India is a country where you can witness a unique blend of innumerable cultures and traditions. The customs and traditions practiced in a particular region of the country are usually influenced by the geographical and climatic conditions of that region as well as exposure of the region to other cultures. Moreover, there are many regions where cultural practices are based on the local needs of the people. Foreign invaders who attacked the country also brought with them their customs and traditions which ultimately blended with the local cultures of India. This blending of cultures created new forms of art, music, dance, and architecture.
Folk music and classical music are the two main important aspects of Indian music. The folk music varies from one state to another in India and is based on local history and lifestyle of people. The classical music on the other hand demands much a good amount of training and practice from an individual. It is classified into two main categories: the north Indian classical music (Hindustani music) and South Indian classical music (Carnatic music). Both styles basically have same features. The Hindustani music displays more foreign influences including the Persian and Arab styles.
India is the land where innumerable dance forms developed. The folk dances in India depict the specialty of a specific state or tribe. Each dance form, including the classical dance, is characterized by its unique costume, make-up, grace and style. The rules of classical dances are being followed for hundreds of years by the dancers. Gracious postures and movements of hands and legs make an integral part of different classical dance forms in India. A classical dancer also learns to portray different emotions with expressions of face and movements of different body parts. The major classical dance forms in India include Bharata Natyam, Kathak, Mohini Attam, Kuchipuri, Manipuri, Odissi, Ottan Thullal, Chakiarkoothu, Chhau, Koodiyattam, Krishnattam, etc.
Bharatanatyam dance style developed in Tamil Nadu state. Originally it was practiced in the temples by devadasis. It was an important part of the religious ceremonies performed from time to time in the temples. The basic posture in this form is known as araimandi. Bharatanatyam dancers make movements in straight lines or in triangular form.
Kathak dance form developed in Hindu temples in north India and was refined for hundreds of years. In this dance form, a solo dancer narrates the stories from Hindu mythology. Mythological characters like Radha and Krishna, Shiva and Partati and many others are prominently used in Kathak. A dance theme may also include simple chores such as walking, an encounter with the lover, etc. Eye glances and mine art are primarily used in this dance.
Kathakali dance form belongs to Kerala state and basically includes a dance drama or a story play. The main feature of this dance is the use of colorful costumes, ornaments, etc. Symbolic makeup and costumes are used to depict character-type roles such as that of gods, demons, etc. Different stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata, two great Hindu epics, are used in this dance form. Movements of face, eyebrow, cheeks, eyeballs, etc., are used to depict various emotions.
This art form started flourishing in India from very early periods. Indian paintings are largely categorized as murals and miniatures. Murals are the painting works that are completed on the walls of buildings. Some good examples of mural work in India include temples of Ajantha, Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, Kanchepuram, etc. Miniatures, as the name suggests, are the small paintings done on papers, clothes, etc. The best examples of these paintings are Mughal and Rajasthani miniatures as well Tanjore paintings and Madhubani paintings.
The architectural styles in India have been greatly influenced with the foreign styles that reached India with foreign invaders. Muslim and European styles are the prominent architectural styles that intermingled with Indian styles. Stambhas, Stupas, Chaityas, Viharas, rock-cut temples, etc., are some of types of structures that were built on a large scale in ancient India.
Stambhas or pillars were heavily used at Buddhist places. A number of stambhas were constructed during the period of Emperor Ashoka. The style of stambha construction developed over the centuries. Some of the best examples of Stambhas are Basarh Bakhira, Laurya Nandangarh, and Sarnath. Hindu and Jain communities also adopted this style later and many prominent Hindu buildings used stambhas in their design.
Stupas, low circular mounds surrounded by boulders, were also among the prominent Buddhist structures. Within the stupas were usually enshrined body relics of various Buddhist monks. The Sanchi stupa is the most famous example of stupa art.
Chaityas and Viharas were other important architectural structures of Buddhists that were basically rock-cut structures. Halls that enclose the stupas are known as chaityas. Viharas were the buildings where Buddhist monks used to live. Nalanda, Vikramasila, Somapura, and Ajanta were among the main places where viharas were made.
According to their styles, Hindu temples were largely categorized in three different types – Vesara, Nagara, and Dravida. Apart from these, other architectural styles that developed over the centuries include North Indian style, Western Indian style, Deccan Style, South Indian Style, etc. It is not known exactly when was the first Hindu temple constructed in India. The first Hindu temples were made of materials that perished with time such as timber, clay, etc. Later, rock-cut cave temples were made. Grand temples with elaborate structures were made in later centuries, probably in the Gupta period. They were made using bricks and stones. Hindu and Jain cave temples were made at Badami, Ellora, Elephanta, Aurangabad and some other places. The Brahmanical Kailasa temple at Ellora was constructed by the Rashtrakutas. The Pallavas of Kanchi made many rock-cut structures in south India. The Laksitayatna Trimurti cave temple and many other temples were built during the Mahendra Varman period.
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