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  • 04 Jul 2019 GS Paper 1 Indian Heritage & Culture

    Regional cultures today are the product of complex processes of intermixing of local traditions with ideas from other parts of the subcontinent. Substantiate. (250 words)



    • Briefly write about regional cultures and their distinctive features.
    • Write about the influence of local traditions on culture.
    • Highlight how external influences impacted and changed the regional cultures.
    • Support your arguments through examples.
    • Conclude


    Regional cultures are often associated with distinctive kinds of language, architecture, literature, food, clothes, poetry, dance, music, painting etc. India is a nation of different races, ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs. Such diversity is the result of local as well as intermixing of ideas from other parts of continents.


    • Language: Although Bengali is derived from Sanskrit, it passed through several stages of evolution. Also, a wide range of non-Sanskrit words, derived from a variety of sources including tribal languages, Persian, and European languages, have become part of modern Bengali.
      • Early Sanskrit texts suggest that the people of Bengal did not speak Sanskritic languages. From the third-fourth centuries BCE, commercial ties between Bengal and Magadha (south Bihar), led to the growing influence of Sanskrit.
      • During the fourth century the Gupta rulers established political control over north Bengal and began to settle Brahmanas in this area.
      • Thus, the linguistic and cultural influence from the mid-Ganga valley became stronger.
    • Architecture: Many of the modest brick and terracotta temples in Bengal were built with the support of several “low” social groups. With the coming of the European trading companies, new economic opportunities led to improvement of their social and economic position. They proclaimed their status through the construction of temples.
      • When local deities, once worshipped in thatched huts in villages, gained the recognition of the Brahmanas, their images began to be housed in temples.
      • The temples began to copy the double-roofed (dochala) or four-roofed (chauchala) structure of the thatched huts. This led to the evolution of the typical Bengali style in temple architecture.
    • Literature and Script: The rulers of Chera kingdom, part of present-day Kerala introduced the Malayalam language and script in their inscriptions. At the same time, they also drew upon Sanskritic traditions.
      • Even the temple theatre of Kerala, borrowed stories from the Sanskrit epics.
      • The first literary works in Malayalam, dated to about the twelfth century, are directly indebted to Sanskrit.
      • A fourteenth-century text, the Lilatilakam, dealing with grammar and poetics, was composed in Manipravalam – literally, “diamonds and corals” referring to the two languages, Sanskrit and the regional language i.e. Malayalam.
    • Dance forms: Major dance forms had their origin in local traditions, but over a period of time they got influenced by other factors as well to evolve in the present form.
      • Kathak is derived from “katha”, a word used in Sanskrit and other languages for story. The kathaks were originally a caste of story-tellers in temples of north India.
      • However, it began evolving into a distinct mode of dance in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries with the spread of the bhakti movement (external influence). The legends of Radha-Krishna were enacted in folk plays called rasa lila.
      • Further, under the Mughal influence, it acquired its present features and developed into a form of dance with a distinctive style.
    • Painting: Originally, miniatures paintings were painted on palm leaves or wood to illustrate Jaina texts. With the influence of Mughals, the use of brilliant colours and portrayal of court scenes, scenes of battle or hunting, and other aspects of social life also started.
      • Further, themes from mythology and poetry were also depicted at centres such as Mewar, Jodhpur, Bundi, Kota and Kishangarh under Rajput patronage.
      • By the mid-eighteenth century, the Kangra artists developed a style which breathed a new spirit into miniature painting. The source of inspiration was the Vaishnavite traditions. Soft colours including cool blues and greens, and a lyrical treatment of themes distinguished Kangra painting.
    • Food Habits: Traditional food habits are generally based on locally available items of food. Bengal is a riverine plain which produces plenty of rice and fish.
      • However, Brahmanas were not allowed to eat nonvegetarian food, but the popularity of fish in the local diet made the Brahmanical authorities relax this prohibition for the Bengal Brahmanas.
      • The Brihaddharma Purana, a thirteenth-century Sanskrit text from Bengal, permitted the local Brahmanas to eat certain varieties of fish.


    From the above arguments, it can be seen how local traditions and external influences intermixed with each other to further enrich local cultures. Hence, it can be said that regional cultures today are the product of complex processes of intermixing of local traditions with ideas from other parts of the subcontinent.

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