IAS Exam: How to prepare for Indian Culture

Updated On -

Jan 10, 2017

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Akanksha Gupta

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Indian Culture is one of the important topic for the UPSC IAS prelims as well as Mains. If you get the basic idea about what is important and what is not and this topic is very easy. Through this post will try to tell you about the important topics of Indian Culture, Books to read and preparation material for the IAS Exam.

Things in UPSC syllabus on Indian Culture

Questions on topics related to Indian Culture asked in both IAS Prelims and Mains. According to the latest syllabus of IAS Mains Exam, Indian Culture will cover topics of Art forms, Architecture forms (ancient – modern) and Literature. This comes under IAS mains General Studies 1 paper.

Indian Art

Art can further categorized as –

  1. Visual Arts
  2. Performing Arts
  3. Literary Arts

Certain art Forms can be a mixture of more than one of these types:

Performing Arts

Performing Arts can be further classified as Dance, Music, Theatre and Puppets


so taking on Dance first, In India there are two forms of Dance one is Classical and other is regional.

Classical Dances are namely Bharatnatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kathak, Kathakali, Manipuri, Odissi, Kuchipudi and Sattriya.

Regional Dances are those which are done in a particular region.

States  Regional Dances
Bihar Bihu
Andhra Pradesh Kolattam and Dapu Natyam
Arunachal Pradesh Bardo Chham
Jharkhand Karma/Munda
Chhattisgarh Panthi and Raut Nacha
Gujarat Dandiya Raas, Garba and Tippani Dance
Himachal Pradesh Nati
Haryana Saang Dance, Chhathi, Khoria, Ras Leela, Dhamal, Jhumar, Loor, Gugga, Teej, Phag and Chauaiya
Jammu and Kashmir Kud and Dumhal
Kerela Thirayattam, Theyyam, Thullal, Oppana, Kaikottikali, Margamkali, Thitambu Nritham, etc.
Madhya Pradesh Tertali, charkula, jawara, Matki Dance, Grida Dance and Maanch
Maharshtra Pavri Naach and Lavani
Manipur Thang Ta, Dhol Cholom
Mizoram Cheraw Dance
Nagaland Chang Lo
Odisha Ghumura Dance, Chhau Dance
Punjab Bhangra
Rajasthan Ghoomar

Music of India

Indian Music can be classified as Hindustani, Carnatic and Regional.

Musical Instruments used in India are:

  1. The TataVadya or Chordophones – stringed Instruments
  2. The Sushira Vadya or Aerophones – Wind Instruments
  3. The Avanaddha Vadya or Membranophones – Percussion Instruments
  4. The Ghana Vadya or Idiophones – Solid Instruments which do require tuning

Theatre Forms of India

There are two theatre forms in India Traditional and Modern.

List of most well-known theatre forms in India are:

Koodiyattam – Kerala, it is the oldest existing traditional theatre form in world.  It is almost 2000 years old. It is presented by the Chakyars (Temple caste in Kerala) and Nangiars (Women of Nambiar Caste).It allows an active role of women.

Bhand Pather -  It is traditional form of Theatre art in Kashmir. It is unique blend of Dance, Music and Acting. In this music is provided with Nagraa, Dhol and Surnai.  Bhand Pather are performed mainly by farmers to show their lifestyles.

Swang – It is musical folk drama that come into existence in 18th century. There are 2 important styles of Rohtak and Haathras.  The style Rohtak belongs to state Haryana and the language used in Haryanvi and in Haathras, brajbhasha is used.

Nautanki – This form belongs to Uttar Pradesh. Before the Indian cinema it is the most popular form of entertainment. The meters used in this form are Doha, Chaubola, Behar-e-tabeel and Chhappai. At earlier times, only men were allowed to act in Nautanki. But now women also participate in Nautanki acts.

Rasleela -  It is based on Lord Krishna Legends. Initial Plays were written by Nand Das. In this form the dialogues are combined with songs. It is popular in Mathura and Vrindavan region. They are performes during days of Holi and Janamasthmi.

Bhavai – It is originated in Gujarat. It is basically performed in Kutch and Kathiawar. In this form instruments used are table, flute, Bhungal, Pakhaawaj, Rabaab, Manjaeera and sarangi. It is performed during the season of Navratri. In this all roles are performed by men even female roles also.

Maach – This the theatre form from Madhya Pradesh. It is 300 years old form originated in Rajasthan. In this form dialogues are added recently. The term used for the dialogues is bol and rhyme during narration is called Vanag. The tunes of Theatre are known as rangat.

Tamaasha – It is Maharashtrian traditional Theatre form. It was incepted in 16th century. It is evolved form of Gondhal, Jagran and Kirtan. Tamaasha is performed with musical instruments likes Harmonium, Dholki, Manjira, etc.

Visual Arts

Visual Arts has Architecture, Sculptures and Painting.

Indian Architecture has following sub categories:

  • Pre-historic
  • Indus Civilization
  • Buddhist Architecture
  • Temple Architecture
  • Indo Islamic Architecture
  • Modern Architecture

Indian Sculptures has following Categories:

  • Pre-historic
  • Indus Civilization
  • Buddhist Sculptures
  • Gupta Sculpture
  • Medieval School of Sculpture
  • Modern Indian Sculpture

Indian Painting has following Categories:

  • Wall Paintings of India
  • Miniature Painting
  • Modern Indian Painting

Literary Arts

Following are the topics of Literary Arts:

  • Ancient Indian Literature
  • The Purana
  • Classical Sanskrit Literature
  • Literature in Pali and Prakrit
  • Early Dravidian Literature
  • Medieval Literature
  • Women Poets of Bhakti
  • Other Trends in Medieval Literature
  • Modern Indian Literature
  • The Emergence of Nationalism
  • The Literature of Nationalism, Reformism, and Revivalism
  • Indian Romanticism
  • The Advent of Mahatma Gandhi
  • Progressive Literature
  • Making of Modern Theatre
  • Search for Modernity
  • The Indian Literary Scene After Independence
  • Dalit Literature
  • Use of Mythology
  • Contemporary Literature

Indian Culture – Important Topics

Visual Arts includes architecture and Literary Arts includes Literature, therefore the Indian Cuture is study of Arts in UPSC perspective. There are other topics also religion and Indian Philosophies but they must covered separately.

Books for Indian Culture for IAS exam

Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Sighania – This book covers then complete syllabus of Indian Heritage and Culture. It is an interesting book and has taken reference from LBS academy Library.

For Other Useful Stuff

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.