5,000 Years of Indian Culture

By Naravane, Vishwanath S. | UNESCO Courier, February 1989 | Go to article overview

5,000 Years of Indian Culture


Naravane, Vishwanath S., UNESCO Courier


THE development of Indian culture can be compared to the progress of a river from its Himalayan home, through forests and wastelands, orchards and farms, villages and cities. The river assimilates the waters of many tributaries, its environment changes, yet it remains the same. Indian culture shows a similar combination of unity and diversity, continuity and change. In the course of her long history, India has witnessed many changes, made many adjustments, and assimilated elements from many sources, without breaking the continuity.

India is a land of varied landscapes and climates, of many races, religions, languages and cultures. But they all have an unmistakably Indian flavour. The source of this unity is elusive. It can be felt, but it defies analysis. In his famous book, Discovery of India, jawaharlal Nehru gave a sensitive and fascinating account of his search for the unity at the root of India's amazing diversity.

The Indus Valley civilization (3000-1800 BC) shows anticipations of ideas and art-forms later regarded as typically Indian. This is clear from the artefacts yielded during excavations at Harappa and Mohenjodaro. A statue of a man in meditation suggests the practice of Yoga. The smooth surfaces of a male torso in stone suggests, by its absence of muscular tension, the classlcal Indian concept of inward energy. A deity depicted on a clay seal is very similar to some later images of Shiva. And a little copper dancing-girl wears bangles of a kind that can be purchased today at a wayside bazaar in India. Recent research has shown that the influence of this culture extended to distant regions of northern and western India, and that the Indus Valley people had close contacts with the Dravidian civilization which flourished in southern India long before the coming of the Aryans.

Some time between 2000 and 1600 BC, a branch of the vast Aryan family, usually referred to as Indo-Aryans, migrated to India. They brought with them the Sanskrit language, and a religion based on sacrificial ritual honouring deities symbolizing elemental forces of Nature, such as Indra, god of rain and thunder, Agni (Fire) and Varuna, lord of the seas, rivers and seasons. Hymns addressed to these and other deities were collected in the four Vedas. The oldest of the Vedas is the Rigveda (1500-1200 BC) in which there is a quest for the Supreme Reality underlying all multiplicity. This trend was strengthened in the dialogues of the Upanishads (900-600 BC). Vedic poetry is marked by lofty ideas, literary beauty and a movement from external ritual to inward experience.

Two religions outside the Vedic tradition emerged in the sixth century BC. The Buddha's personality, and his emphasis on love, compassion and harmony, profoundly influenced Indian thought and culture, though Buddhism as an organized religion struck deeper roots outside India. Jainism, founded by Mahavira, stressed truth and non-violence, and made significant contributions to Indian art and philosophy.

In 326 BC, Alexander of Macedon crossed the Indus and won a decisive battle. Although he soon turned back, his invasion influenced Indian culture by initiating contacts with the Graeco-Roman world. Six years later, Chandragupta Maurya tried to unite the scattered kingdoms and republics of India in a centralized empire, with the capital at Pataliputra (modern Patna in Bihar). His grandson, Ashoka (reigned 273-237 BC), recoiling from the horrors of war, became an ardent Buddhist. The message of compassion and gentleness was inscribed on rocks and highly polished stone columns. The capitals surmounting the columns are fine pieces of sculpture.

Kings of the Shunga dynasty (185-149 BC) were orthodox Hindus, but there was a strong Buddhist revival under Kanishka, the Kushan kling who ruled in north-western India (78-101 AD). The Gandhara style of Buddhist sculpture, strongly influenced by Graeco-Roman art, developed under the Kushans. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

5,000 Years of Indian Culture
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.