Visiting India - Information
India is set apart from the rest of Asia by the Himalayas, the highest, youngest and still evolving mountain chain on the planet. The subcontinent as it is rightly called, touches three large water bodies and is immediately recognizable on any world map. This thick, roughly triangular peninsula defines the Bay of Bengal to the east, the Arabian sea to the west, and the India Ocean to the south.
India holds virtually every kind of landscape imaginable. An abundance of mountain ranges and national parks provide ample opportunity for eco-tourism and trekking, and its sheer size promises something for everyone. From north to south India extends a good 2000 miles (3200 km), where the island nation of Sri Lanka seems to be squeezed out of India like a great tear, the synapse forming the Gulf of Mannar.
Himalayas, the world's highest mountain chain and Nepal as its Neighbouring country dominate India's northern border. Following the sweeping mountains to the northeast, its borders narrow to a small channel that passes between Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, then spreads out again to meet Burma in the "eastern triangle." Apart from the Arabian Sea, its western border is defined exclusively by Pakistan.
North India is the country's largest region begins with Jammu and Kashmir, with terrain varying from arid mountains in the far north to the lake country and forests near Srinagar and Jammu. Moving south along the Indus river, the North becomes flatter and more hospitable, widening into the fertile plains of Punjab to the west and the Himalayan foothills of Uttar Pradesh and the Ganges river valley to the East. Cramped between these two states is the capital city, Delhi.
The states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, and part of the massive, central state of Madhya Pradesh constitute West India. Extending from the Gujarat peninsula down to Goa, the west coast is lined with some of India's best beaches. The land along the coast is typically lush with rainforests. The Western Ghats separate the verdant coast from the Vindya Mountains and the dry Deccan plateau further inland.
India is the home of the sacred River Ganges and the majority of Himalayan foothills, East India begins with the states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, which comprise the westernmost part of the region. East India also contains an area known as the eastern triangle, which is entirely distinct. This is the last gulp of land that extends beyond Bangladesh, culminating in the Naga Hills along the Burmese border.
India reaches its peninsular tip with South India, which begins with the Deccan in the north and ends with Cape Comorin. The states in South India are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, a favourite leisure destination. The southeast coast, mirroring the west, also rests snugly beneath a mountain range---the Eastern Ghats.
People and Culture
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, the culture, traditions and values relative to geographic locations and the numerous distinctive manners, habits and food that will always remain truly Indian. According to five thousand years of recorded history.
From the eternal snows of the Himalayas to the cultivated peninsula of far South, from the deserts of the West to the humid deltas of 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 differ in accordance to the 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, neighbours and friends. An Indian wedding is an occasion that calls for participation of the family and friends. Similarly, neighbours and friends always help out a family in times of need.
Ethnically Indians speak different languages, follow different religions, 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!
Arts and Culture
Classical Dance and Music
Indian Classical Dance "..abstraction of Upanishadic thought which is assiduously translated in to well designed concrete language of artistic media."
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.
Sculpture Comes To Life
Temples were raised to the house the Gods and became the focal point for the community. They also became centres 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 of dance poses in the temples, 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. A rich heritage to be brought alive by the artist.