Ethnicity is a way of defining, differentiating, and organizing around a shared awareness of the common ancestry of socially distinct groups of individuals, such as language, culture, religion, or nationality. It can shape community and identity, as well as can mobilize “like-minded” people into action for gaining social, political, and cultural interests. I am Mainland Indian. Since that is about a billion people, I have to add a lot more details. I would say that I am Western Indian. However, that is still not enough because it does not specify my personal identity. Ahmedabad is an important part of my identity because I was born in Ahmedabad. My parents and I can speak its local dialect. Simply put, my ethnicity is Western Indian and Gujarati. Also, I can speak English and Hindi and I am a Hindu.
It is the first step that costs troublesome. As an Indian student first coming to New Jersey, USA for living my rest of the life, it was quite challenging to quickly adapt to my new life because of culture shock. To me, language barrier was a hard issue. As the language obstacle progressively became my hardship on a regular basis, I believed that in order to get over the language barrier, improving English while learning Spanish at high school should have been given top priority. After arriving in New Jersey, I lived at an apartment with my family, which was far from the downtown area.
I did repeatedly miss my teachers, classmates, friends, and relatives in India. At that moment, the happiest time of day was to sit in front of my laptop, talking with my parents and friends through the Internet. Furthermore, the alien environment of New Jersey Institute of Technology campus was another major obstacle to me. As a freshman, I often got lost on campus, having difficulty finding the way to classrooms and accessing to a variety of facilities.
Ethnicity is like a personal identity, referring to his or her own “sense of belonging to or identification with a group or tradition over time, based on commonalities with similar others. SANSKAR (Indian student association) did make me feel a strong sense of belonging by providing far more services to help all freshmen from India rapidly get used to the new life. I was so happy that I got to know many senior students who enjoyed sharing with me their experiences on how to overcome the setbacks they had ever encountered, as well as on how to adjust to the new environment with the new students.
From sharing their experiences, I learned how to well communicate with my peers and how to develop my interpersonal skills. I believed that these invaluable skills might help me greatly hinder dependence on my parents. My first month at NJIT went smoothly. With the help of those senior students, I gradually adapted to my new life by helping me improve English, overcome homesickness, and familiarize campus. Moreover, SANSKAR launched interesting activities in order to enrich each Indian student’s off-campus life. My friends and I did participate in some meaningful activities.
Like SANSKAR, Jersey City Indian square (Little India) can be another home for me. I always spend my spare time going there with friends. As soon as I get there, I do have a strong sense of community. Although Jersey City Indian square is small, its physical landscape is perfectly in response to urban development and the growing success of the Indian community formation in New Jersey. These days, Jersey City Indian square, which is located at the center of many Indian social and cultural organizations, does perform a number of significant functions.
Besides, the majority of Indian and foreign population in New Jersey enjoys going to Indian square to purchase some delicious food and some delicate souvenirs, gifts, accessories, or even handmade articles. In addition, Jersey City Indian square annually hosts the celebration of Indian festivals and also American festivals. I often go there for watching an Indian dance during the Indian New year, admiring lanterns and traditional Indian dances during the Mid-Autumn Festival, or getting green fortune cookies for St. Patrick’s Day.
Since I am in a White-dominated society, as a member of minority group, I have to internalize the values of the dominant society. However, showing respect to life not only is a common ideology for everyone, but also is a rationale for minimizing and eradicating inequality, privilege, oppression, and marginalization.
Culture is basically defined as the totality of arts and other various manifestations of human intellectual achievements regarded in a collective manner. Culture is an idea, a value, a belief any particular civilization holds closely to its roots or foundation at any given period in time. It is generalized as a “State of Mind”.
It is the way we interact with one another, the way we behave and react to our environment and certain other things. Culture interprets the manner in which a society perceives abstract entities and by which such a society is perceived. It is established as the diverse manifestations resulting from the basic principles, behaviours and ethics of a specific group of individuals.
To limit the definition of the word “Culture” to the above stated few lines would be doing great injustice to a concept that is a system which encompasses the totality of everything we have come to know today. It is a systematic emancipation, which continuously and consistently absorbs and passes back to society, all that is initiated by different religions, beliefs and races, who are in extremely close proximity with one another, giving the cultural concept a new dimension and meaning as time proceeds.
Culture is an integration of diverse entities, music, family, social norms, fashion, food and attitude. It is an existing, vibrant and ever changing activity which completely takes over and absorbs our way of life in any certain period of time. This is what generates the whole visual perception, or picture of the social and psychological fabric of society.
The Indian culture, a majority of historians would confirm is one of the richest, most dynamic and intriguing cultural heritages ever to be known by man. India is blessed with such a rich cultural tradition. There is such a delightful and balanced blend of philosophy, art and religion within the context of Indian culture and history. Each entity is so aesthetically interwoven in the values and fabric of the Indian way of life, customs, thought and values that they are inseparable.
The Indian culture is fundamentally a result of a never ending synthesis that has taken in a variety of numerous superficial influences in the advancement of its journey through time and history (Aurobindo, 20). The first evidence of civilization took place among the Indian people some four thousand years prior to the birth of Christ.
Unarguably, one of, if not the oldest of traditions, the Indians have been exposed to a series of never ending, uninterrupted and unbroken sequences of civilizations. Yet, the flexibility and dynamism of the Indian cultural heritage has enabled its people survive these alien invasions and still significantly hold on to the traditions and originality even after it had inculcated the most beneficial of these outside influences.
The Indians by nature possess a submissive mental attitude towards culture or tradition, born out of a philosophical doctrine that all events are predetermined in advance for all time and human beings are powerless to its inevitability. Thus, the Indian mind has assimilated, to a rather large extent, the context of the diverse cultures, hence the wealthy heritage and uniqueness. Today, it is that buoyant uniqueness that attracts the western world to the Indian culture. Disenchanted from their worldly and bourgeois way of life, westerners turn to India to find peace and solace.
The Indian culture and history can certainly boast of the stimulating and mind opening wisdom found in the ancient epics such as the likes of Ramayana and Mahabharata that serve as beacons of enlightenment and awareness to the seekers of truth and spiritual bliss. Lord Krishna speaks, in the Bhargava Gita of how each and every individual can come to abide in the subtle philosophical principles embedded in the scriptures in ones day to day activities. Lord Buddha equally teaches the principles of followership of the “Middle Path” by exercising and exerting authority over passions. It should be clearly admitted that Indian sages or mentors in spiritual and philosophical issues renowned for their profound wisdom hard started analysing and deducing hypothesis on life’s issues for more than decades of centuries, the west only recently began pondering on such issues.
Influenced and induced by the philosophical trends of history, as well as religious and moral beliefs, Indian art from the caves of Ajanta, Khajuraho, Ellora and the temples of the south are living witnesses and testimonies to the satisfying aesthetic standards and sensibility of perfection achieved by Indian sculptors, architects and artists in the ancient times. Westerners have claim of intense spiritual enlightenment and awakening on visitations to such temples.
In music as well as dance, are two other significant entities that characterize the rich and dynamic culture of the Indians. The Indian cultural music is strikingly extraordinary due to its continuity in development and growth. Prior to the Christian historic period, Indian music had propagated not only definite rules of practical theory, but an even depth of insight and understanding of appreciative measure. Having been built on the foundations and concept of ragas and fast, Indian music and dance are established as appropriate in depicting diverse emotions and moods.
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Hindustani and Karnataka, two significant schools of classical music, whose rules are derived from the Sangeet Ratnakarby Sarangdeva and Natya Shastra of Bharata are well established in Indian history. These forms of classical music have had a great impact as well as having influenced to a large account, western music. Zakir Hussain, Pandit Ravi Shankar and a host of other notable Maestros have made tremendous contributions to the growth and development of Indian classical music to the western world.
The backdrop and foundations of Indian dance, comes with a diverse and wealthy essence. Historians lay claim to the notion that Indian dance is as diverse as the culture and the land itself. Undoubtedly, it still holds unto the implicit bond that binds the Indian people together. From a range of classical, to folk, the dances of India are an articulate and eloquent blend of expressions of an ancient civilization, whose erudition continuously evokes the desired search of humans for a conscious identity and self-discovery within one’s self and with his creator.
The beauty of Indian dance is in its ability to convey the people’s sense of rhythm and abandon as well as their jocularity. Often said, the origins of these dances can be linked to Hindu temples, where they were first birthed and nurtured until they attained maturity and their full stature, hence the impulse of such dances to have or exhibit some religious context to it. Four systems of classical dance are accounted for in Indian culture, though other prominent ones exist. But as in all performing arts within the context of the Indian history and traditions, the concept of “rasa” advocates a central position. This essence of the rasa is conveyed via the “Bhava” or the “expression”, through the emulation of Abhinaya.
Hinduism is said to be the earliest form of religion in Indian history and dates back to several millenniums. Hinduism’s earliest records can be found in the Indus valley civilization. Owing its core values to Vedas and the Hindu culture, it lays its focus and reference from the Holy Scriptures in the sacred language of the Sanskrit. Laying its projection on the belief in god in a variety of forms and on the emphasis on rituals, which are said to be practical in the unity of spiritual togetherness and kinship, other essentially notable features are the belief in the Guru Shishya tradition of learning and a divided structured caste system.
Apart from the Hindu Religion, Indian culture and history boast of the Jains, who claim, and have presented scholarly reports and documentation to prove that their religion is the most ancient of religions.
Another very critical and historically famous religion notable in the Indian history is Buddhism. Based on the teachings and practises of Gautama Buddha. Many say Buddhism, rather than a religion is more of a system of morality and ethics.
Through forceful coercion and conversions, Islam was introduced into India by invaders, who set up religion and rule in the country. Today it is one of the largest religions amongst the Indian community. The Greeks and Indian civilizations came into close proximity and thus the influences of such civilizations rubbed off on each culture, this was as a result of Alexander’s prominent invasion on India, which opened up a land route from Europe to the India. The impact of civilization was further felt, as the French, Portuguese and to a larger extent the Brits, whose influences of Christianity played a minimal but enduring role on Indian civilization and cultural heritage as well as its religious beliefs.
In recent times, Indians have demonstrated a deep interest in further encouraging and promoting its cultural and unique historical values and heritage. This revivification of India’s national identity has been greeted with a boost of larger awareness in the sectors of Indian classical music and dance and the realm of indigenous folk arts the world over
Educational institutions are beginning to ensure that future generations are inculcated and imbibed with the values of the buoyant cultural and historical heritage of its people for the world to see. Cultural Festivals of India have been a huge success in the west in recent times, so has the government’s effort in promoting Indian heritage and cultural values domestically been met with huge and enthusiastic response.
The Indian culture is one of philosophical dynamism. Throughout history and time, no other civilization nor cultural heritage has been known to produce deduced hypothetical philosophy that has transcended into the future from the past. Be it in the sciences, medicine, astronomy as well as astrology, the Indian culture has bordered it all. Ancient and modern India has produced some of the world’s greatest minds and thinkers, this phenomena can be easily associated to the vast knowledge that lies within the underlying layers of the Indian heritage. As William Durant, the great American historian put it, “India is the motherland of our race.”
- Aurobindo, Sri. The Renaissance in India: On Indian Culture and Other Essays. Arya: Aug 1918. Print.
- Amartya, Sen. The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity. Picador 1st Edition: 2006. Print.
- “Arts and Culture.” National Portal of India. n.d. Web 10 June 2013. Retrieved from http://india.gov.in/india-glance/culture-heritage
- Elwin, V. The Religion of an Indian Tribe. Bombay: Oxford University Press. 1943. Print.
- Muller, Max. F. Sacred Books of the East: The Zend Avesta, Vol 1: The Vendidad. 1910. Web. 10 June 2013. Retrieved from http://www.holybooks.com/the-sacred-books-of-the-east-all-50-volumes/
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