Indian Culture and traditions are something which has now become renowned all across the world. We all refer to India and its culture as something very diverse and unique. But seldom do we give a thought to why things are done in certain specific ways. Indian Culture is full of several unique customs and traditions, which outsiders might find really intriguing. Most of these originate from the Ancient Indian scriptures and texts, which have dictated the way of life in India for thousands of years.
1. The Namaste
The namaste is one of the most popular Indian customs and isn’t really just restricted to the Indian territory anymore. You have Barack Obama, who has been seen doing it on various occasions, or you had Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, greeting everyone with a namaste at the Times’ Square in New York on the first International Yoga Day. But, what’s the significance? The Namaste, or ‘namaskar’, or ‘namaskaara’ is one of the five forms of traditional greetings mentioned in the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedas. It literally translates to “I bow to you”, and greeting one another with it is a way of saying “May our minds meet”, indicated by the folded palms placed before the chest. The word ‘namaha’ can also be translated as ‘na ma’ (not mine), to signify the reductions of one’s ego in the presence of the other.
2. The Science Behind Temples
Most temples are located along magnetic wave lines of the earth, which help in maximizing the available positive energy. The copper plate (called Garbhagriha or Moolasthan) buried under the main idol absorbs and resonates this energy to its surroundings. Going to the temple often, helps in having a positive mind and garnering positive energies, which in turn lead to healthier functioning.
It is also a practice to take off footwear before entering places of worship because they would bring in dirt to an otherwise cleansed and sanctified environment.
3. Religious Symbols
The Indian traditions and scriptures contain various signs and symbols which have various meanings. For example, the usage of the Swastika, in the Indian context, does not point towards Adolf Hitler or Nazism. It actually is the symbol of Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. The arms of the Swastika have various meanings. They signify the four Vedas, the four constellations, or the four basic aims of human pursuit.
3. Atithi Devo Bhavah
In India, the saying “Atithi Devo Bhavah” is also integral. It means “the guest is equivalent to god”. It is a Sanskrit verse taken from the Hindu scriptures which later became a part of the “Code of conduct” for Hindu society, since the guest has always been of supreme importance in the culture.
4. Always a Festive Season
India also sees a large number of festivals, mainly because of the prevalence of diverse religions and groups. The Muslims celebrate Eid, the Christians have Christmas, good Friday and so on, the Sikhs have Baisakhi (harvesting of crop), and the birthdays of their Gurus, and the Hindus have Diwali, Holi, Makar Sakranti, the Jains have Mahavir Jayanti, the Buddhists celebrate the Buddha’s birthday on Buddha Poornima, and quite honestly, the number is endless. All of these translate to holidays in our book, of course.
5. Joint Families
Also, in India, there exists the concept of a joint family, wherein the entire family (parents, wife, children and in some cases relatives) all live together. This is mostly because of the cohesive nature of the Indian society, and also reportedly helps in handling pressure and stress.
6. Indian Ethnic Wear
Indian women are often seen sporting ‘saris’. The sari is a single cloth and needs no stitching, it is easy to make and comfortable to wear, and also adheres to religious etiquette. It initially started out as a Hindu tradition, but has very elegantly spread across all religions. The same applies to the more functional ‘Kurta-Pyjama’, and the ceremonial wear of ‘Sherwani’ for Indian men of all religions.
There exist thousands of traditions in India, and quite a few of them would leave outsiders rather curious. But the crux of Indian society and tradition has always been to be well mannered, polite, respect others, and progress together.