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India, a multicultural country

India's colour festival

Because India is so vast and is divided in so many States, languages and religions, its culture is also much diversified. Each region possess its own local holidays and cultural differences.

Languages

India is one of the country in the world where linguistic diversity is the most important. There is no official language, although Hindi – mother tongue of almost half of the population – is recognised by the government as such. English is used extensively in business and administration and has the status of a subsidiary official language. There are also 122 important languages and no less than 234 mother tongues.

Religions

The same diversity applies in the field of religious beliefs. There are 6 recognised religions in India:

  • Hinduism (79,8 %),
  • Islam (14,2 %),
  • Christianity (2,3 %),
  • Sikhism (1,7 %),
  • Buddhism (0,7 %),
  • Jainism(0,4 %).

India has always been pioneer country in terms of beliefs ans spirituality. Four of these religions were actually born there: Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.

If India has always been much famous for its Buddhist beliefs, only a little part of the population still practise it today, mainly in the Ladhak area. Buddhism has long been a centre of interest for believers and spiritual people, but the recent appearance of extremist Buddhist movements seem to temper this tendency.

Holidays

India recognise three national holidays:

  • Republic Day, on 26 January, which honours the date of proclamation of the Constitution of India in 1950,
  • Independence Day, on 15 August, which commemorates the nation’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1947,
  • Gandhi Jayanti, on 2 October, which celebrates the birthday of the Mahatma Gandhi, unofficially called the « Father of the Nation » for its political and spiritual guidance toward India’s independence. In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly officially adopted this date as the International Day of Non-Violence.

Additionally, there are many other official sets of holidays in India, some of them vary between individual States and most of them are religious in origin.

  • Moharum, on 8 January, commemorates martyr Imam Hussein Hallah.
  • Makar Sankranti (in the North, or Pongal in the South), on 14 January, launches the bright half of the year.
  • Basant Panchami, five days after January’s new moon, launches spring and honours goddess of the Knowledge Sarasvati.
  • Mahashivratri, on 23 February, honours Shiva, one of Hindu’s Pantheon three main gods.
  • Holi (also known as Festival of the Colours), on March’s New Moon, celebrates the victory of Good against Bad.
  • Ram Navmi, on 3 April, celebrates mythic Indian King Rama’s birthday.
  • Mahavir Jayanti, on 7 April, commemorates Jainism religion founder Vardhamana Mahavira’s birthday.
  • Raksha Bandhan (also known as Brotherhood Day), on August’s full moon, honours the link of brotherhood between two human people, be them from the same family or not.
  • Dashahara, from 28 September to 7 October, celebrates victory of Good against Bad and pray for the harvests.
  • Diwali, on November’s new moon for five days, commemorates King Rama’s return to Ayodha.
  • Christmas, on 25 December, celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.

Cinema

The Indian film industry is the most prolific around the globe and produces the world’s most watched cinema. It is mostly famous for its Bollywood productions – neologism inspired from Bombay (now Mumbai) and Hollywood – which are commercial movies shot in Hindi. Bollywood studios are located in Maharashtra’s capital city Bombay.

Recently, other neologisms eared such as Tollywood – movies shot in Telugu language –, Mollywood – movies shot in Malayam language – or else Kollywood – movies shot in Tamoul language. Most of these productions are realised in South India, which attracts more than 75% of national film revenue.

Cinema represents a particularly popular entertaining art in India : well-known actors benefit from a huge prestige and film industry is closely linked to politics. That is why some famous actors also held important government positions, the most famous being M. G. Ramachandran, who became Tamil Nadu Minister.

Literature

Literature has always been a constituent part of Indian culture with religious writings in Sanskrit and Sangram literature in Tamoul. Both are classical scholar languages that not many people can still read nowadays.

Until the 20th century, most writings were essentially focused on spirituality and religion. Under the influence of colonisation, many Indian writers started to write as much in English than in Hindu, developing Indian fiction and other styles of literature.

Amongst internationally well-known most famous Indian writers are :

  • R. K. Narayan, considered as a father of Indian novels,
  • Hari Kunzru, who recently wrote a novel about identity research,
  • Bengali poet and novelist Rabindranath Tagore, who was a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913,
  • Kiran Desai, who won the Man Booker Price in 2006,
  • …and, of course, Mahatma Gandhi, the most important politician and spiritual guide that India has ever known and the one who help the country toward independence.