Guide to Indian Culture: Things to Know Before Traveling to India.

Indian Culture

India is known as a country of oldest and diverse culture. People from different religions and values reside in each corner of the country. No other culture in the world has this much diversity as India. A country with a vast array of geographical features and climatic conditions, India is also acknowledged for the existence of very ancient civilizations. The major religions that are a part of India for so long include Hinduism, Muslims, Christian, and Sikhism.

Let’s begin with a brief overview of the Indian Culture:

FACTS and STATS

  • Location– India lies in the southern part of Asia and it is bordered by countries like Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, and Burma.
  • Capital of India– Delhi.
  • The population of India– 1.3 million estimated for 2019.
  • National anthem– ‘Jana Gana Mana’.
  • Currency– Indian Rupee.
  • States and U.T. – Number of states are 29 and union territories are 7.
  • Nationality– Indian.

LANGUAGES IN INDIA

At present 22 languages are spoken in India and Hindi is recognized as the official language. Some of the major languages spoken here include- Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Kannada, Oriya and many more.

The languages spoken in India depend on the region you are going to visit. For tourists from abroad, they can take the help of local guides and translators to understand the language of that particular area.

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT INDIAN CULTURE

Religions and Beliefs

  • As per the 2011 census, 79.8% are Hindus, 14.2% Muslims, 2.3% Christians, 1.7% Sikhs and 2% unspecified.
  • India holds the second largest population of Muslims in the world.
  • Hinduism has its roots established in India from 2000-1500 B.C.E.
  • Holy books of Hinduism include Vedas and Upanishads.
  • The cow is treated as a sacred animal.
  • Hinduism also teaches yoga, meditation, and other practices to inculcate unity.

Important Dates

  • 26th January- Republic Day
  • 15th August- Independence Day
  • 2nd October- Gandhi Jayanti

Diwali, Holi, Raksha Bandhan, etc. are some other festivals celebrated in India. Also, the festivals vary from state to state and religion to religion.

Economy

  • Indian economy is considered as one of the fastest growing in the world.
  • The labor force in India accounts for approx. 509.3 million.
  • The employment in agriculture and related areas is around 60%.
  • Special Economic Zones have been established to promote business.
  • India’s GDP is expected to expand by 7.5% for the year 2019-20.

Social Stratification

  • India has the oldest prevailing caste system.
  • As per the caste structure, there are four main castes: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras.
  • Earlier, inter-caste marriage was not allowed in India but now it has become a common scenario in some urban areas.
  • The tradition in India is different for every religion and state.

Gender Roles

  • As per 2011 census, 82.14% of males and 65.46% of females are literate.
  • Earlier, women were allowed little schooling but now they are permitted education to the higher levels.
  • Normally, the trend of patriarchal families is followed in India.
  • The father or the male person earns for the family and the females have to take care of the household activities. However, this trend can be seen changing over the years.

Socialization

  • Earlier, sons were given better and more opportunities to study and learn. Nowadays, girls are also encouraged for the same.

  • Generally, restrictions related to freedom are applied more to girls as compared to boys. The girls are not allowed to go out or come home late night as well as they need to dress up appropriately all the time. However, this scenario is changing with the passing time.

  • Roles have been specified in the form of genders by the society that can be visibly seen throughout India. For example, a woman is not expected to work as a driver.

  • The girl child is expected to be expert in all the household work but it is not applicable to the male family members.

Food

  • Food is generally served in a ‘thali’ also called as ‘plate’.

  • The food items that are popular in India include Rice, Pulses, Chapati, Vegetables, Bread, etc. However, every city has its own famous cuisines and beverages. As an example, Punjab is known for its special drink ‘Lassi’.

  • You will see many small stalls selling spicy chats and other Indian snacks.

  • India is also known for its intriguing food that includes spices such as cardamom, cumin, turmeric, etc. If you are a spice lover, India has so much to offer you.

  • In India, dishes can also be divided on the basis of the place of their origin such as South-Indian dishes, North-Indian food, etc.

Arts and Popular Culture

  • Bollywood is one of the largest prevailing industries in India. It is known for producing films serving the entertainment purpose.

  • India is well-known for offering metalwork, craft, stone carving, pottery, woodwork and traditional as well as modern jewelry.

  • Festivals here are often celebrated by the way of folk dances and traditional sweets. Playing loud music is very common during such celebrations.

  • A number of traditional instruments are being played in different regions of India such as sitar, harmonium, flute, etc.

Trip to India: What to Expect?

For first timers, India can be really unpredictable. The overwhelming traffic, mouth-watering street food, ancient monuments, constant noise, and air pollution, etc. make it a confusing place. But for all the diversity it carries, India is a must-visit country as here you will get to see a different way of survival under unusual circumstances. Here is a list of both positive and negative things that you can expect on your visit to India:

  • Chaotic Roads: The highly-populated cities like Delhi and Mumbai can make your road experience really frustrating. The roads are never free from traffic and even in some areas, people pay no heed to the traffic rules. You will get to see the skills of the Indian drivers while traveling through the busy lanes of India. However, the situation is not the same for every corner of India and some areas have a developed road system too.

  • Natural Beauty: India has a number of most scenic places that can easily make you go gaga over their beauty. Unlike other countries, you can have it all while in India such as you can visit the deserts, take fresh air in the mountains, roam in jungles, relax at beaches or go to urbanized places. Places like Kashmir, Shimla, Manali, Nainital, Leh-Ladakh, etc offer the most peace of mind. That is why they are the most visited places by the people during the vacations.
  • Pollution: Pollution is one of the major issues India is going through. Some of the cities are so polluted that if you are more on the sensitive side, you need to be extra careful about your health. Nevertheless, if you visit cities like Kerala, Assam or Karnataka, pollution is at its lowest peak there.
  • Safety: Safety has always been a controversial topic in India. Lately, rape cases have been on the rise and the cities like Delhi and Mumbai have witnessed the worst of all. But as every coin has two sides, the situation is not the same in every city of India. Surat in Gujarat tops the position for having the lowest crime rate followed by Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Pune and many more.

It is advisable to always be conscious about whom to trust while in India. Your safety should be your priority.

  • Animals: You will get to see different animals on your journey to India. There are stray dogs, cows, cats, camels, monkeys, elephants that can be easily seen roaming the roads of India. The advice is to avoid stray animals as they cannot be trusted anyhow.
  • Beware of the con: You need to be always attentive in order to prevent yourself from getting conned. There is no need to show uninvited mercy towards the beggars asking for money. They can deceive you and also make you experience the worst that can happen to you in India.

Some guidelines to help you plan your trip to India:

  • Pack light: While traveling to India, no need to carry so much as the temperature in most of the cities is generally warm and bearable. Only when you are heading out to places like Himalaya bring something warm or you can do the shopping here. Traveling with a light backpack allows easy moving to places.
  • Convenient and affordable transport: Moving around in India is normally cheap and the transport is easily accessible. You can easily find a train or a bus to reach your next destination. You can pick higher class AC seat or you can even hire a private driver. If you want to save some money along with the comfort, booking a sleeper bus or train seat will serve the purpose.
  • Cheap food and inexpensive lodgings: While in India, you can expect cheap food everywhere and a basic room at reasonable rates. But if you want to avail better options, you can visit fancy restaurants and stay at luxurious hotels where the prices will be on a little higher side.
  • Appropriate dress up: Visiting certain places in India demand covering your body properly. Respect the religion wherever you go, be it a shrine or any other religious spot. Women are advised to dress up appropriately while visiting the conservative places of India so as to avoid unwanted attention.
  • Be ready with your bargaining skills: The trend here in India is to charge the double amount if you are a foreigner. Many things here will fascinate you and you will be prompted to buy them. But you need to be careful while making the purchase and you should always quote a lower price.

India is a welcoming country and you must visit it once in your lifetime. Be ready with your e-Visa and the places you want to explore in India. Google the weather conditions and make the required bookings in advance so as to make your experience in India a memorable one.

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