India's culture is marked by a high degree of syncretism and cultural pluralism. India's cultural tradition dates back to 8000 BCE and has a continuously recorded history for over 2,500 years. With its roots based in the Indus Valley Tradition, the Indian culture took a distinctive shape during the 11th century BCE Vedic age which laid the foundation of Hindu philosophy, mythology, literary tradition and beliefs and practices, such as dhárma, kárma, yóga and mokṣa. It has managed to preserve established traditions while absorbing new customs, traditions, and ideas from invaders and immigrants and spreading its cultural influence to other parts of Asia, mainly South East and East Asia.
Indian religions form one of the most defining aspects of Indian culture. Major dhármic religions which were founded in India include Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Considered to be a successor to the ancient Vedic religion, Hinduism has been shaped by the various schools of thoughts based on the Upanishads, the Yoga Sutras and the Bhakti movement. Buddhism originated in India in 5th century BCE and prominent early Buddhist schools, such as Theravāda and Mahāyāna, gained dominance during the Maurya Empire. Though Buddhism entered a period of gradual decline in India 5th century CE onwards, it played an influential role in shaping Indian philosophy and thought.
Indian architecture is one area that represents the diversity of Indian culture. Much of it, including notable monuments such as the Taj Mahal and other examples of Mughal architecture and South Indian architecture, comprises a blend of ancient and varied local traditions from several parts of the country and abroad. Vernacular architecture also displays notable regional variation.
Considered to be the earliest and foremost "monument" of Indian literature, the Vedic or Sanskrit literature was developed from 1,400 BCE to 1,200 AD. Prominent Indian literary works of the classical era include epics such as Mahābhārata and Ramayana, dramas such as the Abhijñānaśākuntalam (The Recognition of Śakuntalā), and poetry such as the Mahākāvya. Developed between 600 BCE and 300 AD, the Sangam literature consists 2,381 poems and is regarded as a predecessor of Tamil literature. From 7th century AD to 18th century AD, India's literary traditions went through a period of drastic change because of the emergence of devotional poets such as Kabīr, Tulsīdās and Guru Nānak. This period was characterised by varied and wide spectrum of thought and expression and as a consequence, medieval Indian literary works differed significantly from classical traditions. In the 19th century, Indian writers took new interest in social questions and psychological descriptions. During the 20th century, Indian literature was heavily influenced by the works of universally acclaimed Bengali poet and novelist Rabindranath Tagore.