Author – Aditi Upadhyay
“Anyone who so much as walks past it, cannot hold himself/herself from the feeling of wanting to look at it one more time. And anyone who has been in the presence of it cannot help but sing praises of its glory. It’s inevitable!”
What is said about the great Taj Mahal is truly applicable to the region to which it belongs. I live in Ghaziabad in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) and I experienced the most watched state elections in India first hand. The most populous state in India obviously had the most boisterous, colourful and fierce voting campaign that would determine not only the state’s politics but the nation’s as well. Being the most culturally diverse among all states, UP had the highest number of regional political parties that catered to different vote banks based on caste, religion and ideology.
Despite all the chaos in daily life, I surmise Uttar Pradesh is undoubtedly the cultural foundation of India. This state is not only the rainbow land where the multi-hued Indian culture has blossomed from times immemorial, but is also a perfect blend of two contrasting religions of Hinduism and Islam. Truly multi-ethnic, this state is laced with immigrant cultural heritage roots that lend it a unique identity in India.
Most tourists visiting UP begin their journey with a visit to Agra, which possesses the three world heritage sites that form the epicentre of the Mughal Empire – Taj Mahal, Agra fort and Fatehpur Sikri. Agra city’s culture is a harmonious blend of various religions, but it is mainly influenced by Brajbasi culture, the Hindu Vaishnavite cult that emerges from the tales of Lord Krishna in Mathura. “Taj Mahotsav” is a cultural extravaganza that is organised by the government to showcase Agra’s art and culture every year, while the Holi celebrations in Mathura is the most vivid cultural festival of the region.
Western UP is mostly populated by Muslims whom form a significant majority in this region right from the times of Delhi Sultanate and extending up to the Mughal era. Talking about royalty, Lucknow truly represents the royal splendour that was seen during the era of medieval Maharajas. Lucknow, the capital of UP is popularly known as “the city of nawabs”, whose culture is fully influenced by the Mughal era and retains its old world charm even today. In fact the royal courts of Lakhnavi Nawabs nurtured the multicultural aspect of Indian culture, which is best represented in delightful Hindustani classical music and Kathak dance forms.
While Urdu as a language is dying a sad demise in India “Lakhnavi Urdu” is flourishing language that is used by the locals here. Every story has a spice in it so does UP. One of the most famous cuisines of India is the Nawabi Cuisine whose main course is the Lakhnavi Biryani” that has its own distinct identity. The diverse range of dishes and cooking style of this city is inspired and influenced by the Mughals. The cuisine includes both vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian dishes prepared with exotic spices, herbs and garnished with dry fruits.
When we enter the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, we observe that Hindu culture and traditions are predominant in this region. Named as ‘Purvanchal’, this region comprises prominent pilgrimage cities such as Varanasi and Gorakhpur. Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world that has been continuously inhabited since 1800 BC. It is mainly associated with Hinduism and Buddhism but a glimpse of all religions can be seen here. It has a very rich tradition of folk music & drama such as Ramlila. The holy city has also earned a name for its beautiful Banarasi sarees, ivory work, carpet weaving and other handicrafts. Gorakhpur is famous for teracotta production.
Strength lies in differences is truly proved by the people of UP. Despite of differences in the languages used, people of different regions & religions live in harmony & brotherhood. Hindi is the official language of UP which is spoken in a wide range of dialects such as Awadhi, Brajbasi, Bhojpuri, etc. In a nutshell, Uttar Pradesh is a microcosm of the entire Indian nation in its multicultural diversity.