Chapter 9: The Making of the Regional Cultures


What is culture?

Culture is the ideas, customs, social practices, and behavior of people or society.


Regional Cultures

  • Language, food, clothes, poetry, dance, music, and painting are elements of the regional cultures.
  • Some traditions appear specific to some regions.
  • Other traditions have similarities with other regions.
  • Frontiers (borders) separating regions have been evolving over time.
  • Today's regional cultures are the product of the intermixing of local traditions with ideas from other parts of the subcontinent.


How did the rulers of various regions affect the regional cultures?


Rulers and languages

(The Cheras and the Development of Malayalam)


Languages were promoted or patronized by the rulers in literature, inscriptions, theatrics, and other art forms.
  • An example of the connection between language and region.
  • The Chera kingdom of Mahodayapuram was established in the 9th century in the present-day Kerala region.
  • The rulers introduced the Malayalam language and script in their inscriptions.
  • The Cheras also drew upon Sanskritic traditions.
  • The temple theatre of Kerala borrowed stories from the Sanskrit epics.



Rulers and Religious Traditions

(The Jagannatha Cult)


Some regional cultures grew around religious traditions.
  • Jagannath (literally, lord of the world, a name for Vishnu) at Puri, Orissa.
  • The local tribal people still make the wooden image of the deity. It suggests that the deity was originally a local god, who was later identified with Vishnu.
  • In the 12th century, one of the most important rulers of the Ganga dynasty, Anantavarman, decided to erect a temple for Purushottama Jagannatha at Puri.
  • The temple gained importance as a center of pilgrimage. It also gained social and political importance.
  • All those who conquered Orissa attempted to gain control over the temple. So that the local people would accept them as their rulers.

Jagannath Temple at Puri, Orissa.


Rulers and Traditions of Heroism

(The Rajputs and Traditions of Heroism)

  • The Rajputs are recognized as contributing to the unique culture of Rajasthan.
  • These cultural traditions were closely linked with the values and aspirations of rulers.
  • These rulers respected the value of the hero who fought valiantly, often choosing death on the battlefield rather than face defeat.
  • Stories about Rajput heroes were recorded in poems and songs.
  • These preserved the memories of heroes and inspired others to follow the example.
  • Women are also depicted as following their heroic husbands in both life and death.


The Story of Kathak

  • The term Kathak is derived from Katha (a Sanskrit word)
  • The kathaks were originally a caste of storytellers in temples of north India, who beautified their performances with gestures and songs.
  • Kathak started evolving into a distinct mode of dance in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries with the spread of the bhakti movement.
  • The legends of Radha-Krishna were enacted in folk plays called "Rasa Lila", which combined folk dance with the basic gestures of the kathak storytellers.
  • Under the Mughal emperors and their nobles, Kathak was performed in the court.
  • It developed in two traditions or Gharanas:
    (1) Jaipur Gharana (Rajasthan)
    (2) Lucknow Gharana (Uttar Pradesh)
  • Rapid footwork, elaborate costumes, and enactment of stories were focussed on in Kathak.

Attributes of Classical Dance forms

  • Religious theme
  • Superior Skills
  • Specified rules
  • Precise expressions, movements, and gestures

There are six classical dance forms:

1. Bharatanatyam (Tamil Nadu)
2. Kathakali (Kerala)
3. Odissi (Odisha)
4. Kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh)
5. Manipuri (Manipur)
6. Kathak (Uttar Pradesh)



The Tradition of Miniatures (Paintings)

  • Miniatures are small-sized paintings, generally done in watercolor on cloth or paper.
  • The Mughal emperors Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan patronized highly skilled painters.
  • Court scenes, scenes of battle or hunting, and other aspects of social life were painted with brilliant colors.
  • Gifts were given to these painters as rewards.
  • Painters moved to other regional states as the Mughal Empire started to decline.
  • The mythological themes and poetry were also depicted by the miniature paintings in the Rajput States.
  • The region at Himalayan foothills (Present-day Himachal Pradesh) developed a bold and intense style of miniature painting called Basohli.
  • Kangra school of painting was founded in hilly regions which focus on natural beauty.


    A Closer Look at Bengal


    The Growth of a Regional Language

    • People of Bengal did not speak the Sanskritic language about 2500 years ago.
    • About 400-300 BC, commercial ties began to develop between Bengal and Magadha which increased the influence of Sanskrit.