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I is for India: 26 Fun Cultural Facts about India, from A to Z!

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

India has a diverse mix of peoples, climates, scenery, religions, and cultural influences, and a visit to this fascinating country can be inspiring, moving and, with a population of 1.1 billion, it can also be overwhelming.

India’s intermingling of its diverse culture and religion formulates its uniqueness and charming soul. The country is the epicenter of many of the world’s religions, and Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism all call India their birthplace.

Understanding India's culture, from A to Z

To help better understand this fascinating country, its people and culture, Global Family Travels has put compiled some fun cultural facts about India, from A to Z! Having some of this knowledge will help you reap the greatest rewards when on a journey to Mother India.

A is for Aarti: Aarti is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of puja. This ceremony includes fire, songs sung in praise of the worshiped, flowers, incense, music, etc. The purpose of aarti is to show humility and gratitude to God’s divine form. (Image: Aarti being performed in Varanasi, taken during our Mystical Mamas 2014 tour)

Aarti being performed in Varanasi

B is for Bindi: A bindi is a colored dot worn on the center of the forehead, commonly by Hindu and Jain women as a way to show they’re spoken for in marriage. The word comes from the Sanskrit word 'bindu' and is associated with a person’s mystical third eye. From Vedic times (5,000 years ago), it was used to worship the intellect of both men and women to ensure that thoughts, speech, and action became pure. (Learn more from this blog: Bindis: Their History and Meaning)

C is for Chai and Chapati! Often times eaten together, Chai is one of the oldest drinks in India and Chapati is the most commonly eaten bread in Northern India.

Before the British came to India and established tea plantations, chai was a healing concoction made of herbs and spices. In fact, masala chai is a hybrid of Indian and British tradition. One story goes that chai was developed by accident when a Buddhist monk on his way to China, observed the local ritual of chewing a few wild leaves and tried it himself. Feeling revitalized, he decided to bring it back to India with him.

The Chapati (or roti, which means “bread” in Sanskrit) is the traditional Indian bread. Its inherits its flat and round shape to its name, chapati, meaning “flat” in Hindi. It is prepared without any yeast, only with flour and water and it often used as a utensil to scoop the Indian food that accompanies it.

D is for Diwali, the Festival of Lights, which marks the Hindu New Year and encompasses a five-day celebration of life and the victories of good over evil. Learn all about Diwali in our blog: Diwali in India: The Festival of Lights and How it is Celebrated.

E is for Elephant! India is home to between 50 and 60% of all of Asia’s wild elephants and about 20% of the domesticated elephants. As such, the country is of paramount importance for the survival of the species. The elephant plays a central role in Indian life and has done for many centuries. Elephants are closely associated with religious and cultural heritage, playing an important role in the country’s history. They remain revered today. (Learn more when you get to "G"!)

The growing human population in India threatens the elephant’s habitat, including illegal encroachment into protected areas and forest clearing for food production and building roads. India has some of the strictest elephant legislation in Asia, which should provide adequate protection for the country’s 3,600 domesticated elephants. Learn more about the Indian Elephant and what the World Wildlife Fund is doing and how you can help.

F is for Family! Family bonds are very strong in India. In villages, multiple generations live under the same roof, and even bigger cities this happens. In Hinduism, the family is more important than the individual and the individual is nothing unless he or she is part of a family.

Marriage in India is considered not only necessary for the formation of a family but also for looking after dead family members in the other world. In fact, "grihastha," (in Sanskrit it means being in the household), is one of the stages of life through which every Hindu is expected to pass and refers to the second phase of an individual's life in a four age-based stages of the Hindu ashram system. Learn more about families in India here.

G is for Ganesh and Gandhi! (we needed to mention both of these important figures in Indian culture and history!)

Ganesh is the elephant-headed god of wisdom and learning, as well as the remover of obstacles, and consequently the sign of auspiciousness. In India, it is customary to begin cultural events calling on Ganesh.

Through non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. If you have a chance to travel to India, visit the National Gandhi Museum in Delhi (or Mumbai). And for more inspiration, visit: 10 Life Changing Tips Inspired By Gandhi.

H is for Hinduism: About 80% of the Indian population regard themselves as Hindu. Hinduism is one of the oldest known religions, originating around 1500 B.C in the Indus Valley (now modern day Pakistan), when a central Asian people called the Aryans invaded and conquered India. The Aryan culture gradually combined with the culture of a native people known as the Dravidians, and Hinduism developed from a blend of the two cultures.