Since time immemorial India has been called a land of rich culture – starting from the famous food called ‘wazan’ of the snow caped Kashmir to the ornate temples of the God’s own country, Kerala. The states that lie in between like Punjab, Orissa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and many others are equal contributors of different aspects that combine to give what the world recognizes as the famous Indian culture. Though each state is famous for their own customs, it is a natural phenomenon for the customs to be adopted by neighboring states and from there on by other geographically far off states. This begs the question if a culture would or would not spread beyond a man-made border line.
With that being stated, it makes one wonder how the dynamics of Indian culture have been influenced by the traditions and cultures of another country. To begin with, let’s consider the countries which share a border with Indian states:
1. Pakistan – Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
2. China – Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
3. Nepal – Bihar, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim and West Bengal.
4. Bangladesh – West Bengal, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura and Assam.
5. Bhutan – West Bengal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
6. Myanmar – Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.
7. Afghanistan – Jammu and Kashmir.
Culture has a myriad of components and again, a myriad of ways in which each component may be affected. Keeping different countries in mind and their level of influence on the Indian states, the most evident ones are: food, festivals, languages and religion.
Food is one such culture component whose aroma seems to have wafted across the borders. Pakistan and Punjab are both very well known for their street food. This similarity probably stems from the love for meat in both the mentioned places. Kakori kebabs, mutton roghan ghosht, reshmi kebab are just a few juicy names of the list of wholesome meat goodness. The word ‘momos’ brings the image of a north eastern chap watching over Kim-chi salads, fried noodles, pitha, zan and other certain un-pronounceable delicacies. These are the famous dishes that are common between the north-eastern Indian states and the countries of Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar.
The festivals and the typical traditions that are followed for any festival are the core of any culture. With the major festivals of India revolving around harvest time, mythology and religion; the similarity between the neighboring country’s cultures becomes evident as they also seem to follow similar traditions and festivals based on the above mentioned factors. The Hornbill festival of Nagaland, named after the bird, is celebrated with equal enthusiasm in the country of Myanmar. This festival is said be celebrated by 16 tribes of the region, out of which few are originally from Myanmar. The harvest festivals of north India which include Teej, Vaisakhi and Basant Panchmi are also celebrated in Pakistan.
Language is the key for the influence of different cultures on each other. The languages from other countries influence and give rise to new dialects. The language spoken in Sikkim is called Nepali, which shows the influence of Nepal. Among the dialects spoken in Sikkim are sikkimese and lepcha. Sikkimese is also called Bhutia, which again shows the origin of the actual languge that crossed the borders into Sikkim. In Bangladesh, the majority of the population speaks Bengali which is the native language of West Bengal. A culture does not know borders, nor does it discriminate based on nationality. A culture influenced by other cultures can only get richer. Despite what some people believe, war may not be the only outcome of cultural differences, a richer and more vibrant culture which arises out of these cultural differences may be the winner here.
Mumbai – Chennai
Writer, Dancer, Foodie
In a perpetual state of confusion
“Not all those who wander are lost”