Culture of India

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.

Naga Sadhu Culture of India
Naga Sadhu: India's holy men

Food of India

Curry is probably the most popular Indian cuisine in the west. But its connoisseurs mostly live in the south. Curry is not as special for Indians from other parts of the country, as it is to the people in the south. A Punjabi, who loves their chapattis and a dish made from spinach, often cringes at the sight of dhokla, which is another popular dish in the south specially Gujarat. The cuisine of the omnivorous people in the north east is yet to spread to the rest of the country. The Bengalis love fish and rice, but Gujaratis prefer to stay mainly vegetarian. In Bihar, people are particularly fond of a dish called “litti chokha” stuffed with “sattu” (roasted gram flour). The South Indian “masala dosa” is cherished all over India. The point I want to emphasize is that there is no uniform Indian cuisine; there is much variety to be found here.

Here’s a list of the most popular chicken dishes of India.

The top 10 foods to try when in India

Traditional chicken curry
Traditional chicken curry

Indian Cinema

Nothing mirrors a society better than its literature or cinema. It may seem to foreigners that Indian cinema is all about Bollywood and Bollywood is all about Hindi films. Nothing could be far from truth. Of the more than 1,200 films annually produced in India, a little over 200 are in Hindi. Tamil, which also accounts for around 200 films a year, gives a tough competition to Hindi cinema. There is vibrant culture of cinema in other Indian languages too. And it’s not only about Indian languages. Each year, several dozen movies come out in English.

Indians love movies, a source of popular entertainment. They love to go out with their friends or family and could easily watch a Hindi movie for 3 hours. Life in India would be quite boring without these the colourful movies.

Here’s a Bollywood “item song”

Festivals of India

India is often dubbed as the land of festivals. Rarely there is a week when there isn’t a festival to celebrate. With the exception of a Diwali and a couple of others, India doesn’t even have national festivals. Onam is a popular festival in Kerala, very few people in the north are even aware of it. Similarly, Chhath puja is celebrated by only a few outside Bihar. My grandparents are ardent Chhath enthusiasts and every year, it’s an occasion where the whole family from all over India would gather.

Ganesh Chaturthi, another popular festival, has yet to cross Maharastra’s borders. Gurupurabs are a public holiday in Punjab, rarely a person from West Bengal is even aware of their existence.

The Durga Puja (the nine day worship of goddess Durga) is one of my favourites  It is a festival of good versus evil. In Bihar my home state, we celebrate this festival with great devotion and enthusiasm.

Culture of India
Me taking part in the Durga Puja celebrations with family and friends. Can you spot me in the picture?

Clothes of India

The clothing in India varies from region to region depending on climate and ethnicity. Both South and North Indian women wear the saree that is draped around the body in various formats. The salwar kameez is also very popular in India especially in Northern India. In general unmarried girls wear the salwar kameez while married women wear the saree. However today, the distinctions are less and no such format exists these days. The traditional clothes of men include the kurta pajama, the dhoti, sherwani (mostly worn during weddings and formal occasions, lungi (mostly worn at home), and sarong.

How to wear the sareeWhat do Indians wear

National symbols of India

The national anthem of India is the “Jana-gana-mana” composed by poet Rabindranath Tagore. More than 60 years of Independence from the British, we Indians still take pride in singing the national anthem.

The national animal of India is none other than the king of the jungle, the tiger. Ever since the launch of the “Project Tiger” in 1973 by the government of India, tiger population has showed a gradual increase in numbers. Currently there is a ban on tiger tourism in major tiger habitats. More about the wildlife in India.

The national bird of India is the peacock. The peacock has religious significance and supposed to represent grace, joy, beauty and love. The lotus is the national flower, mango the national fruit, while the banyan tree is the national tree.

The culture of India is more than 3000 years old that has enumerated from several civilizations, religions, philosophies, invasions and influence. To conclude, the culture of India is a broad term which doesn’t refer to some Indian way of doing things or looking at the world. As shown above, it’s a sum total of the numerous cultures that are found in this part of the world.

Indian Culture by Ami Vitale as captured by her journeys as a photojournalist

Places to visit in India

Back to Shalu’s guide to India homepage

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91 thoughts on “Culture of India”

  1. India must be one of the top countries, if not the number one country, that has a rich culture dating back to several thousand years back. Thanks for the detailed article.

  2. Michael, Indian culture is a lot of about food as well, curies being one of them. If you like curry a lot then you are partly Indian lol. I have yet to ride a camel. I will try that one day.

  3. Really love to read about Indian culture, However we Indians are more curious to know about western culture. This is certainly not good and we should take fruitful steps to preserve our culture and excite people to know about our own culture.

  4. India has always been one of those life time destination. I have always been so fascinated about indian culture, food and religion. Unfortunately i haven’t been able to visit India yet but i hope in a near future. Reading your post was like traveling a little bit there! thanks!

  5. So true, Indian culture changes village from village, it’s a writer’s and a photographer’s paradise! I found many vegetarians in the North too, both in Rajasthan and in Uttarakhand, since I don’t eat meat it was super easy for me living in India 🙂

    • Angela, agreed. Culture in India do vary from village to village. Meat consumption is one thing that varies from family to family. Thank you for commenting and hope to see you again. Best wishes.

  6. Eileen, Native indian lifestyle is a lot of about meals as well, curies being one of them. If you like curry a lot then you are partially Native indian lol.

  7. I have been interested in the culture and foods in India for some time. Hopefully I will visit some day soon. I enjoyed reading your introduction to India, nice article.

  8. Thanks for putting the many facets of your interesting culture in one place 🙂 I’ve always been fascinated with your country and I can’t wait to visit!

  9. Whenever the subject is “culture” of India, the first things that come to mind are: curry, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Indian clothing, Bollywood and many more. Glad to know about the festivals celebrated in India. Thanks for sharing, Shalu!

  10. I knew little of Indian culture mungkian because some saw movies india. India pick a very good culture and preservation of the culture of India to date is maintained. I was fortunate to come to this website because I gained knowledge about the culture of India.

  11. Curry! Not a big fan of heavily spiced food but India, like Thailand and Philippines ranks the first three countries on my list for a jest-setter experience of gourmet cultural cuisine

  12. Welcome to India, it’s one of the world’s well-preserved and most breath-taking cultures. I love the country, I’ve been there on my second honeymoon and the Taj Mahal is majestic by the way!

  13. When I was in my lunchbox days, I always choose India as my country of origin for our UN Day. I love the culture, and I’m also a sucker for their colorful and bright saris and sarongs.

  14. About time I read about your article. I’ve booked a trip to India for the coming holidays in December, it’s never too expensive to experience another culture, something as rich and as beautiful as that of India

  15. Shalu, the image of the chicken curry is very enticing, wow 🙂 Riding a camel is a full body exercise, at least that is what people who have experienced such rides say.

    I and my family were on vacation in Jaipur a few years back, but I could not garner the courage to ride the camel. But my hubby and twin kids did enjoy it very much!

  16. I’ve known India for their best traditional custom dress, and exotic and various type of species! Also like to watch their Hindi movies.

    Can you share more about where to find Indian’s famous species?

    Thanks for posting! Wanna keep up to date.

  17. Indian culture is the best culture in all over the world. India is the place where people of each and every religion celebrate their festivals together which can only be seen in India. India is the land of unity, brotherhood which make our country proud. I am Indian and I feel very proud.

  18. One of the best Indian site I have ever visited. I would like to appreciate your way of writing & most of all the topic you have selected like Indian Culture, Indian clothes, places and all about India. My friends talks a lot about Indian culture, so I think I should inform them about

  19. Thanks for the informative article on India. Really appreciate your hard work, you have covered all the topics that people would be interested to know.

  20. World knows India is torch bearer in religion, and only spiritual religion.I’ve no words to mention the faith and firm conviction towards god what i have visited in Hardware, Varanasi,Allahabad,vaishnavdevi and many more.

  21. Thanks for the informative article on India. Really appreciate your hard work, you have covered all the topics that people would be interested to know.

    I recommend you to cover a documentary of how the kaasi evolved

  22. Ms. Shalu Sharma you write great brief article about true culture of our beloved god blessed with many beautiful colors country no doubt it’s good but you have update some your content like embed youtube video Me taking part in the Durga Puja celebrations with family and friends photo because I could see the error there.

  23. i love indian culture ever. if you love indina movie, please dont forget to visite my site about hate story 3 up coming movie.

  24. Proud to be an Indian. Really appreciated your work for putting down the culture of India, festivals, indian foods and more. Thanks a lot

  25. Hi, I am Sudipta founder of Share Of Heart. A passionate blogger just start my journey. Presently share on various topics on Indian Culture , Human Life, Leadership etc.

    My interest are on Indian Culture, Festival, Folks .

    During visit in your blog it’s give me immense pleasure and experience on a great presentation in your blog which interns inspired me a lot.

    Thanks ..!!

  26. Hello dear .You put really very helpful information.
    It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be a lot more useful than ever before.

  27. India is most reach country with culture, heritage values and different festivals. Whenever I think for holiday break India vacation is my first preference always. this blog is really good to understand India.

  28. the best thing about India is food, i visited many countries and always found Indian food some how specially snacks from mumbai, i might try to visit next year and main reason will be food, Thanks for great information

  29. India is the only country in the World, where have have multiple languages, distinct variety of food, explicit festivals and a diverse culture. This article is extraordinarily informative.

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