The culture of India is like a garland of beads of various colors. Diversity is its hallmark. But there is a string that joins all the beads into one single piece. And this, in fact, is the Indian-ness. The epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata gained their popularity all over India not through the originals in Sanskrit, but because of their free versions in the regional tongues. Thulsidas (Oudhi/Hindi), Kampar (Tamil), Ezhuthacchan (Malayalam), Ponna (Kannada) and other poets like them created free versions of Ramayana. The Ramayana has its versions in many languages in South East Asia. Diversity of a staggering scale exists all over India in the fields of music, literature, theatre, sculpture, painting, architecture, cuisine, sports and games and other entertainments.
The music of India has two variants. Of these, the classical style is what is called the 'Margi', and the folk style is the 'Deshi'. The Karnatic music of south India and the Hindustani music of the north are the two streams of Indian classical music. A complete picture of the Indian music will be in sight only when diverse traditions of folk music, instrumental music, film songs, and pop-rock music are all rolled into one pageant. The Bhangra of Punjab, Lavani of Maharashtra, Dandia and Garbha of Gujarat, Baul of Bengal – the list is so impressive. And then the religion-based music and chanting – of how many enchanting ragas and styles!
The diversity one sees in the musical systems can be seen in the dance forms too. Ancient Indians have classified dance forms into three – nritta, nritya, and natya. As in music, in dance too both classical and folk traditions exist. Bharata Natya, Mohini Attam, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Kathak, Odissi etc., are the important classical dance forms. In dance dramas Kathakali of Kerala and Yakshagana of Karnataka take the pride of place. The ancient work the Natyashastra of Bharata is a celebrated and authoritative book not only of dance and dance dramas, but it defines Indian aesthetics too. The acting styles in Indian classical arts developed on the basis of the 'rasa' ideas of Bharata, an expert exponent of the art. Bharata had propounded eight rasas and the theoreticians of aesthetics of later periods developed them into nine, the navarasas. The Natyashastra is a unique work which discusses almost all aspects of the dance theatre, like nritta, nritya, natya, various forms of drama, various art forms, the formation of the stage and what not! The book defines and describes ten different forms of dramas (the dasarupas). Kutiyattam, a Kerala style presentation of Sanskrit plays, has been recognized by the UNESCO as an art form that belongs to World Heritage. Indian theatre has a tradition of centuries. Parallel to the classical play, countless traditions of the folk theatre has developed in different parts of the country. The Jatra play of Bengal, the Kakkarissi and Chavittunatakam of Kerala are just some simple examples of the richness of the folk traditions. Countless are the ritualistic art forms, as exemplified by Kerala's theyyam, thira, kaaliyoottu etc. These traditions live on in various cultural zones of India in all their infinite diversity.