Indian Culture

Indian Culture

The multicolored country of India boasts one of the most eccentric and diverse cultures in the world. It is a kaleidoscope of a variety of ethical values, religious beliefs, and traditions that revolve around the concept of the self. Dharmic religions that spread to the world from India have been the major force driving cultural norms and customs in the country. As a result, a major part of the social dynamics has a philosophical basis. The joint family system prevails—often all members of the family live together, which is one of the strongest contributors to the joy in Indian culture.

Festivals, whether domestic or public, are true spectacles. They are almost always fiery and epic in size. Wedding rituals often pour into the streets, with extravagant shows and decorations. National holidays and religious festivals are no less, and they are the heart and soul of what many hail as Indian culture. Locals get to preserve centuries-old traditions while embalming the memory of the country’s course-changing events in the only way they know.

Apart from what meets the eye on the streets, the most inspirational elements of Indian culture are rather less obvious. Yoga, meditation, the sacred cow, or the elephant god… The nuances seem like fiction. But they have a vital role in the everyday lives of Indian people, and you will have a blissful time exploring them.

Indian culture
Indian culture

Eating & Drinking

“The subtle touches and masterful details that make up Indian cuisine will sweep you off your feet. From the contributions of its geographical regions to the influences of the surrounding cultures, every component of Indian food has its own story.”

There are many things that shaped the playfull Indian cuisine over the years. The country’s diverse geography, ranging from alpine to tropical, gave rise to different varieties of cooking traditions. The south is more dependent on rice, while legumes and curries dominate the main dishes in the inner regions. Religion has an undeniable influence on dietary practices as it does on many other aspects of Indian culture. There are many taboos owned by different religious sections. Vegetarianism is predominant across Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain communities. In the Jain religious group particularly, Indians don’t consume roots and subterranean vegetables. After invasions and trade, Central Asian, Arabic, and Persian ingredients entered the culinary scene. More Mediterranean fruits such as apricots and peaches became common in dishes.

Northern Indian cuisine is the most prevalent school of cookery. However, many dishes you will try in Rajasthan will have nuances from other regions, as well. An intense Mughal influence is present, with many dishes depending on dairy products. Clay ovens are also a distinct element, giving curry and meat dishes a delightful charcoal flavor. Plate meals that have a variety of sauces with rice and spiced vegetables are the most iconic eats.

The drinks scene in India is almost as colorful, with local tea varieties and unique drinks taking the lead. Tea is drunk sweet and often with some ginger or cardamom. If you are served tea this way, you can be sure that it is authentic Indian pukka tea. Chai is equally popular and good quality in India. A truly traditional drink important for Indian culture, however, is lassi. It is a refreshing cold drink made of yogurt, water, and spices.

Unique Crafts & Shopping

As you venture into the messy streets of India to explore the commercial scene, brace yourself for a riot of sights and sounds. Shopping in India is not for the faint-hearted, as every city has its own frenzy in downtown areas. Money is the last thing you need to worry about. But, beware of the boundless variety on the stalls. The shapes and colors will give your eyes a visual feast, and a plethora of India’s most popular products will make it hard to choose. Arts and crafts are pure Indian culture wherever you will be looking, but each craft is best in its place of origin.

When in Rajasthan, dive deep into its exquisite textile stalls. Streets and frenetic bazaars in both New and Old Delhi are lined with delicate fabrics of Silk and Khadi. The embroidery work featured on various fashion items from bags to traditional Saris is the main deal. Some more luxurious items are Meenakari or Kundan Jewelry, displaying the masterful art of local designers and artisans. A truly local product in Jaipur is the Bandhani dupattas, carrying the oldest tie-and-dye traditions of India to the stalls. The scene will change slightly in Agra, where marble and leather replace fabrics in popular souvenirs. But above all, no shopping experience in India is complete without some exhilarating local spices, sweets, and tea. Cardamom, coriander, and cumin are as fresh as it gets.

  • Takeaway: In India, bargaining is not only a choice but part of the shopping culture. Always keep it cool while haggling, without being too aggressive. Bid low, enjoy the light-hearted haggle with your vendor, and don’t push too hard. You will most likely leave with your brand-new product at your price.
Indian culture

Religion & Etiquette

The religious portrait of India is quite diverse, with medley religions and philosophies all emerging from the country. Almost 80% of the population in India identifies as Hindu, however, the existence of Buddhist, Sikh, and Jainist traditions is also noteworthy. There is also a large number of Muslims in the country, making up approximately 15% of the population. India is one of the few places on earth where religion is so interwoven in the fabric of daily life that almost every celebration and ritual is an expression of faith and belief. The landscape is dotted with temples, shrines, monastic schools, and geographic landscapes with incredible spiritual importance. Gods and goddesses are everywhere from the TV to parks and streets. Even geographical locations are sanctified, the legendary Ganges being the most recognized.

The moment you set foot in India, you will see that most locals follow a rather conservative style of dressing. Although the local standards don’t have to apply to travelers, you may want to avoid clothes that are too revealing just to blend in. To Indians, feet are the dirtiest part of the body, so you should never point the soles of your feet towards people, and more importantly, towards temples or figures of deities. The left hand is another body part considered unclean, so try not to touch food with it.

Time is flexible, and so is the concept of personal space. As a natural outcome of overcrowding, you will find yourself in physical contact with people on the streets, in lines, and in any other context.

Festivals & Events

“Religious vigor is not the only force driving the myriad festivals and events celebrated in India. You will witness age-old traditions come to life in once-in-a-lifetime spectacles.”

In India, the festive spirit is all about extravagant self-expression. Annual festivals paying tribute to the numerous gods and goddesses of Hindu belief paint the land in unbelievable colors and lights. Planning a trip during one of these times might prove to be more than rewarding. However, even the most mundane daily rituals have their own festive flair, so you won’t miss much.

A famous and stimulating event is Diwali, the festival of lights during which followers of the three main religions light up their homes to welcome Goddess Laxmi. The cultural echoes of this popular celebration continue even longer. Family homes get cleaned and locals gather with their relatives to exchange presents. Religious stories are demonstrated through visual shows during Dussehra and Navrati festivals, which are perfect opportunities to observe Indian culture at its rawest. Beyond the religious events, India hosts one of the most globally-recognized festivals in the world: the bright and colorful Holi. It has its roots in Hindu mythology, but these days the event is more about the celebration of spring than anything else. The ritual of splashing colored powder at each other symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. So take your part in it while you are there, and get your spirits high with the good old bhang.

If you think the scene can’t get any more visually inspiring, wait till you see Onam. This time, it is the triumph of hope over despair that receives some wholehearted celebrations. It oozes the vibrancy of Indian culture with marvelous costumes.

holi festival
Indian culture

India Food Guide

Check out our India Food Guide for the tasty local dishes and drinks you must try.

Indian culture

India Travel Advice

Everything you need to know about traveling to India is in our India Travel Advice guide.

Indian culture

Solo Travels

Are you traveling alone? Check out our Solo Travels page for detail.

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