Culture and Heritage of India

India has a rich and unique cultural heritage, and has actively preserved its established traditions throughout history. It has also absorbed customs from both invaders and immigrants. Many cultural practices and monuments, such as the Taj Mahal and other Islamic architecture, have been inherited from the rule of Mughal emperors.

Religion in India is very public, with many practices imbued with pomp and vitality accompanying their underlying spiritual qualities. A melting pot of many religions, Religious practices of various faiths are an integral part of everyday life in society. Education is highly regarded by members of every socio-economic stratum. Indians keep family values sacred and highly respected.

The Taj Mahal in Agra is India's most popular tourist destination.India has rich festivals celebrated by one and all. The most widely known and popular celebrations include the Hindu festivals of Dipawali, Holi, and Dussehra. Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated by lighting small oil lamps everywhere in the house. Onam is a harvest festival celebrated by people belonging to all religions in Kerala.

Indian Classical Music is represented by a wide variety of forms. The two main forms in terms of classical music are the Carnatic from South India and Hindustani from the north. Many dance forms exist in India - Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Kathakali and others. They often have a narrative form (based on the Indian epics) and are usually infused with devotional and spiritual elements.

Diwali, the festival of lightsThe earliest literary traditions were mostly oral and were later transcribed. Most of these spring from Hindu tradition and are represented by sacred works like the Vedas and the epics of the Mahabharatha and Ramayana. Sangam literature from Tamil Nadu represents some of India's oldest secular traditions. There have been many notable Indian writers in modern times, both in Indian languages and English. India's only Nobel laureate in literature was the Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore.

India produces the world's highest number of films annually. The most recognisable face is that of Bollywood, based in Mumbai, which produces mainly commercial Hindi films. Cinema in other language bases is particularly strong, with movies regularly produced in well-established Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu industries. India's gift to world cinema was the internationally renowned Bengali language director Satyajit Ray.

Rice and wheat (in bread forms) are the staple foods in the country. The cuisine of India is extremely diverse, as ingredients, spices and cooking methods all vary from region to region. The country is notable for its wide variety of vegetarian cuisine. Spicy food and sweets are popular in India. Traditional dress in India greatly varies across the regions in its colours and styles. The sari and salwar kameez are popular styles of dress for women. Traditional raiments for men are the kurta and dhoti.