Indian folk culture is characterized by its simplicity. Aboriginal culture is in many ways the basis of the folk culture. To the villager the old culture is instinctive, a part of his being and a pattern of his life. In Indian culture the basis is religious and so also the village life is primarily religious. There is much more superstition about village religion but the villagers are familiar with the great truths of India and in their own ways they express them in worship, in rituals, in songs, dance and drama.
Folk Art in India
The Indian villagers have their own art. Simplicity and beauty are its main features. They live in harmony with the fundamental processes of nature. They have a serenity of life which provides them an instinctive opening for beauty, an instinctive grasp of beautiful forms and decorations. Music is the greatest of all Indian art. The air of the villages is filled with music, love songs, lullabies, songs of ploughing, planting and reaping, rejoicings over births and weddings and aspirations towards God. Most of these songs spring from the soil. Music is transmitted through the ages. The great classics like the Ramayana
and the Mahabharata
have become part of their inheritance.
Many of these dances are performed in groups, some are accompanied by music with a leader and a chorus and whole stories are related in this way. Some songs are improvised on the spur of the moment. The harvest dance of the west-coast is a highly developed art. It is a round dance performed by young girls, arms and bodies swing with vigour while the foot has a rhythmic pattern.
Folk Crafts in India
The Indian handicrafts are of great antiquity. The technique and the designs are traditional and some have a religious significance like the circle, the swastika and the lotus. The Indian textiles are famous. The embroidery work is very fine. The shawls of Kashmir or in Punjab
the embroidery of dark-red hand-spun cloth with the gayest of silk in flower or geometrical patterns or the `Kanthas` of West Bengal
or the `chiken` of Uttar Pradesh
are the heritage from old times. Another embroidery found in Gujarat
is where a number of tiny round pieces of looking glass bound down with chain stitch at the centers of flowers or at bird`s eye are fixed, giving a remarkably gay-effect. Articles of common use and toys are beautifully made, for example, the earthen pots, water jars, wooden articles, and fresco-painting. In the house, women carve beautiful pictures of Gods, men, birds and animals on their walls illustrating traditional stories on the occasions of celebrating their festivals.
Folk Religion in India
In religion, besides worshipping great Gods animals are also worshipped like the cow or the serpent. In fact, all sorts of animals, things and elements of nature are deified. The philosophical idea behind the worship of these is that they are all expressions of God and by worshipping them the Supreme Being is offered worship and devotion.
Economic troubles, moral degradation and the evils born of the present transitional stage of our culture have also infected the villages. With the competition of the machine-made goods the seeds of decay have entered in the folk-life. The villager prefers to purchase the cheap machine made articles. Religion has become very conservative and sometimes even reactionary. The need of the hour is to disengage the more stable and perennial elements of the folk culture from the impermanent and the superstitious aspects. In modern India there is a revival of interest in folk-culture and some great men like Rabindranath Tagore
, Uday Shanker, Jamini Roy
with their music, dances and pictures have contributed immensely to this. They have taken many of their themes from these people. In many states the village songs are being edited and printed.