Medieval India: Regional Cultures (NCERT)

The frontiers separating regions have evolved over time are still changing. What we understand as regional cultures today are often the product of complex processes of intermixing of local traditions with ideas from other parts of the subcontinent. In this post, let us quickly go through some of the regional cultures of India during the medieval period.

Kerala: The Cheras and Malayalam

  • The Chera kingdom of Mahodayapuram was established in the 9th century in the south-western part of the peninsula, part of present-day Kerala.
  • It is likely that Malayalam was spoken in this area.
  • The rulers introduced the Malayalam language and script in their inscriptions. This development is considered as one of the earliest examples of the use of a regional language in official records in the subcontinent.
  • At the same time, the Cheras also drew upon Sanskritic traditions. A 14th-century text, the Lilatilakam, dealing with grammar and poetics, was composed in Manipravalam – literally, “diamonds and corals” referring to the two languages, Sanskrit, and the regional language.

Rajastan: The Rajputs

  • The Rajputs are often recognised as contributing to the distinctive culture of Rajasthan.
  • Rulers like Prithviraj cherished the ideal of the hero who fought valiantly, often choosing death on the battlefield rather than face defeat.
  • Women are also depicted as following their heroic husbands in both life and death – there are stories about the practice of sati.
  • The Story of Kathak

    • Dance form Kathak was originally a caste of storytellers in temples of north India.
    • Kathak began evolving into a distinct mode of dance in the 15th and 16th centuries with the spread of the bhakti movement.
    • The legends of Radha-Krishna were enacted in folk plays called rasa lila, which combined folk dance with the basic gestures of the kathak story-tellers.
    • During Mughal period Kathak acquired a distinctive style which is still followed today.
    • Kathak, like several other cultural practices, was viewed with disfavour by most British administrators in the 19th and 20th centuries.
    • Recognised as one of “classical” forms of dance in the country after independence.

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