India is one of the five oldest civilisations in the world and home to more than two thousand ethnic groups. Its colourful cultures have greatly influenced the world with their ideas and lifestyles.
Most meetings generally begin with both palms pressed together at chest level while saying “Namaste” or the formal “Namaskar”.
A simple handshake is a common greeting for both genders, but it is best to wait for the women initiate the first contact as many women will avoid contact with men in public situations.
Hugs and kisses as a form of greeting should be avoided. More importantly, men and women should not display any physical affection, especially in public areas.
While India has numerous cultures and traditions, respect is crucial in the life of the average citizen.
Always remove shoes when visiting homes, temples as well as certain shops and businesses. The famous Indian head wobble can mean ‘yes’, but it generally depends on the expression and speed of the movement. It is often best to wait for the other party to respond.
Avoid touching people, moving objects with your shoes, or eating with your left hand as this is considered both rude and unclean.
Centuries of antiquity has led to the country developing different subcultures that were influenced by geography and cultural heritage. It was once dominated by Persia, ruled by the Achaemenid Empire, captured by the Islamic Sultanate, and subjugated by foreign powers including the Portuguese, the French as well as the British.
This led to the development of Indian philosophy, literature, architecture administration and writing system.
Birthplace of Religions
India was the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, which are usually referred to as Indian or sometimes Dharmic religions.
The country is considered home to one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse nations in the world. Religion plays a central role in many life aspects of its people. Based on the 2011 CIA World Factbook, major faiths in the country consisted of 79.8% Hindus, 14.2% Muslims, 2.3% Christians, 1.7% Sikhs and 2% is unspecified.
In terms of ethnicity, Indians identify themselves as 72% Indo-Aryan, 25% Dravidian, and 3% as Mongoloid and others.
Being a multicultural, multiethnic and multireligious society, India celebrates holidays and festivals of various religions.
The festival of light, Diwali or Deepavali is a major festival in the country with homes, temples and public buildings being decorated with candles and lamps. Other celebrations include the colourful festival of Holi, the fiery effigies of Dussehra, the lively dance performances of Navratri and the beautiful Janmashtami.
This article is part of a series highlighting the unique cultures featured in the recently concluded Limkokwing International Cultural Festival 2017.