Indians, in common parlance are those people who reside within the boundary of the land called India. Politically, Indians are those citizens of India who by virtue of their birth, descent or acquisition of Indian citizenship reside within a demarcated political boundary of the land called India. The Indian citizens are conferred certain rights and duties by the Constitution of India, the supreme law of the land. The Harappan Culture or Indus Valley Civilization, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, has evolved through the ages and today Indian Civilization represents a beautiful blend between the ancient cultural heritage and modern civilization developments. As a matter of fact, the people who resided, inter-bred, shared the same culture and evolved over thousands of years have come to separate from other ethnic and linguistic groups of human race. Today, Indian population holds a share of around 17.31% in the total population of the world.
The Indian population represents various ethno-linguistic groups. The thousand of years of history reflect how various ethno-linguistic-cultural groups came to India, made it their home, mixed with original inhabitants and gave rise to a distinct group. At the same time, the population which was pushed to deeper areas due to incursions somehow managed to save their distinct culture but they also imbibed the external cultural elements due to modern developmental forces. Even the Indian population was forced to migrate to new countries due to colonialism and other push and pull factors. Today we find that a substantial portion of population with Indian heritage have settled down in the countries of Southeast Asia, Middle East, Australia, UK and America. The total number of people of Indian origin settled in various countries today is estimated between 12 million - 20 million.
Basu and his associates made an extensive research on the genetic bases of the human population by combining various results obtained from Y-chromosome, mtDNA, and autosomal markers. They concluded the following results:-
(1) genetic unity of female ancestry is evident which signifies small number of earlier female settlers.
(2) The genetic study shows a high level of differentiation in the populations of caste and tribal.
(3) The earliest inhabitants who settled in India belong to the Austro-Asiatic tribals.
(4) It was mostly the northwestern part of India through which different waves of human settlers entered India.
(5) there is genetic similarity between the tribals of Tibeto-Burman and the Austro-Asiatic tribals, giving strength to the belief that in Southern China both have shared a common belief. However, both the groups could be differentiated on the hypothesis of Y-chromosomal haplotypes.
(6) the tribals from Dravidian origin inhabited in a wide stretch of areas in India who got pushed into deep south after the advent of Indo-European-speaking nomads.
(7) The contemporary human population show the traces of earlier commonality and then drift of populations.
(8) The present forward castes in India share their genetic makeup with the population of Central Asian, however this does not hold true with the upper castes of south India.
(9) A great number of gene flow during the historical period in India has altered the original genetic roots to a great extent and so correlation is difficult.
Generally, anthropologists categorize Indian population into four broader classification viz. Caucasoid race, Australoid race, Mongoloid race and Negrito race. However a great deal of overlapping is found in genetic material as these categories of races had been mixing over thousands of years. The Caucasoids trace their ancestry to Central Asian regions who came to India as Aryans. They are largely spread in the northern parts of India and speak Indo-Aryan languages. Australoids are considered to be the original inhabitants of India who resided before the advent of Aryans. The incursions of Aryans forced then to move deep in the southern parts of the country. This racial stock generally speaks Dravidian languages. Mongoloids inhabit the regions of northeastern India and speak Tibeto-Burman languages. Lastly, the Negritos who are short heighted people are confined to the Andaman Islands. They speak Great Andamanese language, a linguistic who is isolate and not related to any other known language. A fifth group is also recognized based on the language they speak. The tribals in India who speak Astro-Asiatic languages belong either to Mongoloid or Australoid racial stock.
Indian diversity in ethnicity could be gauged from the fact that India is the abode of more than 2000 ethnic groups, almost all the major world religions are followed, practiced and preached and all the 4 major groups of languages are spoken by the people of India. Anthropologists have concluded based on their researches that there is still existence of explicit racial divisions in the Indian population. However, the Census conducted in India does not identify the ethnic or racial groups and so the study is never conducted in that direction. Nevertheless, the Census recognizes Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes and the tribal groups are categorized in either of them.
India has given birth to some of the greatest religions of the world namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. These religions which originated in India are collectively recognized as Indian religions. More than two billion people follow Hinduism and Buddhism and this fact qualify them to hold the position of third- and fourth-largest religions in the world respectively. The other religions like Jainism, Lingayats and Ahmadiyya faith also originated in India.
Hinduism is followed by almost 80% of the Indian people. Indian Muslims who practice Islam faith constitute another 13% of the population. This makes India abode of the world’s third largest Muslim population after Indonesia and Pakistan. Some of the religions which originated in India like Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism have truly become world religions in the sense that their followers are widespread across the different countries. The followers of other religions like Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and the Bahá'í Faith are also present in India but their population is small.
India is a Union of number of States. Some of the states are unique in the sense that they are known by the religious majority population. This is evident in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram and the island of Lakshadweep. While there is a majority of Muslim population in Jammu and Kashmir and Lakshwadeep, the states of Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya are known to have a Christian majority. Similarly Punjab is dominated by Sikhs who follow Sikhism.
India is the country of great religious diversities where the followers of almost all the religions live, follow and practice their own religious beliefs without any fear. The Indian society is predominantly religious with both god-loving and god-fearing population. Religion still holds a pivotal and definitive role in the lives of most of its citizens.
Music and Dance
India has a tradition of music and dance since historical periods. It is no wonder that Indian tradition of music also called Classical music is shaped by different gharanas and styles based on specific place of their birth or the originator of the style. Two of the most important styles of classical music are Carnatic and Hindustani music which has an historical continuity of thousands of years. The classical music in India is the soul of all the art forms as it not only manifests the cultural heritage but is also spiritually alleviating. The other music forms prevalent in India include various folk songs, pop music, popular songs etc. The modern globalization process has definitely affected the Indian music and today all styles of music, both in vocal and instrumental, could be seen in India.
Similarly, Dance forms in India has also an historical roots and so it covers a wide range of classical dances which started as temple dances in India. Later, representations in theatres helped in modifying these dance forms to a great extent. The modern interaction with the world has brought to India various other dances styles from different parts of the world.
Indian music and dances are attached with the religion and the gods and goddesses. For example, Sarswati, the goddess for ‘learning and enlightenment’ is depicted as holding Veena, an Indian music instrument. Similarly, Lord Krishna is believed to be the best player of ‘Baansuri’ or flute. In the Hindu mythologies deities like Shiva and Kali are depicted to dance in utter anger which resulted in the demolition of all the demons. These themes became the basis for the Indian classical dances. Later various life events connected with Lord Rama, Lord Krishna and other gods and goddesses are the themes on which most of the Indian classical dances are based. There are other dance forms also practiced and danced at the local or regional levels. These are called folk dances. A few of the popular folk dances are Bhangra of Punjab and Garba of Gujarat. In the recent times, the Indian film industry, popularly known as Bollywood, has adopted and modified a variety of global dance forms in India.
Indian Caste System
The Indian caste system exist in India today in a modified form of Varna System introduced during Brahmanical period of Indian history. Varna system was introduced in Indian society purely as dividing the Indian population according to their work or the profession they chose in their life. Later, the system got crystalised and gave rise to harsher and stricter Caste system. Caste system divided the society in various classes and groups and positioned them in a hierarchy based on the powers, privileges, rights and duties. The people from one caste were banned to make any marital alliance with people of other caste. The caste became an endogamous group. However, within the endogamous caste, there exists an exogamous group called gotras which show the lineage of an individual. Thus, people from one gotra could not have a marital relationship with the people of same gotra but they could marry somebody from other gotra within the same caste. However, the forces of modernization are changing the caste system and the rigidity is breaking to greater extent especially in big cities and towns with metropolitan and cosmopolitan cultres. But to believe that effect is same across the nation is not true as in remote and rural areas, the caste system has still strong hold over the minds of the people and the majority of Indian population, to a tune of 70%, lives in these areas only.
Bharat Mata evolved with the rising patriotism in the Indian nationalists during the freedom movements in India. India was personified as a lady or mother goddess who was bound in shackles of servitude by the colonialists and it was the duty of every Indian to free the mother from the clutches of external powers. Bharat Mata was depicted to be clad in saffron sari and she was holding a flag in her hand. The country personified as Mother soon caught the consciousness of every Indian and they were emotionally bound with the wish to relieve their mother from foreigners.
India had a close link with the United Kingdom since the days of British colonialism. Today, more than a million Indians have made England their home. According to the Census of UK in the year 2001, 1,053,411 persons belong to Indian ethnicity (which is almost 1.8% of the population of United Kingdom). Out of these, 99.3% reside in England only. The number of Indians is increasing every year according to the reports and latest trends. In the period between the year 2001 to 2009, the number of people of Indian origin increased almost 38% from 467,634 to around 647,000.
Canada has become a very popular place for Indian migration. Over the years, Indians have migrated every year and today Indian population in Canada has risen to around 1 million which is almost 3% of the total population of Canada. Greater Toronto and Vancouver is the hub around which Indian settlers are found.
Around a million people of Indian origin have relocated themselves in South Africa and are concentrated mostly in the city of Durban.
United States has become one of the most sought destinations for Indians to migrate and settle down. Due to this reason the number of Indian settlers in USA has been increasing every day. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Indian American population in the United States comes on third position after the Chinese and Philippines diasporas. The number of Indians grew from 1.67 million to 3.1 million from the period between years 2000 to 2010.
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