Interesting facts about etiquette and culture of India
There are many customs in India and if you do not adhere to Indian etiquette and customs, you can get into an unpleasant situation.
India is very difficult to understand for a European person. It is a very different country with four different religions, 24 (!) official languages and 844 dialects on a modest piece of land (by the standards of diversity). The state of Goa is a tiny part of the country where tourists go, but its exploration is not at all limited to swimming in the sea and contemplating cows on the beach. Some of the states of the country are rarely similar to each other, the only thing that unites all the inhabitants of the country is tradition and etiquette.
The caste system was abolished as early as 1950, but it still greatly influences Indian life, determining where they live, what they do, and even their social security. In large cities the outward signs of casteism are almost imperceptible. Almost everyone wears European clothes. But a person’s surname (which was originally used as a former caste designation), behavior, circle of acquaintances, and occupation give away his family, and his belonging to a caste.
There is still a caste of “untouchables” (“dalits”) – people who do any black job involving hard physical labor, from garbage men and cleaners to laundresses and shoemakers.
Cows are the first thing India can be associated with. It is a sacred animal in Hinduism and there are really lots and lots of them, especially in the cities. Cows are allowed to roam wherever they want without a leash. It is safe for the population, but sometimes the animal can hinder traffic, cause a traffic jam or even provoke an accident (if the driver accidentally runs into a cow, he could face imprisonment).
Hindus consider it good custom to give a cow some kind of treat before their own breakfast. Unfortunately, bulls do not receive such honors in India; they are used as common labor.
Elephants also enjoy the special honor and respect of the Indian people. Each elephant in India has its own passport, which indicates its sex, special signs, age and its working activity. Every few years a census of all elephants in India is taken.
Monkeys also have special privileges. In Jaipur, special temples are built for the primates, where they live as a family. The pampered animals do not behave very well: there are aggressive individuals, but, as a rule, the dislike is limited to petty theft and begging. For these reasons, India can be a paradise for vegetarians, the national cuisine is rich in dishes without meat and animal products. You can see pure vegetarian cafes serving only vegan and raw food on practically every street.
Relevant to this day. The history of Indian costume is unique and amazing, and most importantly, its traditions have survived to this day. Of course, most Hindus (especially young people) go in European clothing, but the popularity of traditional attire has not diminished from this.
A sari is the most beautiful, colorful, famous and traditional women’s clothing. It is a separate piece of fabric, up to 12 meters long, which is wrapped around the whole body in a certain way. The sari is a kind of dress code for public sector employees. Most Indian airlines dress their stewardesses in a sari. It looks very beautiful and unusual, especially when flying to India from some northern country. Girls from the age of 12 are taught to wear saris. Agree that beautifully wrap around yourself a 12-meter long piece of fabric – a very difficult task. The sari is not easy to move, but it makes your gait special and your posture graceful.
It’s not worth buying a sari as a souvenir: firstly, it takes some skill to wear it, and secondly, it’s the clothes of married ladies.
The classic men’s costume – dhoti (skirt, elaborately draped) and kurta (long wide shirt knee-length silk).
Tourists should follow some simple rules of etiquette to avoid attracting attention to your appearance:
– Leave overly revealing clothing for the beach. Hindus in their majority are very conservative, especially in rural areas. The ideal clothing is one that covers the knees and shoulders. The abdomen, on the other hand, may be open. In India it is considered very beautiful.
– Take your shoes off indoors. Especially if you go to a mosque, temple, museum or historical monuments. If you see a pile of shoes standing at the entrance to a store, cafe or massage parlor, you should take off your shoes. Do not be afraid, the interior is clean, which, unfortunately, can not be said about the streets. It is better to buy sandals with Velcro: have to take off your shoes a lot of places.
Family life and marriage in India
The wedding is a very significant event in the life of a Hindu. Even poor people arrange lavish feasts for several hundred guests. Wedding rituals are strictly observed, a tribute to thousands of years of tradition and custom. Most importantly, everything is still decided by the parents: they look for a suitable bride for their son, act as diplomats, sponsors and organizers of the event. Each parent tries to outdo the other family in an abundance of wealth and generous gifts. The main wedding customs are when the bride is sprinkled with yellow powder on her head, accompanied by traditional dances and songs. It is believed that this rite will bring happiness to the future family.
Men are responsible for the financial condition of the family. Women also work, but most of their time is spent raising children and maintaining the home.
India’s standards of beauty differ slightly from those of the Western world. Slimness is not considered beautiful here. If a Hindu is thin, it means he is poor and sick. Since antiquity, the country has valued the pudgy body. Overweight is a symbol of wealth, which can boast only a small part of the country.
How to behave in India (rules for tourists)
Hindus have no concept of personal space at all. Often a Hindu will stand right up to you if he is telling you something. At first you feel a certain discomfort, then over time you get used to it. The main thing but to step aside, your interlocutor may be offended.
Hindus are very fond of being photographed. But before taking a photo, it is better to ask permission just in case (especially for women).
Shaking your head is a special gesture that expresses approval, curiosity, and greeting, not just an affirmative response as we do.
Local markets are a paradise for those who like to argue and bargain. Most often on the price tags along with the price they write “max price”. If you see such an inscription, it means that haggling is not only possible, but even necessary.
If you are invited to visit, take with you a small gift for the family and children (candy, a souvenir from Russia, local fruit, some dessert). Most importantly, don’t buy white flowers – they are brought to funerals.
Hindus eat with their hands. Food should be taken with the right hand, the left hand is considered unclean (you can only help the right hand). Alas, left-handed people will have a hard time.
If the sign in front of the temple says “Indian only,” don’t insist.
Indians are very curious people. Do not be embarrassed if, in addition to the standard questions they ask, they are interested in your salary or some personal aspects of your life. That way they express their interest in you.
Traditions of India
India is a country in South Asia with a population of about 1.4 billion people. Indian culture is considered one of the oldest in the world, and given that the country has been the center of major trade routes throughout its history and has been the target of numerous invasions, the traditions and customs of India are diverse and truly unique.
Indian national clothing is very beautiful, and even everyday outfits look bright and exotic. Women wear a sari, a rectangular cloth of 4 to 10 meters in length, which is wrapped around the hips, and the free end is thrown over the shoulder. For men, an unstitched piece of cloth tied around the waist and legs is called a dhoti. Men also wear long, knee-length, loose shirts, jackets (sherwani), and overcoats.
Briefly about cultural traditions in India:
- Any kind of physical contact in public places – hugging, kissing, and even just walking hand in hand looks indecent in the eyes of a conservative Indian;
- shaking hands is not customary in India, the traditional greeting is “namaste”, the folding of hands in front of the chest;
- In a sign of respect Indians address each other as “sister” or “brother”, a married woman is addressed by the name of her son;
- showing the soles of one’s shoes to another is considered an insult, that’s why it is not recommended to sit with one’s foot on the other in India;
- when entering a temple, an office, a medical institution or a private house it is customary to take off one’s shoes;
- Indians wash their hands thoroughly before eating, when changing meals, and after the meal is over.
One of the ancient Indian traditions associated with religion is the worship of the cow. In Hinduism, this animal is considered sacred and its meat is not eaten even in times of famine. Only in India can you see a cow strolling leisurely down the street, which clearly disturbs the traffic and freely eats greens from the trays.
The old traditions when Indian families consisted of three or four generations of relatives are mainly observed in the villages. Today in India, especially in large cities, there are many families of three to five people. Nevertheless, in both large and small families the patriarchal order reigns: the head of the family clan is the eldest of the men. Many national customs and religious rituals described in shastras – sacred precepts – are associated with the events in Indian family life.
Marriages in India are often arranged by prior agreement of parents, and are concluded once: Hinduism implies the fidelity of spouses to each other in this and seven subsequent lives. To confirm the correctness of the choice of the future wife or husband a special horoscope is made for their physiological and psychological compatibility. The main requirement for the bride is her chastity.
The rite of betrothal is performed by a clan priest (brahman). Before the wedding day, a merry bachelorette party takes place in the bride’s house, attended by the women of both clans. One of the interesting and unusual traditions in India is the “khaldi” ritual, which takes place on the eve of the wedding and consists of applying a paste of turmeric to the body of the bride and groom.
In ancient India, the groom would come to his bride on an elephant decorated with carpets and jewels, today the elephant has been replaced by a motorcade. The newlyweds meet in a luxuriously decorated wedding tent (pandal), the bride is dressed in a red or gold sari, and the groom in a white suit.
The marriage ceremony (vivaha yagya) begins with the ritual “kanya dana”. The father of the bride joins the hands of the newlyweds and covers them with his hand, while the father of the groom places his hand underneath, the joined hands are sprinkled with holy water. Then the priest asks the bride and groom common questions during the wedding ceremony: whether they are ready to be faithful, love and respect each other for life. After that, the newlyweds exchange rings and wear garlands of fresh flowers around their necks.
Traditions related to the birth and upbringing of children
An Indian child is given a name on the twelfth day after birth. There is a special ceremony for this – Namakarana. The choice of a name is considered important and is discussed in the family circle and with priests, because, according to the canons of Hinduism, a person’s name affects his or her destiny.
One of the ancient traditional rites of the Indians is to identify a child’s aptitude for a particular activity. Several objects are placed in front of a 3-5 year old child: money, books, tools and weapons. By the selected object is judged in what direction the child should be developed.
The education of Indian children begins at the age of 3-4 years, the first educational institution is a symbiosis of kindergarten and school. At the youngest age, the lesson lasts 35 minutes. Children attend public schools for free and graduate at age 14.
Death in Hinduism is seen as the transition of the soul into another form of existence. In this regard, of all types of burial in India, cremation is preferred. It is believed that burying the body in fire will free the spirit of the deceased from its long wanderings between the worlds of the living and the gods.
The funeral ritual is called antiesti-kriya. The deceased is washed, dressed in new clothes, and decorated with flowers and jewels. His body is then burned on a funeral pyre and his ashes are scattered over the Ganges.
About 80% of India’s population is Hindu, 14% follow Islam, a small number follow Christianity and Sikhism, and no more than 0.1% of the population consider themselves atheists. Therefore, the religious holidays and traditions of the peoples of India depend on their beliefs.
The national holidays are common for the whole country:
- January 1 – New Year’s Day;
- August 15 – Independence Day;
- December 4 – Navy Day;
- November 14 – Children’s Day;
- September 17 – Architects’ Day;
- October 2 – Birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.
National holidays in India also include:
- Onam Festival (September 3). Colorful festival of flowers, where you can see a parade of elephants, watch national games and dances, and hear folk songs in the streets decorated with patterned flower beds-carsons.
- Festival of lights Diwali (celebrated from October 15-21). The holiday symbolizes the victory of good over evil, light over darkness. As a symbol of this victory, lanterns are lit in the homes and on the streets.
- The Lori Fire Festival (January). The coming of Lori marks the end of a harsh winter. Children light fires in their courtyards and enjoy feasts, singing and dancing, and bringing gifts to each other.
- Holi Festival (March 13). One of India’s oldest holidays, which is mentioned in ancient Sanskrit, and marks the spring rebirth of life.
The cuisine of India is one of the most colourful in the world. It is characterized by the use of a large number of spices: hot pepper, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, mint, coriander. The national dishes of India are commonly considered to be: