundhathi Subramaniam, Jeet Thayil, Ranjit Hoskote, Sudeep Sen, Abhay K, Jerry Pinto, K Srilata, Gopi Kottoor, Tapan Kumar Pradhan, Arnab Jan Deka, Anju Makhija, Robin Ngangom, Rukmini Bhaya Nair, Smita Agarwal, Vihang A. Naik and Vivekanand Jha among others.
A generation of exiles also sprang from the Indian diaspora. Among these are names like Agha Shahid Ali, Sujata Bhatt, Richard Crasta, Yuyutsu Sharma, Shampa Sinha, Tabish Khair and Vikram Seth.
In recent years, English-language writers of Indian origin are being published in the West at an increasing rate.
Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai and Arvind Adiga have won the prestigious Man Booker Prize, with Salman Rushdie going on to win the Booker of Bookers.
Main article: Hindi literature
Hindi literature started as religious and philosophical poetry in medieval periods in dialects like Avadhi and Brij. The most famous figures from this period are Kabir and Tulsidas. In modern times, the Khariboli dialect became more prominent than Sanskrit.
Chandrakanta, written by Devaki Nandan Khatri, is considered to be the first work of prose in Hindi. Munshi Premchand was the most famous Hindi novelist. The chhayavadi poets include Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala', Prem Bajpai, Jaishankar Prasad, Sumitranandan Pant, and Mahadevi Varma. Other renowned poets include Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar', Maithili Sharan Gupt, Agyeya, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, and Dharmveer Bharti.
Main article: Gujarati literature
Gujarati literature's history may be traced to 1000 AD. Since then literature has flourished till date. Well known laureates of Gujarati literature are Hemchandracharya, Narsinh Mehta, Mirabai, Akho, Premanand Bhatt, Shamal Bhatt, Dayaram, Dalpatram, Narmad, Govardhanram Tripathi, Gandhi, K. M. Munshi, Umashankar Joshi, Suresh Joshi, Pannalal Patel and Rajendra Keshavlal Shah.
Gujarat Vidhya Sabha, Gujarat Sahitya Sabha, and Gujarati Sahitya Parishad are Ahmedabad based literary institutions promoting the spread of Gujarati literature. Umashankar Joshi, Pannalal Patel, Rajendra Keshavlal Shah and Raghuveer Chaudhary have won the Jnanpith Award, the highest literary award in India.
Main article: Kannada literature
The oldest existing record of Kannada prose is the Halmidi inscription of 450 CE, and poetry in tripadi metre is the Kappe Arabhatta record of 700 CE. The folk form of literature began earlier than any other literature in Kannada. Gajashtaka (800 CE) by King Shivamara II, Chudamani (650 CE) by Thumbalacharya are examples of early literature now considered extinct. Kavirajamarga by King Nripatunga Amoghavarsha I (850 CE) is the earliest existing literary work in Kannada. It is a writing on literary criticism and poetics meant to standardize various written Kannada dialects used in literature in previous centuries. The book makes reference to Kannada works by early writers such as King Durvinita of the 6th century and Ravikirti, the author of the Aihole record of 636 CE. An early extant prose work, the Vaddaradhane by Shivakotiacharya of 900 CE provides an elaborate description of the life of Bhadrabahu of Shravanabelagola. Since the earliest available Kannada work is one on grammar and a guide of sorts to unify existing variants of Kannada grammar and literary styles, it can be safely assumed that literature in Kannada must have started several centuries earlier.Pampa who popularised Champu style which is unique to Kannada wrote the epic "Vikramarjuna Vijaya". He also wrote "Adipurana". Other famous poets like Ponna and Ranna wrote "Shantipurana" and "Ghadayudha" respectively. The jain poet Nagavarma 2 wrote "Kavyavalokana", "Karnatabhashabhushana" and "Vardhamanapurana" . Janna was the author of "Yashodhara Charitha". Rudhrabhatta and Durgashima wrote "Jagannatha Vijaya" and "Panchatantra" respectively. The works of the medieval period are based on Jain and Hindu principles. The Vachana Sahitya tradition of the 12th century is purely native and unique in world literature. It is the sum of contributions by all sections of society. Vachanas were pithy comments on that period's social, religious and economic conditions. More importantly, they held a mirror to the seed of social revolution, which caused a radical re-examination of the ideas of caste, creed and religion. Some of the important writers of Vachana literature include Basavanna, Allama Prabhu and Akka Mahadevi. Kumara Vyasa, who wrote the Karnata Bharata Katamanjari, has arguably been the most famous and most influential Kannada writer of the 15th century. The Bhakti movement gave rise to Dasa Sahitya around the 15th century which significantly contributed to the evolution of Carnatic music in its present form. This period witnessed great Haridasas like Purandara Dasa who has been aptly called the Pioneer of Carnatic music, Kanaka Dasa, Vyasathirtha and Vijaya Dasa. Modern Kannada in the 20th century has been influenced by many movements, notably Navodaya, Navya, Navyottara, Dalita and Bandaya. Contemporary Kannada literature has been highly successful in reaching people of all classes in society. Works of Kannada literature have received Eight Jnanpith awards, which is the highest number awarded for the literature in any Indian language. It has also received forty-seven Sahitya Academy awards.
See also: Medieval Kannada literature and Kannada poetry
Main article: Kashmiri literature
Main article: Malayalam literature
Even up to 500 years since the start of the Malayalam calendar
The culture of India refers collectively to the thousands of distinct and unique cultures of all religions and communities present in India. India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food, and customs differs from place to place within the country. The Indian culture, often labeled as an amalgamation of several cultures, spans across the Indian subcontinent and has been influenced by a history that is several millenniums old. Many elements of India's diverse cultures, such as Indian religions, Indian philosophy and Indian cuisine, have a profound impact across the world.
India has 29 states with different culture and civilizations and one of the most populated countries in the world. The Indian culture, often labeled as an amalgamation of several various cultures, spans across the Indian subcontinent and has been influenced and shaped by a history that is several thousand years old. Throughout the history of India, Indian culture has been heavily influenced by Dharmic religions. They have been credited with shaping much of Indian philosophy, literature, architecture, art and music.Greater India was the historical extent of Indian culture beyond the Indian subcontinent. This particularly concerns the spread of Hinduism, Buddhism, architecture, administration and writing system from India to other parts of Asia through the Silk Road by the travellers and maritime traders during the early centuries of the Common Era. To the west, Greater India overlaps with Greater Persia in the Hindu Kush and Pamir Mountains. Over the centuries, there has been significant fusion of cultures between Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs and various tribal populations in India.
India is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and other religions. Collectively known as Indian religions. Indian religions are a major form of world religions along with Abrahamic ones. Today, Hinduism and Buddhism are the world's third and fourth-largest religions respectively, with over 2 billion followers altogether, and possibly as many as 2.5 or 2.6 billion followers. Followers of Indian religions – Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists make up around 80–82% population of India.
India is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse nations in the world, with some of the most deeply religious societies and cultures. Religion plays a central and definitive role in the life of many of its people. Although India is a secular Hindu-majority country, it has a large Muslim population. Except for Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and Lakshadweep, Hindus form the predominant population in all 29 states and 7 union territories. Muslims are present throughout India, with large populations in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Kerala, Telangana, West Bengal and Assam; while only Jammu and Kashmir and Lakshadweep have majority Muslim populations. Sikhs and Christians are other significant minorities of India.
According to the 2011 census, 79.8% of the population of India practice Hinduism. Islam (14.2%), Christianity (2.3%), Sikhism (1.7%), Buddhism (0.7%) and Jainism (0.4%) are the other major religions followed by the people of India. Many tribal religions, such as Sarnaism, are found in India, though these have been affected by major religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and the Bahá'í Faith are also influential but their numbers are smaller.Atheism and agnostics also have visible influence in India, along with a self-ascribed tolerance to other faiths. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Centre, India will have world's largest populations of Hindus and Muslims by 2050. India is expected to have about 311 million Muslims making up around 19–20% of the population and yet about 1.3 billion Hindus are projected to live in India comprising around 76% of the population.
Atheism and agnosticism have a long history in India and flourished within Śramaṇa movement. The Cārvāka school originated in India around the 6th century BCE. It is one of the earliest form of materialistic and atheistic movement in ancient India.Sramana, Buddhism, Jainism, Ājīvika and some schools of Hinduism consider atheism to be valid and reject the concept of creator deity, ritualism and superstitions. India has produced some notable atheist politicians and social reformers. According to the 2012 WIN-Gallup Global Index of Religion and Atheism report, 81% of Indians were religious, 13% were not religious, 3% were convinced atheists, and 3% were unsure or did not respond.
Main article: Indian philosophy
Indian philosophy comprises the philosophical traditions of the Indian subcontinent. There are six schools of orthodox Hindu philosophy—Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā and Vedanta—and four heterodox schools—Jain, Buddhist, Ājīvika and Cārvāka – last two are also schools of Hinduism. However, there are other methods of classification; Vidyarania for instance identifies sixteen schools of Indian philosophy by including those that belong to the Śaiva and Raseśvara traditions. Since medieval India (ca.1000–1500), schools of Indian philosophical thought have been classified by the Brahmanical tradition as either orthodox or non-orthodox – āstika or nāstika – depending on whether they regard the Vedas as an infallible source of knowledge.
The main schools of Indian philosophy were formalised chiefly between 1000 BCE to the early centuries of the Common Era. According to philosopher Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the earliest of these, which date back to the composition of the Upanishads in the later Vedic period (1000–500 BCE), constitute "the earliest philosophical compositions of the world." Competition and integration between the various schools was intense during their formative years, especially between 800 BCE and 200 CE. Some schools like Jainism, Buddhism, Śaiva and Advaita Vedanta survived, but others, like Samkhya and Ājīvika, did not; they were either assimilated or became extinct. Subsequent centuries produced commentaries and reformulations continuing up to as late as the 20th century. Authors who gave contemporary meaning to traditional philosophies include Swami Vivekananda, Ram Mohan Roy, and Swami Dayananda Saraswati..
Ahimsa is an important Indian philosophy whose most well known proponent was Gandhi. A philosophy of non violence which through civil disobedience brought India together against the British Raj. This philosophy further inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. during the American civil rights movement.
Family structure and marriage
For generations, India has a prevailing tradition of the joint family system. It is when extended members of a family – parents, children, the children's spouses and their offspring, etc. – live together. Usually, the oldest male member is the head in the joint Indian family system. He mostly makes all important decisions and rules, and other family members are likely to abide by them.
In a 1966 study, Orenstein and Micklin analysed India's population data and family structure. Their studies suggest that Indian household sizes had remained similar over the 1911 to 1951 period. There after, with urbanisation and economic development, India has witnessed a break up of traditional joint family into more nuclear-like families. Sinha, in his book, after summarising the numerous sociological studies done on Indian family, notes that over the last 60 years, the cultural trend in most parts of India has been an accelerated change from joint family to nuclear families, much like population trends in other parts of the world. The traditional large joint family in India, in the 1990s, accounted for a small percent of Indian households, and on average had lower per capita household income. He finds that joint family still persists in some areas and in certain conditions, in part due cultural traditions and in part due to practical factors. Youth in lower socio-economic classes are more inclined to spend time with their families than their peers due to differing ideologies in rural and urban parenting. With the spread of education and growth of economics, the traditional joint-family system is breaking down rapidly across India and attitudes towards working women have changed.
Arranged marriages have long been the norm in Indian society. Even today, the majority of Indians have their marriages planned by their parents and other respected family-members. In the past, the age of marriage was young. The average age of marriage for women in India has increased to 21 years, according to 2011 Census of India. In 2009, about 7% of women got married before the age of 18.
In most of the marriages the bride's family provide a dowry to the bridegroom. Traditionally, the dowry was considered a woman's share of the family wealth, since a daughter had no legal claim on her natal family's real estate. It also typically included portable valuables such as jewellery and household goods that a bride could control throughout her life. Historically, in most families the inheritance of family estates passed down the male line. Since 1956, Indian laws treat males and females as equal in matters of inheritance without a legal will. Indians are increasingly using a legal will for inheritance and property succession, with about 20 percent using a legal will by 2004.
In India, the divorce rate is low — 1% compared with about 40% in the United States. These statistics do not reflect a complete picture, though. There is a dearth of scientific surveys or studies on Indian marriages where the perspectives of both husbands and wives were solicited in-depth. Sample surveys suggest the issues with marriages in India are similar to trends observed elsewhere in the world. The divorce rates are rising in India. Urban divorce rates are much higher. Women initiate about 80 percent of divorces in India.
Opinion is divided over what the phenomenon means: for traditionalists the rising numbers portend the breakdown of society while, for some modernists, they speak of a healthy new empowerment for women.
Recent studies suggest that Indian culture is trending away from traditional arranged marriages. Banerjee et al. surveyed 41,554 households across 33 states and union territories in India in 2005. They find that the marriage trends in India are similar to trends observed over last 40 years in China, Japan and other nations. The study found that fewer marriages are purely arranged without consent and that the majority of surveyed Indian marriages are arranged with consent. The percentage of self-arranged marriages (called love marriages in India) were also increasing, particularly in the urban parts of India.
Weddings are festive occasions in India with extensive decorations, colors, music, dance, costumes and rituals that depend on the religion of the bride and the groom, as well as their preferences. The nation celebrates about 10 million weddings per year, of which over 80% are Hindu weddings.
While there are many festival-related rituals in Hinduism, vivaha (wedding) is the most extensive personal ritual an adult Hindu undertakes in his or her life. Typical Hindu families spend significant effort and financial resources to prepare and celebrate weddings. The rituals and process of a Hindu wedding vary depending on region of India, local adaptations, resources of the family and preferences of the bride and the groom. Nevertheless, there are a few key rituals common in Hindu weddings – Kanyadaan, Panigrahana, and Saptapadi; these are respectively, gifting away of daughter by the father, voluntarily holding hand near the fire to signify impending union, and taking seven steps before fire with each step including a set of mutual vows. After the seventh step and vows of Saptapadi, the couple is legally husband and wife. Sikhs get married through a ceremony called Anand Karaj. The couple walk around the holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib four times. Indian Muslims celebrate a traditional Islamic wedding following customs similar to those practiced in the Middle East. The rituals include Nikah, payment of financial dower called Mahr by the groom to the bride, signing of marriage contract, and a reception. Indian Christian weddings follow customs similar to those practiced in the Christian countries in the West in states like Goa but have more Indian customs in other states.
Main article: Festivals in India
India, being a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic 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, Janmashtami, Diwali, Maha Shivratri, Ganesh Chaturthi, Durga Puja, Holi, Rath Yatra, Ugadi, Onam, Vasant Panchami, Rakshabandhan, and Dussehra. Several harvest festivals such as Makar Sankranti, Pongal and Raja sankaranti swinging festival are also fairly popular.
Indian New year festival are celebrated in different part of India with unique style in different times. Ugadi, Bihu, Gudhi Padwa, Puthandu, Pohela Boishakh, Vishu and Vishuva Sankranti are the New years festival of different part of India.
Certain festivals in India are celebrated by multiple religions. Notable examples include Diwali, which is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the country and Buddha Purnima, Ambedkar Jayanti celebrated by Buddhists. Sikh festivals, such as Guru Nanak Jayanti, Baisakhi are celebrated with full fanfare by Sikhs and Hindus of Punjab and Delhi where the two communities together form an overwhelming majority of the population. 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. Nowruz is the most important festival among the Parsi community of India.
Islam in India is the second largest religion with over 172 million Muslims, according to India's 2011 census. The Islamic festivals which are observed and are declared public holiday in India are; Eid ul Fitr, Eid ul Adha-(Bakri 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 and community fairs are also common festival in India. For example, Pushkar fair of Rajasthan is one of the world's largest markets of cattle and livestock.
Greetings include Namaste (Hindi and Sanskrit), Namaskar (Hindi), Juhar/Namaskar in Odia, Namaskar (Marathi),Namaskara (Kannada), Namaskaram (Telugu, Malayalam), Vanakkam (Tamil), Nomoshkaar (Bengali), Nomoskar (Assamese). All these are common spoken greetings or salutations when people meet, and are forms of farewell when they depart. Namaskar is considered slightly more formal than Namaste but both express deep respect. Namaskar is commonly used in India and Nepal by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists, and many continue to use this outside the Indian subcontinent. In Indian and Nepali culture, the word is spoken at the beginning of written or verbal communication. However, the same hands folded gesture may be made wordlessly or said without the folded hand gesture. The word is derived from Sanskrit (namah): to bow, reverential salutation, and respect, and (te): "to you". Taken literally, it means "I bow to you". In Hinduism it means "I bow to the divine in you." In most Indian families, younger men and women are taught to seek the blessing of their elders by reverentially bowing to their elders. This custom is known as Pranāma.
Other greetings include Jai Jagannath (used in Odia) Ami Aschi (used in Bengali), Jai Shri Krishna (in Gujarati and the Braj Bhasha and Rajasthani dialects of Hindi), Ram Ram/(Jai) Sita Ram ji (Awadhi and Bhojpuri dialects of Hindi and other Bihari dialects), and Sat Sri Akal (Punjabi; used by followers of Sikhism), As-salamu alaykum (Urdu; used by follower of Islam), Jai Jinendra (a common greeting used by followers of Jainism), Namo Buddha (used by followers of Buddhism), Allah Abho (used by followers of Bahá'í), Shalom aleichem (used by followers of Judaism), Hamazor Hama Ashobed (used by followers of Zoroastrianism), Sahebji (Persian and Gujarati; used by the Parsi people), Dorood (Persian and Guarati; used by the Irani people), Om Namah Shivaya/Jai Bholenath (used in Dogri and Kashmiri, also used in the city of Varanasi), Jai Ambe Maa/Jai Mata di (used in Eastern India), Jai Ganapati Bapa (used in Marathi and Konkani), and etc.
These traditional forms of greeting may be absent in the world of business and in India's urban environment, where a handshake is a common form of greeting.
See also: Wildlife of India, Animal husbandry in India, and Cattle in religion
The varied and rich wildlife of India has had a profound impact on the region's popular culture. Common name for wilderness in India is Jungle which was adopted by the British colonialists to the English language. The word has been also made famous in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. India's wildlife has been the subject of numerous other tales and fables such as the Panchatantra and the Jataka tales.
In Hinduism, the cow is regarded as a symbol of ahimsa (non-violence), mother goddess and bringer of good fortune and wealth. For this reason, cows are revered in Hindu culture and feeding a cow is seen as an act of worship. This is why beef remains a taboo food in mainstream Hindu and Jain society.
As of January 2012, cow remains a divisive and controversial topic in India. Several states of India have passed laws to protect cows, while many states have no restrictions on the production and consumption of beef. Some groups oppose the butchering of cows, while other secular groups argue that what kind of meat one eats ought to be a matter of personal choice in a democracy. Madhya Pradesh enacted a law in January 2012, namely the Gau-Vansh Vadh Pratishedh (Sanshodhan) Act, which makes cow slaughter a serious offence. Gujarat, a western state of India, has the Animal Preservation Act, enacted in October 2011, that prohibits killing of cows along with buying, selling and transport of beef. In contrast, Odisha, Assam and Andhra Pradesh allow butchering of cattle with a fit-for-slaughter certificate. In the states of West Bengal and Kerala, consumption of beef is not deemed an offence. Contrary to stereotypes, a sizeable number of Hindus eat beef, and many argue that their scriptures, such as Vedic and Upanishadic texts do not prohibit its consumption. In southern Indian state Kerala, for instance, beef accounts for nearly half of all meat consumed by all communities, including Hindus. Sociologists theorise that the widespread consumption of cow meat in India is because it is a far cheaper source of animal protein for the poor than mutton or chicken, which retail at double the price. For these reasons, India's beef consumption post-independence in 1947 has witnessed a much faster growth than any other kind of meat; currently, India is one of the five largest producer and consumer of cattle livestock meat in the world. A beef ban has been made in Maharashtra and other states as of 2015. While states such as Madhya Pradesh are passing local laws to prevent cruelty to cows, other Indians are arguing "If the real objective is to prevent cruelty to animals, then why single out the cow when hundreds of other animals are maltreated?"
Main article: Indian cuisine
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."
I travel to India at least three to four times a year. It's always inspirational. There is so much to learn from India because each and every state is a country by itself and each has its own cuisine. There are lots of things to learn about the different cuisines – it just amazes me. I keep my mind open and like to explore different places and pick up different influences as I go along. I don't actually think that there is a single state in India that I haven't visited. ... Indian food is a cosmopolitan cuisine that has so many ingredients. I don't think any cuisine in the world has got so many influences the way that Indian food has. It is a very rich cuisine and is very varied. Every region in the world has their own sense of how Indian food should be perceived.
— Atul Kochhar, the first Indian to receive two Michelin stars
... it takes me back to the first Christmas I can remember, when the grandmother I hadn't yet met, who was Indian and lived in England, sent me a box. For me it still carries the taste of strangeness and confusion and wonder.
— Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking
According to Sanjeev Kapoor, a member of Singapore Airlines' International Culinary Panel, Indian food has long been an expression of world cuisine. Kapoor claims, "if you looked back in India's history and study the food that our ancestors ate, you will notice how much attention was paid to the planning and cooking of a meal. Great thought was given to the texture and taste of each dish." One such historical record is Mānasollāsa, (Sanskrit: मानसोल्लास, The Delight of Mind), written in the 12th century. The book describes the need to change cuisine and food with seasons, various methods of cooking, the best blend of flavours, the feel of various foods, planning and style of dining amongst other things.
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 northeastern. The diversity of Indian cuisine is characterised by the 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 Indian dishes also include meats like chicken, mutton, beef (both cow and buffalo), pork and fish, egg and other seafood. Fish-based cuisines are common in eastern states of India, particularly West Bengal and the western state of Kerala.
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 Central Asians, Arabs, Mughals, and European colonists. Sweets are also very popular among Indians, particularly in Bengal where both Bengali Hindus and Bengali Muslims distribute sweets to mark joyous occasions.
Indian cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines across the globe. In most Indian restaurants outside India, the menu does not do justice to the enormous variety of Indian cuisine available – the most common cuisine served on the menu would be Punjabi cuisine (chicken tikka masala is a very popular dish in the United Kingdom). There do exist some restaurants serving cuisines from other regions of India, although these are few and far between. Historically, Indian spices and herbs were one of the most sought after trade commodities. The spice trade between India and Europe led to the rise and dominance of Arab traders to such an extent that European explorers, such as Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus, set out to find new trade routes with India leading to the Age of Discovery. The popularity of curry, which originated in India, across Asia has often led to the dish being labeled as the "pan-Asian" dish.
Regional Indian cuisine continues to evolve. A fusion of East Asian and Western cooking methods with traditional cuisines, along with regional adaptations of fast food are prominent in major Indian cities.
The cuisine of Telangana consists of the Telugu cuisine, of Telangana's Telugu people as well as Hyderabadi cuisine (also known as Nizami cuisine), of Telangana's Hyderabadi Muslim community.Hyderabadi food is based heavily on non-vegetarian ingredients while, Telugu food is a mix of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian ingredients. Telugu food is rich in spices and chillies are abundantly used. The food also generally tends to be more on the tangy side with tamarind and lime juice both used liberally as souring agents. Rice is the staple food of Telugu people. Starch is consumed with a variety of curries and lentil soups or broths. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods are both popular. Hyderabadi cuisine includes popular delicacies such as Biryani, Haleem, Baghara baingan and Kheema, while Hyderabadi day to day dishes see some commonalities with Telanganite Telugu food, with its use of tamarind, rice, and lentils, along with meat.Yogurt is a common addition to meals, as a way of tempering spiciness.
Main article: Clothing in India
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.
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 1 million Indian women from religions other than Hindu and agnostics/atheists who may be married. The make up and clothing styles differ regionally between the Hindu groups, and also by climate or religion, with Christians preferring Western and Muslim preferring the Arabic styles.
Indian cuisine is diverse, ranging from very spicy to very mild, varying with seasons in each region. These reflect the local agriculture, regional climate, culinary innovations and cultural diversity. Food in India is sometimes served in thali – a plate with rice, bread and a selection of sides. Above are thali samples.
Nimmatnama-i Nasiruddin-Shahi (Book of Recipes), written about 1500 C.E, documents the fine art of making Kheer, a milk based dessert of India: Select the cows carefully; to get quality milk, pay attention to what the cows eat; feed them sugar canes; use this milk to make the best Kheer. While, another popular variant is Phirni.