India and the tourist

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Information for the visitors to India


Some Common Indian Customs & Traditions

"When you judge my religion you take it that yours is perfect and mine wrong; and when you criticise the society of India you suppose it to be uncultured just so far as it does not conform to your standard. That is nonsense."
(Boston Herald, May 15, 1894, reporting a lecture by Swami Vivekananda)
- It still applies today.

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Social Conventions
India is a land of often bewildering diversity. It is a jigsaw puzzle of people of every faith and religion, living together to create a unique and colourful mosaic. Different parts of India follow different customs. Generally the big cities are more liberal and cosmopolitan. But as one travels inward one comes across customs preserved through history. The philosophy of life is very different from that of the West. Indians are hospitable people. Here are a few tips for day-to-day life:
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Aarti - act of veneration and love
Aarti is performed as an act of veneration and love. It is often performed as a mark of worship and to seek blessings from God, to welcome the guests, for children on their birthdays, family members on auspicious occasions or to welcome a newly wedded couple.

The purpose of performing aarti is to ward off evil effects and malefic influence of the evil eye. For performing aarti, five small lamps called Niranjanas are filled with oil or clarified butter (ghee) and arranged in a small metallic tray. A cotton wool wick is placed in the lamps. A conch-shell filled with water, auspicious leaves or flowers, incense or lighted camphor are also placed on the tray.

The lamps are lit and the tray is rotated in a circular motion in front of the deity or the person to be welcomed.
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Bindi
A bindi is an auspicious mark worn by young girls and women. It is usually a red dot made with Vermillion powder which is worn by the women between their eyebrows on their forehead. Traditionally a symbol of marriage, it has become decorative and is worn today by unmarried girls and women as well. 
No longer restricted to colour or shape, bindis are seen in many bright colours and in different shapes and designs. They are also made of coloured felt and embellished with coloured glass or glitter.
Fixed Price

Today cash.
Tomorrow on Credit.
Bargaining
Fixed price is charged in recognised shops, government emporiums and department stores. In all other places especially in bazaars, rickshaws and taxis, bargain for a lesser price. It is a fairly common practice.
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Dress code
In India women are expected to dress modestly.

Short skirts and tight or revealing clothes should not be worn, even on beaches, unless it is meant for swimming.
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Dress Code
Business people are not expected to dress formally except for meetings and social functions.
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Eating with the hands
In India it is usual to eat with the hand. It is essential that only the right hand is used for eating. The left hand is considered "not clean". It is no offence to ask for fork and spoon. Knives are generally not used.
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Entering a house with shoes
In some families it is customary to remove the shoes before entering a house. Because of strict religious and social customs visitors must show particular respect when visiting someone's home.
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Entering places of worship
All visitors are asked to remove footwear when entering places of religious worship. Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) will also require the visitor to cover the head. Dress properly to visit the places of worship be it a temple, gurudwara or a mosque. Avoid using shorts and sleeveless tops.
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Flower Garlands
Flower garlands are generally offered as a mark of respect and honour. They are offered to welcome the visitors or in honour to the Gods and Goddesses. The garlands are generally made with white jasmine and orange marigold flowers. They are weaved in thread tied in the end with a knot.
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Food habits
In India cow is worshipped by some section of the people and beef is not a common item of the menu. Many Hindus are vegetarian. In South India vegetarian dishes are served more often than non-vegetarian dishes. Most Indians donít drink alcohol and it is not an item at the dinner table. But it is served in some families in the cities and big towns. Generally women donít drink alcohol.

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