In this article, You will read Cultural Regions of India – for Geography UPSC IAS.
Cultural Regions of India
Language, religion, customs, and traditions are some of the important elements of culture. Cultural regions may be delineated on the basis of these cultural traits.
Language as a determinant of Cultural Region
- India is a multi-ethnic, multilingual, and multi–religious country. According to anthropologists and historians, the Indian population comprises of the people who came here from the Mediterranean region, Central Asia, Southwest & South East Asia, Mongolia, Tibet, and China. Each of these racial and ethnic groups has its own language. After coming to India, the cultural mixing led to the mixing of their languages also.
- These languages have their core and peripheral areas. This broad linguistic regional identity formed the basis for the demarcation of Indian States in 1956.
- According to the Census of 1961, there were 187 languages spoken by different sections of the Indian society. Of these, 94 were spoken by less than 10,000 people.
- According to Bhasa Research and Publication Centre, the country had 1100 languages in 1961, but nearly 220 of them disappeared in the past 50 years. The lost languages were spoken mostly by nomads. At present, there are 780 languages in India (Times of India – August 8, 2013). The fifteen main languages (out of 22), as mentioned in the 8th Schedule of the Indian constitution, are spoken by over 92 % of the total population of the country.
Indian Language and Linguistic groups
The Indian languages belong to the following four linguistic groups:-
- The Indo – European family (Aryan)
- The Dravidian family (Dravida)
- Austric family (Nishada)
- Sino – Tibetan family (Kirata)
The Indo – Aryan Language
- This is the most important group of Indian languages spoken by most of the people of northern India. Its core area is known as the Khadi Boli region, comprising of Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.
- Going away from the core, it has different shades and dialects. Prof. A. Ahmad has given a diagrammatic representation of the diffusion of Khadi Boli (Hindi) in different directions from the core area.
- Offshoots include Dardi, Kohistani, Kashmiri, Lahnda, Sindhi, Kacchchi, Gujarati, Marathi, Odiya, Bengali, Assamese, Bihari, Avadi, Bagheli, Chhattisgarhi, Hindi, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Nepali, and Pahari.
- Hindi is the principal language of the Indo – European Family spoken by over 40% of the total population of the country. It is mainly spoken in Bihar, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, UP, and Uttarakhand.
- Urdu is closely akin to Hindi and is popular in Bihar, Delhi, Hyderabad, J&K, M.P, UP, Uttarakhand and is most of the places of urban India.
The Dravidian Family
- The Dravidian Family of the Indian languages is mainly spoken in Andhra Pradesh (Telugu), Karnataka (Kannada), Kerala (Malayalam), and Tamil Nadu (Tamil).
- These four languages are spoken by more than 22 % of the total population of India.
The Austric Family
- The Austric languages are spoken by the tribal groups of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Odisha, and West Bengal.
The Sino – Tibetan Family
- The Sino – Tibetan language is spoken mainly in the Himalayan belt. It has three major subdivisions:
- Tibeto–Himalayan: – It comprises Chamba, Lahauli, Kannauri, and Lepcha languages in Himachal Pradesh. The Balti, Bhutia, Ladakhi, and Tibetan languages are spoken in the northern parts of the J&K state. The Bhutia and Kinnauri are the dominant languages in Himachal Pradesh.
- The North Assam and Arunachal Pradesh:– In north Assam and Arunachal Pradesh the main languages are Abor, Aka, Assami, Dalta, Miri, and Mishmi.
- The Assami–Myanmari (Burmese):– These languages are spoken by the Assamese, Bodo, Kochin, Kukichin, Miri, Naga, and Xaxa tribes.
|Linguistic Region||State/ Union Territory|
|Assamese||Assam and adjacent regions|
|Bengali||West Bengal and parts of Tripura|
|Gujarati||Gujarat and adjacent regions|
|Hindi||Bihar, Chhattisgarh. Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand|
|Kannada||Karnataka and adjacent regions|
|Malayalam||Kerala and Lakshadweep|
|Telgu||Andhra Pradesh and adjacent regions|
|Marathi||Maharashtra and Goa|
|Odiya||Odisha and adjacent regions|
|Punjabi||Punjab and adjacent parts of Haryana|
|Tamil||Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry|
Facts related to Indian Languages:
- Hindi is the official language of the country spoken by 40% of the total population. The Hindi belt includes the states of UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Delhi in which over 90% of the population speaks Hindi.
- Urdu is basically a variant of Hindi written in Arabic/ Persian script instead of the Devnagri script of Hindi. It was born in India but is virtually “homeless” without a strong regional base. J&K has adopted Urdu as the official language of the state. It is the mother tongue of about 8% of the total population of the country. It is mainly spoken in UP, Bihar, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Delhi, J&K, and Uttarakhand.
- Bengali, the second-highest most spoken language of India has its cultural core in West Bengal, but its periphery extends in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Tripura.
- Telugu stands next to Bengali with its linguistic core in Andhra Pradesh and extension in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. It has been called as the Italian of the East.
- Marathi stands fourth in numerical strength. Its linguistic core lies in Maharashtra (93%) with speakers also in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Goa. Konkani, spoken in the Konkan coastal areas and Goa, is an offshoot of Marathi.
- Tamil occupies the fifth rank. It best represents the old Dravidian Script. It has rich literature commencing with the beginning of the Christian era. Its linguistic core lies in Tamil Nadu (92%), but it extends its influence in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Pondicherry.
- Gujarati emerged from Gujarat and has carved out its influence in Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
- Kannada stands next to Gujarati. Its linguistic core lies in Karnataka (91%) and it has its extension in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh.
- Among the Dravidian languages, Malayalam has the smallest number of speakers. Its linguistic core lies in Kerala (92%) and extends in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Maharashtra.
- Odiya has a distinctive character as it is the old Apabhramsa and has enriched itself with Sanskrit.
- Assamese has its distinctive pronunciation and grammar but is often included in the Bengal, Assam group.
Religion as a determinant of Cultural Region
- Religion has been defined differently by different scholars. Friedrich Schleiermacher defined religion as the feeling of absolute dependence. According to William James, religion is the enthusiastic temper of espousal.
- Otto defines the essence of religious awareness as awe, a unique blend of fear and fascination before the divine.
- The main characteristics of religious life are:-
- Myth and symbol,
- Concept of Salvation,
- Sacred places and objects,
- Sacred actions (rituals),
- Sacred writings,
- The sacred community (monastic order)
- Religion, like language, is a symbol of group identity and a cultural rallying point. All societies have value systems, common beliefs, understandings, and expectations that unite their people.
- It plays a crucial role in the socio-economic life of the people and even their utilization of natural resources is closely controlled by the religion of the people. Geographers are concerned with the interaction between religion and landscape (resources). Thus, religion provides a good basis for the demarcation of cultural regions.
- India is a multi-religion country. It is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Subsequently, the successive waves of people of other religious faiths came to India. They maintained their religious identity.
- For example, the Syrian Christians appeared on the west coast of India in the first century AD. They are still found in Kerala. The Muslims came to India from southwest Asia and Central Asia and maintained their religious identity.
Concentration of Religious Groups in India
- According to Census 2001, about 80.5% of the total population of India are Hindus by faith. They are predominantly distributed throughout the country, but in a few areas, like the Kashmir Valley, Punjab, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and parts of Kerala, they are in minority. [Census 2011, about 79.8%]
- Hinduism is one of the oldest religions of the world. It is a polytheistic religion. The proportion of the Hindu population is the highest in Himachal Pradesh (95%) and lowest in Mizoram (3.6%). It is higher than the national average in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, MP, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Tripura, while it is much lower in the states of J&K, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Punjab.
- Islam is a strictly monotheistic (one God) religion. The percentage of the Muslim population is about 14.2 %. [Census 2011]
- The Muslims are well spread out in the country, but their high concentration found in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra, Kerala, Kashmir, and Southern districts of Uttarakhand.
- The proportion of the Muslim population, however, the highest in J&K (over 68%) and insignificant in Mizoram (1.1%). Their proportion is higher than the national average in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, J&K, Kerala, UP, and West Bengal.
- Christianity is the universal religion that has the largest number of followers in the world. It came to India in the 1st century AD, when the Syrian Church was established in Kerala.
- The largest number of the Christian population is in the state of Kerala – about 29% of the total population. Christians number more than one million in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tamil Nadu. Their proportion is significantly large in the states of Mizoram, and Goa.
- The religion of Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak Sahib in the 15th century. The Sikhs constitute about 2% of the total population of the country (census 2001).
- Sikhism attempted to create social harmony by removing the Hindu caste system and permitting widow remarriage. But for a long time, it remained confined to Punjab and has accepted Gurumukhi as its language.
- Nearly 79% of the total population of Sikhs is concentrated in the state of Punjab. In addition to Punjab, Sikhs are found in Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Rajasthan, and the Terai region of UP and Uttarakhand. At present, Sikhs have spread in all parts of the country and have acquired an international presence in U.K., Canada, Australia, USA, New Zealand, Kenya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
- Buddhism was founded by Gautama Buddha (563 – 483 BC) in North India. The Buddhists constitute less than 1% of the total population of the country.
- Nearly 80% of Buddhists live in Maharashtra. The traditional pockets of Buddhism are Ladakh, areas of J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Tripura.
- India is the homeland of Jainism which is a minority religion (0.4%) and has no perceptible following in other countries. Its followers are found in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, MP, UP, Uttarakhand, and Karnataka, particularly in urban areas. The Jains have an important influence in business and politics.
- The Parsis (population about 1.67 lakh) are the followers of Zoroastrianism (2011 Census). It was a dominant religion in the days of the Old Persian Empire. The essence of its ethics is well summed up in three words: – Good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. Their religious book is Avesta.
- They have been influenced by the Hindu customs but they do not advocate celibacy and permit remarriage. About 80% of the Parsi population is concentrated in Greater Mumbai and the rest in Navsari, Surat, and Ahmedabad.
- Customs are a very important component of cultural geography. A custom is a frequent repetition of the same act to the extent that it becomes characteristic of the group of people performing the act.
- There is a positive correlation between the customs and utilization of the environment (resources). In fact, the tradition-bound society has many oral folk traditions. In the delineation of cultural regions, customs (folk dance, folklore, folk medicine, etc.) are also important indicators.
Cultural Regions of India based on language, religion, and customs
On the basis of language, religion, customs, and traditions, India may be divided into the following 10 cultural regions:
- The Ladakhi – Buddhist Cultural Region
- The Kashmiri – Muslim Cultural Region
- The Sikh – Gurumukhi Cultural Region
- The Kinnauri – Dev – Bhumi Cultural Region (Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand)
- The Hindu – Hindi Cultural Region
- The Mixed Cultural Region of North East India
- The Bengali Cultural Region
- The Tribo – Hindu Cultural Region
- The Marathi Hindu Cultural Region and
- The Dravido Cultural Region (comprising of Telgu, Kannada, Tamil, and Malayalam)
The Ladakhi – Buddhist Cultural Region
- It has the dominance of Buddhists and the Ladakhi language. There are Gompas and Monasteries in this region. Leh and Dhramshala are the important sacred and cultural centers of this region.
The Kashmiri – Muslim Cultural Region
- It stretches over the valley of Kashmir and northern parts of Jammu (Doda district etc.) and southern parts of Ladakh (Kargil) divisions. It is a predominantly Muslim-dominated region in which Kashmiri is the main language. Hindus and Sikhs though in minority, speak Kashmiri and follow the Kashmiri cultural traditions.
The Sikh – Gurumukhi Cultural Region:
- It stretches over the state of Punjab and the Union Territories of Chandigarh, this region has the majority of Sikhs who speak Punjabi language. The Hindus are in minority.
- This region is characterized by Gurudwaras in almost all the villages and towns. The Golden Temple situated in the city of Amritsar is a sacred place and an important pilgrimage centre for religious people.
The Kinnauri – Dev – Bhumi Cultural Region (Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand):
- This region sprawls over the mountainous parts of Himachal and Uttarakhand. It is called the Dev – Bhumi in which there are many religious shrines (Kedarnath, Badrinath, Haridwar, etc.).
- In the region of Himachal, Kinnauri is the dominant language, while in Uttarakhand Hindi is the language of the masses.
The Hindu – Hindi Cultural Region
- This region covers the states of Bihar, Haryana, MP, Rajasthan, southern parts of Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. It is the Hindi heartland with dominance of the Hindu religion.
- In the western UP and in urban centres, Muslims constitute a significant minority. Sikhs and Christians are also sprinkled, mainly in the urban areas like Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Meerut, Agra, and Allahabad.
The Mixed Cultural Region of North East India
- It stretches across the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura; it is a region of mixed culture in which there are areas of dominance of Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Tribal religion.
- There is a great diversity in the languages, religions, customs, folk-dances, music, and folk medicine.
The Bengali Cultural Region
- It spreads over West Bengal and the adjacent regions of Jharkhand and Bihar. This region has the dominance of Bengali speaking people. The main religion of the people is Hinduism, while Muslims constitute a significant minority in isolated pockets.
The Tribo – Hindu Cultural Region
- This cultural region spreads over Chotanagpur Plateau. Most of the people belong to the Hindu religion, while Christians are also significant in number. Most of the people speak the Hindi language.
The Marathi Hindu Cultural Region
- It stretches over Maharashtra, parts of Gujarat, Goa, and the adjacent regions of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. This region has the dominance of the Marathi language and Hindu population. Concentration of Muslims and Buddhists is in isolated pockets.
The Dravido Cultural Region
- This region sprawls over Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. The people belong to the Palaeo – Mediterranean race and speak Dravidian language. The major languages are Tamil, Malayalam, Telgu, and Kannada.