India is a country with unbelievable diversity. 29 states. 2 seas and 1 ocean. 1.3 billion people speaking thousands of languages and practicing various religions and diverse cultures. The ancestry of people here goes back to thousands of years that is intertwined with Mughals, British, Aryans, Dravidians, and other races. Often it may be difficult to decide which state culture is best in India.
Culture is an umbrella term. People, cuisine, religion, festivals, music, dance, literature, cinema, architecture all come under the culture of any state. All these make India indeed a cultural country united in diversity.
India is a vast country with rich landforms — the northern mountains, the north Indian plains, the peninsular plateau, the desert, the coasts on both sides, the islands, and the oceans. These landforms, along with their soil, rivers, climate have influenced population, and therefore their culture since the beginning of time.
India’s origin is part of the Indus Valley Civilization, one of the oldest civilizations in the world. The origin of dance as an art form can be found in the same. Indian art originates from Buddhist roots with three main schools of art: Gandhara, Mathura, and Amravati. Indian culture has also been under foreign influences like British, Mughals, Aryans, Dravidians, Iranian, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Greek, Roman, and many more. And the result is nuanced and intricate in the very best way.
Importantly, India’s cultural core lies in religion. Hinduism, Islam, Christians, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism are the major religions that are practiced in India. Hence, to understand which state culture is best in India, we have to dive deep into the cultures of each major part of India.
Culture of NORTH INDIA
Culture of Jammu & Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir are called many names owing to its heavenly beauty. It is called the Paradise City, and even ‘Venice of the East’. Srinagar is the capital of J&K in summer, and Jammu in winter — an ancient Dogra tradition. Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed the influence of great people of the world, ranging from Alexander the Great, the Sultans to the Mughals, the Afghans, and the Dogras.
Legend has it that the word Kashmir comes from Kashya-mir, that it was built by Sage Kashyapa by draining a lake at Baramullah. Urdu, Kashmiri, Ladakh are the major languages spoken there. Rajatarangini, the ancient Kashmiri historian, records the most intricate details of J&K history in his work.
- Rice is the staple food. Dishes like Shree-pulao, zarda, Chaman are famous for their mouth-melting taste.
- Kashmiri women wear pherans, a colorful attire with zari hemline, and men wearin salwar and skullcaps.
- Kashmiri music, due to its position, is influenced by Central Asia, North India, Tibetan, and Ladakhi. Dumhai is a famous dance performed by Wattal men while women perform Rouff dance.
- Kashmiri textile work is quite famous around the world. We often see people coming from Kashmir bringing Pashmina shawls, which are known for their threadwork, as souvenirs.
- Jammu and Kashmir has also contributed to Indian literature since the 14th century, Lalleshwari being the greatest mystic poetess of the era.
- Poets such as Agha Shahid Ali also portray Kashmir in a new, different light.
Culture of Punjab
Punjab is the 20th largest state in India with its capital in Chandigarh. Punjab’s history goes back to the times of Mahabharata, where the Madra kingdom and the Trigarta kingdom laid its foundations. Punjab is a Sikh majority state and a part of the Indus Valley Civilization. Punjab split into Haryana and Himachal Pradesh in 1966.
- Punjab, also called the ‘Granary of India’ depends heavily on agriculture and its rich soil is the result of the Indus River Basin. It produces wheat, maize, and rosewood.
- The two most famous dishes of India come from Punjab — ‘sarso ka saag’ and ‘Makki di roti’.
- Festivals here are abundant. Baisakhi – their spring festival and Dussehra are celebrated with might. People are cheerful and love to dance.
- Punjab also takes pride in their dance forms — bhangra, jhoomar, Sammi and khyal, thumri, which are part-classical forms from the Mughal era.
- Punjabi fashion is similar to that of North India. Men wear Punjabi kurta, tehmat, while women wear Punjabi salwar, ghagra, patiala.
To answer the question which state culture is best in India we have to read on further.
Culture of EAST INDIA
Culture of West Bengal
West Bengal is India’s one of the biggest cultural hubs. Rabindranath Tagore is the face of Bengal. Bengal stands on its literary culture. It has also produced great literary figures like Ashapura Devi, Leela Majumder, Mahasweta Devi, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, and many more. Bengali cinema is also running fast ahead with Oscar-winning Satyajit Ray, and other directors like Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen, Nandita Roy, Ritwik Ghatak, etc.
Starting from the influences of Sena dynasty, the Sultans, to the first film in 1919, to Little Magazine and Kallol movement, to the rise of literature, especially drama during the freedom struggle, Bengal’s state culture cannot be summarised in one sitting. So cannot be the other state cultures in India. Durga Puja is the predominant celebration in Bengal that draws international attention too.
- Most people speak Bengali and Hindi, but Nepali is also a prevalent language.
- Bengali music and art are also rich in diversity. Majlishi classical music is from Bengal.
- They also practice thumri, a piece of devotional and romantic music, toppa, a piece of complex vocal music and also Bengali rock.
- Bengalis are connoisseurs of food. Rice and fish are the staples of Bengal. Their favorite dishes are hilsa paturi, biriyani, and Chinese foods.
Culture of Arunachal Pradesh
It is an eastern state whose people mostly follow Tibetan Buddhism. Christianity and Hinduism are followed by some communities. Arunachal Pradesh is an agricultural state, but which state in India is not? It produces large amounts of plywood, timber, tea, petrochemical, cement, etc.
- Rice and meat are staple foods here. Thukpas and momos are the quintessence of Arunachal Pradesh.
- Losar, Solung, Dree, Mopin, Nyokum, Reh, Si-Donyi are some of the festivals celebrated here.
- The people of Arunachal Pradesh are skilled in artworks. Wood carving, carpet making, weaving, painting, basketry, pottery, weaving, bamboo work are few among their many skills.
- They also have their music and dance forms. Aji Lamu, Chalo, Hiirii, Popir are some of the folk dances of Arunachal Pradesh.
Culture of Manipur
Manipur’s cultural identity comes from its dance: Manipuri. Popularized by Rabindranath Tagore, Manipuri is one of the six classical dances of India. It tells the story of the beautiful love relationship between Radha and Krishna.
Lai Haraoba, which means ‘celebration of the gods’, is a spring festival celebrated across the state. Cheiraoba is the festival of Manipuri New Year. Kut festival is the celebration of the harvest.
- Rice is the staple of Manipur, along with Ngri, a kind of fermented fish. Iromba is another favorite delicacy of Manipur.
- Forestry and agriculture are the main occupations here. Hills are dense and there is an abundance of oak, magnolia, rhododendron, and primroses.
- This flowery sweetness is lent to the music and arts. Khullong is a kind of music sung by Meity fishermen during work. Pena Ishei is a musical that tells the story of Khamba-Thoibi and is based around the instrument Pena.
- Manipuris are also skilled in soft arts of weaving and bamboo work. They are famous for Laichampi, a textile art done by Manipuri women. They also use kauna, a type of reed to make beautiful bags, baskets, mats, and cushions.
Culture of Assam
Assam comes from the word Asama, meaning ‘peerless’. It originated in the ancient Ahoma language, now extinct.
Assam experiences a cool, mild climate. It houses some dense forests with more than 75 species of trees. Sal, fern, orchid, bamboo are some. In Assam, we also find the Indian one-horn rhinoceros.
- Assam is world-famous for its tea. Rice, jute, pulses, and corn also make up chunks of the agricultural industry.
- Assamese is a common language with its roots in the Indo Aryan. Assam celebrates a variety of festivals. Bohag Bihu is the celebration of the new year.
- Rangoli Bihu is a celebration with singing and dancing.
- Magh Bihu is celebrated in the joy of harvest.
- Bhogali Bihu is celebrated around bonfires and feasting.
- Kangali Bihu is a festival indicating the empty stock of grains.
- Asam has religious centres with heads known as satras.
- Assam also excels in the craft of weaving. It has produced great literature. One of the first and ancient great works is Prahlada Charitra by Hema Saraswati In the 13th century. He inspired writers like Shankara Deva in the 15th century, the era which also saw an upsurge of the Assamese literary revolution called the bhakti movement.
To under which state culture is the best in India, let us dive a little deeper.
Culture of WEST INDIA
Culture of Maharashtra
Maharashtra is the 3rd largest state in India, with the 17th largest ethnic group – Marathi. Marathis have made fine kings and fighters in the history. It is a large cultural hub, with numerous writers, artists, singers and actors.
- Maharashtra has many of their dances like Dhangari dance, Lavani dance, and now Bollywood has also seeped into its culture.
- Maharashtrians celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi with pomp and joy, which is a 10-day long ritual starting with the arrival of god Ganesh from Kailash mountain and his then departure.
- Maharashtra literature has been flourishing since the third century BCE. To talk contemporary, Vishnu Sakharam Khandekar is a major contributor to novels, short stories, while Vijay Tendulkar, Kusumagraj, Vasant Kantekar are some prominent figures in the drama.
- Current times have also produced many activists like Harish Iyer from Maharashtra. Mama Varerkar brought realism in Marathi literature in the 20th century.
- The state is also skilful in art, beautifully portrayed in their Warli paintings. They are also famous around the world for Kolhapuri craft, especially chappal and jewellery.
Culture of Gujarat
Gujarat is yet another whose state culture is best in India. With capital in Gandhinagar, it was earlier a part of Maharashtra.
- Gujarat is known for its various folk dances like Dandiya, Garba, Garbi, Padhar. They sing their folk songs called Sugam Sangeet. Bhajans, bardic are also sung in Gujarat.
- Three languages are widely spoken: Gujarati, Marwari, and Marathi. People also speak Hindi and Urdu.
- Gujaratis spend a good amount of time in festivities — Navaratri Mahotsav, Rathayatra, Deepavali, Mahadev Fir, kite festivals, Rann Utsav, and more.
- Gujarat is known for its patola silk which is later woven into beautiful coloured sarees. Abhas are traditional Gujrati outfits for women.
- They also create glamorous pachchikam jewelry of silver and other metals.
- In 1932, Gujarat saw its first cinema and then the industry steadily grew after that. Narsinh Mehta is a well-known face in Gujarati cinema.
Culture of Rajasthan
Rajasthan is a part of Indian cultural identity. We often see the great Indian desert and camels being shown as the representatives of India.
- Rajasthan culture goes back more than five thousand years. It is called the Cultural Capital of India. Vibrant costumes, majestic dances, magnificent forts, Rajasthan literally lives a royal lifestyle.
- Ghoomar dance is one of the famous Rajasthani dances originated in Udaipur.
- Kalbeliya is also another dance form from Jaisalmer. Kathputli, or string puppetry, which, thanks to media and documentaries, is now well-known around the world.
- Bhopa, Chang, Teratali, Ghindar, Parth are some other traditional dances. Instruments like dholak, sitar, sarangi are used to make performances.
- Rajasthan is also good at producing unique textile prints, complex mirror works, and delicate embroidery. Like the rest of India, they celebrate Diwali with utmost zeal.
- Gangaur, Pushkar Mela, and Teej are some traditional Rajasthani festivals.
Rajasthan is currently turning a lot of eyes with its monumental literature festival called the Jaipur Lit Fest, since 2006.
Culture of SOUTH INDIA
Culture of Andhra Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh lies in the South-Eastern coast of India. To its east lies the great Bay of Bengal. A lot of this state is covered in hills. Andhra Pradesh is an agricultural state with a typical Indian climate: summer, rain, and winter. The coastal regions are filled with fields, palm trees and mangroves while the hilly regions and plateau host most of the vegetation.
Telugu is the official language of Andhra Pradesh. Urdu, Hindi, Kannada are also spoken here. The greatest cultural identity of Andhra Pradesh is its classical dance Kuchipudi. Kuchipudi is one of the six internationally recognized classical dances of India. It dramatizes Satyabhama’s story of jealousy and love-filled anger towards God Krishna, her husband.
Telugu literature and cinema have also flourished, especially around partition in 1956.
Let us pause for a while here:
Which state culture do you think is best in India? Any guesses?
Culture of Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu sits on the extreme south of India. They are proud successors of the Dravidian language. Tamil Nadu has a tropical climate; Nilgiri Hills, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary are some places to visit there.
Hinduism is the heart of Tamil culture and Tamil the official language. Tamil Nadu is a connoisseur of the elite South Indian music called Carnatic music (although it is said to have Andhra roots). One of the six Indian classical dance, Bharatanatyam, originated in Tamil Nadu.
- The traditional dress of Tamils is lungi for men and saree for women. Kanchipuram sarees from Tamil Nadu are world-famous.
- Spinning, sculpting, chiseling are also skills that they possess. Tamil literature also saw an upsurge in the twentieth century holding the hands of Subramania Bharathi.
- Rajam Krishnan, Siva Sankari, Anuradha Ramana, Kalki Krishnamurthy are some recognized writers.
- Tamil Nadu saw its first silent film in 1918 and has since inspired many artists, including the cinema of Sri Lanka.
Culture of Karnataka
People of Karnataka speak multiple languages and are often of mixed ethnicity. Bangalore is the capital of Karnataka, which is also known as the IT Hub of India.
- Karnataka’s people always patronised art. Mysore paintings are simple and depict myths, stories of the royal heritage.
- Hase Chitra is a kind of mud painting done by the tribals of Karnataka. The Mysore Palace, a magnificent architecture built in the Indo-Saracenic style, is the family seat of the Maharajas of Mysore.
- 74% of the people in Karnataka speak Kannada. They also speak Tulu, Konkani, Kodava, Urdu, and Bihari.
- They practice Carnatic music (which is often reserved for the elite due to its complexity), and Purandara Vasa is considered the father of Carnatic music.
- Karnataka also has a tradition of Yakshagana which is a combination of art, dance, makeup, singing, along with instruments like drums, and storytelling strictly in Kannada.
- The tradition of the Damani dance is also prevalent in Karnataka. Some of the festivals celebrated by Karnataka people are Ugadi, which is the new year, Navratri which is called Mysuru Dasara.
Culture of Kerala
Situated in the southern tip of India, Kerala’s rich heritage and lifestyle set an example for India. It is surrounded by the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the western ghats and has inherited precious foreign trade links from ancestors. Kerala has the highest literacy rate in the country and is often a victim of floods and landslides.
Kerala has produced an array of painters, sculptors, writers. Most of their sculpture and engravings can be seen in temples and religious places. M. R. D. Dathan, Kanai Kunjiram well-known sculptors from Kerala, while C. Rajaravarma, C.V. Balan Nair, Mangalabhai Thampurathi excel in painting.
- Malayalam is a major language in Kerala, and its literature dates back to centuries. ‘Bhasha Kautiliyam’ can be considered the origin of Malayalam prose, and ‘Vaishikathathantram’ of poetry.
- Some scholars believe that the Malayalam language originated from the Dravidian language as Kerala was believed to be a part of Tamil Nadu. ‘Chilapathikaram’ is a masterpiece of Kerala by epic poet Elangovadikal.
- Hindu festivals in Kerala include Vishu, Navratri, and Deepawali. Muslim festivals include Ramzan, Bakrid, and Muharram.
- Easter and Christmas are the Christian festivals celebrated in Kerala. Apart from these boat races Onam, Pulikali, Athachamayan are also celebrated in Kerala.
Culture of CENTRAL INDIA
Culture of Chhattisgarh
Rich and diverse as India, Chhattisgarh houses more than thirty-five tribes within itself which makes us ask, which state culture is best in India.
- Chhattisgarh is known for its dances — Panthi dance by the Satnam community, which depicts human life mixed with spiritual messages, Raut dance of the Yadavs are equally famous.
- Chhattisgarh has a tradition of solo drama called Pandwani which means Panda Katha, which is tales of the Pandava brothers from Mahabharata.
- Gouri-goura, Surti, Hareli, Pola are common festivals in Chhattisgarh. It also celebrates great literary figures like Smita Bharti, Bela Bhatia, Malini Subramaniam, Koduram Dalit, and Surendra Dubey.
Culture of Madhya Pradesh
The culture of Madhya Pradesh is influenced by indigenous roots. It houses three major tribes like Bhil, Gond, and Oraon, which in turn influence the culture of Madhya Pradesh.
Handiworks of MP depict tribal arts and have all the religions of India within its boundaries. Hindi is widely spoken, and the official language, although the dialect varies with region.
- Dhankul songs, Leha songs, are famous music in MP.
- Wheat is a staple in Madhya Pradesh, and their cuisines have Rajasthani and Gujarati roots owing to its position on the map.
- Their culture is as lavish as their dishes.
Conclusion of State Culture in India
Now that we have covered all the regions in India, it finally brings us to the question — which state culture is best in India. But you must have understood that the answer is not a simple one.
Culture reflects people, and people reflect culture. Culture is a representation of what is inside, on the outside. Although Indian culture stands on its religions, they are nothing but philosophy in themselves.
So, the answer to which state culture is best in India will be, all. All cultures are beautiful in their way, evolving, learning, and growing with the turn of time. Each state draws power and authority from the motherland India, enriching it in turn with its authentic and regal diversity.