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The Many Facets Of India Essay, Research Paper

The Many Facets of


An Overview of the Five Themes of Geography

by Laura Warren

4th Hour Social Studies

March 30, 2000

Culture, and all its numerous subcategories, is what defines a

country and its people above all else. The individual society’s habits and

ways of living set it apart from every other place in this diverse world.

Culture, a comprehensive term that encompasses everything from

language and music to transportation and education, is so multi-faceted

that its parts may in some ways conflict. India is a prime example of the

distinct contrast that occurs when tradition meets technology head on. It

is a country that is caught in a sort of generation gap; it tries to hold on to

its natural heritage and “old school” mannerisms while desperately

reaching out to the modern world of effective worldwide communication,

technology, transportation, and government. The contrast is what makes

India’s culture so interesting and is what will hopefully bring color to what

might otherwise be yet another black-and-white geographical summation.

Before delving into the particulars of the culture, one should

become acquainted with the country’s more straight-forward aspects.

Located precisely at 78 degrees East and 20 degrees North, India’s

bordering neighbors include Nepal, Bangladesh, China, and Pakistan, with

the island nation Sri Lanka found off India’s south east shoreline. India’s

coastline touches the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Indian

Ocean. This section of the world is called the Indus Valley and

incorporates all of the above mentioned countries except China.

Through India run three major rivers: the Narmada, the Ganges, and

the Indus. The land itself is divided into three plains. The northmost plain,

creatively titled “The Northern Plain”, is where the most fertile land can be

found. This plain is watered by the nearby rivers, and for this reason,

traditional tribes regard the rivers as incomparably sacred. The Deccan

plain is arid, unproductive, and consequently sparsely populated. This

triangular plateau physically juts into the Indian ocean on the eastern

coast. South of the centrally located Deccan plain is the Coastal plain. The

two plateaus are separated by the Western and Eastern Ghats

(mountains). The Coastal plains’ most defining characteristic is the heavy

seasonal rains they receive.

India’s climatic patterns are common for this region. In October,

winter monsoons carry hot, dry air in from the northeast, and crops

generally wither and die. This situation is described well in the Indian

novel Nectar in a Sieve as it can be a tragedy for families who live off the

land. May and June bring wet summer monsoons from the southwest that

carry moisture from the Indian Ocean. During this season, it usually rains

quite hard every day for weeks at a time.

As described, India’s great size and diverse landscape create

barriers between groups of the 750 million inhabitants. This is the

significant factor in the diverse culture as there are numerous cultural

groups with unique traditions and languages. Some aspects of culture,

however, are consistent throughout the country.

Traditionally, Indians live in villages. The stereotypical image of a

woman carrying water in a jug on her head down a worn dirt path is still

accurate in much of the country; however, the amount of access to

electricity and running water has increased over the past decades. The

transition from tradition to modernization is one that this far in has not

been overly smooth. The level of modernization varies from village to


Clothing has remained traditional throughout India. Robes wrap

around the Indian bodies, and women commonly wear colorful saris. More

than 700 languages and dialects divide the people of India, and while

Hindi is the most widely spoken language, less than 30% of the citizens

speak it fluently. India declares 15 official languages and 35 additional

regional languages. English, the seemingly universal language, is not

official in India but it spoken, especially in the urban areas.

35% of India’s adults are literate in one language or another, but as

education improves, 80% of children are now enrolled in school with hopes

of raising that literacy rate. Schooling is free for children up to the age of

14, and additionally training is available past that for wealthy children of

upper castes.

The Caste system is one traditional element of India’s culture that

still exists despite the government’s discouragement. The system, which

divides people into distinctive groups based on wealth and societal stance,

affects everything from community organization to employment.

Neighborhoods are patterned to segregate castes, and only people of

higher castes hold professional or powerful jobs in part because of

influential family connections. Urbanization is helping to reduce the

significance of the caste system; in larger cities, anonymity is easier to

achieve, and people may not know to which caste their neighbors belong.

The family set-up is one excellent example of cultural dissonance.

Traditionally, marriages are arranged by the families of the two parties

and there is generally a dowry involved. Even now, 95% of marriages are

arranged. Women, however, have managed to gain more independence

and choice. While they are still expected to be subordinate and modest,

women now can vote, file for divorce, and own property. 10% of the

Parliamentary seats are filled by women in India.

India’s government is more modern than many foreigners think. The

1949 constitution guaranteed a federal system composed of a central

government and subgovernments for each of the 25 states and 7

territories. The President, elected by the people, appoints governors to

each other these states/territories. This parliamentary democracy is based

on the British system and contains the two houses, the “Rajya Sabha”

(Council of State) and the “Lok Sabha” (House of the People). The

President has little actual power. As happens in politics, the party with the

most seats in the Parliament controls the country.

Religiously speaking, India is very diverse. Hindu is the most

common religion of the land, but Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, and

Jainist beliefs are also prevalent.

People are moving! As times change, so do means of transportation.

Buses and trolleys carry Indians through the urban areas, and an increase

in traversable roads has led the to the logical increase of urbanization and

the ability for rural inhabitants to travel to urban areas. Telephones,

televisions, and movies are gradually seeping into India’s culture, and a

centrally located radar dish brings in news and images from the world

outside of India. While the transmission of news is the main objective to

India’s telecommunications system, televisions have also been used to

broadcast religious re-enactments. (Personal note: See, violence in the

media IS worldwide!)

India boosts its income by exporting large amounts of raw materials.

While rates of export have decreased recently, minerals such as iron ore,

coal, cooper, and manganese. India imports food despite the fact that

naturally grown foods are the basis of internal economy. Industrial

machinery is also a much needed import considering the importance of

agriculture and the lack of “cutting-edge” technology. Agriculture, as in

many countries of this region, is indescribably pungent to the country.

Indians live off the land, honor the land, and preserve the land in a way

that many Western countries could learn a lot from.

Countries in this region may not be as advanced as the US is, but

they are gradually catching up to us, and perhaps mimicking us, in the

areas of technology, communication, and new tradition. All the countries

in this area share characteristics, but each, including India, possess

unique cultures and traditions that must be honored. It is that cultural

diversity that makes our world such an incredible place, and learning to

respect and learn from that diversity is what makes us grow as human



World Book Encyclopedia, 1997, 1999


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