Unity in Diversity is the essence of Incredible India!

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Nature, Culture and tradition – Unity in Diversity is the essence of India!

Diversity is the very essence of India.

Diversity of people and beliefs, region and religion, custom and tradition, flora and fauna, trades and occupations.

Nowhere in the world can you find a country better known for its unity of all its diversities than India- a land of diversities and an amalgamation of cultural and traditional heritage.

To quote Mark Twain what he said about India:

“The land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendour and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of traditions, whose yesterday’s bear date with the modering antiquities for the rest of nations-the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the world combined.”

Owing to its varied climatic conditions, rich soils and topography it houses a wide variety of flora and fauna. Its richness in flora and fauna is a spectacle for the eyes. For all nature lovers India is like an eye candy. India is one of the twelve mega diverse nations of the World. Two of India’s great mountain ranges, the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats have been designated among the world’s eighteen ‘hotspots‘ of biodiversity. Older than the great Himalayan mountain chain, the Western Ghats of India was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site as they are a geomorphic feature of immense global importance. The Outstanding Universal Value of the Western Ghats is manifested in the region’s unique and fascinating influence on large-scale biophysical and ecological processes over the entire Indian peninsula.

map_indiaIt is home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species. The snow-laden mighty Himalayas- ‘the abode of snow’ cover a vast area along the northern frontiers of India and span five Indian States — Jammu and Kashmir , Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh — from west to east. Himalayas are a storehouse of natural herbs and shrubs, its deep valleys and its snowy mountain glaciers, lakes are epitomes of scenic beauties.

It is popular for its forest vegetations ranging from dense tropical to rainforests and Alpine and sub-alpine forests to desert vegetations with awesome and abundant rare plants and animal species. Chirpine, Deodar, Blue pine, spruce, silver fir, and junipers oaks, laurels, maples, rhododendrons, alder, birch and dwarf willows as evergreen forests with lots of bamboo and tall grasses are the pride of Himalayas.

True to its opulence Himalayas are the true confluence of three major religions of Asia viz., Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism where people from different cultures and custom enjoy their diversity. The infamous Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram Range of the Himalayan Mountains which happens to be the world’s highest battlefield is a place where the Indian army battles the biting cold and checks all infiltration and external aggression so that the country rests in peace.

Taj_Mahal,_Agra,_Uttar_Pradesh,_India_2005For ages now Himalayas have been a popular tourist destination for Adventure trekking and mountaineering challenges, thousand expeditions of mountaineers climb for the highest peaks every year. Northern Plains Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal & Bihar – At the geographic heart of the lush northern plains of India, running from the northwest to the east and watered by the holy rivers Ganga and Yamuna, lies Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, and the holy seventh century city of Varanasi, contemporary of Babylon and Nineveh, with its bathing ghats and bazaars of deep antiquity selling rich brocades and embroideries dating to a 2000-year tradition, the Corbett National Park’s forested tiger havens and the brooding Buddhist monasteries of Bodhgaya. The agriculturally most productive alluvial silts and clays of the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta lie in north-eastern India. India has a rich variety of wetland habitats. Two sites – Chilka Lake (Orissa) and Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur) – have been designated under the Convention of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) as being especially significant waterfowl habitats.

Bay_of_Bengal_mapThe Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India are the paragon of beauty and present a landscape full with scenic and picturesque extravaganza. These islands shimmer like emeralds in the Bay of Bengal.

The dense forest which cover these islands and the innumerable exotic flowers and birds create a highly poetic and romantic atmosphere. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands is home to some of the oldest tribes of the world like Negrito and Mongoloid tribes. The Jarawa tribes are the indigenous peoples of the Andaman Islands in India which are still at hunting-gathering stage of economy along with the Sentinelese.

The Great Nicobar Biosphere island reserve, whose tropical wet evergreen forest hosts a wealth of animal species and medicinal plants, was recently added to a global list of places named by UNESCO for promoting sustainable development based on local community efforts and science. Great Nicobar is also home to indigenous Shompen people, semi-nomadic hunters living inland. North east India has numerous tribal communities such as Adis, Apatanis, Angami, Ao, Rengma, Nyishi, Garo, Khasi, Jaintias, Lushais, Kukis, Bodo, Mishing, Karbi, Bhutias, Lepchas, Nepalese, Riang, Trippera and Tripuri. Jharkhand is an important State from the viewpoint of tribal population in India.

A_nomad_lady_in_MaharashtraThere live thirty types of There live thirty types of Scheduled Tribes in Jharkhand, viz., Primitives Tribes: Asur, Birhor, Birajia, Korba, Mal Paharia, Sauriya Paharia, Sabar, or Hill Kharia and Parahiya. Other Tribes: Biga, Banjara, Bathudi, Bedia, Bhumij, Binjhia, Chero, Chik Baraik, Gond, Gorait, Ho, Karmali, Khadia, Kharwar, Khond, Kisan, Kora, Lohra, Mahali, Munda, Oraon and Santhal. Nilgiris, which is one of the oldest mountain ranges, located at the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka is India’s first biosphere and also home to the Toda Tribe which is the most ancient and unusual tribe in Tamil nadu. PHOTO: Ganesh: ganesh.dhamodkar@gmail.com

kurinji Strobilanths_kunthianaThe todas have their own language. They have their own secretive customs and regulations and known to practice fraternal polyandry. Rolling grasslands, dense sholas, waterfalls, streams, lakes and the violet blossoms of ‘kurinji‘ flower enveloping the Nilgiri hills are like treat to the eyes.

India exports finest quality of Assam and Darjeeling Teas from the finest plantations in the fertile Brahmaputra valleys in Assam which is the world’s largest tea-growing region as well second commercial tea production region after China. All over the world the Indian cuisine is famous for its spicy food which contains several spices blended together and the famous black pepper which fascinated the British traders towards India is grown along the Malabar Coast.

Pepper, popularly known as black gold holds a prime position in the world of spices. The distribution pattern of pepper across various states of India showed the dominance of Kerala. Black pepper originated in Kerala. From here it spread to the rest of South and Southeast Asia. Until well after the Middle Ages, virtually all of the black pepper found in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa traveled there from Kerala in India. Filled with coconut groves, rice paddy fields, secluded beaches, verdant hillside spice gardens and isolated inland waterways, slow and rhythmic Malabar is the essence of authentic India—a secret gem.

bev63More than 500 varieties of mammals, several species of birds and various types of insects and a wide variety of fish, amphibians and reptiles are found in India. Kaziranga, the home to five big mammals, i.e. the Great Indian one-horned Rhinoceros, the Royal Bengal Tiger, Asiatic Elephant, Eastern Swamp Deer and and the Asiatic Wild Buffalo is also the habitat of a sizeable population of other rare and endangered species. It sprawls across from east to west along the southern bank of the River Brahmaputra in the central region of North Eastern province of Assam in India. Kaziranga National Park is the only Park which can boast itself to be a World Heritage Site, a Tiger Reserve, and Heaven for Avifauna and Elephant Reserve. It has the world’s largest population of Indian One Horned Rhinoceros.
Gir National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat is famous for Asiatic Lions as well as for its deciduous forest interspersed with semi-evergreen and evergreen flora, acacia, scrub jungle, grasslands and rocky hills. Fed by perennial and seasonal rivers and streams. It is amongst one of the major big-cat concentrations in India. Sambar and spotted deer (chital), blue bull (nilgai), chousingha (the world’s only four-horned antelope), chinkara (Indian gazelle) and wild boar thrive in Gir.

Rann of Kutch Gujarat_GulfsThe little Rann of Kutch in Rajasthan is home to wild ass which is the amongst world’s most endangered mammals. Nilgiri Langur , Lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri mongoose and the Malaber civet declared extinct by the IUCN in 1978 are endemic in the southern hills of Western Ghats. Leopards are found in many forests, Wolves roam the open country. Cheetahs are found in the Deccan plateau.

India where the ‘tiger roars’ to signify its majesty and peacock outspreads its tail in an ornamental fashion with the sight of the rains. Both Tiger and Peacock are referred to as national animal and the national bird respectively and bear great significance and linkage to the religion and tradition of India. The Bengal tiger and Asiatic Lions both are worshipped by the Hindus as the carriers of Goddess Durga who is the Mother Goddess- the birth giver, the nourisher, the Shakti of Shiva as well as destroyer of demons. Lord Shiva is often depicted wearing or seated on a tiger skin. It symbolizes power and courage. Apart from mythological significance the famous lion capital on the Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh which was erected by Emperor Ashoka to mark the site where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon to his five disciples was adopted as the national emblem of India.

UNESCO World Heritage Sitejohn-henry-claude-wilson-humayun-s-tomb-unesco-world-heritage-site-delhi-indiaThe Sundarbans (of West Bengal) has the world’s largest deltaic mangrove forests and is also home to the Royal Bengal Tiger. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a Biosphere Reserve. Sundarban Tiger Reserve has the highest tiger population in the world. Sundarban is also known for its extremely rich diversity of aquatic and terrestrial flora and fauna. Sundarban’s highly productive ecosystem acts as a natural fish nursery. Peacocks have been used as signifying glory, beauty and joy. It is the believed to be the divine vehicle of the Hindu God of War Kartikeya, popularly known as Murugan in south India .The figure of peacock is painted in various Islamic religious buildings.

In Christianity, the peacock was also known as the symbol of the ‘Resurrection‘. Its feather adorns the crown of Lord Krishna. The figures of peacock are engraved and its pictures are painted on several monuments and temples of India as well as used in arts and crafts of India.

The art (music and dance) and architecture as well as literature of India is intertwined with its cultural history, its various religious ideologies and philosophies. The Buddhists initiated the rock-cut caves, Hindus and Jains imitated the same form in Ajanta, Ellora, Elephanta and in Badami etc. The Chola period, remarkable for its sculptures and bronzes, is represented by some of the finest figures of Siva in various forms, Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi, Siva saints, etc., created by using the lost wax technique.

UNESCO: Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity – 2012

The 2nd century BC Ajanta Caves marked the beginnings of cliff paintings in India. During the reigns of the Delhi Sultanate and Mughals both Persian and Islamic art and architecture flourished in India and its masterpieces like Qutub Minar, Red fort, Agra’s wonder Taj Mahal, etc. are cynosure for world’s eye. The monuments built during the colonial rule were influenced by European styles. Contemporary Indian art takes influence from all over the world. With many Indian artists immigrating to the west, art for some artists has been a form of expression merging their past with their current in western culture.

UNESCO-Intangible_Cultural_Heritage_LogoThe world’s largest collections of songs, music, dance, theatre, folk traditions, performing arts, rites and rituals, paintings and writings that are known, as the ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ (ICH) of humanity are found in India. For every region and for every religion as well as every reason India has a marvel of heritage. The earliest treatise on dance available to us is Bharat Muni’s Natyashastra, the source book of the art of drama, dance and music. It is generally accepted that the date of the work is between the 2nd century B.C.E- 2nd century C.E.The Natyashastra is also known as the fifth veda. Nurtured for centuries, dance in India has evolved in different parts of the country its own distinct style taking on the culture of that particular region, each acquiring its own flavour.

Consequently a number of major styles of ‘art’ dance are known to us today, like Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Manipuri, Odissi and Sattriya. Then, there are regional variations, the dances of rural and tribal areas, which range from simple, joyous celebrations of the seasons, harvest or birth of a child to dances for the propitiation of demons or for invoking spirits. Indian folk and tribal dances are an expression of joy. Each form of dance has a specific costume. Most costumes are flamboyant with extensive jewellery.

Bihu, Dandiya, Bhangra, Poikalkuthirai are popular folk dances from various parts of India.

Chhau – a martial dance is a kind of dance where mask used by the dancers, popular in the West Bengal region. The southern state of Kerala is not only a famous tourist destination in India with the backwaters, beaches, Ayurvedic tourism, and tropical greenery among its major attractions but also home to a kind of an Indian martial art called Kalaripayattu which is the oldest fighting systems in existence and different techniques of Kalaripayattu are applied in dance forms of Kerala.

India is home to the most sacred Vedas which are known to be the oldest among scriptures/ oldest texts which encompasses religious as wells as mind and spiritual teachings. The Indus Valley Civilization which was one of the world’s first great and most sophisticated urban civilizations flourished in the vast river plains and adjacent regions in what are now Pakistan and western India. It was the most technically advanced urban civilization which was known for its better town planning, world class drainage systems, dockyards, ports, skilled working population, seal carving, metallurgy etc.

Konark_Sub_Temple_Front_viewThe monuments and temple architectures of India are masterpieces. The world famous Khajuraho temples of Madhya Pradesh in addition to being world heritage sites are pure manifestations of rich carving and erotic architecture and magnificence. Built by the Chandela kings in the 10th Century, just 22 of the original 85 temples still remain.The exquisite Sun temple of Konark is a living testimony to Orissa’s glorious past. It is regarded as the peak of art and architecture in the ancient Kalinga era. The images carved on the pillars of Sanchi Stupas tell motivating stories from the life of Lord Buddha. The Golden Temple of Amritsar (Sri Harimandir Sahib Amritsar) is a unique temple.

It is not only a central religious place of the Sikhs, but also a symbol of human brotherhood and equality. The temples of south India viz. Tanjavur temple and Mahabalipuram’s Shore temples as well as Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh ( which is one of the richest temples, built on the scenic seven hills on Tirumala, at Tirupathi, this south India temple is dedicated to the Lord Venkateswara.) are rich in Dravidian architecture and are marvels of tourists destination worldwide. Guruvayoor Temple, Kerala also known as the ‘Dwaraka of South’ or ‘Bhooloka Vaikuntam’. Dedicated to the Lord Krishna, this temple is said to be around 1000 years old and its deity more than 5000 years old. The temple conducts record number of marriage ceremonies and regarded as the most sacred of the Hindu temples in south India. Another famous temple of Kerala is Sabarimala Temple.

India – which embodies pluralism, multi-lingual-ism and multi-cultural-ism is a diverse country which is united as a “union of states” and known as Sovereign, Democratic, Secular, Republic which guarantees certain fundamental rights to all its citizens irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender/economic conditions and follows the principles of social and economic justice while formulating its policies and promotes equality, fraternity, peace and justice among its countrymen.

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Thanks to Meetika Srivastava, A Celebration of Women™ 2013.

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