Few countries in the world have such an ancient and diverse culture as Indias. Indias physical, religious and racial variety is as important as the history of how it become what Modern India.
In India, religion is very important to the people. It is a major part of the entire Indian tradition. For the majority of Indians, religion takes over every aspect of life, from commonplace daily chores to education and politics. Hinduism is the dominant faith, practiced by over 80% of the population. Besides Hindus, Muslims are the most prominent religious group and are an essential part of Indian society.
Common practices are now a part of most religious faiths and all communities share many of the festivals that mark each year with music, dance and feasting. Each has its own pilgrimage sites, heroes, legends and even culinary specialties, mingling in a unique diversity. Hinduism and Buddhism are very similar, being the most practiced by the Indians. The exact explanation of Hinduism cannot be easily defined. There is no unique philosophy that forms the basis of the faith of the majority of India’s population. It cannot be traced to a specific founder nor does it have a “holy book” as a basic scriptural guide. Unlike most other religions, Hinduism does not advocate the worship of one particular deity. One may worship Shiva or Vishnu or Rama or Krishna or some other gods and goddesses or one may believe in the ‘Supreme Spirit’ or the ‘Indestructible Soul’ within each individual and still be called a good Hindu. This gives an indication of the kind of contrasts this religion is marked by. At one end of the scale, it is an exploration of the ‘Ultimate Reality’; at the other end there are cults that worship spirits, trees and animals. Buddhism, another religion followed by in India, originated as an offshoot of Hinduism, but eventually it became popular all over Asia. Buddhism is based on the principle that everything is subject to change, although some things may last longer than others. The other basic principle of Buddhism is according to which nothing occurs due to pure chance. Besides natural forces, it is the karma, which leads to the occurrence of all events.
There are fifteen national languages recognized by the Indian constitution and these are spoken in over 1600 dialects. Add to this a population of over 900 million today, and that will give you an idea of how many different ways of communication takes place.
India’s official language is Hindi in the Devnagri script. However, English continues to be the official working language. For many educated Indians, English is virtually their first language, and for a great number of Indians who are multi-lingual, it will probably be the second. Hindi is spoken as a mother tongue by about 40.22 percent of the population, mainly in the area known as the Hindi.
To the foreign traveler, one of the powerful attractions in India is the colorful attire of its people. The silk saris, brightly mirrored cholis, colorful lehangas and the traditional salwar-kameez have fascinated many over the centuries.
For a single length of material, the sari must be the most versatile garment in existence. It is only one of the many traditional garments worn by women, yet it has somehow become the national dress of Indian women. A sari is a rectangular piece of cloth which is five to six yards in length. The style, color and texture of this cloth vary and it might be made from cotton, silk or one of the several man-made materials. The sari has an ageless charm since it is not cut or tailored for a particular size. This garment can fit any size. This attire can also be worn in several ways and its manner of wearing as well as its color and texture depend on the age, occupation, region and religion of a woman. The tightly fitted, short blouse worn under a sari is a choli. The choli evolved as a form of clothing in 10th century AD and the first cholis were only front covering; the back was always bare. Women in Rajasthan wear a form of pleated skirt known as the ghagra or lehanga. This skirt is tied at the waist and leaves the back and midriff bare. The heads are however covered by a length of fine cotton known as orhni or dupatta. Indian dressing styles are marked by many variations, both religious and regional and one is likely to witness an over amount of colors, textures and styles in garments worn by the Indians.
Many say the food available in India is as diverse as its culture, its racial structure, its geography and its climate. The essence of good Indian cooking revolves around the appropriate use of aromatic spices. The skill lies in the blending of a variety of spices to enhance rather than overwhelm the basic flavor of a particular dish. These spices are also used as appetizers. Besides spices, the other main ingredients of Indian cooking and Indian meals are milk products like ghee and curd or dahi. Lentils or dals are also common across the country. Vegetables naturally differ across regions and with seasons. The style of cooking vegetables is dependent upon the main dish or cereal with which they are served. Although a number of religions exist in India, the two cultures that have influenced Indian cooking and food habits are the Hindu and the Muslim traditions. Over time they adopted a lot of specialties and cooking methods from the Indian cuisine and blended the two to perfection. The Hindu vegetarian tradition is widespread in India, although many Hindus eat meat now. A typical North-Indian meal would consist of chapatis or rotis (unleavened bread baked on a griddle) or parathas (unleavened bread fried on a griddle), rice and an assortment of accessories like dals, fried vegetables, curries, curd, chutney, and pickles. For dessert one could choose from rasagulla, sandesh, rasamalai and gulab-jamuns.
The culture of the people of India is one of the most unique in all the world. There is so much that can be studied about the history, language, food, and religions, that are all very fascinating.