by Sangeeta

“If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is INDIA”. This was said by a French Scholar, Romain Rolland.

India, the name of this country rings a bell, does it? It is famous for Bollywood, music, dance, colorful festivals, culture and much more.

There are different wonders in the world but, India is a wonder in itself. I say this because, I belong to this great country which has given the world numbers, decimals, medicine, the art to do surgery, diverse languages,  and much more. It is a diverse and populated country with many different languages, cultures and ethnicities. The national language of India is Hindi although many speak English.

Geographical Topography and Religion – India is divided in to four main parts: North, South, East, and West. The important metropolitan cities are Delhi (which is also the capital), Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai. It has 29 states and 9 Union Territories. The surprising fact is each state speaks a different language and has its own official state language. The way they live, their food, habits, culture are all different. Yet, they are united. The important aspect here is even though the states are divided into principle cities, you will still find people of all religions living in harmony under one roof. The common religions followed are Hinduism, Jaininsm, Buddhism. People also follow religions that have arrived from across the subcontinent like Islam, Christainity, the Bahai faith, and Zoroastrianism.

The Indian culture is often labeled as an amalgamation of various cultures and has been influenced and shaped by a history that is 1000 years old. Indian culture and tradition is unique across the world since it is very diverse. I have segregated the region, and culture, etc. in the bullets below for your better understanding:

  • NAMASTE: It is the most popular Indian custom. It literally translates to, “I bow to you” and greeting one another with it is a way of saying “May our minds meet”, indicated by folded palms placed before the chest. The words ‘Namaha’ can also be translated as ‘Na Ma’ (not mine), to signify the reduction of one’s ego in the presence of another.

  • ATITHI DEVO BHAVA: It means the guest is equivalent to God. If you visit an Indian home they will always treat the guest royally and ensure they are satisfied to the fullest.

  • FESTIVALS: India has a large number of festivals throughout the year. The Muslims celebrate Eid; Christians celebrate Christmas and Good Friday; Sikhs celebrate Baisakhi (the harvesting of the crop) and the birth of their Gurus; The Jains have Mahavir Jayanthi; the Buddhists celebrate Buddha’s birthday; the Zoroastrians celebrate the Parsi New Year; the Hindus celebrate Diwali (the festival of lights), Pongal (harvest festival), and Holi (festival of colors); and the list goes on.

  • COW: It is considered a holy animal and is worshipped as a maternal figure and also as a depiction of Mother Earth. Feeding a cow or making a contribution for cow shelters is of immense religious importance. The Vedic Scriptures have emphasized the need to protect and care for cows. Hence, in several states, cow slaughter is banned by law. Indian culture and religion appreciates and expresses its gratitude towards this innocent animal who gives back to Mother Earth and its people in more than one form. Cow dung is used as biofuel and fertilizer in many rural Indian Homes. Cow urine is used for therapeutic purposes in many medicines and also in purifying rituals.

  • TEMPLES: They are built along the magnetic wave lines of the earth, which helps in maximizing the positive energy (this is called Vastu Shastra). Going to the temple often helps in having a positive mind and garnering energies which help one lead a healthy life. Also, it is a common practice to take off your footwear before entering a temple because, your shoes bring in dirt to an otherwise, sanctified environment. The Hindus worship idols signifying the importance of each God and Goddess.

  • ETHNIC WEAR: The sari is a comfortable single cloth and needs no stitching. It is an easy wear and adheres to religious etiquette. A typical married female will wear a Mangalsutra, (which is made of black beads or stones), a Bindi (a red Sticker on the forehead), Maang tikka, (which is applied on the forehead above the Bindi to signify one is married), colorful bangles, a silver anklet, and toe rings. Also, since India is diverse, you will find people wearing Salwar Kameez (a pair of light, loose, pleated trousers tapering to a tight fit around the ankles), and also western wear.

  • FOOD: It is an integral part of India. The style of cooking varies from state to state. Almost all religions have their own signature dishes. While vegetarian food is an integral part of South India, Gujarat and Rajasthan cuisines, non-vegetarian  dishes are an integral part of Mughlai, Bengal, North India and Punjabi Cuisines. The Kashmiri cuisine has been influenced by Central Asia, Persia and Afghanistan.

  • DANCE: India is a land of unity in diversity. Different dance  forms originated from different parts of the country. The classified 8 dance forms are:
  1. KATHAK  from North, West and Central India
  2. MANIPURI from Manipur
  3. SATTIYA from Odisha
  4. BHARATNATYAM from Tamil Nadu
  5. KUCHIPUDI from Andhra Pradesh
  6. KATHAKALI and  MOHINIATTAM from Kerala

All these dance forms depict a story where a dancer or a narrator performs them through exclusive gestures based on Indian Mythology.

I hope I have managed to give you all a glimpse of India to understand her better. I am sure you will all be tempted to visit this beautiful and colorful country and enjoy the FOOD. Am sure this would be in your holiday planner next!!!