India is one of the oldest civilizations with a composite and versatile culture that Westerners may find baffling. Still, knowing the practices and customs of a foreign country is part of the excitement of traveling. It also aids in understanding the people and getting acquainted with the diverse culture of that country. This in turn avoids difficulties that may pop-up due to misunderstandings. A few social customs to keep in mind are listed as under:
- LANGUAGE AND TRADITIONS: As you travel across various cities of India, you are bound to experience a change in language and traditions. Indian languages are part of the rich culture of this land. The official-language of the country is Hindi, while English is the secondary language. Though Hindi forms the primary language, languages of native-tongues are very popular. You will experience a change of dialects in India depending on the demographic location. Different regions of the country are dominated by different cultures and traditions. Despite all this, Unity in Diversity is the hallmark of the country.
- FOOD: You will also witness the cultural diversity in the cuisine and food habits that are practiced in different parts of the country. The method of cooking varies from region to region. Every Indian cuisine has its own trademark and Indian food is highly admired in different parts of the world. It is said that experiencing Indian culture sans Indian food is an incomplete experience. Indian cuisine is a good blend of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies and the intelligent uses of spices and herbs.
- FESTIVALS AND CELEBRATIONS: As you explore the various cities of India, you will witness various celebrations and festivals. These fairs and festivals have become an integral part of Indian culture and are often celebrated during the change of seasons. For example, Mewar festival and Holi are celebrated to welcome the spring season. Teej, celebrated in Rajasthan is to signal the arrival of the monsoon. Onam in Kerala and Bihu in Assam on the other hand, are celebrated with high passion and gusto to observe the inception of the reaping season.
- FAMILY VALUES: Family values are highly revered within the Indian society. A unique bond of love and affection is abundantly present in Indian family system. While nuclear families are mushrooming in the Indian society, patriarchal dominance still continues to exist in some households. Elders of the family are greeted with special respect. First greet the most senior or the oldest individual in a group. A formal ‘Namaste’ is a good way of greeting people in India. People with titles are supposed to be addressed using their titles. Use ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ for the ones without any professional titles. It is advisable not to address people with their first names unless asked to do so, particularly when addressing elder Indians.
- ART AND LITERATURE: Skill and grace mark the works of art and literature of India. Indian art forms a fundamental part of Indian culture. Indian artwork not only portrays the craftsmanship of the artist but is also a symbol of the society. You are bound to experience a rich blend of art, craft and literature while you explore several regions of the country. Every region has its own art that lends uniqueness and diversity to Indian culture. The major crafts of India comprise idol making, painting, metal statues, wood sculptures, ornaments and jewelry. Indian poetry, Indian literature, Indian epic poetry Mahabharata and Ramayana, Sculpture, Painting, Architecture- everything is highly portrayed and interpreted through philosophy and religion.
Now that you are equipped with various traditions and cultures of the country, plan your trip to India and get set to dive in the depth of its rich culture and varied heritage.