Heritage means what we inherit from our ancestors and from our past. The heritage of India is the result of developments in the social, economic, cultural and political life of Indian people over a period of thousands of years. The land and people are the two components of this heritage.
Nature has made India into a distinct geographical entity. India is a vast country. It extends for nearly 3000 km from Kashmir in the north to Kanyakumari in the south and for the same distance from its western-most parts to its eastern-most parts. The Himalayan ranges in the north and the sea in the east, west and south separates it from the rest of the world. Since the old Stone Age people from neighbouring as well as distant regions having coming into India and making it their home.
India has been a crucible of various 'races' and ethnic groups. They have all contributed to the making of Indian history and culture. The people from other cultures and civilizations have brought with them their own traditions which got intermixed and integrated with the pre-existing traditions.
Similarly, people of India have gone to other parts of the world and various elements of culture carried by them have intermixed and integrated with the preexisting traditions. The mountains and the rivers systems have been an important factor in the emergence of a number of distinct cultural zones within the country. India's culture has been changing and developing due to internal factors and contacts with other cultures. The Harappan culture was the first urban culture to emerge in India.
Jainism and Buddhism which arose in the sixth century B.C. left a lasting influence on Indian life and culture. This period saw the spread throughout the country of beliefs and practices associated with Hinduism, including Vedic religion. The next phase in Ancient Indian History covers the period from about 200 B.C. to about A.D. 300. There were the Indo-Greefes, the Shakas, the Parthians and the Kushanas. There was significant progress of Buddhist art in the Deccan, and the beginning of Tamil literature in the south.
The Gupta's built a large kingdom during eighth century. In the Deccan, there were kingdoms of the Pallavas and of the Chalukyas. After the fall of Buddhism and the rise of Hinduism idol worship became popular and building of temples on a large scale started in the south and the Deccan as well as in the north. Art inspired by Buddhism also continued.
Medieval period is important for the growth of modern Indian languages, architecture, sculpture literature, and philosophy flourished under the patronage of the Chola Kings. The establishment of the sultanat of Delhi: It saw the introduction of new features in art and architecture of India. Two new languages-Arabic and Persian became a part of India's linguistic heritage. Persian was more important in many areas. It replaced Sanskrit as the court language and through out the country under the influence of Persian, new forms of literature such as the ghazal were introduced.
The Bhakti movement which had started earlier spread throughout the country. Kabir and Nanak, disapproved of religious narrow mindedness. The Bhakti saints condemned caste inequalities and laid stress on human brotherhood. The Sufis or the Muslim mystics preached the message of love and human brotherhood.
Sikhism began to emerge as a new religion based on the teachings of Gurunanak. Akbar, the greatest of the Mughal emperors, followed a policy of 'sulahkul'. Some of the finest specimens of Indian architecture and literature belong to this period. Influenced by the Persian traditions the Mughal paintings developed into a distinct Indian style. Another significant development was the emergence of a new language (Urdu).
The eighteenth century marks the beginning of the modern period of Indian history. Politically the period saw the decline of the Mughal Empire and the birth of a number of small and big independent states in different parts of the country. The process of colonization of vast areas of the world by a few European countries had been under way since the sixteenth century. From about the middle of the 18th century, the conquest of India by Britain began.
For the first time in her history, India came under foreign rule. A new system of exploitation of one country by the dominant classes and groups of another country came into being. The long struggle for independence ended the imperialist exploitation of India. From the early decades of the nineteenth century, various social, religious, cultural and intellectual movements started which aimed at removing the state of stagnation of Indian society. The nationalist movement united the Indian people on a new basis. It recognized and cherished 'the unity in diversity' and composite nature of India's - culture as its unique feature.