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Arts and Culture for Expats in India

Submitted: September 2013

India is renowned for its unique and diverse art and culture. Exploring these will expose you to one of the world’s largest collections of songs, dances, theatre and performing arts, painting and writing, among other cultural elements, in addition to many monuments such as the world-famous Taj Mahal. Whether you prefer admiring local museum displays, watching performing art shows, visiting historical sites or enjoying the atmosphere at cultural festivals, there are many options available to you in India.

If you are interested in visual art, you would be pleased to know that India is home to some of the world’s most famous museums, which serve as testament to the country’s rich culture. These are some of the best means by which you may explore the people, culture, beliefs and history of ancient India. Famous museums in India include the National Museum in Delhi, Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai, Indian Museum in Kolkata (Calcutta) and the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad. Some museums focus on specialised collections such as archaeological or technological artefacts, while others are one of a kind, such as the Oil Museum, Bigfoot Cross, and India’s Electricity Museum. There is also the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) with branches in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore which feature works of some of India’s most celebrated artists from the eighteenth century to modern times.

India hosts many festivals throughout the year with colours, enthusiasm, contributions, prayer and rituals being some of the characteristics of most Indian festivals. These festivals range from local to national level and are celebrated on religious, seasonal or social grounds. Some popular Indian festivals include:

  • Diwali – this is one of the oldest and most important religious festivals in India. It is the celebration of light over darkness. It is celebrated in almost all regions during October to November and marks the beginning of the New Year. During this time, various lighting of lamps and burning of firecrackers will be seen as it is traditionally called the Festival of Lights.
  • Ganesha Utsav – this is a ten-day festival which celebrates the birth of Ganesha, one of the Hindu gods. This usually occurs in August or September and features immense fun and entertainment, especially within the state of Maharashtra.
  • Makara Sankranti – this is another important religious festival in India which celebrates the sun’s journey into the northern hemisphere during January to February, a period which is considered to be highly auspicious. There are many variations in the way in which this festival is celebrated, and in some areas it is known by another name as is the case in Punjab where it is called Lohrij.

Details related to these festivals, among other religious and cultural festivals may be found on the Ministry of Tourism’s Incredible India website.

If you are interested in the performing arts, there are many events which feature Indian classical music and dances, particularly in the cities. There are also many music and dance festivals staged within the winter months such as the Dover Lane Music Conference in Kolkata which showcases Northern Indian classical music. In the southern regions, the ‘Chennai December Season’ stages over two-thousand music concerts and dance performances throughout the winter period. In addition, there are major art centres which present classical music, dance and theatre, such as the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai and the India International Centre in Delhi. For an overview of some Indian music festivals which are considered to be among the best for travellers to experience, click here.

Additionally, there are cultural organisations with branches throughout India which host a variety of events including concerts, performances, plays and exhibitions, among others activities. Examples are the Alliance Française which promotes French culture through arts and events programmes and the Goethe Institute which promotes German culture.

 

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