Yoga is huge in India. You think of an ailment and there is a yoga posture for it. But that does mean that you have to do yoga just because you are ill – you just do it. The main aim of yoga is to become one with God by doing exercises related to the Hindu Samkhya philosophy (one of the six systems of doctrine held by the Hindus You can read more about it in my book – Hinduism Made Easy: Hindu Religion, Philosophy and Concepts). It was in the 1980s that yoga became popular as a system of physical exercises across the Western world. In recent years, yoga has become extremely popular in India thanks to one man called Baba Ramdev. He actually single-handedly made some yoga postures (mentioned below) a household name.
The city of Varanasi or Banaras (or Kashi) as most Indians know it, is one of the holiest cities of India. It is here you will find Hinduism in its raw form. Many foreign tourists visit Banaras in large numbers to seek of spirituality. I have spent large parts of my childhood growing up in Banaras. I have seen tourists come to this place from all over India and the world. Indians come here to bathe in the holy river Ganges while foreign tourists come here to get to know about the Hindu religion. Some foreign tourists come here just to consume marijuana, one of the few places in India where you can drink bhang lassi (shake) on the streets.
If you are in India right now then you are going to see the best fireworks you have ever seen. Every single household in India will be lighting clay lamps and cracking fireworks. Here’s a brief guide to the festival of Diwali.
Diwali (also known as Deepavali) as it is known to the world is the Hindu festival of lights. It is a five day festival but the most important is the day when fireworks are displayed. Generally, it falls between mid October to early November every year. The 2014 Diwali falls on the Thursday 23rd of October. The date is dictated by the Indian lunar calendar. Many a times it coincides with Guy Fawkes Night (5th of November) of Great Britain.
Holi is the festival of colours, one of the most awaited festivals in the country and celebrated by Hindus all over the country. The festival is celebrated with much joy and vigour all across the country especially in North India. Holi is not just a festival; it’s a tradition which dates back millenniums. It’s one of those festivals that brings out the child in everyone.
The colourful festival of Holi spans over two days and marks the beginning of spring. On the first day, known as day of “Holika Dahan”, fire is lit marking the victory of truth over evil. The second day is “Phag”, when the actual Holi is celebrated with vibrant colours and water. The festival bridges gap between people of different communities and age groups and people hug each other while smearing each other’s face with paint.
In the past, I have mentioned numerous reasons to visit India. But it seems as if I have forgotten to mention Diwali. Thanks to the Indian Diaspora, Diwali is being celebrated around the world and people all over the globe are getting to know about this amazing Indian festival. But why not come to India to witness this amazing festival – the place where it all started.
Visiting India will not be complete without visiting an Indian home. If you intend to visit India and planning to visit someone at their home then here are some do’s and don’ts.
If you are a woman then try to dress modestly unless you are going to a rave party in Mumbai. Most Indians are conservative by western standards and they might be offended if they see you in revealing clothes. Why not impress them and wear a salwar kameez. If you really wanted to flatter them then you can wear the saree. Here’s how to wear the saree.
Did you know that cow dung is still used in rural India for cooking? In fact, when I visit my grandparent’s home in the village (Bihar), I still see my relatives using it. If you are thinking that these poor lots are still living in the dark ages, you’ll be surprised how progressive some of these village people are.
In fact, India has produced the best civil servants, doctors and engineers in these very villages. Poor they may be, but the culture of India lies in these very villages. But then, that’s a different story altogether. Let’s talk bull sh*t for the time being.
The Hindu holy man called “sadhu” seen in this picture seems to be smoking a chillum. A chillum is a smoking device invented in India used to smoke cannabis, charas or hashish. Cannabis (often called the bhang or ganja) is illegal in India however the use of this drug is so ingrained in the culture of India that is difficult to ban it completely. You can read more about Bhang here.
This is a ritual that would terrify most mothers. The worshippers at the shrine of Baba Sheikh Umar Saheb Dargah at the “Musti village” in the district of Solapur, in the state of Maharashtra, Western India have been carrying out this tradition to bring good luck and health to the child. If you want to see this ritual, you must visit Solapur, in the state of Maharashtra on the first of May. The tradition is also carried out in other parts of the state where the babies are tossed off the roof of temple roofs. The people of this village have been practising this for about 500 years. In Bijapur, 550 km west of Bangalore, similar practice is carried out where children between 8 months to 5 year olds are thrown from temple tops.
Have you ever wondered why Indian women are shy?
I think they are shy because they are told from a young age not to associate with boys. I hardly talked to boys as I went to Catholic convent school and then all women’s college. However, we aren’t shy with our family members, just other people. The shyness goes away after a while. But not all Indian women are shy, it’s all about family culture and how an Indian girl is brought up.
Did you know that India has a very vibrant Film Industry? It is considered as the biggest film industry in the world. So much so that, India’s film industry has been popularly dubbed as Bollywood. Although the main language in which the movies are produced is Hindi, almost every regional language of India has its own mini film industry catering for their respective areas.
Most of the Hindi films are produced in Mumbai or previously Bombay, the capital of the famous Maharashtra state of India. It is here that most of the movies are made and where most of the studios are situated apart from cities of Chennai and Kolkata.
Namaste is a popular greeting in India, Nepal and countries where Hindu population are in large numbers. Like Arabic ‘Salam Aleikum’ or Spanish ‘Adios’, ‘Namaste’ crosses the boundaries of language and region. Irrespective of your location inside India or Nepal, people will know your intentions are not bad if you join your hands and greet them by saying ‘Namaste‘.