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India is one of the countries with most diverse peoples that represent over two thousand ethnic groups. High levels of interaction, however, have led to assimilation of some of the communities, as well as high levels of cultural exchange. This has created the Indian culture. The ethnic composition of the Indian people can be classified into six distinct categories. This includes the Brachycephalic peoples who are dark skinned and are broad-headed. They include ethnic communities such as Irulas, Paniyans, Kodars, and Kurumbas that are mainly found in the mainland and usually live in the mountains.
The country also has Austrics, whose physical appearance is characterized by wavy hair, prominent eye ridges,thick jaws and flat noses. They are also dark-skinned and are mainly found in Eastern India. The country is also host to a large number of Mongoloids whose most outstanding features are their yellow complexion, height that is below medium, and sparse hair. Dravidians, who bear striking physical similarity with people of Asia Minor inhabit South India. The country is also home to Indo-Aryans who resemble Western- Europeans and mainly inhabit northern India.
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Religions and Beliefs
Most Indians profess to the four Indian religions/ Dharmic religions. These are religions that trace their origin to the country. They are Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. However, the diversity of the Indian religious affiliation cannot be underscored as the country is home to at least 26 religions, each with over a million followers. At the same time, Hinduism is the main religion with over 80% of Indians professing to the faith. It is the faith that is most definitive of the Indian culture. Other major non-Dharmic religions include Christianity, the Bahá'í Faith, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. Despite the religious diversity and the high regard in which Indians, especially Hindus, hold their religion, the level of religious tolerance is commendable with many people respecting others’ choices over religion and beliefs.
The Indian caste system which originates from the Hindu religion is a social stratification system that includes social restrictions that is widespread in rural India and by a little extent in the urban areas. In this system, the social classes are defined byendogamous groups that are hereditary. They arereferred to as castes. Within a cate, there are exogamous groups called gotras, the individual’s clans. The caste system has four castes and several outcasted social groups. The society, therefore, usually measures one’s social class not by their achievement but by the nobility of their birth.
Hindu, the chief religion involves various ceremonies and festivals such as bathing in Ganges, the holy river to gain blessing. The most notable festival in the Indian culture is Diwali whose most striking features is magnificent fireworks that are launched. The religion also specifies that various animals such as cows, monkeys and snakes should be given special respect. In addition, the religion stipulates that bodies of the dead should be cremated. In case the diseased is a parent, the cremation fire is lit by the eldest son.
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The languages in India are as diverse as are the ethnic communities. The official languages are Hindi and English with Angika, Bengali, Beary bashe , Bodo, Bhojpuri, Dogri, Chhattisgarhi, Garo Gujarati, Standard Hindi, Khasi, Kannada, Kokborok, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Magahi, Manipuri, Maithili, Mizo, Marathi, Sindhi, Oriya, Nepali, Rajastani, Punjabi , Santali, Tulu, Tamil, Sanskrit, Urdu and Telugu, ,being the recognized regional languages. This regional languages are widely spoken.
The Role of the Family
The family is one of the most vital societal units in India. Most Indians continue with the age-long tradition of a joint family system. In this system, extended family members live together. It is a practice that enables the family to be closely knit and to be a unit that provides one with a sense of belonging. Although urbanization and economic challenges are leading to breakage of this practice, it remains widely in place in the rural areas. The break-up of this practice has however had little effect on the importance placed on the extended family. Arranged marriages are still practiced with the parents or other senior family members making the arrangements. In some cases, the bride and the groom meet on the wedding day. This practice is however waning due to modernization. Dowry is an important factor in the Indian marriages where the bride’s family present to the groom’s family presents that help bind the marriage. The importance of the marriage institution is evident from the fact that the rate of divorce, though provided for by tradition, is very low and ranges between 1-2 per cent the fact that the marriages are planned notwithstanding.
Etiquette and Customs
Etiquette in the Indian society is highly valued. It is considered improper to fail to salute people once you meet them especially in the rural areas where the population is lower. The common salutation is Namaste or namaskar. The greeting is uttered with the hands folded in front of the one making the salutation and usually with a wide smile. The greeting literally means “I bow to you” and in some southern sub-cultures is accompanied by bowing. The greeting is a sign of deep respect. Young men and women usually bow to the elders to seek their blessing.
Dining in India is mostly a family affair in which all family members converge. Use of cutlery in dining is limited. The diners usually drink water after the meal and pick their teeth with short, sharp wooden splints.
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Indian cuisines varies from one place to another. The cuisine differs and includes salads and sauces. Some communities are fully vegetarian, while others take meat. Most spice up their food. Food types vary with variation in demographics. However, there are several foods that stand out. The Naan bread and Kheer, a sweet dish, are some of the most widespread cuisines. Rice is a staple diet in many regions in India. The Indians have a greet liking for extremely sweet desserts and hot spicy foods. Most Indians are vegetarians and consume great amounts of Asian vegetables such as eggplants and radishes. However, the minority who take meat have different complex recipes of preparing chicken, lamb, goat, fish, and other kinds of meat. These meat foods are most common in Bengal.
Culture is one of the most important aspects of the human nature that defines and marks the difference between one society and another. India is marked by a rich culture that differs widely from other cultures in the world and more so, the Western culture. This culture however, is a composite of many differing cultures. It is the culture that defines this interesting country. Its cultural heritage is always interesting to a new learner of the same. Despite rapid modernization, the country retains the cultural heritage that makes India what it is to the rest of the globe.
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