Few countries in the world have such an ancient and diverse culture as India's. Stretching back in an unbroken sweep over 5000 years, India's culture has been enriched by successive waves of migration which were absorbed into the Indian way of life.
It is this variety which is a special hallmark of India. Its physical, religious and racial variety is as immense as its linguistic diversity. Underneath this diversity lies the continuity of Indian civilization and social structure from the very earliest times until the present day.
Indian culture is no easy composite of varying styles and influences. In the matter of cuisine, for instance, the North and the South share little, and these broad categorizations say little about the distinctions between the peppery hot food of Andhra and the coastal, largely coconut-based, cuisine of Kerala. Likewise, in thinking of architecture, one's mind traverses from the great temple cities of the South -- Chidambaram, Rameswaram, Kanchipuram, Madurai, and numerous others -- to the architectural splendors of the Vijaynagar empire and the erotic sculptures of Khajuraho to the grand Mughal architecture of Delhi, Agra, and Fatehpur Sikri.
Indian food is conquering the world. And why not? India's cuisine is as diverse as its culture, languages, regions and climate. Yes it is spicy, but not always hot. India is probably the one land that boasts of as wide a variety of vegetarian cuisine as non-vegetarian cuisine. And as expected every region of India has its own unique dish as well as subtle variations to popular dishes.
If dance is the spirit made visible, then the first swaying of the spirit blossomed in an infinite variety of dances in ancient India. The expression of joy was sanctified by the submission of this happiness at the altar of the Creator. After all Indians do believe that it is creation itself that is the dance of the creator. All Indian dances - folk, gypsy, classical or simply ritual - have a mad riot of color and an internal geometry of forces that is entirely beguiling. All of them have elaborate costumes and jewelry that are unique and visually alluring.
One of the most enduring achievements of Indian civilization is undoubtedly its architecture, which extends to a great deal more than the Taj Mahal or the temple complexes of Khajuraho and Vijayanagara. Though the Indus Valley sites of Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, and Lothal provide substantial evidence of extensive town planning, the beginnings of Indian architecture are more properly to be dated to the advent of Buddhism in India, in the reign of Ashoka (c. 270-232), and the construction of Buddhist monasteries and stupas. Buddhist architecture was predominant for several centuries, and there are few remains of Hindu temples from even late antiquity. Among the many highlights of Buddhist art and architecture are the Great Stupa at Sanchi and the rock-cut caves at Ajanta.
Though India is often and justly described as a land of many religions and innumerable languages, it might well be described as a land of festivals as well. As in any old civilization, most of these festivals have religious associations, as is the case with Holi, Dusshera, Krishna Janmashtmi, Hanuman Jayanti, Ganesh Chaturthi, Muharram, Shivratri, and Diwali or Deepavali; many are also, in a country which is still predominantly rural, associated with the harvesting of the crop, as is true of Pongal-Sankranti in South India, or otherwise commemorative of the sacred ties with the land that Indian villagers have. Still others, such as Karwa Chauth, the observance of which is strictly restricted to Hindu married women, are not festivals as such though there may be something of a festive air attached to these occasions. Some festivals are observed throughout the country, or in a greater part of it; others, such as the famed snake race of Kerala, have peculiarly regional associations.