|INDIA: Slideshow | High resolution | Palaces | Kama Sutra Carvings | Places | 2003 | 2005|
Recommended travel guides on India:
Culture of India [Wikipedia]:
The cultural policy of the Government of India has three major objectives:
The by far most, total endearing aspects of Indian art and architecture prior to colonization has been the strong impact of religious and folk idioms and folk art on courtly art. Although folk art received little encouragement during the period of colonization, independence brought forward a renewed interest in folk paintings.
Indians join their hands (palms together) and bow slightly in front of the other person, and say Namaste (Sanskrit for "I bow unto you" or "I salute the divine in thee") or Namaskar (derived from Sanskrit for "salutations") or variants in other Indian languages. This custom comes from a Hindu understanding that each person is inherently divine, and for this reason many Indians will gently touch their hands to their forehead and then to their heart, indicating the third eye and heart.
Festivals in India are characterized by colour, gaiety, enthusiasm, prayers and rituals. The majority are from the Hindu tradition, one of the most popular festivals being Diwali/Deepavali; the legends associated with it are drawn from the Hindu epic Ramayana and the Devi Mahatmya, depending on the region. Other popular Hindu festivals include Navaratri/Dasara (which is held in celebration of the Hindu goddess Durga), the final and ninth day of which culminates in a massive Durga Puja; it is most popular in West Bengal), Pongal/Sankranti (which is held as a thanksgiving for the harvest to the elements and cattle), Ganesh Chaturthi (a fourteen-day festival dedicated to the Hindu God Ganesh and is most popular in Maharashtra and Ugadi/Gudi Padva).
However, as India is home to many more religions viz. Islam, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, Judaism, etc. festivals in India include festivities of these faiths as well.
Indian fashion is rich in tradition, vibrant in colors and truly beautiful designs. Bold colors and metallics created by the inventive drapes of these textiles catch the imagination like no other contemporary clothing.
Some Indian dress designers combine Western trends with Indian touch, creating garments which are truly outstanding.
Drama and theatre
Indian drama and theatre is perhaps as old as its music and dance. The tradition of folk theatre is alive in nearly all the linguistic regions of the country. In addition, there is a rich tradition of puppet theatre in rural India. Bollywood is a place to be for the drama lovers
The 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, the epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Sangam literature from Tamil Nadu represents some of India's oldest secular traditions. Indian writers in modern times, like Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth, Khushwant Singh have been the cynosure of wide acclaim, both in Indian languages and English.
India offers a number of classical dance forms, each of which can be traced to different parts of the country. Each form represents the culture and ethos of a particular region or a group of people. The seven main styles are Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam, Manipuri and Kathakali.
There are many types of dance in India, from those which are deeply religious in content, often based on old Vedic or Hindu folk traditions, to those which are danced on lighter occasions.
The music of India includes multiples varieties of folk, popular, pop, and classical music. India's classical music tradition, including Carnatic and Hindustani music, has a history spanning millenia and, developed over several eras, remains fundamental to the lives of Indians today as sources of religious inspiration, cultural expression and pure entertainment. India is made up of several dozen ethnic groups, speaking their own languages and dialects. Alongside distinctly subcontinental forms there are major influences from Persian, Arab, and British music. Indian genres like filmi and bhangra have become popular throughout the United Kingdom, South and East Asia, and around the world.
Indian pop stars now sell records in many countries, while world music fans listen to the roots music of India's diverse nations. American soul, rock and hip hop music have also made a large impact, primarily on Indian pop and filmi music.
The vast scope of the art of India intertwines with the cultural history, religions and philosophies which place art production and patronage in social and cultural contexts.
Indian art can be classified into specific periods each reflecting certain religious, political and cultural developments.
Each religion and philosophical system provided its own nuances, vast metaphors and similes, rich associations, wild imaginations, humanization of gods and celestial beings, characterization of people, the single purpose and ideal of life to be interpreted in art
Indian painting is an old tradition, with ancient texts outlining theories of color and anecdotal accounts suggesting that it was common for households to paint their doorways or indoor rooms where guests resided.
Cave paintings from Ajanta, Bagh and Sittanvasal and temple paintings testify to a love of naturalism and God. Most rock art in India is Hindu or Buddhist.
A freshly made flour design (Rangoli) everyday is still a common sight outside the doorstep of many (mostly South Indian) Indian homes.
Jahangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, has on display several good Indian paintings.
Bollywood is the informal name given to the popular Mumbai-based film industry in India. Bollywood and the other major cinematic hubs (Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu) constitute the broader Indian film industry, whose output is considered to be the largest in the world in terms of number of films produced and, possibly, number of tickets sold.
Bollywood films are usually musicals. Few movies are made without at least one song-and-dance number. Indian audiences expect full value for their money; they want songs and dances, love interest, comedy and dare-devil thrills, all mixed up in a three hour long extravaganza with intermission. Such movies are called masala movies, after the Indian spice mixture masala. Like masala, these movies are a mixture of many things. Plots tend to be melodramatic. They frequently employ formulaic ingredients such as star-crossed lovers and angry parents, corrupt politicians, kidnappers, conniving villains, courtesans with hearts of gold, long-lost relatives and siblings separated by fate, dramatic reversals of fortune, and convenient coincidences, and even movies with tri polar changes that can turn a movie and its plot upside down.
Recreation and sports
In the area of recreation and sports India had evolved a number of games. One would be surprised to know today that games like, Chess, Snakes and Ladders, Playing cards, Polo, the martial art Kung-fu had originated as a sport in India and it was from here that these games were transmitted to foreign countries, where they were further modernized. Additionally, a few games introduced during the British Raj have grown quite popular in India, field hockey and especially cricket. Although field hockey is India's official national sport, cricket is by far the most popular sport not only in India, but the entire subcontinent, thriving recreationally and professionally. Cricket has even been used recently as a forum for diplomatic relations between India and long-standing rival, Pakistan. The two nations' cricket teams face off annually and such contests are quite impassioned on both sides.
The earliest Indians, the Harappans, probably ate mainly wheat and rice and lentils, and occasionally cows, pigs, sheep, and goats, and chicken. Rice and chicken seem to have come from Thailand, and wheat and sheep from West Asia. Some of the wheat was made into stews or soups, and some into flat breads called chapatis. The arrival of the Aryans does not seem to have changed Indian eating habits.
But by around 300 BC, under the Mauryans, a lot of Hindus felt that animal sacrifices added to your karma and kept you from getting free of the wheel of reincarnation. Animal sacrifices became less popular, and although people didnít give up eating meat entirely, they ate much less of it. Many people became vegetarians.
In the Gupta period, around 650 AD, Hindus began to worship a Mother Goddess. Cows were sacred to her, and so Hindus stopped eating beef.
And then around 1100 AD, with the Islamic conquests in northern India, most people in India stopped eating pork as well, because it is forbidden by the Koran.
People could still eat sheep or goats or chicken, but most of the people in India became vegetarians, and only ate meat very rarely or not at all. The vegetarian food that Indians ate was mainly wheat flatbreads or a kind of flatbread made out of chickpeas, with a spicy vegetarian sauce, and yogurt. Or people ate rice, with yogurt and vegetables. A lot of spicy peppers grew in India.
India Conservation / Environmental News
(05/23/2013) The Whitley Awards is a prestigious international prize awarded annually to individuals working in nature conservation at a grassroots level. They were first awarded in 1994 and over the past two decades, the Whitley fund for nature has given almost ¬£10 million to conservation and recognised 160 conservation leaders in more than 70 countries.
The Lions of India
(05/22/2013) It is not a well-known fact that India plays home to a population of lions as usually lions are associated with the African savannah and not the scrub forests of the subcontinent. The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) is a sub-species which can only be found in a single location in the wild - the Gir forest in Gujarat, India. Although genetically distinct from the African lion, the difference is not large.
Health effects of toxic waste sites in developing countries could rival malaria, air pollution, new study shows
(05/07/2013) Exposure to dangerous chemicals from toxic waste sites may be creating a public health crisis in developing countries comparable to that caused by malaria or even air pollution, a new study suggests, highlighting the urgent need to clean up toxic waste. In a study published on Saturday in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers calculated the number of 'healthy years of life lost' due to ill-health, disability or early death in individuals at risk of exposure to chemicals at 373 toxic waste sites in India, the Philippines and Indonesia.
The shady business of online wildlife trade
(04/30/2013) The internet is certainly the cornerstone of modern technology and a boon for so much innovation. However, along with all its advantages, there are some serious drawbacks and one of the latest is online smuggling of wildlife. The Indian Express recently reported that India's wildlife police have discovered illegal websites selling live endangered animals, parts and rare plants.
Rivers or grave yards? The woes of the Indian gharial and Gangetic dolphin in the Yamuna River
(04/30/2013) Rivers in India, especially the Ganga, Yamuna and Brahmaputra all carry a potent spiritual significance. Not only are these water way responsible for sustenance, they are also believed to be living goddesses blessing the land with their bounties. Immersing one‚Äôs ashes in the Ganga is said to free you from the karmic cycle of rebirth.
Two new frog genera discovered in India's Western Ghats, but restricted to threatened swamp-ecosystems
(04/22/2013) The misty mountains of the Western Ghats seem to unravel new secrets the more you explore it. Researchers have discovered two new frog genera, possibly restricted to rare and threatened freshwater swamps in the southern Western Ghats of India. The discoveries, described in the open-access journal Zootaxa, prove once again the importance of the mountain range as a biodiversity hotspot.
Breaking the mold: Divya Karnad takes on fisheries and science journalism in India
(04/15/2013) Fishing is not a woman's domain in most countries across the globe. In parts of India there are fishing communities who believe that having a woman onboard a fishing boat brings bad luck. Despite this, Divya Karnad, a scientist who studies marine life in India, has spent several years studying fisheries and their impact on species like sharks and sea turtles. Her work forms a part of global efforts to track declining marine species and encourage more sustainable fishing.
Air pollution killed 7 million people in 2010
(04/09/2013) Seven million people died from air pollution in 2010, according to new data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, published in the medical journal Lancet. The research found that indoor air pollution killed 3.5 million people in 2010, outdoor air pollution 3.3 million, and ground level ozone pollution 200,000 people.
Using drones to monitor wildlife in India
(04/09/2013) Drones have been getting a bad rap lately and for good reason. However in the state of Assam, these commonly used weapons of warfare are being used to monitor the rhinoceros population. The Kaziranga National Park in Assam has deployed aerial drones to monitor poaching activity within the park‚Äôs boundaries to protect the endangered one-horned rhino population.
Looking beyond the hundred legs: finding new centipedes in India requires many tools
(04/08/2013) A small, boneless creature, that lives underground, with a "hundred" legs, and a rather powerful sting; some of these creatures are drab, but some are so beautiful and brightly colored that they can startle. Centipedes. There is more to a centipede than its many legs, and its habit of darting out of dark places. One of the first lifeforms to turn up on land, some centipede fossils date back to about 450 million years ago. They have been evolving steadily since, with some estimates showing about 8,000 species today. Not even half of these species have been taxonomically described.
Where the flamingos fly: Mumbai, apparently!
(04/03/2013) When you think of flamingos you think of the great flamingo migration, a sea of pink in Tanzania, or maybe even a funny cartoon with these dancing, lanky creatures but the last thing you would think of is Mumbai. Strangely, this modern chaotic city provides a temporary home to these lovely coral-colored birds. They visit the mudflats of Mumbai every year in the winter (January ‚Äď May) and provide a treat to casual bird-watchers, ornithologists and regular citizens alike. The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) also organizes a flamingo watching festival during this period to encourage people to observe these birds.
Human-wildlife conflict on the rise in India
(04/03/2013) Recently, the news has been rife with reports of human-wildlife conflict over various parts of India. Most of these reports originate from forest areas surrounding the Western Ghats in the south and also the state of Maharashtra as well as the north-western areas of the country. While there are many reasons for human-wildife conflict, here it is mostly because of new developments encroaching on forest lands and animal territories. Alongside humans, elephants and leopards are the most common animals victims to this conflict in India.
Where do the birds fly? ‚Äď Migrant Watch, a ‚Äėcitizen science‚Äô data collection organization tells you
(04/02/2013) India is a hot spot for migratory birds and there are many species that visit the country in various times of the year. Amateur bird-watchers have taken it upon themselves to track migratory birds and they act as informal census keepers. According to the Tehelka blog, vagaries in the pattern of bird migration were brought to attention by amateur bird-watchers.
Harnessing religious teachings about stewardship to protect the planet - an interview with Sikh activist Bandana Kaur
(03/28/2013) Many religious groups have taken on the role of environmental custodians, citing scriptures that urge living in harmony with plants and animals. Representatives of nine world religions pledged in 2009 to develop environmental programs. The Sikh religion‚Äôs contribution to that effort is called EcoSikh. With a global community 30 million strong, Sikhism is the world‚Äôs fifth largest religion. Sikhs trace their roots to Punjab. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Green Revolution ‚ÄĒ research and technology breakthroughs that dramatically increased agricultural yields worldwide ‚ÄĒ turned Punjab into ‚Äúthe breadbasket of India.‚ÄĚ In the past 20 years, though, the intensive farming has eroded Punjab‚Äôs soil and water.
Scientists successfully reintroduce gaur in Indian park
(03/18/2013) Gaur (Bos gaurus gaurus) is one of the large wild ungulates of Asian jungles. It is the tallest living ox, and one of the four heaviest land mammals (elephant, rhino and wild buffalo are the other three), weighing up to 940 kilograms (2,070 pounds) and standing between 1.6 and 1.9 meters (5.2 to 6.2 feet) at the shoulder. Gaur were once distributed throughout the forested tracts of India and South Nepal, east to Vietnam and south to Malaya. Today, however, they are confined to just over a hundred existing, and 27 proposed, Protected Areas in India.
Burning coal may be killing over 100,000 people in India every year
(03/13/2013) India's dependence on coal-fired power plants for energy may be leading directly to the deaths of 80,000 to 115,000 of its citizens every year, according to the first ever report on the health impacts of coal in the country. The report, commissioned by the Conservation Action Trust and Greenpeace-India, deals only with the direct health impact of coal and not climate change. But even ignoring the rising pain of global warming, the bleak report outlines that coal consumption in India is causing over 20 million asthma attacks, nearly a million emergency room visits, and killing some 10,000 children under five annually.
Photographers threatening the already-abused slender loris
(03/12/2013) Caught in a beam of torchlight, the eyes of the slender loris reflect back a striking glow. In an effort to better understand these shy, nocturnal primates, a team of researchers set out to the Western Ghats of India. The resulting paper: Moolah, Misfortune or Spinsterhood? The Plight of the Slender Loris (Loris lydekkerianus) in Southern India was published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa in January of 2013. Forest walks and interviews with the Kani people, who live in close proximity to the lorises, supported evidence of a surprising new threat to the lorises: photographers.
Selective logging changes character of tropical forest
(02/28/2013) Selective logging is usually considered less harmful than other forestry practices, such as clear cutting, but a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science has found that even selective logging has a major impact on tropical forests lasting decades. Comparing trees in two previously logged sites and two unlogged sites in northeast India, researchers found less tree diversity in selectively logged forests with trees dispersed by birds proved especially hard-hit.
Chasing down 'quest species': new book travels the world in search of rarity in nature
(02/13/2013) In his new book, The Kingdom of Rarities, Eric Dinerstein chases after rare animals around the world, from the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) in Brazil to the golden langur (Trachypithecus geei) in Bhutan to Kirtland's warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii) in the forests of Michigan. Throughout his journeys, he tackles the concept of rarity in nature head-on. Contrary to popular belief, rarity is actually the norm in the wildlife world.
Tigers gobble up 49 percent of India's wildlife conservation funds, more imperiled species get nothing
(02/12/2013) Nearly half of India's wildlife budget goes to one species: the tiger, reports a recent article in Live Mint. India has devoted around $63 million to wildlife conservation for 2013-2013, of which Project Tiger receives $31 million. The Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) is currently listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List; however India is also home to 132 species currently considered Critically Endangered, the highest rating before extinction.
Investors beware: global land grabbing ends in 'financial damage' and human rights violations
(02/07/2013) Investing in companies that flout local community rights in developing countries often leads to severe economic losses, according to a new report from the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). A rising trend in "land grabbing" from Africa to South America by corporations and even foreign governments results in social instability, which can lead to large-scale protests, violence, and even murder, delaying and sometimes derailing projects. Such instability poses massive risk to any investor, not to mention supporting corporate entities that are accused of ignoring human rights.
Claim of human and tiger 'coexistence' lacks perspective
(01/29/2013) Nepal's Chitwan National Park was the site of a study, published in September 2012 by Carter and others, which concluded that, tigers coexist with humans at fine spatial scales. This paper has ignited a scientific debate regarding its implications for large carnivore conservation worldwide, with scientists at institutions worldwide questioning the validity of claims of coexistence. At the foundation of this debate, perhaps, is the unresolved question, "what is coexistence?"
Living beside a tiger reserve: scientists study compensation for human-wildlife conflict in India
(01/21/2013) During an average year, 87% of households surrounding Kanha Tiger Reserve in Central India report experiencing some kind of conflict with wild animals, according to a new paper in the open-access journal PLOS One. Co-existence with protected, free-roaming wildlife can be a challenge when living at the edge of a tiger reserve. "Local residents most often directly bear the costs of living alongside wildlife and may have limited ability to cope with losses" wrote the authors of the new paper.
An avalanche of decline: snow leopard populations are plummeting
(01/03/2013) The trading of big cat pelts is nothing new, but recent demand for snow leopard pelts and taxidermy mounts has added a new commodity to the illegal trade in wildlife products, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). Traditionally, the market for large cat products has centered around tiger bones and parts for traditional Chinese medicine. Snow leopards (Uncia uncia), however, are a novel trend in the illegal wildlife trade arena and skins and taxidermy mounts are the most recent fad in luxury home d√©cor.
The year in rainforests
(12/31/2012) 2012 was another year of mixed news for the world's tropical forests. This is a look at some of the most significant tropical rainforest-related news stories for 2012. There were many other important stories in 2012 and some were undoubtedly overlooked in this review. If you feel there's something we missed, please feel free to highlight it in the comments section. Also please note that this post focuses only on tropical forests.
From catastrophic to the sustainable: the flight of the Amur Falcon
(12/17/2012) It is said that the price of 'freedom and justice' is constant vigilance. It seems the same can be said of conservation and sustainability in our ever changing world. In a story and allegory appropriate for many of the challenges that face our global environment, two Indian conservation champions, Shashank Dalvi and Ramki Sreenivasan (both prot√©g√©s and associates of famed conservation leader, Dr Ullas Karanth of the WCS India), have stepped to work with a host of international and local interests to help save one species of beleaguered bird, the Amur Falcon of Eurasia.
A new method to monitor stray dog abundance
(12/10/2012) Free-roaming dogs (Canis familiaris) can fill a variety of ecological roles including competitor, predator, prey, and transmitter of disease to both wildlife and people with particular concern for rabies. A range of methods has been used to control dog populations, but monitoring dogs is a critical part of assessing the effectiveness of these methods.
Climate Summit in Doha characterized by lack of ambition
(12/09/2012) Ahead of the 18th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Doha, Qatar a variety of reports warned that the world was running out of time to avoid dangerous climate change, and that there was a widening gap between what nations have pledged to do and what the science demanded. A landmark report by the World Bank painted an almost apocalyptic picture of a world in which global temperatures have risen 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, including unprecedented heatwaves and droughts, rising sea levels, global agriculture crises, and a stunning loss of species. In addition, scientific studies released near the two week conference found that sea levels were rising 60 percent faster than predicted, forests around the world were imperiled by increasing drought, marine snails were dissolving in the Southern Ocean due to ocean acidification, and ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica was on the rise.
'No-one is listening to the entire scientific community': global carbon emissions set to hit new high
(12/03/2012) Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial sources are set to hit a new record high this year according to a new analysis by Global Carbon Project. The analysis in Nature Climate Changes predicts that CO2 emissions will rise another 2.6 percent, hitting 35.6 billion tonnes. The scientists warn that such steep climbs in global emissions year-after-year means that the door is rapidly closing on a global agreement to keep temperatures from rising 2 degree Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
Photos: Chinese leopard wins camera trap contest
(11/27/2012) The third annual BBC Wildlife Magazine Camera Trap Photo of the Year contest has produced some stunning and surprising images, including a snow leopard sticking its tongue out, a rare giant pangolin, and wrestling monitor lizards. But the winner this year was the perfect shot of a young leopard in China.