Culture of India
India is one of the oldest countries in the world. Its culture has about 5000 years. Some scholars consider it one of the first civilizations. This strange mix of languages, customs and beliefs is so diverse that a whole life is needed to recognize it.
There are different cultures in India. The country has an incredible variety of languages, religions and ethnic groups. It is possible to identify such ethnic groups as Hindi in the northern part of the country, Tamils in the South, Bengali in the East, and Naga in the northeast, speaking in different languages.
Indian traditions developed over many millennia. The customs of the emperors, the culture of the military invaders of Indian territories and the peculiarities of religion made a great influence on Indian culture and traditions. The modern culture of the country is very diverse: every part of India has its distinctive features. Nevertheless, the country has its own history, which unites the Indian states and territories.
Various religious trends were born in ancient India – Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, which had a great influence on all cultural customs. Also, the peculiarities of Indian culture were influenced by Persians, Arabs and Turkic peoples.
The Indian traditions are fully reflected in the architecture. Many of the monuments of ancient India are a visiting card for foreign travelers. Annually religious shrines, Hindu temples and monuments attract millions of tourists from all over the world. Real “pearls of the East” are unique temple complexes, mosques and palaces of India.
The cultural center of India is Delhi, Varanasi, Jaipur and Mumbai. Here you can admire one of the most beautiful, most impressive and the worthiest monuments of India.
Cultural norms in India
There are a number of traditions and cultural norms that are different from the customs of the other countries. If you don’t stick to these rules, you can put yourself in an uncomfortable position.
– It is not accepted to show your skin: shoulders, chest or legs. A miniskirt or a T-shirt with a deep V is not the best clothes for the streets of India. Dress modesty! Worry about the feeling of local people. Even, on such resorts as Goa, where rules are not so strict, you should remember in what country you are. Don’t sunbathe topless!
– As a greeting Indians tell each other “Namaskar” or “Namaste”. In addition you need to fold arms on the chest and bow. Indians usually welcome tourists with a word “Hello” and wave their hands.
– All Indians stick to the rule of the right hand. The left hand is considered dirty. Indians use it for washing after visiting a rest room (they do not use toilet paper). Never eat with your left hand! The maximum you can do is to hold a glass or a plate. Without necessity, do not touch other people with this hand. Moreover, you also should not touch sacred images and other sacred objects in the temples.
– The exotic attraction of India is a great number of cows on the streets of the cities and villages. As it is known, a cow is a sacred animal in India. If you accidentally hit it by a car, the consequences will be disappointing – life imprisonment.
– The Indians are very pedantic, as regards the signs of respect. Especially, it concerns older persons. Be polite and turn to people “Sir”.
– Indian women always use a hairband to put hair back.
– If you want to enter some temples, you should take your shoes off.
– There are special places for men and women in temples.
– While eating you should keep silence.
– There is a taboo on everything that relates to intimate relationships between the sexes in India. Any public displays of intimacy – whether it is kiss or hug – are seen as a manifestation of bad taste and a disturbance of public order. A man and a woman should not even hold hands in public places. Especially, when they are away from large globalized cities.
Temples are of great importance for Indians. These are special places that are maintained in purity and holiness. Do not desecrate them with your unworthy behavior and violation of generally accepted norms of visiting churches.
What is forbidden in temples?
– Walking in shoes, sometimes even in socks. Shoes should be taken off before entering the temple and given to guard.
– Smoking, eating food (except for mahaprasad – consecrated food), drinking alcohol, etc.
– Dress improperly. Short skirts, shorts, loose hair, tight-fitting pants and t-shirts, bare shoulders and even hands, deep decollete in women are unacceptable. Men also shouldn’t visit temples in shorts or in untidy and too indecent clothes. It is a good idea for women to wear headscarves.
– You cannot touch priests, objects of worship, sacred images, if local visitors do not do this.
– If “Hindus Only” is written at the entrance to the temple, it means that entry for foreigners is prohibited. Do not violate these prohibitions.
– Do not make photo inside the temple, especially around the altar. As a rule, this is strictly prohibited.
– Women during menstruation cannot also enter a temple.
– You can walk only clockwise around the sacred objects, altars and temples, as well as Buddhist stupas.
To avoid oversights, just see what the local people do in a temple. When visiting the temple it is customary to bring some gifts – flowers, fruits or money donations. If you do not want to contribute a large amount to the treasury of the temple, it is more than enough to donate 10-100 rupees.