India-HISTORY & BEAUTY

Nearly five thousand years back, India’s first major civilization flourished along the Indus River valley. The twin cities of Mohenjodaro and Harappa, now in Pakistan, were ruled by priests and held the rudiments of Hinduism. These civilizations are known to possess a sophisticated lifestyle, a highly developed sense of aesthetics, an astonishing knowledge of town planning and an undecipherable script language. The Indus civilization at one point of time extended nearly a million square kilometres across the Indus river valley. It existed at the same time as the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Sumer, but far outlasted them. Surviving for nearly a thousand years, the Indus valley civilisation fell to tectonic upheavals in about 1700 BC, which caused a series of floods.

The coming of the Aryans around 1500 BC, gave the final blow to the collapsing Indus Valley civilization. At the dawn of the Vedic ages, the Aryans came in from the North and spread through large parts of India, bringing with them their culture and religious beliefs. The Four Vedas, known as the important books of Hinduism, were compiled in this period.

In 567 B.C., the founder of the Buddhist religion, Gautama Buddha, was born. During this time lived Mahavira, who founded the Jain Religion. The Indian subcontinent is full of caves and monuments devoted to these religions and are truly worth a visit.

Two hundred years later, in the 4th century B.C., Emperor Ashoka, one of the greatest Kings in Indian history, led the Mauryan Empire to take over almost all of what is now modern India. This great leader embraced Buddhism and built the group of monuments at Sanchi (a UNESCO world heritage site). The Ashoka pillar at Sarnath has been adopted by India as its national emblem and the Dharma Chakra on the Ashoka Pillar adorns the National Flag.

They were followed by the Guptas in the north, while in the southern part of India several different Hindu empires, the Cholas, the Pandyas, and the Cheras spread and grew, trading with Europe and other parts of Asia till the end of the 1100s.

Christianinty entered India from Europe at about the same time. Legend has it that St. Thomas the Apostle arrived in India in 52 A.D. Even earlier than that, people of the Jewish religion had already arrived on India’s shores.

In approximately the 7th century A.D. a group of Zoroastrians, or Parsees, landed in Gujarat and became a part of what is now the large mix of religions in India today, each of which adds its important and distinctive flavour.

In the 15th century, Guru Nanak laid the foundation of the Sikh religion in Punjab. In 1192, Mohammed of Ghori, a ruler from Afghanistan, came into India and captured several places in the north including Delhi. When he went home, he left one of his generals in charge who became the first Sultan of Delhi. During this time Islam, was introduced into a major part of Northern India. It may be mentioned that even before that, just after the period of the prophet, Islam was brought to the western coast of India by Arab traders and flourished in what is now Kerala.

The Dehli Sultanate gradually took control of more and more of North India over the next 200 years, till Timur, who was called “Timur the Lame” or “Tamberlane” came from Turkey in 1398 to attack India. He and his army stole all the valuables that they could carry and left. After that the Delhi Sultanate was never so strong again. Soon the Mughals, who were from Iran, came in and took control of the north. In the meantime in the south in 1336, the Hindu Vijayanagar empire was set up and became very strong.

The Europeans – Portuguese, French, Dutch, Danish and British – started arriving in the early 1600s. All of them held territories in India and made friends and enemies among India’s rulers as they got more and more involved, with the Indian politics, but it was the British who eventually controlled most of India and finally made it one of their colonies.

India got its independence from Britain in 1947 after a long struggle led mostly by Mahatma Gandhi. In the process of becoming independent, India became two countries instead of one. In the years since independence, India has made huge progress and coped with great problems, and has developed its industry and its agriculture, and has maintained a system of government which makes it the largest democracy in the world.

In a country as diverse and complex as India, it is not surprising to find that people here reflect the rich glories of the past And based on five thousand years of recorded history, the culture, traditions and values relative to geographic locations and the numerous distinctive manners, habits and food will always remain truly Indian.

From the eternal snows of the Himalayas to the cultivated peninsula of far South, from the deserts in the West to the humid deltas in the East, from the dry heat and cold of the Central Plateau to the cool forest foothills, Indian lifestyles clearly glorify the geography. The food, clothing and habits of an Indian will differ in accordance to their place of origin.

Indians believe in sharing happiness and sorrow. A festival or a celebration is never constrained to a family or a home. The whole community or neighbourhood is involved in bringing liveliness to an occasion. A lot of festivals like Diwali, Holi, Id, Christmas, Mahaveer Jayanthi are all celebrated by sharing sweets and pleasantries with family, neighbors and friends. An Indian wedding is an occasion that calls for participation of the family and friends. Similarly, neighbors and friends always help out a family in times of need.

Ethnically, Indians speak different languages, follow different religions, and eat the most diverse varieties of food, all of which add to the rich Indian culture.The beauty of the Indian people lies in the spirit of tolerance, give-and-take and a composition of cultures that can be compared to a garden of flowers of various colours and shades of which, while maintaining their own entity, lend harmony and beauty to the garden – India!

The nucleus of this fascinating performing art. Later century works like Abhinaya Darpana, Abhinaya Chandrike, also have great relevance to the dancer today.

Legend has it that the Devas (Gods) had vanquished the Asuras (Evil) and were relating the happenings to Brahma, the God of Creation. The Asuras thought this was a renewed attack and retaliated. Brahma intervened – “This is only a performance, hence forth it will only be held on earth”.

And Brahma passed on all the information on Dance and Drama to Bharata Muni who compiled it as the Natya Shastra. Temples were raised to the house of the Gods and became the focal point for the community. They also became centers of learning and contributed to the advancement of such arts as sculpture, painting, music and dance. Mostly built by Kings, who were also the patrons of arts, encouraging a continuity and enriching rituals of worship, the earliest basis of the classical performing arts.

It was from the temple that the Devdasi cult (Temple Dancers who performed for the Lord) began. Once a practice countrywide – the Kulvantalu in Andhra Pradesh, the Maibi in Manipur, the Devdasi in Tamil Nadu and the Mahari in Orissa, all trace their roots to the temple. The countless sculptures in the temples that portray dance poses, hint at the potency of dance as a path to spiritual exaltation and lays out a complete lexicon of dance techniques.

For instance, it is said that the greater part of vocabulary of Odissi dance is preserved in stone. Truly, a rich heritage to be brought alive by the artist.

The Indian cuisine boasts of an immense variety not restricted to only curry. An authentic Indian curry is an intricate combination of a stir-fried Masala – a mixture of onion, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes; various spices and seasonings with which meat; poultry, vegetables or fish is prepared to produce a stew-type dish. Note: the word Masala also means spice.

Food in India is wide ranging in variety, taste and flavour. Being so diverse geographically, each region has its own cuisine and style of preparation. Indian cuisine, renowned for its exotic gravies seems complicated for any newcomer. The Mughlai cuisine of the north differs sharply from the preparations of the south. The Wazwan style of Kashmir is luxurious but the same can be said about Bengal’s Macher Jhol, Rajasthan’s Dal Bati, Uttar Pradesh’s Kebabs and Punjab’s Sarson Ka Saag and Makki di Roti. In India, as in many cultures, recipes are handed down from generation to generation.

The unique and strong flavours in Indian cuisine are derived from spices, seasonings and nutritious ingredients such as leafy vegetables, grains, fruits, and legumes. Most of the spices used in Indian cooking were originally chosen thousands of years ago for their medicinal qualities and not for flavor. Many of them, such as turmeric, cloves and cardamoms, are very antiseptic; others, like ginger, are carminative and good for the digestion. All curries are made using a wide variety of spices.

In Indian cuisine, food is categorized into six tastes – sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and astringent. A well-balanced Indian meal will contain all six tastes, but not always can this be accomplished. This principle can help explain the use of numerous spice combinations and depth of flavour in Indian recipes. Side dishes and condiments like chutneys, curries, daals and Indian pickles contribute to, and add to the overall flavour and texture of a meal and provide the needed.

Ethnically, Indians speak different languages, follow different religions, and eat the most diverse varieties of food, all of which add to the rich Indian culture.The beauty of the Indian people lies in the spirit of tolerance, give-and-take and a composition of cultures that can be compared to a garden of flowers of various colours and shades of which, while maintaining their own entity, lend harmony and beauty to the garden – India!

Indian Classical Dance “..abstraction of Upanishadic thought which is assiduously translated in to well designed concrete language of artistic media.”It all started with Natya Shastra Said to be written 2000 years ago by Bharata Muni, it is the seminal source book for dancers and performers. The mammoth book covers all technical and aesthetic aspects of the art of the Indian Theatre and Dance.

From the purpose of natya, to the architectural format, stage rituals, Rasa, Bhava, Abhinaya, gestic communication, music, types of instruments. 37 chapters that together form the nucleus of this fascinating performing art. Later century works like Abhinaya Darpana, Abhinaya Chandrike, also have great relevance to the dancer today.

Legend has it that the Devas (Gods) had vanquished the Asuras (Evil) and were relating the happenings to Brahma, the God of Creation. The Asuras thought this was a renewed attack and retaliated. Brahma intervened – “This is only a performance, hence forth it will only be held on earth”.

And Brahma passed on all the information on Dance and Drama to Bharata Muni who compiled it as the Natya Shastra. Temples were raised to the house of the Gods and became the focal point for the community. They also became centers of learning and contributed to the advancement of such arts as sculpture, painting, music and dance. Mostly built by Kings, who were also the patrons of arts, encouraging a continuity and enriching rituals of worship, the earliest basis of the classical performing arts.

It was from the temple that the Devdasi cult (Temple Dancers who performed for the Lord) began. Once a practice countrywide – the Kulvantalu in Andhra Pradesh, the Maibi in Manipur, the Devdasi in Tamil Nadu and the Mahari in Orissa, all trace their roots to the temple. The countless sculptures in the temples that portray dance poses, hint at the potency of dance as a path to spiritual exaltation and lays out a complete lexicon of dance techniques. For instance, it is said that the greater part of vocabulary of Odissi dance is preserved in stone. Truly, a rich heritage to be brought alive by the artist.

The Indian cuisine boasts of an immense variety not restricted to only curry. An authentic Indian curry is an intricate combination of a stir-fried Masala – a mixture of onion, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes; various spices and seasonings with which meat; poultry, vegetables or fish is prepared to produce a stew-type dish. Note: the word Masala also means spice.

Food in India is wide ranging in variety, taste and flavour. Being so diverse geographically, each region has its own cuisine and style of preparation. Indian cuisine, renowned for its exotic gravies seems complicated for any newcomer. The Mughlai cuisine of the north differs sharply from the preparations of the south. The Wazwan style of Kashmir is luxurious but the same can be said about Bengal’s Macher Jhol, Rajasthan’s Dal Bati, Uttar Pradesh’s Kebabs and Punjab’s Sarson Ka Saag and Makki di Roti. In India, as in many cultures, recipes are handed down from generation to generation.

The unique and strong flavours in Indian cuisine are derived from spices, seasonings and nutritious ingredients such as leafy vegetables, grains, fruits, and legumes. Most of the spices used in Indian cooking were originally chosen thousands of years ago for their medicinal qualities and not for flavor. Many of them, such as turmeric, cloves and cardamoms, are very antiseptic; others, like ginger, are carminative and good for the digestion. All curries are made using a wide variety of spices.

In Indian cuisine, food is categorized into six tastes – sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and astringent. A well-balanced Indian meal will contain all six tastes, but not always can this be accomplished. This principle can help explain the use of numerous spice combinations and depth of flavour in Indian recipes. Side dishes and condiments like chutneys, curries, daals and Indian pickles contribute to, and add to the overall flavour and texture of a meal and provide the needed balance.