India has the second-highest population in the world after China. Of Indiaʼs 1.3 million inhabitants, more than 80% are of the Hindu faith. It is therefore not surprising that this religion has exerted a great deal of influence on the culture of India as it is today. In this article, you can read more about some Hindu rituals and other customs in India. Remember to apply for an Indian visa for your trip to India.
India has a wide variety of religions, cultures and population groups. Hinduism (83%), Sikhism (2%) and Buddhism (1%) all have their origins in India. The country is also home to Muslims (11%) and Christians (2%). Hindus form by far the largest part of the population, and Hinduism has a great influence on the customs and traditions of the country.
Many languages and dialects are spoken in India. Officially, the Indian Constitution recognises 22 languages, but in addition to these recognised languages, about 390 other languages are spoken. Most people (40% of the population) speak Hindi. Hindi is the only official language of India, but English also plays an important role, as it is used for communication with countries that do not have Hindi as an official language.
The way people dress in India often reveals the ethnic group to which they belong. For example, the fabric used and the embroidery often indicate whether someone is rich or poor.
Many people are familiar with the sari, a well-known Indian garment consisting of a piece of cloth that is wrapped around the women in the traditional way. Depending on the occasion, a sari can be made of cotton or silk. The men in India generally wear a kurta made of khadi fabric. Khadi is a hand-spun fabric woven with a spinning wheel from cotton, silk or wool. Indian politicians often wear clothes made of khadi because this fabric has become an important part of Indian culture. The reason is that spinning and weaving have become symbols of the Indian struggle for freedom and independence. Moreover, the fabric has a cooling effect in summer. It is not only used for making kurtas, but also for other garments, such as the dhoti.
Sacred cities, rivers and mountains
There are seven cities in India that are sacred to Hindus (tirthas): Varanasi, Hardwar, Marthura, Ayodhya, Ujjain, Dwarka and Kanchipuram. These cities are visited by a large number of Hindus every year. Hindus believe that the water of the Ganges River is holy, and that they can wash away their sins by bathing in this river. Apart from the Ganges, the Yamuna and Saraswati rivers are also sacred to Hindus, as is Mount Kailash.
Hindu festivals in India
Many festivals are celebrated in India, most of which stem from the Hindu faith. An example is Holi Phagwa, which has great significance for Hindus. The festival is celebrated every year around March to celebrate the victory of good over evil and to usher in both the new year (according to the Hindu calendar) and spring. The festival is named after the twelfth month of the Hindu calendar (Phaalguna), the period in which it takes place. During the festival, it is customary to strew coloured powder.
Another important festival in Hinduism is Divali. It is celebrated in honour of Maha Lakshmi, the goddess of light, and is also known as the Festival of Lights. During this five-day festival, it is traditional to hang up lights in and around the house to celebrate the light in life. In addition, fireworks are set off. The date of this festival varies from year to year, as it is determined on the basis of the Hindu calendar.
The Hindu festivals are a wonderful experience. Would you like to experience one of the festivals yourself? Remember to apply for an Indian visa before you leave.
Cinema, music and dance
India, with the famous Bollywood, is the largest film producer in the world. Bollywood is derived from the American Hollywood and Bombay (nowadays Mumbai), the largest city in India. A central element in Bollywood films is Indian music, for which traditional Indian musical instruments such as the sitar (stringed instrument) and the tabla (percussion) are used.
Dance is the best known form of expression in India, and this is clearly seen in Bollywood films. For the Indian people, dancing is a way of reaching god. Typical of Indian dance forms is that the feet follow the rhythm, while the hands express the text of the song through very precise movements..
The most popular sport in India is cricket, and India performs very well in this sport worldwide. In 2011, the country even became world champion. Polo, badminton and roll ball are sports that originated in India.
India also has a number of traditional sports, such as Kabaddi and Gilli Danda. The rules of these traditional sports often vary from area to area. Kabaddi is a contact sport where two teams of seven compete against each other and the goal is to tap or grab an opponent. Gilli Danda is named after the materials used to practice the sport. In this sport, a danda, a long wooden stick, is used to hit the gilli, a small oval-shaped piece of wood. The sport can be played by many people at the same time (up to 100 players), as long as the number of players is even.
The main ingredients of Indian food are rice and cereals, but apart from that, it is all about creating the perfect combination of flavours through the use of herbs and spices.
The traditional Indian medicine Ayurveda influences the eating habits in the country. According to ayurveda, in terms of nutrition, one should strive to include the six basic tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent) in every dish in order to achieve the ideal balance for a healthy body.
Well-known typical Indian dishes are curry, tikka and thali.
Indian visa application
If, after reading this article, you feel like making a trip to this fascinating country, you can already apply for a visa for India. The Indian visa is valid for one year.
It is important to carefully check the Indian visa requirements before submitting the application, so you know for sure if you qualify for the online visa. The length of time you may stay in India with the visa depends on the type of visa chosen. It is therefore wise to check well before departure which type of Indian visa you need.