The customs of India include the religious beliefs, gastronomy, art and ways of life of the ethnic groups that inhabit this country. Many of the traditions mentioned below date back to the era of Islamic invasions, which is why Hindu culture is also influenced by Persian, Arabic and Turkish traditions.
Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.
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 diffusion of the hindu religionas well as Buddhism, Islam, and even Christianity.
In addition to the religious character, Indian art usually 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; Agní, God of Fire; and Indra, Goddess of Rain, are the most represented Indian deities.
Referring to the monsoon climate, characterized by strong contrasts in terms of its temperatures, is also a deeply rooted custom.
The open 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.
For this reason, it is customary to see the lingam, the male sex symbol, and ions, female sexual symbol, deities that represent, together, fertility.
Like the French with the Eiffel Tower and the Americans with the Statue of Liberty, the Indians are very proud of their star building: the Taj Mahal. Tourists from all over the world flock to Agra, the northern Indian city where this architectural marvel is located, to take photos next to this palace.
The Taj Mahal is an original marvel of Mughal art dating back to the XNUMXth-XNUMXth century. Your name, Taj Mahal, Means Crown 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 enhanced by the fact that its appearance changes according to the daylight, which also causes the river directly in front of it 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 to be the knot that makes the souls of two lovers remain tied beyond death.
Ayurveda or traditional Indian medicine
The term Ayurveda (from Sanskrit ayus-, Meaning Life, and -veda, equivalent to science; It translates as life science) refers to the millennial holistic and preventive health system original of 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 ways, thanks to its self-healing capabilities.
Ayurveda dates back to the Vedic tradition, that is, the oldest knowledge in the history of the human being, which was discovered by the so-called rishis or Vedic teachers, for whom it was like a gift that the gods granted to humanity.
For rishis, the balance of the body is achieved through the silence of the mind through 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 is considered to be the way in which the intelligence of the body is enlivened, strengthening its natural healing ability.
For the Ayurvedic tradition, the disease is the result of an imbalance that the body has accumulated from 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 practice Ayurveda, which, in addition, is formally recognized and recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 1991.
We all have ever been struck by the Red point that Indian women usually wear on the forehead, specifically at the level of the eyebrows, between the eyes. It is clear that this is a hallmark of Indian culture, but few of us know what it really means. Well, first of all, this point is called bindi, a term from the Sanskrit language that literally means point, drop o small particle.
Yoga scholars relate bindi directly to Ayurveda, which we have discussed earlier, since it is considered to be a chakra or third eye, that is, a point of energy that is activated through meditation, thus helping us to find inner peace.
However, the function of the bindi is intrinsically related to the wedding : when a woman wears this point on her forehead, it means that she is married. Formerly, the custom was for the groom to draw the bindi with her own blood on the bride's forehead after getting married, thus making the unbreakable bond between husband and wife completely clear.
To this day, the 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 becomes a widow, she must remove this sign from her forehead. Despite this meaning, many are the young women and even girls who currently draw the bindi simply for aesthetics and regardless of their marital status, although it is true that it will not be red.
The Hindu wedding comprises a fairly complex process regardless of the family to which it belongs.
The arranged marriages or arranged by their parents and other important members of the family, although increasingly it is the future spouses who give their consent at the end of the process.
Thus, today, the divorce rate in India is only 1% compared to almost 40%, for example, in the United States.
For Hindus, marriage is a sacrament by which the members of the family not only ensure the continuity of the family dynasty, but it is also a way to pay the debts that may be outstanding with the ancestors.
For this reason, the Hindu marriage follows the current of thought called grihastha, which literally means be busy with home and family and it is the second phase in the life of every person within the four phases in which it is divided according to the Ashram or system of stages of life according to Hinduism.
In the old days, arranged marriages took place when the spouses were still very young, especially in Rajasthan, a state in northwestern India. However, over the years, laws have been established that regulate the minimum age from which marriage is allowed.
Traditionally, the family of the bride must provide the groom or his family with a dowry, that is, the part that corresponded to the bride of the family fortune, since a daughter did not have legal rights to inherit any of the properties of his family.
Especially in rural India, the ritual called Samskaar garbhaadaan it is especially important in the lives of its inhabitants. garbhaadaan 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, furthermore, their first-born must enjoy excellent health and education.
Thus, for a woman to produce 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 on the fourth day after her last menstruation to be chaste and then pray to your elders and gurus.
After, 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 an upright person, honest and devoted to God.
Mahatma Gandhi worship
Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), better known simply as Gandhi, was a Hindu thinker, politician and lawyer native to British India. It is also known as Bapu, Meaning father in Gujarati language.
Gandhi is considered one of the great human rights defendersespecially for having openly practiced the principle of Satyagraha, neologism coined by himself and which is translated by insistence on the truth o 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 non-violent 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 nevertheless, in 1947, just a year before his death, got India to become independent from Great Britain. The importance of Gandhi is such that on the banknotes of the Indian rupee (the currency of India) appears the effigy of his face.
A diya is a kind of clay lamp or clay which is also known as Divaa, deepak o deepham. It is a wick stuck in a cotton ball that is bathed in buttermilk or vegetable oil. Diyas are used in India to light on special occasions. There are, however, diyas made of brass, which do constitute fixed elements like furniture in the houses of the Indians, as well as in the Hindu temples.
Diyas are used mainly in the 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 celebrated annually during the fall, or the Kushti or Kusti ceremony, typical of Zoroastrianism and in which the followers of this religion put this sacred sash around their waist for the first time.
In any case, the custom of placing these small lamps is due to the fact that they are a symbol of the victory of good over evil, a belief especially rooted in the city of Ayodhya, located in northern India.
Many families also have a custom to light one of these lamps every morning and every night, which is not only a custom, but signifies the submission of the soul to the supreme divine power.
The oil symbolizes the cunning of the human being, while the cotton represents the soul of oneself; Thus, in order to achieve the enlightenment 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 wick.
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 shores of the Thar desert, within the Indian state of Rajasthan.
Pushkar is a town of just 15.000 inhabitants that is filled with colorful camels, turbans and devotees every year. Despite the small size of this town, during this festival almost a quarter of a million people congregate there, many of them curious travelers who want to enjoy this cultural event.
The Pushkar Mela lasts ten days (a period that runs from November 1 to 10 and is known as kartik month) and it is a festival full of customs, such as:
- Go to the Brahma temple to pay your respects to this deity
- Do a series of ritual baths on the steps or ghats of the sacred lake
- Throw over the waters of this same lake several diyas, that is, oil lamps that we have spoken about previously
Ultimately, all these customs are sacred rituals that fill the atmosphere of spirituality.
The most important thing about this fair is the sale of camelsTherefore, these are decorated with Naguar necklaces, Merta blankets, Jodhpur fabrics, saddles and even any type of domestic utensil that can encourage the sale of this animal.
In addition, camel races are held in the dunes of the Thar desert and even beauty contests that reward the best decorated camel.
Philosophy and science
For the Indian culture, philosophy and mathematics have played a fundamental role for centuries. Thus, the Indian doctrines have had a strong impact on the 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 ignorance about the contributions in these fields by the 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 charvaka, considered as the oldest school of materialist thought on the planet that was formed between the XNUMXth century BC. C. and early twentieth century d. C., parallel to the writing of the Hindu holy book Upanishad.
If before we talked 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, the result of the cultural diversity that has enriched the country for centuries. The flavors of India are closely related to the use of spicesas well as vegetables.
Among the basic ingredients, the riceplatforms, atta or whole wheat flour made from bread, and the vegetables, of which there are up to five different varieties: Chana (chickpea), the bull (Indian chickpea), the urad (black lentil) and the only (green soybeans).
The curry, condiment that currently has expanded around the world. Among the most popular curry varieties, Vindaloo stands out, also known as king of curries and of which its spicy quality stands out.
Curry Saag and Madras, among many others, are also very popular. Similarly, the most popular Indian dishes are: the lassi, the achars, the rotis or the chapatis (a kind of omelette).
Henna or Mehndi
And the famous natural reddish tint It is known as Henna It also receives other names, among them: henna, mendhi y arjena.
The most common use of this dye is for coloring the skin, a technique known as mehandi. It is a dye in common use 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 by which these paintings on the skin have become popular internationally, traditionally a dry leaf and the petiole of the henna plant are used or Lawson inermis, hence one of the previously mentioned names.
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 tint the Palms of the hands of women, although, however, over time its use has spread among men and to other areas of the body, such as hair or nails.
Like weddings or diyas, the custom of inking hands is a symbolic representation of the Vedic tradition, according to which this drawing is an external reflection of the Sun that the individual houses inside, thus making this internal light light up.
Hygiene and personal hygiene
The Indians are one of the cleanest peoples on the planet. Although this statement may seem incoherent to many Westerners used to seeing images of Indian streets littered with garbage, the explanation is as follows: for Hindus, personal and home hygiene is one thing, and public spaces quite another. .
Once again, the different hygiene and cleaning rituals present in the homes of the Hindus is due to the fact that personal hygiene is associated with the notion of purity. Thus, according to the steps to follow within 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 pot full of water to relieve themselves as there are no bathrooms. When they finish this act, they wash 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 tree branch was used that falls apart when rubbed against the teeth. 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.
Hinduism is one of the oldest religions on the planet according to the different writings found, dating from approximately 1400 to 1500 BC. 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 is intermingled with Buddhism, so that the faithful of this tendency consider themselves 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 polytheistic and monotheistic. There are thousands of gods belonging to the Hindu pantheon.
In its vedanta side, 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 its 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:
- Sattvic feeding
Other traditions such as the ritual followed during weddings or spirituality are also due to Hinduism.
Joli, better known as Holi Festival By its name 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 festival of love. The fame of this festival has crossed borders and today it is 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, who caused Joliká to die burned by flames, all of them characters of the hindu mythology.
For this reason, the night before the Holi celebration it is customary to make a bonfire in the front of the Jagdish Temple (Udaipur), as a representation of the triumph of good over evil.
For its part, during the Holi they are launched colored gulal powder (colored pigments) in commemoration of Radha's divine love 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.
As we have mentioned before, India is a multicultural and multiethnic country. For this reason, it is not surprising that they have recognized up to 30 official languages and there are some 2.000 languages without official recognition.
According to the Constitution of India, the official languages of the national government are the Hindi and English. However, English ceased to function as a government language after 1965, as did Hindi, although unofficially both languages are highly influential for both government and business communication.
Likewise, in Goa the use of the Portuguese. He Sanskrit, for its part, is a classical language spoken today by only 200.000 speakers.
The table below lists the 19 most widely spoken languages out of these 30 and the region in which each is spoken:
|Bengali||West Bengal and Tripura|
|dogri||Kashmir and Jammu|
|Gujaratí||Gujarat, Damán and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli|
|Hindi||Bijar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Delhi, Jariana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh|
|Malayalam||Lakshadweep and Kerala|
|Tamil||Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry|
|urdu||Kashmir and Jammu|
Within the literature of India, the ramaian and Mahabharata they are the two most popular epics at the same time as ancient. Over the years, different versions and adaptations of these works have been written and spread throughout Southeast Asia, in countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia.
Particularly noteworthy is the Ramaiana, an epic that greatly influenced the definition of the Hindu lifestyle, especially in establishing the role of the dharma, which literally means correct godly conduct and that has been applied as a basic principle within Indian culture.
The Ramaiana, too Valkimi Ramayana, 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.
Christmas, although it is really a custom from the Christian religion, today it is celebrated almost in any corner of the world, where it has transcended more as a custom than as a mere religious tradition. In India, Christmas is celebrated in style and, over time, other more typical traditions 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 are talking about Papai Noel or Santa Claus. As in any other country, Indian children make their wishes and await gifts from the beloved white-bearded lord who travels the world every December 24th.
However, to this international symbol are added others more typical of Indian culture, such as Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, who is paid homage during the evening of December 24; and Ganesha, the well-known elephant-headed deity considered as an amulet of good luck and prosperity.
Another custom of Christmas in India is to welcome the arrival of this holiday with large parades through the streets, in which its assistants dress up, especially children.
As for gifts, they are considered a sign of abundance and a way to attract positive energy. Therefore, it is customary for everyone to receive and give at least one gift. On a culinary level, the traditional sweet on Christmas Day (December 25) is the dried fruit bread.
Ritual of children in the air
One of the rarest customs in India is the one that represents the ritual known as air children 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 go back to about 500-800 years ago. This celebration was actually brought to India by the Arabs and is still held today in the Maruti temple, located in the state of Karnataka, south of India.
The children's fall takes place on a white elastic cloth stretched out in the 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 God's blessing.
The greeting originating in India is known as Namaste and is used in various Buddhist traditions and Asian cultures. The Námaste is used both to say Hello as goodbye, as well as to give thanks, show respect towards the interlocutor and even to pray.
This expression is accompanied by a slight bow of the head and the palms of the hands open and pressed together at the level of the chest, more or less below the chin, similar to the typical position for prayer. The greeting has come to be called that way because, to this gesture, the word accompanies you named.
The etymology of this term comes from the Sanskrit language and is formed by namas-, Meaning reverence o worship, and -tealiterally to you. So, you named means I revere you.
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 gassho.
The sari, also called saree o Shari, is the dress used by the women of the Indian subcontinent. Is a suit made of silk that wraps around the body like a dress and can be of different colors. The term sari comes from the Hindi language and simply means dress.
The fabric is typically 4,5 to 8,2 m long and 1 to 1,2 m wide. It is placed around the waist and one end is rolled over the shoulder, so that the stomach is exposed. The top part is called choli and the lower skirt is known as lehenga.
The origin of this garment dates back to the years 1800 and 2800 BC, a period in which the Indus Valley Civilization in the western part of the Indian subcontinent, when a priest wearing a kind of robe was depicted for the first time. Therefore, the sari is considered a unisex garment.
There are numerous types of saree that differ from each other basically by the decoration of their fabric. Thus, the most used are banarsis, which stand out for their delicacy, how fine the silk is and the design inspired by Mughal art, making it the quintessential garment on special occasions (eg weddings).
A sadhu or 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 the behavior called Sadhana. Sadhus practice this behavior daily in order to correct their mind and exercise their body to reach infinity within.
El Sadhana It is the fourth phase within the stages of life established by Hinduism 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, sadhus live within society, while trying to ignore it.
Every sadhu imitates the life of Shiva, a mythological being of the Hindu tradition considered the main of all ascetics. The typical dress of these monks is saffron to symbolize that they have received the blessing of the fertile blood of Parvati, Shiva's partner.
Odissi, the classical dance of India
The performing arts have always been one of the basic pillars within the culture of India.
The art of dance o Nâtya-shâstra and the mirror of the gesture or abhinaia-darpana are two texts originally written in Sanskrit that have been preserved to this day since they were written approximately between 200 BC and 300 AD Dance for Indian culture is a deliberate art, that is, no element is the result of chance, but that seeks to convey ideas.
According to Nâtya-shâstra, there are nine dance styles:
- bharatha natyam
Obviously, each of these styles has a characteristic costume. In addition, the dances are a narrative representation of the elements of Hindu mythology. According to the Indian actress Ragini Dwivedi, the art of dance in India is regarded as a expression of inner beauty and the divinity of the human being.
Like the rest of the customs mentioned above, the traditional jewelery of Indian women is as varied as it is striking and is characterized by its designs, made for almost any part of the body.
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 outfit of the Indian woman. On the head, the ornament worn in the middle of the hair and ending on the forehead is called Ma'an Tikka.
This jewel was used exclusively for weddings, but today it is used in other contexts such as festivals. For its part, the famous ring or nose piercing is called What?. The earrings or earrings are called jhumka and they are used by both men and women since ancient times, when animal bones or pieces of wood were used.
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