In this article, You are going to read the Cultural Region of the World in Human Geography UPSC (Geography Optional).

Cultural Region of the World

  • Culture is a dynamic concept and it changes imperceptibly.
  • Culture is enriched by cross-fertilization. ( Culture is defined as a manifestation of socio-religious economic condition, the standard of living, level of technology, and people’s environmental perception.)
  • Culture has been defined in a variety of ways but it is difficult to explain the notion of culture through words.
  • It is abstract, however, can be defined by elements like language, religion, ethnicity, traits, the standard of living, and moreover by rituals, customs, traditions, and tools.
  • India is a mosaic of cultures i.e. different cultures are found in every region such as North India,
    South India, Himalayan, etc
Cultural Region Of The World

Now, let’s have a look few terminologies related to cultural regions.

Defining cultural regions/realm

  • A cultural realm is a geographical region where cultural traits maintain homogeneity.
  • The cultural traits are supposed to be the product of regional geographical circumstances
  • It is, thus, regional geography that has become the basis of the delineation of cultural realms in the world
  • Ratzel’s concept of the cultural landscape provided encouragement to geographers for cultural regionalization
  • Blache and Spencer are other Geographers who considered the study of cultural realms as an important part of Human Geography
  • Apart from Geographers, historians, anthropologists, and sociologists have also tried to regionalize the world into cultural realms
  • The variables of cultures include economic organization, social customs, traditional values, dietary habits, dress patterns, language, etc.

Hearths – They are the source areas from where ideas, innovations, and ideologies radiated that changed the world beyond. It is an ancient concept and doesn’t exist anymore.
E.g. – Hwang Ho, Mesopotamia, etc.

  • 7 cultural hearths:
    1. The Nile river valley
    2. The Indus river valley
    3. The Wei-Huang river valley
    4. The Ganga river valley
    5. Mesopotamia
    6. Mesoamerica
    7. West Africa

CoreCultural hearths expanded into cores. It is a medieval concept. India has 3 cores-

  1. Rigveda – in Punjab
  2. Later Vedic culture – in Bihar
  3. Dravidian culture – in the south (in and around Thanjavur)

Region – It is a modern concept and does not include the geographical continuation. There should be a boundary; geopolitical regions have been used to define cultural regions.

Realm – It is the largest possible area of cultural influence. It is a wider concept and includes overlaps and transitional areas. It can be discontinuous. E.g. Islam realm.

Classification of Cultural Regions of World

Several attempts have been made by geographers, anthropologies, historians, etc. to divide the world into cultural regions. The division into cultural regions is not easy, and with the advent of communications, and the concept of the global village (cultural intermingling), the task has been further made more difficult. However, there are some environmental factors that are bound to create cultural differences. besides, there are also social factors, emotional factors like language, etc which also create divide lines.

Great political geographer – Moodie saidLand is a great divide line of the peoples of the world“. The emergence of the European state is an example here.

Toynbee has divided the world into 3 cultural regions:

  • Living realm
  • Arrested Realm, and
  • Abortive realm

Broek & Webb’s classification

  • They tried to establish the dominance of a particular phenomenon over the evolution of the cultural landscape
  • They found that the impact of religious values is tremendous over the entire cultural system
  • A cultural-religious investigation reveals that the culture of a particular region becomes ineffective once the religious impact is withdrawn
  • They have used 8 variables for cultural regionalization of the world
    1. Race
    2. Religion
    3. Language
    4. Economic Unionism
    5. Folk
    6. Habit or Diet
    7. Dresses
    8. Beliefs orthodox/scientific

The emergence of all these variables is based on environmental factors or geographical realities of the regions, according to Broek, he cited examples like people living in polar areas will not go for cotton cloth.

Broek further wrote that of all these 8 variables, society has the maximum bearing of religion. It is the religion which compels to adopt certain kind of economies, dresses, food habits, and beliefs. It also brings temptations to learn certain languages. It is the religion that provides some restrictions at the time of cultural mingling.

All other variables are directly or indirectly controlled by religion. However, giving due emphasis to all these factors, he had divided the world into major, meso, and micro cultural realms.

He divided the world into 4 major cultural realms and 2 meso realms.

The major cultural realms are:

  1. Occidental Realm
  2. Islamic Realm
  3. Indian Realm
  4. East Indian Realm

And the minor cultural realms are:

  1. South-East Asian Realm
  2. Meso-African or Negro African Realm.

These are further subdivided into micro realms.

Major cultural realms

Occidental Realm

Occidental culture is the culture of European society. It is influenced to a great extent by Christianity. It has regional modifications on the basis of varying levels of industrialization, political and economic thought, colonization, commercialization, urbanization, and development of transport systems, land development of social, political, and economic institutions.

In many parts of the occidental culture, the impact of non-religious factors, particularly the effect of modernization, is so great that the religious values are sidelined. Post-industrial Europe is fast emerging as a society where traditional values are nearly abandoned. Occidental culture covers a vast area. It is further divided into six sub-regions considering the impact of the regional environment.

  • West Europe is the most industrialized and urbanized culture.
  • Continental European culture is influenced by different political and economic thoughts, while Christianity remains an important influence.
  • Mediterranean Europe includes countries lying to the south of the Alps. It is the region of the dominance of Christianity. To many geographers, the deep-rooted traditional social system is the principal cause of limited economic development in countries like Spain, Portugal, and southern Italy, compared to countries of northern and western Europe that adopted necessary changes in their social systems.
  • Anglo-American and
  • Australian cultural realms are practically the offspring of west European culture. Both are inhabited by migrants from west Europe. There are only some regional differences.
  • Latin American culture is very similar to the Mediterranean culture. It is the only region of occidental culture which lies in the tropics and is underdeveloped. It became a part of the occidental culture as a result of the conversion of tribes into Christianity. The colonial languages, Spanish and Portuguese, have become the state languages. Regional architecture has been influenced by the Spanish and Portuguese styles. Practically all countries maintain economic, cultural, and social ties with the Mediterranean countries.
Islamic Cultural Realm
  • It is a region of desert and semi-desert culture
  • The culture here is influenced by Islamic values.
  • It covers a vast geographical area from Morocco in the west to Pakistan in the east.
  • The population is sparsely distributed due to the inhospitable environment. The coasts, river basins, and oases have been the cradles of Arabian culture in this realm. The British call it the Middle-East while the Germans call it a region of oriental culture.
  • This cultural realm lies between the traditional Indian culture in the east and the modernized European culture in the west.
  • Islamic culture is highly orthodox and based on traditional beliefs, the impact of which can be seen in high female illiteracy rates. These countries have very high per capita incomes, but the level of modernization is very low.
  • Israel is a different culture in context to religion.
  • Central Asian Republics are regions of transitional culture type.
  • For many years, they were a part of East European culture due to economic unionism. But with the emergence of Glasnost and Perestroika, they are no more part of the same system
  • They have come closer to Islamic culture
  • Islamic culture has the traditional dominance of nomadism, food-collectors, wanderers, caravan route, etc.
  • Food and water shortage is the major problem on which the culture of this region emerged
  • Even Islam gave messages to perform prayers for five times facing Mecca
  • These two religious messages contributed to the development of permanent settlements and cultural permanency
  • Recently, the culture of this region is influenced by ‘Petro-dollars’ so there is a high level of urbanization and modernization
  • Immigrants have created pluralistic urban culture but the social system is yet to be significantly altered and modernized
  • That’s why they are yet to become developed countries in spite of high incomes.
Indian Cultural Realm
  • This is the culture of the Indian sub-continent. It is also known as Monsoonal Culture.
  • Baker called it a subcontinental culture, while D. Stamp used the term paddy culture.
  • This cultural realm is well-defined; it lies between the Himalayas in the north, the Indian Ocean in the south, and the Hindukush Mountains in the west.
  • It is the only region where religion is not a binding factor in cultural development. It is a region of racial tolerance and religious tolerance. Several streams of people came to this region and remained here permanently, which enriched the culture
  • This cultural realm is characterized by the joint family, village community, caste system, semi-feudal land relations, subsistence agriculture, paddy farming, seasonal climate changes, and the agricultural season coming at the same time all over the region.
  • The culture of this region is greatly influenced by Vedic values. Though the region is inhabited by various communities, the social system has the hidden impact of Vedic cultural values.
  • It has the largest number of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, etc. and only Christians are insignificant here.
  • There is a religious-mixing in this region and All religious groups have adopted other religious customs.
East Asian Culture
  • This is a cultural region of Mongoloids. This culture is basically a Buddhist culture with regional modifications.
  • True Buddhist culture can be seen in South Korea and Japan.
  • Even these two countries have felt the impact of industrialization, urbanization, and modernization. The culture of mainland China has modified the Buddhist system.
  • This culture was adopted after the Second World War.
  • It has inherited horse-riding, pastoralism, and wandering
  • But when they settled on the plains of China and islands of Japan, they maintained permanent dwellings
  • They practice Buddhism, but nowadays, the impact of religion is not so strong as geographical location or socio-cultural philosophies
  • East Asian culture is subdivided into Chinese culture and Japanese Culture (Continental culture and Marine Culture)
  • Continental or Chinese culture has the bearing of socialistic tradition
  • Although, there are some reforms but some commune system continues to remain as the core of continental culture
  • It is a village cooperative system (from Mongolia to Hainan island)
  • It is also a region of Paddy culture
  • Maritime culture is the culture of Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea
  • Relatively, they have more bearing on Buddhism in comparison to the Chinese side
  • But at the same time, they have adopted democratic values, social and economic happiness and also have developed industrial and commercial culture
  • Japan is often known as “Britain of East”
  • It has a similar culture to the British, except the race and language. However, Religion is not significant here.

Minor cultural realms

South-East Asian Realm
  • It is another region of cultural tolerance.
  • South-East Asian Culture It is a transitional culture lying at a place where different cultures have intermingled.
  • It is a region where people have come from all parts of the world but there was no way out to the east, so they settled here, Consequently, there is no indigenous culture
  • The dominance of Buddhism can be seen in Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • Mongoloids, Negroids, Caucasoids, Indics, Islamics – all races came here
  • The influence of Christianity can be seen in the Philippines and of Indie culture over the islands of Indonesia.
  • Islamic influence is evident in Malaysia and the Indonesian islands. No other region has such peculiarities.
  • Bali island is dominated by Hindus
  • Singapore is a region of Pluralistic Society
  • This region is the ‘Museum of Culture’ or the ‘Storehouse of Culture’
Meso-African Culture
  • It is the culture of African tribes. This culture is also known as the Negro culture.
  • It is not being able to develop due to multiple tribes having different cultures. About 220 isolated cultural pockets within Africa can be found.
  • Most of them have animist culture, depending on nature and not god e.g. Natural habitat on trees, etc.
  • There is slow interaction with modern values. The inflow of modernization has begun in this region
  • It principally includes tropical Africa. Similar cultural systems can be seen among the American Red Indians, Latin American tribes, Australian aboriginals, and several tribes of the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Historian Toynbee has used the term ‘marginalized culture’ for these traditional culture units. Some geographers even include Eskimos under this cultural realm. Thus, it is a widely scattered cultural realm characterized by marginalized and relatively isolated communities.
Cultural Region of the World UPSC (Human Geography)


  • The classification gives more emphasis on religion
  • There is a neglect of the influence of physiographic aspects


Although this classification is a good attempt, but globalization is weakening the boundaries and the
civilizations are moving continually towards a global multifaceted culture

Cultural Region of India

  1. West Himalayan Culture
    • Ladhaki Buddhist Culture
    • Kashmiri Culture
    • Kinnori Culture
  2. Eastern Himalayan Cultural
    • Sikkim, Arunanchal(Buddhist)
    • Great Naga Culture
    • Other ethnic tribal cultural
  3. The Aryan Culture
    • The eastern Hindi culture
    • Western Hindi Culture
  4. The Dravidian Culture
    • Tamil
    • Telugu
    • Kannad
    • Malayalam
Percentage of Religious Population In India

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Narsingh Godara

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Shivam Gaur

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