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Culture and traditions

Indian customs

The customs of India include the religious beliefs, gastronomy, art and ways of life of the ethnic groups that inhabit this country. Much of the traditions mentioned below date back to the era of Islamic invasions, which is why Hindu culture is also influenced by Persian, Arab and Turkish traditions.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

Art

The art of India is a representation of the multiethnic and multicultural society that inhabits this country and has a character closely related to religion. In fact, art is used as a means of disseminating the Hindu religion, as well as Buddhism, Islam and even Christianity.

In addition to religious character, Indian art often represents elements of the nature, such as mountains, trees or rivers, which, for the Indians, have a sacred character. Suria, God of the Sun; Chandra, Goddess of the Moon; Agni, God of Fire; and Indra, Goddess of Rain, are the most represented Indian deities.

Making reference to the monsoon climate, characterized by strong contrasts in terms of its temperatures, is also a deeply rooted custom.

The blunt representation of eroticism It is also very frequent in the artistic tradition of India, since for the Hindu religion, sex is a way through which the human and the divine are connected.

Therefore, it is customary to see the lingam, the male sex symbol, and at ioni, female sexual symbol, deities that together represent fertility.

Art of India depicted in the Temple of Suphanburi Province, Thailand

Architecture

Like the French with the Eiffel Tower and the Americans with the Statue of Liberty, the Indians feel very proud of their star building: the Taj Mahal. Tourists from all over the world come to Agra, the city of northern India where this architectural wonder is located, to take pictures next to this palace.

The Taj Mahal is an original wonder of Mughal art that dates back to the period between the 16th and 18th centuries. Your name, Taj Mahal, it means Corona Palace and, according to legend, it was built in honor of a woman.

The rectangular shaped base represents the edges of a beautiful woman and, the main door, the veil that covers her face. In addition, the charm of the Taj Mahal is reinforced by the fact that its appearance changes according to daylight, which also causes the river that is located just in front to be reflected in the white marble dome.

In short, for the Indians this historic building is a symbol of love and faith, and it is believed that it is the knot that makes the souls of two lovers remain tied beyond death.

The Taj Mahal, the representative building of Indian architecture

Ayurveda or traditional Indian medicine

The term Ayurveda (from Sanskrit ayus-, what does it mean lifetime, Y -veda, equivalent to science; It translates as life science) refers to the millennial holistic and preventive health system Original Indian culture.

It is estimated that it was developed more than 6,000 years ago. The basis of this medicine is to restore balance to the body and strengthen it through natural pathways, thanks to its self-healing abilities.

Ayurveda dates back to the Vedic tradition, that is, the oldest knowledge in the history of human beings, which was discovered by the so-called rishis or Vedic masters, for whom it was as a gift that the gods granted to mankind.

For the rishis, the balance of the body is achieved through the silence of the mind through the meditation, thanks to which the wisdom of life and the laws of nature will be revealed.

At present, Maharishi Ayurveda continues to be practiced in Indian medicine and it is considered to be the way by which the intelligence of the body is fueled, making its natural healing ability.

For the Ayurvedic tradition, the disease is the result of an imbalance that the body has accumulated with the day to day and, therefore, the solution will come if this imbalance is recognized and its impurities are eliminated. More than 20% of the world population today practices Ayurveda, which, in addition, is formally recognized and recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 1991.

Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine

Bindi

We have all been struck by Red point that Indian women usually wear on their foreheads, specifically at eyebrows, between their eyes. It is evident that it is an identity sign of Indian culture, but few know what it really means. Well, first of all, this point is called bindi, term from the Sanskrit language that literally means point, gout or small particle.

Yoga scholars relate bindi directly to Ayurveda, which we have talked about previously, since it is considered to be a chakra or third eye, that is, a point of energy that is activated through meditation, helping us to find inner peace.

However, the function of bindi is intrinsically related to the marriage: when a woman has this point on her forehead, it means she is married. Formerly, it was customary for the groom to draw the bindi with his own blood on the bride's forehead after getting married, thus making the unbreakable bond between the husband and the wife completely clear.

Today, bindi is no longer made with blood, but is usually made with makeup or even with a red adhesive. However, its meaning has remained intact.

If a woman is a widow, she must remove this sign from her forehead. Despite this meaning, there are many young women and even girls who currently draw bindi simply for aesthetics and regardless of their marital status, although it is true that it will not be red.

The bindi or red dot that Indian women wear on their foreheads

Marriage

The Hindu wedding comprises a fairly complex process regardless of the family to which it belongs.

There are still those arranged marriages or arranged by their parents and other important members within the family, although more and more future spouses are giving their consent at the end of the process.

Thus, today, the divorce rate in India amounts to only 1% compared to almost 40%, for example, in the US.

For Hindus, marriage is a sacrament through which family members not only ensure the continuity of the family dynasty, but it is a way to pay off debts that may be pending with ancestors.

Therefore, the Hindu marriage follows the current of thought called Grihastha, which literally means be busy with the house and family and it supposes the second phase in the life of every person within the four phases in which this is divided according to the Áshram or system of life stages according to Hinduism.

Formerly, arranged marriages took place when the spouses were still very young, especially in Rajasthan, a state located northwest of India. However, with the passing of the years laws have been established that regulate the minimum age from which marriage is allowed.

Traditionally, the bride's family must provide the groom or his family with a dowry, that is, the part that belonged to the bride of the family fortune, since a daughter did not have legal rights to inherit any of the properties of his family.

Marriage in India

Garbhaadaan ceremony

Especially in rural India, the ritual called Samskaar Garbhaadaan It is especially important in the lives of its inhabitants. Garbhaadaan it means fertilization and refers to the fact that the most important objective in the life of a married person is to be a father and, in addition, his firstborn should enjoy excellent health and education.

Thus, for the woman to procreate a child with the ideal characteristics of her husband and as brave as Abhimanyu, as spiritual as King Janaka, as devout as Dhruva and as generous as Karna, she must bathe the fourth day after her last menstruation to be chaste and then pray to your elders and gurus.

Then the fertilization it must be carried out in the so-called third phase of the night, that is, between 0:00 and 3:00 hours. If this ritual is followed as indicated, the child that will be born will be a righteous, honest and devoted person of God.

Garbhaadaan ceremony

Worship of Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), better known simply as Gandhi, was a thinker, politician and Hindu lawyer native to British India. It is also known as Bapu, what does it mean father in Guyaratí language.

Gandhi is considered one of the great human rights defenders, especially for having openly practiced the principle of Satyagraha, neologism coined by himself and translated by insistence on the truth or soul force.

This principle represents a system of struggle, disobedience and resistance to what he himself called tyranny. This resistance was carried out through the nonviolent mass civil disobedience In his own words.

Gandhi promoted campaigns to alleviate poverty, expand women's rights, eliminate injustices and create religious-ethnic harmony.

He was imprisoned numerous times for this, but nonetheless, in 1947, just one year before his death, got India to become independent from Britain. The importance of Gandhi is such that the effigy of his face appears on the Indian rupee bills (the currency of India).

Worship of Mahatma Ghandi in Indian culture

Diya

A diya is a kind of mud lamp or clay that is also known as divaa, deepak or deepam. It is a wick stuck in a cotton that is bathed in buttermilk or vegetable oil. Diyas are used in India to illuminate during special occasions. There are, however, sayings made of brass, which do constitute fixed elements as furniture in the houses of the Indians, as well as in Hindu temples.

Diyas are used mostly in religious festivals typical of Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism or Mazdeism, such as the Diwali, Divali or Deepvali festival (literally, festival of lights), which is held annually during the fall, or the Kushti or Kusti ceremony, typical of Zoroastrianism and in which the adherents to this religion first wear this sacred girdle around their waist.

In any case, the custom of placing these small lamps is because they are a symbol of the victory of good over evil, especially rooted belief in the city of Ayodhya, located in northern India.

Many families also have the habit of lighting one of these lamps every morning and night, which is not only a custom, but also means the submission of the soul to the supreme divine power.

The oil symbolizes the cunning of the human being, while cotton represents the soul of oneself; Thus, in order to reach the illumination of the soul and be linked to the supreme divine power, the human being must get rid of materialism, a fact that is represented by the burning of the fuse.

Diya, divaa, deepak or deepam

Pushkar Camel Fair

The Pushkar Camel Fair, Pushkar Mela or, simply, Pushkar Fair is held every November 3 in the holy city of Pushkar, on the banks of the Thar Desert, within the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Pushkar is a town of just 15,000 inhabitants that, every year, is filled with camels, turbans and devotees decorated with bright colors. Despite the small size of this town, during this festival almost a quarter of a million people congregate in it, many of them curious travelers who wish to enjoy this cultural event.

The Pushkar Mela lasts ten days (period from November 1 to 10 and is known as Kartik month) and is a festival full of customs, such as:

  • Go to the temple of Brahma to pay his respects to this deity
  • Make a series of ritual baths on the steps or ghats of the sacred lake
  • Throw several diyas on the waters of this same lake, that is, oil lamps of which we have spoken previously

In short, all these customs are sacred rituals that fill the atmosphere of spirituality.

The most important thing about this fair is the sale of camels, so these are decorated with Naguar necklaces, Merta blankets, Jodhpur fabrics, saddles and even any type of household utensils that can encourage the sale of this animal.

There are also camel races in the dunes of the Thar desert and even beauty contests that reward the best decorated camel.

Pushkar Camel Fair

Philosophy and Sciences

For Indian culture, philosophy and mathematics have played a fundamental role for centuries. Thus, Indian doctrines have had a strong impact over time over time. world of thought. Hindu and Buddhist schools, as well as theistic doctrine have greatly influenced the world of philosophy and science.

Historically, India has been a pioneer in many aspects of development and research in the fields of logic, mathematics, rationalism and materialism, among other fields of knowledge.

However, the lack of knowledge about the contributions in these fields by Indian doctrines is due to the fact that the vast majority of texts were destroyed in the era of religious fanaticism.

Possibly, the Indian school that has transcended the most has been that of Chárvaka, considered as the school par excellence of the oldest materialistic thought on the planet that was formed between the seventh century BC. C. and early 20th century d. C., parallel to the writing of the Hindu holy book Upanishad.

India, a pioneer region in the development of mathematics and philosophy

Gastronomy

If we used to talk about the multiculturalism that reigns in India, food is undoubtedly one of the ways through which this feature of Indian culture can be reflected.

Thus, culinary customs form a very varied set, a result of the cultural diversity that has been enriching the country for centuries. The flavors of India are closely related to the use of spices, as well as vegetables.

Among the basic ingredients, the rice, he atta or whole wheat flour made from bread, and the vegetables, of which there are up to five different varieties: chana (chickpea), the toor (Indian chickpea), the urad (black lentil) and the mung (green soybean).

It also highlights the curry, seasoning that has now expanded around the world. Among the most popular curry varieties, highlights Vindaloo, also known as king of curries and which highlights its quality of spicy.

Curry Saag and Madras are also very popular, among many others. Similarly, the most popular Indian dishes are: lassi, achars, rotis or chapatis (kind of tortilla).

Indian food

Henna or Mehndi

The famous natural reddish tint It is known as Henna It also receives other names, including: henna, mendhi and arjeña.

The most common use of this dye is for skin coloring, a technique known as mehandi. It is a dye commonly used not only in India, but also in the Arab countries of Pakistan, Yemen or Iran, as well as in the Middle East and North Africa.

To do a henna tattoo, name with which these paintings on the skin have become popular internationally, traditionally a dry leaf and the petiole of the henna plant are used or Lawsonia inermis, hence one of the names mentioned above.

The use of henna dates back to the oldest Hindu Vedic books, where descriptions of this custom have been found.

The most common is its use to dye the Palms of the hands of women, although, however, over time its use has spread among men and other areas of the body, such as hair or nails.

Like marriage or diyas, the custom of dying their hands is a symbolic representation of the Vedic tradition, according to which this drawing is an exterior reflection of the Sun that the individual houses inside, thus making this internal light enlighten

Henna or Mehndi

Hygiene and personal hygiene

The Indians are one of the most neat towns on the planet. Although this statement may seem inconsistent for many Westerners accustomed to seeing images of Indian streets full of garbage, the explanation is as follows: for Hindus, one thing is personal and household hygiene, and another very different from that of public spaces .

Once again, the different hygiene and cleaning rituals present in the homes of Hindus is due to the fact that personal hygiene is associated with the notion of purity. Thus, according to the steps to follow in this ritual, the first step is to defecate as soon as you get up.

In rural India, many Indians go to the countryside with a vessel full of water to meet their needs since they do not have bathrooms. When they finish this act, they clean themselves carefully with water and always using the left hand, never the right, which is the one used to eat.

The second step will be to brush your teeth. Until a few years ago, a branch of a tree that fell apart when rubbed against the teeth was used. Subsequently, the person in question will proceed to bathe, an act known as snan and it is considered as the purifying rite par excellence, since in the meantime sacred texts are recited and the different Hindu deities are prayed.

Personal hygiene, a symbol of purity in India

Hinduism

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions on the planet according to the different writings found, dating from approximately 1400 to 1500 BC. It is characterized mainly because it has million deities.

It is the predominant religious tradition in Bali, India and Nepal. Currently, Hinduism is the third most widespread religion on the planet with its more than one billion faithful.

Hinduism is the religion of 80.5% of the total Indian population and, sometimes, it intermingles with Buddhism, so that the faithful of this tendency are considered Buddhist-Hindus.

One of the characteristic features of the Hindu religion is that within this culture there are others, such as theism, pantheism, atheism, etc. In addition, it has several different religious ideologies, that is, both polytheists and monotheists. There are thousands of gods belonging to the Hindu pantheon.

In its Vedanta slope, there is only one God, the god Brahman, who is considered to have the original aspect of God. Therefore, the rest of the gods and divine beings of the universe aspire to be their expression, which is why Brahman is the beginning of the universe.

The vast majority of customs carried out in India are related to this religion, such as the diet followed by Hindus, for which there are three types of food:

  • Tamasic
  • Rajastic
  • Sattvic feeding

Other traditions such as the ritual followed during weddings or spirituality are also due to Hinduism.

Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore

Holi festival

Joli, better known as Holi festival by its denomination in English, it is a Hindu festival that takes place in India, Guyana and Nepal during the spring time.

This festival is popularly known as the festival of colors or the feast of love. The fame of this festival has crossed borders and is now celebrated as a cultural event in many cities in Europe and the United States.

It consists of a religious festival of Hindu character in honor of Joliká, the evil sister of King Hiranyakashipu who tried to assassinate Prince Prahlada, but he was saved thanks to the appearance of the god Vishnu, which made Joliká die burned by the flames, all of them characters of the hinduist mythology.

Therefore, the night before the Joli celebration it is customary to make a bonfire on the front of the Jagdish Temple (Udaipur), as a representation of the triumph of good over evil.

Meanwhile, during the Joli they are launched colorful gulal powders (colored pigments) in commemoration of the divine love that Radha professed for Krishna, both important Hindu deities. It is also considered as a way to get rid of possible mistakes made in the past, that is, forgive and forget.

Holi festival or Joli

Languages

As we have mentioned before, India is a multicultural and multiethnic country. For this reason, it is not surprising that they have recognized him until 30 official languages and there are about 2,000 languages ​​without official recognition.

According to the Constitution of India, the official languages ​​of the national government are the Hindi and the English. However, English ceased to function as a government language from 1965 as did Hindi, although at the unofficial level both languages ​​are highly influential for both government communication and business.

Also, in Goa the use of Portuguese. He Sanskrit, for its part, is a classical language spoken today by only 200,000 speakers.

The table shown below lists the 19 most spoken languages ​​among these 30 and the region in which each one is spoken:

LanguageRegion
AssameseAssam
BengaliWest Bengal and Tripura
BodoAssam
DogriKashmir and Jammu
GujaratíGujarat, Damán and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli
HindiBijar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Delhi, Jariana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rayastán, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh
KannadaKarnataka
KonkaniGoa
MaithiliBihar
MalayalamLakshadweep and Kerala
ManipuríManipur
MarathiMaharashtra
NepaliSikkim
OriyaOrissa
PanjabiPanyab
TámilTamil Nadu and Pondicherry
TéleguAndhra Pradesh
UrduKashmir and Jammu
PunjabiPunjab
Languages ​​of India

Literature

Within the literature of India, the Ramaiana and the Majábharata They are the two most widespread epics as well as ancient ones. Over the years, different versions and adaptations of these works have been written and have been disseminated throughout Southeast Asia, in countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.

Especially the Ramaiana stands out, an epic that greatly influenced when defining the Hindu lifestyle, especially in establishing the role of the dharma, which literally means correct pious behavior and that has been applied as a basic principle within Indian culture.

The Ramaiana, too Valkimi Ramaiana, has greatly influenced the art and culture of the Indian subcontinent, as well as Southeast Asia, and is considered to contain the basic teachings of education.

The Ramaiana, the most influential work of Indian literature

Christmas, although it is really a custom from the Christian religion, today is celebrated almost anywhere in the world, where it has transcended more as a custom than as a mere religious tradition. In India, Christmas is celebrated in style and, with the passage of time, others more typical of this country have been incorporated into the typical traditions.

Regarding the Hindu Christmas symbols, although several can be mentioned, the main one is a very popular one around the world: we talk about Santa Claus or Santa Claus. As in any other country, Indian children ask for their wishes and await gifts from the beloved lord of white beard who travels the world every December 24.

However, to this international symbol are added others more typical of Indian culture, such as Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, to which tribute is paid during the evening of December 24; and Ganesha, the well-known elephant-headed deity considered an amulet of good luck and prosperity.

Another custom of Christmas in India is to receive the arrival of this holiday with large parades in the streets, in which their attendees dress up, especially children.

As for gifts, these are considered a sign of abundance and a way by which to attract positive energy. Therefore, it is customary for everyone to receive and give at least one gift. At the culinary level, the traditional Christmas Day candy (December 25) is the nut bread.

Ganesha, god of good luck and prosperity in India

Ritual of children in the air

One of the rarest customs in India is the one that represents the ritual known as children's air ritual. It consists of literally throwing newborn children from a height of 15 cm. This practice is very common in India.

Its origin dates back to ancient India, although the exact date is unknown, but it is estimated that it could date back about 500-800 years ago. This celebration was actually brought by the Arabs to India and even today it takes place in the Maruti temple, located in the state of Karnataka, south of India.

The fall of children takes place on a white elastic fabric extended to sunlight and held by some men. This act symbolizes the prosperity In the life of this child, who, thanks to this rite, will enjoy good health and the blessing of God.

Ritual of children on air in India

Greeting

The greeting from India is known as You named and is employed in various Buddhist traditions and Asian cultures. The Namaste is used both to say Hi how goodbye, as well as to thank, show respect towards the interlocutor and even to pray.

This expression is accompanied by a slight inclination of the head and the palms of the hands open and glued together at chest level, more or less under the chin, similar to the typical position to pray. The greeting has come to be called that because, to this gesture, accompanies the word you named.

The etymology of this term comes from the Sanskrit language and is formed by namas-, what does it mean reverence or worship, Y -tealiterally to you. So, you named it means I revere you.

Namaste, the typical gesture of India

This expression is used very frequently in the practices of yoga as a form of greeting and farewell, although it is also a symbol of expression of good wishes. In Japanese culture it also exists and is called gasshō.

Sari

The sari, also called saree or shari, is the dress used by the women of the Indian subcontinent. Is a silk made suit It is wrapped around the body as a dress and can be of different colors. The term sari It comes from the Hindi language and simply means dress.

The fabric usually measures between 4.5 and 8.2 m in length and between 1 and 1.2 m in width. It is placed around the waist and one end is left rolled over the shoulder, so that the stomach is exposed. The top part is called choli and the bottom skirt is known as lehenga.

The sari, the best known garment in India

The origin of this garment dates back to the 1800s and 2800 BC, period in which he lived the Indus Valley Civilization in the western part of the Indian subcontinent, when a priest covered with a kind of gown was first represented. Therefore, the sari is considered as a unisex garment.

There are numerous types of sari that differ from each other basically because of the decoration of their fabric. Thus, the most used are the banarsis, which attract attention for its delicacy, how fine silk is and design inspired by Mughal art, which makes it the quintessential garment on special occasions (eg weddings).

Sadhus

A sadhu o Saa-dhu It is the highest representation of the Hindu religion today. It's about a Hindu ascetic or monk who follows the path of penance, spiritual progress and mental balance through conduct called Sadhana. Sadhus practice this behavior daily in order to correct their mind and exercise their body to reach the infinite within.

Sadhus

He Sadhana it is the fourth phase within the stages of life that Hinduism establishes after having studied, as well as having been a father and a pilgrim. Sadhus renounce earthly or material pleasures in order to find the true values ​​of life. Thus, the sadhus live within society, although trying to ignore it.

Every sadhu imitates the life of Shiva, a mythological being of the Hindu tradition considered the principal of all ascetics. The typical costume of these monks is saffron in color to symbolize that they have received the blessing of the fertile blood of Parvati, the couple of Shiva.

Odissi, the classical dance of India

Performing arts have always been one of the basic pillars within the culture of India.

The art of dance or Nâtya-shâstra and the mirror of the gesture or Abhinaia-Darpana They are two texts originally written in Sanskrit that have been preserved to this day since they were written approximately between 200 BC. and 300 A.D. Dance for Indian culture is a deliberate art, that is, no element is the result of chance, but seeks to convey ideas.

Odissi, the classical dance of India

According to him Nâtya-shâstra, there are nine dance styles:

  • Bharata natyam
  • Odissi
  • Mohiniyattam
  • Kuchipudi
  • Kathak
  • Kathakali
  • Manipuri
  • Sattriya
  • Chhau

Obviously, each of these styles has a characteristic costume. In addition, dances are a narrative representation of the elements of Hindu mythology. According to Indian actress Ragini Dwivedi, the art of dance in India is considered as a expression of inner beauty and the divinity of the human being.

Traditional jewelry

Like the other customs mentioned above, the traditional jewelry of Indian women is as varied as it is striking and is characterized by its designs, made for almost any part of the body.

Traditional indian jewelry

In general, Indian jewelry varies depending on the region, since each one has a unique and original style. Thus, in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, the silver filigree, known as Tarkashi, is usually worked.

In any case, there are nine basic and common jewels in the daily attire of the Indian woman. On the head, the ornament that is worn in the middle of the hair and ends in the forehead is called Maan Tikka.

This jewel was used exclusively for weddings, but today it is used in other contexts such as festivals. For its part, the famous nasal ring or piercing is called Nathni. The earrings or earrings are called Jhumka y los utilizan tanto los hombres como las mujeres desde la Antigüedad, cuando se utilizaban huesos de animales o piezas de madera.

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