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.
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.
Culture of India is a complex phenomenon. In its broadest sense, it includes everything a society does. It can also be limited to a particular social class (working class culture) or genre (literature, music). Still it’s always near to impossible to define what exactly a popular culture constitutes. Contrary to what may appear from outside; to Indians, there is no such thing as Indian culture in sense of a uniform manner of doing something. There is little common between the Punjabi culture with its emphasis on having fun and the Bengali culture with its emphasis on intellectualism. In the south, a person from Kerala finds the food from Andhra too spicy for their tongue. The seven states in the northeast are home to thousands of tribes and regions, each boasting of a rich history and unique culture. So the term ‘culture of India‘ has little meaning, unless it’s used an amalgamation of a score of different cultures within the country. Nonetheless, it is thought that the culture of India stems from its ancient history from the amalgamation of the Aryan nomads that migrated from the Central Asia through Afghanistan and settled in India with the natives of the valley of the Indus River of Dravidian descent.
India has to be one of very few countries in the world where one can legally stand on the street and have a cannabis drink without being arrested. The reality is that, cannabis so ingrained in the culture of India that the authorities are unable to criminalise it fully. Although selling of cannabis is prohibited in India, it’s readily available and no attempts are made to arrest the sellers. In fact, cannabis plants are native to India and are often a nuisance in many Indian gardens and fields across the country.
Bhang (cannabis, marijuana) is made from the buds and leaves of female cannabis plant. Through production and selling of cannabis is illegal in the country, bhang remains legal at some places due to cultural and religious reasons. In my home town of Patna, you’ll fine women selling bhang goli (bhang balls) on the streets at the famous Patna Market.
Hindu holy men have used marijuana for centuries and they believe that it’s the best way to worship and understand Lord Shiva, one of the powerful gods of the Hindu trinity. In addition, according to the Vedas, the cannabis plant was considered as one of the many sacred plants.
The word “Rajputs” translates literally as “sons of kings”.
Among the warrior castes of north western India, Rajputs are famous for their chivalry, gallantry, their zest for life and the pride they take in being associated with their culture, their values and traditions.
Rajputs were once the pride of this vast, limitless desert in the heart of India which stretched as far as the eye could see. There are some elaborate customs associated with Rajputs.
Rituals and customs for every occasion right from the womb to the tomb.
While the birth of a son in the family was celebrated with fanfare and rejoicing, the birth of a girl was frowned upon. So deep ran the bias against the girl child that it was customary among many Rajput plans to kill the newborn girl to death by strangling her, burying her alive or by choking her by stuffing wet mud down her throat.