Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Indian traditions

Indian traditions

Griha Pravesh Ceremony

Griha Pravesh ceremony is the first entry into a newly built house. It is one of the important Hindu rituals in India. It even finds an important place in Vaastu Shastra, the astrological book of architecture. According to the book, after the new house is completed in all respects, an auspicious moment is determined on astrological considerations. To start living, the entry into the new house on this auspicious day is termed as the Graha Pravesh ritual.

According to the Holy Scriptures there are three types of Griha Pravesh:

Apoorva: Apoorva means new. It states the first entry to live in a newly constructed house on a newly selected land.

Sapoorva: Sapoorva griha pravesh states the entry to live in an already existing house after traveling abroad or migration elsewhere.

Dwandwah: Dwandwah or old Griha Pravesh states the entry to live in a house after reconstruction or renovation on account of damage by fire, flood waters, electricity, wind etc.

It is laid down in the scriptures that the Graha Pravesh ceremony should take place at an auspicious time i.e. muhurat and defect-less Panchang. For Apoorva Graha Pravesh stick to perfect auspicious time and for Sapoorva and Dwandwah Graha Pravesh, the purity of Panchang should be given priority. As far as possible Graha Pravesh should be performed during the day time as it is considered auspicious. Normally, it can be done at any auspicious moment in the day or night.

According to Vaastu, the first entry into the house should be done only after the doors of a house are fitted with shutters, the roof is covered, the God, Vaastu have been worshipped and offered sacrifices and the priests have been offered feast. Failing to abide by this, one may face troubles and problems in the new house. There are also some specific months for Graha pravesh. These auspicious months give good results and therefore should be followed.
  • Magh month provides gain of wealth
  • Falgun month provides gain of children and wealth
  • Baishakh month provides growth of wealth and prosperity
  • Jeshtha month provides gain of son and cattle.
Besides these, Graha pravesh in the months of Kartik and Margashirsh produce medium results. In the months of Ashadh, Shravan, Bhadrapad, Ashwin Paush, Griha Pravesh is considered inauspicious and should be avoided. Apart from this, the tithies (dates) 4, 9, 4, 30, Amavas (no moon night) and Tuesdays should be avoided for Graha Pravesh. Other than this ceremony, there is another ritual of Graha pravesh that takes place in India that is discussed below.

According to Indian tradition, after marriage the arrival of the new bride at her new or marital home for the first time is also called as the Graha Pravesh. When the bride arrives at her new home, her mother-in-law, welcomes her with the traditional 'Aarti'. This is done in order to ward off any evil influences from her. After this, the bride kicks a vessel filled with rice and coins. This symbolizes the arrival of wealth and prosperity in her marital home.

It is then followed by another ritual wherein the bride puts her right foot onto a tray kept on the entrance of the house. The tray contains vermilion powder mixed with water or milk. She covers her both the feet in the red paste and enters the house bare feet, making footprints on the floor. This symbolizes the arrival of good luck and fortune in the new house. In India, the newly wedded bride is considered as Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Due to this the Graha pravesh of the new bride is a very auspicious ceremony.

Beliefs and Superstitions

No matter which part of the world you tour, you will find the natives nurturing certain beliefs and superstitions and India is no exception in this case. Though the Indian society is fast progressing, there are many people who are still superstitious and have a strong faith in the local beliefs. While some of them are quite hilarious, few others are really interesting, as many aspects of life are linked to them. Few beliefs even find their way into the Indian religious texts and scriptures.

The standard viewpoint is that most of the Indian beliefs and values have sprung with an objective to protect from evil spirits, but some were based on scientific reasoning. With the passage of time, the reasoning part behind the origin of these cultural beliefs and superstitions got eroded. That is exactly why most of these beliefs appear unsubstantiated and false. However, in reality, there are many such beliefs in the Indians culture which are absolutely absurd and have no logic behind them.

Superstitions are deemed as pertinent in India because these, generally, hint at future occurrences and can be either good or bad. Thus, anything from the call of a bird to the falling of utensils is considered an omen in India. Many of the traditional superstitions in India are connected with animals, birds and reptiles. For instance, seeing an elephant when one is leaving for a journey is considered lucky. This is because an elephant represents Lord Ganesha, the Indian God who is the harbinger of good luck and removes obstacles.

Similarly, other auspicious signs could be cawing of a black crow in one's house, as it forecasts the arrival of guests. Seeing a peacock on a journey is also considered lucky, but hearing its shrill sound is bad. Indians feel happy if a sparrow builds a nest in a new house because it signals good fortune. A very old belief is that if you kill a cat, you have to offer one in gold to a priest. This belief or superstition was concocted by the priests to protect the cats, which are useful in killing the rats in people's houses.

Leaving one's home after wedding or for some other important task is a significant occasion. Thus, Indians often consult astrological charts to fix an auspicious time for this. Again, it is considered lucky to see cereals, paddy, cotton, hay or a newly wed before embarking on a journey. In India, you may also come across or hear about people who help in interpreting other's dreams. Even the daily life of Indians is governed by beliefs and superstitions. For example, Monday is not an auspicious day for shaving and Thursday is a bad day for washing one's hair.

Respect for Women

Indian women occupy a very special position in her home and the society. All important decisions pertaining to the home are taken by her, which she puts across to the eldest decision-making member of the family. He/she then invites a meeting or initiates a debate to arrive at a conclusion. Since in India, it is considered the responsibility of the womenfolk to look after home, their advice and decisions are respected and taken very seriously by their kin.

Infact, women have always commanded a position of respect in the Indian society and are treated with full dignity by Indian men. There are evidences that women even participated in the running of the administration in the earlier days. Like Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi, there were also other women rulers, who fought on the battlefield courageously. Even today, there are many noteworthy women administrators in our country.

In present day India, we have the likes of tennis player Sania Mirza, actress Aishwarya Rai, NRI film director Meera Nair, who have made the country proud at the international level. With more and more Indian women achieving great feats these days, the general perception and treatment towards them is slowly changing for the better. All these have led to an enhancement of the social position of the women in India.

Mundan Ceremony

Mundan CeremonyThere are traditional many rituals that surround the birth of child in a typical Indian family. These traditions and rituals aim at blessing the child to have a long fulfilling life. One of these sacred ceremonies is known as Mundan Sanskar or the first haircut of the baby. The mundan ceremony is an important tradition in India and relatives and friends are invited to bless the child. This first haircut of a child in India has an important significance, which is discussed in the following lines.

The child usually receives his/her first mundan in either the first year or the third year of age. A priest is called to conduct the rituals according to the traditions and a barber is called to shave off the hair. The priest recited sacred hymns and chants and shaves a part of the head. The barber then shaves the entire head, sometimes leaving a clump of hair at the back of the head. Some of this hair is offered in the sacred rivers in holy cities like Haridwar and Varanasi. To cool down the head and to cure nicks and cuts, a paste of turmeric and sandalwood is sometimes applied on the entire head. Thereafter, a child may be shaved now and then or never, depending on the desire of that particular family.

There is a significant reason as to why the head is shaved in such an elaborate ritualistic way. According to the Hindu beliefs, the hair present at birth is supposed to represent unwanted traits from the past lives. In order to make sure that the child has no undesirable qualities of the past birth in this life, the head is shaved off to ensure a new beginning and a fresh start. Medically, it is said that shaving off the hair stimulates the cells and improves blood circulation to the brain. Some also believe that this gives the child a long life.

Fasting in India

Keeping a fast is an integral part of the Indian culture and tradition. It basically connotes willingly abstaining oneself from eating certain or any kind of food, drink or both. It is known as Vrat in Indian households. The period of fasting also varies i.e. it could be partial or prolong for 24 hours. Some people of certain Indian religious sects like the Jains are known to keep a fast for weeks at a stretch, though this type of religious fasting has now been banned in India. Though people in India may keep a fast for varied reasons, the most important ones pertain to religion and spiritual aspects.

There are mentions about fasting in many Indian religious scriptures. As per most Hindu sacred books like the Bhagwad Gita and others, fasting helps create an attunement with the Absolute by establishing a harmonious relationship between the body and the soul. One is expected to live piously, give charity and refrain from eating non-vegetarian food whenever observing fast for a spiritual or religious purpose in India. Our religious scriptures state fasting is not only a part of worship, but a great instrument for inculcating self-discipline too.

Apart from certain Hindu festivals like Shivratri, Karva Chauth and so on, there are specific days on which Indians keep fast from varied reasons. For instance, people fast on Tuesdays for Lord Hanuman, the Indian monkey God. On Fridays, the devotees of the Goddess Santoshi Mata abstain from taking anything citric. There is also another type of fasting when people forego taking all cereals and eat only fruits. Such fasting is called Phalahar. However, there are many others who keep a fast solely for maintaining good health.

People also fast these days for health reasons because fasting helps in the detoxification of the body. Everyone wants to look good and fit these days. As such, you will find many youngsters in India fasting. In medical context, fasting refers to the state achieved after digestion of a meal. A number of metabolic adjustments occur during fasting and many medical diagnostic tests are standardized to fasting conditions. Thus fasting has both religious and medical significance in India.


NamasteThe moment you step into India, in all probability, the first word you will get to hear will be Namaste! Namaste, also said as Namaskar by the natives, is a traditional Indian style of greeting or parting phrase as well as a gesture. Derived from the Sanskrit language, the literal definition/meaning of the word Namaste is "I bow to you". If you want to dig deeper to know what does Namaste mean, you can it break up into two Sanskrit words - Namas (meaning - to bow) and Te (meaning - to you). Thus, its real connotation is 'I bow to you out of respect'.

Namaste happens to be both a formal and an informal form of greeting in India and you can say this to anyone irrespective of age. Normally when you say Namaskar to anybody, you press both your palms together with all the fingers pointing upwards in front of your chest. At the same time, you also bow your head slightly, looking at the person you are saying Namaste to. Even if you simply perform the Namaste gesture with your hands without actually saying the word, it will mean the same thing.

Though saying Namaste to others in daily lives is a part of the Indian protocol, yet many believe it also has religious / spiritual connotation. According to this school of thought, when you greet Namaste, you actually seek to recognize a common divinity within the other person. Interestingly, Namaste can be said in different ways, depending crucially on the person you are saying it to. For instance, when you greet your friend or peer, the traditional style Namaste will suffice.

On the other hand, when it's a person greeting Namaste to another person of a higher status, this gesture will get intensified. To indicate genuine and deep respect for the other person, you place the hands in front of the forehead. Whereas, you have to pay reverence to God or a holy person then, this feeling can be transmitted through the Namaste gesture by holding / placing the pressed hands above the head. Some natives prostrate on the ground in this posture to show their deep respect and love to God.

The symbolism of the two palms touching each other is of great significance. It is the joining together of two extremities - the feet of the Divine, with the head of the devotee. Yet another theory associates the Namaste greeting with a particular mudra or posture in yoga. However, Namaste being a polite gesture of love and respect can be said to anybody. But traditionally, it's a Hindu gesture and people of this community greet each other this way only.


LifestylePunjabi, Marathi, Bihari, Bengali, Assamese, Nepali, Gujrati, Kashmiri…. Though India consists of diverse ethnic races and groups and each of them strictly adhere to their own set of customs and tradition, yet there is a common lifestyle pattern followed by almost all the Indians. This, despite the fact that there is so much variation in their language, dressing style and custom! Read on to know about the life of people in the country and what traits put them together under the brand 'India':

Joint Family System
A majority of the people in India prefer to live in a joint family, which could comprise anywhere between a group of two or more members to even over 20 members sometimes. As per the Indian way of living, the commanding position in a family is held by the eldest earning male member. He consults other adult members on important issues, but it is his decision that ultimately prevails. However, a lot of importance is also given to the advice of the eldest retired members of the family.

Women as Homemaker
As per the lifestyle of the Indian people, it is the duty of a woman to take care of her home. As such, from her very childhood, a girl child is taught to rustle up mouth-watering dishes by her mother and other ladies in her family. She is also taught to attend to guests and strangers politely and elegantly because it is thought to greatly reflect upon her upbringing. Hers is a 24x7 job, yet she manages to execute it smoothly and is respected for this quality.

Worshipping is an important part of the daily life of Indian people. You will find the holy basil tulsi planted in maximum houses, which people water as well as worship everyday religiously. Many Indians are associated to various religious sects and attend weekly gatherings to listen to the sermons. Apart from temples, mosques and gurdwaras, there will also invariably be a personal place for worship, and pictures of Gods and Goddesses, in every house in India.

Respecting Elders
One common trait you will find amongst Indians is that children show utmost respect to their elders. Now this is one habit all Indian parents deliberately inculcate in their children, since beginning. It is an unsaid rule in India that a person cannot answer back to elders and more so, when he/she is at fault. It is deemed disrespectful in India to refer to an elder by his / her name. Instead people prefer calling them uncle and aunt, especially if the person is very elderly. It is also customary in India for the youngsters to touch the feet of their elders as a way of greeting as well as on important occasions.


TilakIn India, you will find people wearing a red, yellow, orange and, rarely, a black mark on their forehead. It's called the tilak, or tilakam, in the Sanskrit language and is basically a Hindu tradition. Though it's commonly worn on the forehead, people also wear it on other parts of their body like neck, arms, chest and so on. Women generally wear the tilakam as a small dot on their forehead. Tilaka may be worn in India, either on a daily basis or on special religious occasions like a havan.

Indian tilak can be made by making a paste out of sandalwood paste, ashes, vermilion, clay or any other substance. There is a detailed description of the meaning and significance of the concept of tilak, along with the style of its application, in many Hindu mythologies. In the Indian state of Bihar, Nepal and other places, tilaka is also called tika or teeka. For Hindus, the tika is of utmost significance. Apart from being a decorative mark, it also indicates that the wearer belongs to a particular sect or social group.

Though the normal teeka is worn as a small dot on the forehead, there exist major variations in its application style. For instance, in case of certain sects in Hindu ascetics, the tilak may cover the entire forehead. As such, worn by priests, ascetics and normal devotees, it shows which Hindu tradition he follows. The Shaivites or the devotees of Lord Shiva typically use ash and draw their tilak as three horizontal lines. Vaishnavas (followers of Lord Vishnu) use clay from a holy river or place, which is sometimes mixed with sandalwood paste, as tilakam.

Indian women belonging to the Hindu community have been wearing the Tilaka for many millennia. The tilak they wear is generally a red round dot called the bindi, which signifies the fact that they are married. If the tilak is of any other color, then, most probably, it has been worn for a decorative purpose. The size of the bindi can vary from small to large. Hindu women who are married wear an additional tika between their hair-parting. This form of tilak is known as sindoor and it indicates her marital status.


TulsiIn India, one plant you are bound to find in most of the Hindu homes is the holy basil. Commonly known as Tulsi, the plant is a very important and strong symbol of the Hindu community. Many Hindu mythologies, like the Gita and the Puranas, liken the Tulsi tree with various Indian Gods and Goddesses. As such, having a Tulsi plant at home is considered very auspicious. In the Sanskrit language, the term 'Tulsi' means "the incomparable one". In our country, two different forms of the Tulsi plants are found, the dark 'Shyama' Tulsi and the light 'Rama' Tulsi.

There are numerous mentions of the Tulsi in the stories, folklore and the quotes in the Indian mythologies. As per one such story, Tulsi was actually a gopi who was madly and truly in love with Lord Krishna. The plant also finds mention in many stories related to the famous Krishna devotee, Mirabai. The significance of Tulsi is sketched out in one tale, in which Krishna was weighed in gold and even the entire jewelry of His consort, Satyabhama, could not outweigh Him, until a Tulsi was placed on the other scale.

As per the Indian tradition, it is mandatory that all those people who plant Tulsi in their homes to take proper care of it. You may also find many people worshipping the Tulsi plant. It is regarded as Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and the consort of Lord Vishnu. Devotees offer a garland of its leaves to the Lord as part of the daily ritual. Due to time constraint, many people may simply offer water to the plant once or twice a day and place a diya under it. Tulasi occupies the sixth position amongst the eight objects needed for worship in Hindu rituals.

If there is a Tulsi plant in a home, it reflects the religious bent of mind of the family members. Infact, a specific tubular shaped structure is often built in a specific corner of the house to plant Tulsi. Many religious people wear garlands made out of its stems. The manufacture of Tulasi necklaces takes place in the form of a cottage industry in places of pilgrimage and temple towns. Another name for Tulsi, within the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, is Vrindadevi, meaning Goddess of Vrindavan'.

Known by the name of Holy Basil in English, the leaves of the Tulsi plant have medicinal properties and have long been known to be used in the treatment of various sicknesses. Tulsi is considered to be an adaptogen, balancing different processes in the body, and helpful for adapting to stress. The juice of its leaves is used for treating cough, cold, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation and other illnesses. Tulsi leaves are very aromatic, so some people like to add them to their tea to get a unique flavor.


BindiBindi can usually be described as a traditional red circular mark or dot worn by the Indian women on their forehead. When this is accompanied by a vermillion mark on the parting of hair just above the forehead, it indicates that the particular lady is married. The term 'bindi' is derived from the Sanskrit word 'bindu' meaning "a drop or a small dot or particle". Even though traditionally, bindi is a red colored dot, it can be worn in other colors also, like yellow, orange and so on. The shape and size of the bindi can also vary.

Conventionally, it's the Hindu married women who wear bindi. But, this mark can have several meanings and so, you may also see unmarried girls and even children wearing it. It's the occasion, the color of the bindi and its shape that determines what it denotes. The customary bindi is made with red sindoor powder. The bindi is called the tilak when it's applied on the forehead of a person, at the conclusion of a religious function or havan.

The purpose of wearing a bindi can also vary. If it covers the entire forehead in three horizontal lines, then it denotes the wearer is an ascetic or belongs to a particular sect (like Brahmin). Sometimes, the bindi is used for mere beautification purpose by females. In this case, you may also find her wearing a small jewelry instead of the typical red dot. Though in India, a widow cannot wear a vermillion, she is free to sport a bindi.

Bindi is called by different names in different languages of India. Thus, alternative names for bindi is Pottu in Tamil and Malayalam, Tilak in Hindi, Bottu or Tilakam in Telugu, Bottu or Tilaka in Kannada and Teep meaning "a pressing" in Bengali. Sometimes, the terms sindoor, kumkum, or kasturi are used depending upon the ingredients used in making the Bindi mark. Thus, this article provides you a brief idea about what is bindi.

Annaprashan Ceremony

Annaprashan CeremonyAnnaprashan is one of the major Hindu rituals in India. A baby stays on only milk, till the time of his Anna Prashan ceremony. On this occasion, the food pattern of the baby is changed and he is given homemade food for the first time. Annaprashan ritual is known as also Annaprasanam or Choroonu ceremony and literally means feeding the baby Anna for the first time. 'Anna' means grain (food) while 'prashan' means to feed. In most of the families, the baby is fed rice as his first food. The Annaprashan ceremony welcomes the baby into the society.

Annaprashan sanskar is an important religious ceremony and is mandatory for all the children born in Hindu families. It generally takes place before teething and its ritual is different in case of boys and girls. In case of a girl child, Annaprashan is performed in an odd month, generally on 5th or the 7th month from the birth. On the other hand, in case of a boy child, the ritual is performed in an even months i.e. either on 6th or the 8th month from the birth.

Annaprasanam ritual is not an elaborate affair for a girl child. The ritual includes offering of water to the forefathers, worship of Lord Vishnu and feeding prasad (offerings made to the gods) to the baby. For the boy child, rituals are different and much more elaborate. Initially, the worship of Shasti takes place. It is followed by "Markendeo" Puja, performed for the child's wealth and happiness. Thereafter, Lord Ganesha and sixteen other deities are worshipped. It is known as "Shoras Matrika".

In addition to this, Basundhara Puja is also performed for the welfare and happiness of the house. There is another ritual performed during Choroonu Ceremony that is the 'Adhibus Kriya'. In the end a "Homn" (sacred fire) is performed to inform Lord Brahma of the date, time and position of the stars of the child. This is commonly known as "Aahuti". This completes the Annaprashan ceremony of the child and the child can start eating solid food from this moment onmwards.

Godh Bharai Ceremony

Godh Bharai CeremonyIn the Indian subcontinent, it is a tradition to hold a Godh Bharai ceremony in Hindus, basically, on two occasions. One is before a wedding and the second is in the seventh month of pregnancy of an expectant lady. In the first case, the Goad Bharai marks the ceremony in which the family members of the groom officially accept a girl as the daughter of their family. The entire ceremony is conducted by females and male members are not allowed to attend it. The girl is made to dress up in a heavy sari, but without any ornaments.

Thereafter, she is asked to sit on a chair with the sari's 'palla' in her godh (lap). The mother, sister and sisters-in-law of the groom dress up the girl, with jewelry, bangles, cosmetics, etc. Then, along with all the other female members of the family, they apply tikka on her forehead and place gifts in the godh (lap) of the would-be-bride, on top of her palla. While giving gifts, they bless her, asking God to bless the couple with a long and happy married life. After receiving the gifts, the girl touches the feet of all the elder females. They also feed her sweets.

In the second case, the Godh Bharai ceremony is held in India, in the seventh month of pregnancy of an expectant female. This ceremony takes place at the matrimonial home of the woman. Just like the previous ceremony, this one is also held only the female family members of the would-be-father and the would-be-mother. The expectant woman is dressed just like a bride, complete with the jewelry, make up and everything. Thereafter, she is asked to sit on a chair/sofa and place her 'palla' in her godh (lap).

Now, starts the Godh Bharai ceremony. All the women attending the ceremony place a gift they have, for the would-be-mother or her baby, in her godh and then apply a tika on her forehead. After that, they feed her sweets & khichri, of rice, moong daal and til, cooked in desi ghee. The mother of the woman also gives her daughter, gifts for her husband as well as in-laws. Then, they whisper something auspicious in her ear - usually their blessings. She thanks all the elder woman by touching their feet. Last but not the least; they celebrate the impending arrival of the child by singing and dancing.

Janeu Ceremony

Janeu is a consecrated thread that is worn by each and every Hindu Brahmin of India. This holy thread of 'Janeo' suggests the development of a male, from a young boy to a man. It is believed that a boy cannot be surmised as "Dvija" (twice born) until he wears the janeu. Besides the Brahmins, Janeo thread is also worn by the Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. The type of Janeu is different for different caste groups or sects of people of the Indian subcontinent.

One is Brahmgandh Janeu (with 5 knots or 3 knots), which is meant for Brahmins and the other is Vishnugandh Janeu (with one knot), meant for other classes. In case a Brahmin desires to become scholarly in the Vedas, he must wear janeu at 5 years of age. If a Kshatriya desires to gain strength, he should wear janeo at 6 and if a Vaishya desires for success, he must wear the Janeu at 8 years of age. Janeu is generally made of cotton thread; however Kshatriya and Vaishya wear threads made out of hempen and wool respectively.

Janeu (Thread) Ceremony
Brahmins celebrate the development of a boy through "Upanayanam Samskara" (sacred thread ceremony). The ceremony is generally observed between the ages of seven and fourteen. In case the ceremony could not take place due to any reason all through this age period, then it is required to be done before the marriage. The purpose of thread ceremony is to prepare a young man to share the responsibilities of elders. The thread is worn by the man in the company of a group chant of 'Gayatri' mantra. The thread is twisted in upward direction to make certain that 'Sattwaguna' (good quality of truth) prevails. The ceremony also suggests that the wearer of 'Janeu' can participate in the family rituals, from now onwards.

Significance of three strands in Janeu
Brahmins use 'Janeu' thread with three strands. These three strands of 'Janeo' have been studied many a times and different personalities gave several opinions regarding this tradition. To some people, the three strands stand for the Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Others interpreted it as symbolical of Mahasarasvati, Mahalakshmi and Mahakali. Many people believed it to be related with past, present and future.

A number of persons stated it to be representative of three qualities - sattva, rajas and tamas. A few considered the three strands as sign of three states-wakefulness, dream and deep sleep. Some of them mentioned it to signify three dimensions of Heaven (swarga), Earth (mrityuloka) and Nether Regions (pataloka). Out of all opinions, the most logical is janeu's account with Ida, pingala and susumna nadi, through which the 'kundalini' (hidden) energy reveals in 'prana' and realization.

How to wear Janeu at different occasions
Janeu is a not an ordinary thread, its sanctity is regarded to get disturbed if it is not worn properly. Here are given different methods to wear Janeu at different occasions.
  • To attend or perform any auspicious ceremony, one should wear 'janeu' hanging from the left shoulder (Upaviti).
  • For attending or performing inauspicious event, one should wear 'janeu' hanging from the right shoulder (Prachnaviti).
  • In case the person wears 'janeu' round the neck like a garland, then, he is called as 'Niviti'.
  • While going for daily ablutions or doing impure tasks, the holy thread must be raised and its upper part ought to be put behind ear.
  • Males and females both can wear 'janeu', yet females should wear it around the neck.
  • Following a birth or death in the family, 'janeu' should be removed and again a new thread ought to be worn after 15 days of event.
  • One must replace the old or broken thread with a new thread

Holy Bathing

Holy BathingIndians are very religious and God fearing people. As such, in the normal day-to-day life, you will find many people engaging themselves in some or other religious acts, like visiting the temple, watering the holy Tulsi plant, feeding the cow, etc. Apart from upholding the Indian tradition, other reasons behind their passionate devoutness could be selfless love or fear of God or a mix of both. While there are varied religious activities which Indians observe, perhaps the one considered most sacred is bathing in the waters of holy rivers.

There are many sacred rivers in India, like the Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, and so on. But the one considered the holiest is the Ganga, personified as a Goddess in the Indian mythology. The river is also mentioned in the Rig Veda, one of the earliest Hindu scriptures. According to Hindu beliefs, a holy dip in the Ganges on certain festivals, by any person, will lead to the forgiveness of all his/her sins and also help in attaining salvation. Many others believe that taking a holy dip in the sacred waters of Ganga, anytime, will have the same effect.

As such, Indians - old and young, come to participate or bathe in the sacred rivers during certain holy bathing festivals like the Kumbh Mela and Chhat Puja. Often, people also immerse the ashes of their kin in the Ganga waters so that their soul may rest peacefully in heaven. Apart from these spiritual baths, many also carry the water of the sacred rivers home, in copper pots, as it is considered to be very auspicious. Those on the verge of dying are usually given drops of this holy water to drink in order to free them of all their sins.

Any talk of holy or spiritual bathing in India will remain incomplete without the mention of the Kumbh Mela. It is a Hindu bathing festival or pilgrimage which occurs once in every 12 years at four fixed located in India - Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik and is attended by millions of people on a single day. Said to have been initiated by King Harshvardhana of Ujjain, the precise dates of the Kumbh Mela are astronomically determined, based upon precise calculations of the positions of the Sun, the Moon and Jupiter.


GarlandingPlaying the perfect host is an integral part of the Indian culture and tradition. As such, Indian people go to great lengths to make their guests feel welcome. Garlanding, aarti and applying tilak, or a red vermillion mark, on the forehead of the guest is, thus, an important part of the reception ritual. There are basically two reasons behind the garlanding tradition of India. Firstly, it showcases one's happiness at receiving the particular guest and secondly, it is a form of publicly acknowledging the guest's importance.

The fact that apart from guests, it's only the various gods and goddesses, who are garlanded, shows the significance attached to this garlanding tradition in India. And it's almost always accompanied by application of tilak and arti. There are many kinds of garlands available in the Indian markets for this purpose. One kind of garlands comprises of those made of freshly plucked red roses, which are mostly used in Indian weddings by brides and grooms to garland each other. There are even such garlands that are made by weaving together currency notes, usually worn by the bridegroom when he sits on the mare.


HospitalityPerhaps, the one thing that is going to take you by surprise and also deeply touch you on your India tour is the warm hospitality of Indians. A ready smile on the face, always willing to go out of the way to help somebody, exuding genuine happiness upon meeting a person - these are some of the common traits you will find in maximum Indians. The Sanskrit adage, "Atithi Devo Bhava," meaning the guest is truly your god dictates the respect granted to guests in India. So it's understandable why the tourists visiting India want to come back again & again.

The hospitality industry in India is, thus, very strong. Even if you choose to stay in a hotel, all care will be taken by the management to make you feel at home. However, if you wish to know what real Indian hospitality is, then it will be better if you stay at the house of a native. If you already have a friend or an acquaintance in India, it's all the more better. Indians like to serve various types of tasty mouth-watering local cuisines to their guests. So it shouldn't be surprising if right upon entering a house you get aroma of sizzling vegetables.

Most Indians live in a joint family so often you will find the in-laws, uncles, cousins and others staying together. Saying Namaste to a guest is integral to guest hospitality in India and you can expect every member to greet you this way only. The womenfolk form the backbone of traditional hospitality. Apart from taking full care of all their family members, they never ever let a guest go away unfed or unhappy from their home. Indian women are great cooks and can scurry up delectable dishes in no time.

As soon as the guest arrives, the women of the house serve him water and then ask any preferences for food or drink. Infact, you will be surprised to find that even strangers on the road are so friendly and hospitable. If you ask them where a certain shop or place is located, chances are people will not only give you the direction, but also accompany you your destination, especially when the place is nearby. Indian people feel that their guests must be given proper warm hospitality, which certainly requires extreme care and attention.


India is a vibrant amalgamation of varied ethnic groups, climate, cultures, regions and traditions. As such, many people visiting the country for the first time find it uniquely different. On one hand, you will find many conservatively dressed Indian women flocking the temple entrance. On the other, there are others who have no qualms walking the fashion ramp in the skimpiest of clothes. While there are millions of illiterates in the Indian subcontinent, there are also those who are the driving force behind the booming IT industry in India. In order to avoid making any unintentional faux pas, read the below mentioned social and cultural etiquettes that are in tune with the general Indian manners and protocol.

Dressing Etiquette 
Majority of the Indians, especially in the rural areas, small towns and cities, are a conservative lot. Short, revealing clothes, especially for women, is a strict no-no. As such, it's expected of you to dress up accordingly when you go out for sight-seeing. You can wear knee length Bermudas, tee shirts, long or quarter length skirts, capris and jeans. However, when inside your hotel rooms or at high-end restaurants, bars and discos, you can dress in a more relaxed manner, without worrying much about the dressing codes.

Indian temple etiquette stipulates that you take off your shoes before entering the premises. The same applies to even certain churches in India. Usually, there will be people stationed outside most temples and gurdwaras, who will keep your shoes safely for a nominal sum. You will be expected to follow the same protocol when you visit as person's home in some of the cities of India. It will, thus, be convenient for you if you wear flip-flops or floaters instead of shoes.

Indian culture and tradition forbids unnecessary touching or any form of physical contact, especially between a man and a woman, in public. Kissing in public is a not advisable here. You can shake hands with people, or better still stick, to the traditional Namaste, the popular Indian style greeting. For this, you need to press your hands together with all fingers pointing towards the sky in front of your chest and politely say Namaste, while looking at the person you are saying it to.

Avoid Offence
Indian manners and etiquette tips also comprises not speaking ill about or criticize the country or its people openly. The natives are bound to take great offence to it. At the same time, never address the elderly by their first name, unless they allow you to. It's advisable you call them sir or madam instead. With youngsters, you can choose to be informal. It is also considered disrespectful in India to use strong swear words publicly.


TheatreIndian theatre has a history going back about 5000 years or more. Infact, the very first book on drama, called the Natya Shahtra, was penned in India only, by Bharat Muni. As per the historians, the time when this book was written is estimated to fall between 2000 BC and 4th Century AD. Traditional Indian theater initiated as a narrative form with the elements like reciting, singing and dancing playing a crucial role in it. In the present times, there are many forms of theatre prevalent in India. The main ones are:

Folk Theatre
Since India consists of varied ethnic groups, each developed their own kind of traditional folk theatres, using the regional language for communication. These theaters are known by different names in different Indian states, like Jatra in Bengal, Orissa and Bihar, Tamasha in Maharashtra, Nautanki in Uttar Pradesh and so on. Here, the main protagonists are the narrator and a comedian. Loud music, dance, elaborate make-up, masks and chorus singing are the main traits of Indian folk theatre.

Ramlila / Ram Leela
Ramlila is an important form of folk theatre in India, based on the mythological story of a battle between Lord Rama and Demon Ravana. Its staging takes place at a number of places throughout India, once a year, and usually lasts for 10-12 days. The dialogues of this play are very outstanding and thus, it draws spectators in hordes. The staging of this style of theater evokes a festive ambience. Places like Ramnagar, Kumaoni, Varanasi and Chitrakoot are famous for their Ram Leela.

Puppetry, as a form of theatre in India, is very ancient and apart from entertainment, it also conveys useful messages to the spectators. The early puppet shows staged in India were mostly based on stories of famous Indian kings and heroes and at times, also a satire on the social and political milieu. Puppetry started taking in religious themes as well, after the introduction of shadow puppetry that were based on stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Other popular puppetry forms here are glove, rod, string, string-rod puppets.

Modern Theatre 
The modern theatre in India comprises mainly of English, Hindi and Hinglish (comprising of a mix of Hindi and English dialogues) plays. English theatre was brought to India during the British rule and was watched mostly by art connoisseurs of the rich, upper class. This, however, changed after independence, as many Indians entered the fray and theatre slowly became open for common people too. Today, many English plays based on Shakespeare and other famous foreign authors are being staged. Hindi and Hinglish plays are quite popular too.


Bhiksha is an ancient Indian tradition as per which ascetics and sadhus go door to door, asking for food and alms from people. The meaning of bhiksha is different from begging, since the ascetics who ask for it do it not because of the reason that they dislike working. Infact, as per Indian spirituality, it is believed that one can attain salvation only when his soul is totally absolved of ego. The concept of bhiksha plays a crucial role here and was, thus, coined for those sadhus or ascetics who had just initiated their spiritual journey.

Asking for Bhiksha meant one had to approach strangers for and ask them for alms. Even though giving alms is part of customs in India, many people disrespectfully turn away the sadhus/ascetics. This is just a training period for the ascetics, who are taught not to take offence to such behavior, but instead endure it smilingly thinking it to be the will of God. The social and political milieu has changed drastically in India now, yet the concept of asking and giving bhiksha is still alive and strong.

Many religious people, especially in small town and cities, still make it a point to take out a portion of the daily food grain and give it out in charity. Such philanthropic activity, like bhiksha, is deeply rooted in our customs and traditions. Infact, our ancient holy scriptures, like Rig Veda, makes references to charity as a duty and responsibility of the citizen and the benefits that one earns through an act of charity.


AartiThe Hindu ritual of aarti accrues from the ancient Vedic concept of fire ceremony or the 'homa'. Generally, one or more wicks made of cotton, or thin cloth strip, is soaked in ghee or camphor, lighted and offered to the deity. The term 'aarti' may also refer to the traditional Hindu devotional songs that are sung while the fire ritual is being performed. Apart from the national anthem of India, perhaps, the only other song sung popularly and lovingly across all age and social groups and regions is the aarati.

Though arti may be sung differently in different parts of the Indian subcontinent, the core intention never varies. All aarti songs signify the highest form of love for God. As per Indian beliefs and tradition, worshiping God through 'bhava' or emotion is the highest form of worship. And in arti, both the singing of the traditional hymn, or the devotional song, and the fire serve to prevent the deflection of the worshipper's concentration from the act.

In Sanskrit, the term aarti can be broken up into two words - "aa' meaning towards and "rati" meaning the highest love for God. Traditionally, aarati is done two or three times a day, at the conclusion of a puja, bhajan or havan. It is a mandatory ritual performed on all auspicious occasions of Hindus. The aarti thali, which contains diya, flowers, incense and akshata, is circulated in front of the deity and arti song is sung by all members present there. When arti is performed before God, it is believed that the plate and the light get blessed by the deity.

The pandit, or the priest, passes on the arti plate from one person to another, present there, who cup the flickering fire lightly with their down-turned hands. Then, they put their hands over the flame and then touch their forehead, as a gesture of seeking holy blessings. The plate on which the aarati is performed is usually made of silver, bronze or copper. Aarti is also performed in front of a person, either as a welcome gesture or to ward off bad influences from him. Infact, the whole purpose of arti is to ward off the evil spirits and bad omens.

In India, the aarti is also performed before people of high status, little kids during certain ceremonies, on people embarking or returning from a long journey (especially if it's a pilgrimage) and on a newly married couple when they enter their house for the first time, etc. The arti is also performed on some newly acquired land and before initiating some pertinent chore. There are different types of arti for different Indian deities and often arti contains important snippets about them.

Namkaran Ceremony

Namkaran CeremonyThe birth of a child in a family is an occasion that brings joy and happiness to everyone associated with the family. The first thing that comes to mind after the birth of a child is choosing an apt name for him/her. This name would give a unique identity to the baby and will stay forever. Naming a baby is considered to be sacred and therefore is an important Indian tradition. It involves the immediate families and also close relatives and friends. Traditionally known as Namkaran or Namakaran Sanskar, this ceremony is conducted in an elaborate form.

The Namakaran Sanskar is usually held after the first 10 days of a baby's delivery. These 10 post-natal days are considered to be inauspicious as the mother and child are considered to be impure. After those 10 days, the house is cleaned and sanctified for the ceremony. The mother and child are bathed traditionally and are prepared for the ceremony. Relatives and close friends are invited to be a part of this sacred occasion and bless the child. Priests are called and an elaborate ritual takes place.

The people involved in the baby naming ceremony are the parents of the new born, the paternal and maternal grandparents and few close relatives and friends. The child is dressed in new clothes and the mother wets the head of the baby with a bit of water as a symbol of purifying the child. The baby is then handed over to the paternal grandmother or the father who sits near the priest during the ritual. The sacred fire is lit and the priest chants sacred hymns to invoke the Gods in the heaven to bless the child.

According to the date and time of birth of the child, a particular alphabet is chosen which would prove lucky for the baby. The baby is then given a name starting with that alphabet. Usually the father whispers the name four times in the right ear of the baby. The baby receives blessings from all, including the priests. An elaborate feast is organized for the priests and the guests, as a closing event of the ceremony.

Indian Family Value System

Values can be defined as certain attitudes and beliefs that a person follows in his conduct. Those standards as per which an individual judges his own actions, whether he is right or wrong can be called as values. Value system comprises of all those beliefs and viewpoints that the parents pass on their next generation, they further pass it on to their offspring and so, the legacy goes on and on. Now let us come to the 'Indian Family Value System' - what is it and how does it influence individuals. In the Indian culture, there are certain rules and regulations that each and every child is taught right from his childhood.

Examples of Indian family values are - a young person should always touch the feet of his elders; he should never speak in a high or rude tone to those who are older to him; he should always give respect to elders and refer to them as 'aap'; he should not consume alcohol and tobacco or smoke cigarettes; he should respect women; he should always speak truth and try to engage in non-violent behavior; and so on. Most of the values that the parents impart to their children in India, as a part of the family value system, are similar in nature.

However, there may be some variations too, depending upon different families. For instance, in some houses, girls are not allowed top wear skirts after they reach certain age, while in others, they can wear anything, as long as it is decent and not body-revealing. Even these variations are quite trivial, as the basic essence behind them remains, more or les, the same. Most of the values that the Indian parents believe in imparting to their children do not appeal to the outside world. But then, it is these beliefs that make India the wonderful country that it is today.

Some other values that are part of India's cultural heritage are:
  • Living peacefully and respecting each other's rights.
  • Never ever compromising on integrity for the purpose of prosperity.
  • Maintain strong bonds with the family members as well as relatives.
  • Being hospitable to everyone who comes to your home, irrespective of his caste, creed, financial position or status.
  • Treating guest as God i.e. 'Atithi Devo Bhava'.
  • Remembering and bowing to God first thing in the morning.
  • Indulging in yoga and meditation.
  • Always taking the advice of elders in case of any important decision.

Arranged Marriage

Arranged MarriageThe traditional arranged marriage has long been an integral part of the Indian culture. As against love marriage, it is the concept in which the parents and family members search for the prospective bride or the groom, through their acquaintances or advertisements in newspapers and marriage portals. In the earlier times, with everything being fixed by family members, the bride and groom used to be practically clueless about the person they were marrying. Today the arranged marriage system of India has become more flexible.

Taking the consent of the boy and the girl before marriage is important now. They meet each other before marriage, gauge their compatibility & if everything fits, they get engaged. The duration between marriage and engagement may vary from fifteen days to over a year. During this period, a lot of activities take place in the bride's as well as the groom's families. It is also during this time only that meetings, ceremonies and constant contact over the phone help the bride and the groom-to-be to know and understand each other better.

Generally, there are several factors like compatibility of the to-be-couples' horoscopes, family background, wealth, social standing, caste and so on, which are taken into consideration by the parents of both sides under arranged marriages. The institution of marriage is considered very sacred in the Indian subcontinent. So, the parents think that since they are older and thus, wiser, they can take better decisions in comparison to their progeny. Though this system of marriage is on the decline in urban India, it's still strong in the rural regions.

The strict adherence to the Hindu customs is what compels Indians to go through such a lengthy process for fixing up a marriage. Marriage in the Indian society is considered so auspicious that not just the day, but also the time of the marriage is fixed as per the astrological charts of both the bride and the groom. In Hindus, the marriage ceremony takes place during the night and stretches over approximately five-six hours. A priest is summoned to preside over the marriage, which is attended by the all the family members, relatives and friends.

There is a lot of festivity and merry making before and after the marriage is fixed. Elaborate trousseau, jewellery and gift shopping is done by the families of both the bride and the groom. The wedding is performed as per the rules stipulated by the Vedic rites and rituals. The groom pledges to fulfill the bride's smallest of small desires, to the best of his ability. Both of them promise to be faithful to each other. She, in turn, is to treat him as her lord and master, her guide and advisor and be with him, through good and bad, for the rest of her life.

Indian Funeral Traditions

The time after the death or passing away of a person in India is given a lot of importance. As per the Hindu Holy Scripture like the Bhagwat Gita, it is believed that the soul of the person who has just passed away is on its way to the next level of existence at such a time. As such, it is with an intention to help the departed soul in a peaceful crossover to that next level of his /her existence, that Indians observe so many death rites and rituals.

One such Hindu death ceremony is the Teravih. It is a period of mourning observed by Indian people, starting from the day of the death of a particular person, whether male, female or children, to the 13th day after his /her funeral. During teravih death ritual, there are many rules that the family members of the deceased have to observe. For instance, they are not supposed to attend religious functions, eat certain foods like sweets, wear new clothes or participate in any cultural activity or festivity.

The basic idea behind the Indians' following all these funeral traditions is to show reverence to the deceased person. Normally during this time, all the family members share each others sorrows and pray, so that the soul of the deceased person rests peacefully. Though it's basically during teravih that the death rites are strictly observed, but traditionally, the death rites in Hindu religion extend up to a year.

At the end of one year, all elderly members of the deceased person gather once again for the Shraad ceremony. The 3rd, 5th, 7th or 9th day after the death of the person are also important, as all relatives gather to have a meal of the deceased's favorite foods. A small amount of the food is offered before his /her photo and later, it is ceremonially left at an abandoned place, along with a lit diya. However, there may be slight variations in the way people of different religious sect observe this death rite.

Touching Feet

Those who do not know much about the Indian culture and tradition get very baffled when they see children in India touching the feet of their elders. This is, infact, the commonest Indian gesture and touching someone's feet means the person who is doing the act is showing his respect and subservience to the one whose feet he/she is touching. However, one important aspect related to this gesture is that the person's whose feet is being touched is always superior in age and position.

Touching elders' feet is the first lesson in manners and etiquette that all Indian children are taught. So, generally, one is supposed to touch the feet of a person if he/she happens to be an elder member of the family or a respected spiritual person. Since Indians normally live in joint families, this gesture is performed by the sons and daughter-in-laws for their parents and grand parents. Though very young children are guided by their parents to learn this gesture, the comparatively elder ones are expected to do it spontaneously.

In Indian culture, there are specific occasions when a person is expected to touch his / her elders' feet. These occasions include before one is departing for or arriving back from a journey, weddings, religious and festive occasions, etc. In earlier times, it was a like a custom in India for youngsters to touch their parents' feet first thing in the morning and before going to bed. Though there are many who still follow this rule, the truth is that the tradition is now slowly waning away with time.

When an elder person's feet are being touched, he /she, in turn, is supposed to touch the head of the person doing the act and bless him /her for long life, fortune and prosperity. Interestingly, the act of touching feet gets somewhat intensified during certain occasions. For instance, many people prefer prostrating before the deities in temples or before persons of high rank spiritually and even politically. Touching the feet is an integral part of the Indian culture and tradition and not adhering to it by natives is considered as disrespectful.


GurudakshinaThe concept of gurudakshina is very ancient and it is unique to the Indian culture and tradition. If you are absolutely naïve about India, then it's advisable that you first try to understand the meaning of a guru and the significance of his presence in the lives of those around him. This, in turn, will help you to understand what guru dakshina is. In very simple words, a guru can be described as a teacher, though, as per the Hindu dharma, the role of a guru in the life of his students is much more than just teaching.

In modern times, the role of a teacher has just got limited to imparting knowledge of various subjects like Mathematics, Science, English, etc, to pupils. However, in ancient India, a teacher or a guru was a spiritually evolved guide. Along with the knowledge of various subjects, he also taught his students how to live a disciplined and principled life. A guru was the spiritual guiding force in the life of his students. Infact, as per the ancient Hindu tradition, one had to live life in four stages known as ashrams.

Considering that a man can live for a 100 years, each stage was divided into a span of 25 years. The first stage or ashram was Brahmacharya, spanning the first 25 years of a person's life. During this time, a man lived in the house of his guru. The next stage was Grihastha, which was to be lived as a married man and householder. This was followed by Vanaprastha, which comprised of performing penance in a forest. The final one was Sanyasa, in which a man lived as an ascetic.

It's the life of Brahmacharya that is most closely connected with the concept of gurudakshina. In ancient times, a student lived the first 25 years in the house of his guru, which was called gurukul. A beautiful thing about gurukul was that all students resided together as equals irrespective of their social standing. The students learnt from the guru and also helped him in his day-to-day life like his own children. It was at the conclusion of this formal education that one was required to repay his guru through a dakshina.

The Indian tradition of guru dakshina was meant to serve as a way of showing respect and thanks to the guru. The repayment was not always monetary. At times, a teacher used to simply ask his student to execute an important task. However, the guru often received a valuable gift or donations from the pupil and his family as his gurudakshina. Though the life style of Indians has changed majorly down the years, yet the reverence and respect we pay to our teachers is still as it was a hundred years back.


RangoliYou will often find beautiful, colorful patterns being made with sand or wet paint on the ground and walls within or outside houses in India during festivities. This style of home decoration is called Rangoli. It's an art form practiced by the Indians since ages. The name 'rangoli' is derived from the words 'rang' meaning colors and 'aavalli' meaning row of colors. The designs used in drawing rangoli generally include geometrical patterns with lines, dots, squares, circles, triangles, the swastika, lotus, trident, fish, conch shell and even footprints.

Rangoli is a very popular in the Indian subcontinent and is known by different names in different regions of India. It is called Alpana in Bengal, Aripana in Bihar, Madana in Rajasthan, Rangoli in Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra, Chowkpurana in Uttar Pradesh, Kolam in the South Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and Muggu in Andhra Pradesh. While the power rangoli is more popular in the south Indian states, the North Indians prefer Alpana, which comprises of wet paint.

There are many folktales about the origin of the traditional art of rangoli in India. One such story traces its history to a legend recorded in the Chitralakshana, the earliest Indian treatise on painting. Long ago, the son of a renowned king's priest died. Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe, requested the king to make a painting of the boy so that he could turn him alive again. This is how the first rangoli was made. The motifs employed in making traditional Rangoli are usually inspired by nature and thus, consist of peacocks, flowers, humans, trees, etc.

Traditionally natural dyes like bark of trees, leaves, flower petals and turmeric powder were used to prepare Rangoli. However, these days, a number of colorful synthetic dyes have also come into the market. When a thin layer of the dye or the coloring material is used for making Rangoli, then the patterns look flat. A 3-D effect can be provided to the designs by using different sized grains like pulses, cereals, etc. Earlier such floor and wall decorations were done only on auspicious occasions.

However, today, any occasion, be it birthday, wedding or some other parties, etc, is good enough. You will also see rangoli almost everywhere in India during Diwali festival. The art form holds great religious significance. It also enhances the beauty of the surroundings and spreads joy and happiness all around. In Indian culture, our guests occupy a very special place and rangoli serves as an expression of this warm hospitality.


SindoorTraditional authentic Kumkum of India is made by grinding the dried turmeric to a powder. A few drops of lime are then added to this yellow powder, which changes its hue to a bright red. Kumkum is considered to be very auspicious by Indians and thus, used for various purposes on special occasions like wedding and festivals. People, however, use both red and the original yellow powders depending upon what they need the Kumkum for. Kumkum holds a great degree of significance in India, especially for married women.

When an Indian woman wears a little red Kumkum in the parting of her hair just above the forehead, it conveys the meaning that she is married. In this case, the Indian vermillion or kumkum is referred to as Sindoor or Sindur. Whenever a female visits someone's house, it is customary for the elder ladies of that family to offer or apply a little kumkum on her forehead. In south India, whenever married women visit temples they dip their finger in yellow turmeric powder and apply a dot on their necks.

Sindoor is not just used by the womenfolk of India. Even men, boys, girls and little children apply a dot of this powder on their forehead when they visit a temple or attend some religious function. However, for married Indian woman, it's is almost compulsory to apply Kumkum in the parting of their hair everyday. As per Hindu customs, she is supposed to cease wearing Sindur only after the demise of her husband.

In earlier times, women preferred to prepare Kumkum at home. Now, most of them buy the readymade Sindur from the market. Depending on what brand of Kumkum you are buying, the cost of one small box of Sindur varies from Rs. 5 to 20. A traditional component of the sindoor is powdered red lead and other ingredients are alum and turmeric. Another custom followed by married Hindu ladies of the country is to wear a bindi on their forehead. At times women apply a kumkum dot instead of the bindi.


HeenaWhenever there is any happy occasion or festivity, the Indian women celebrate it by applying henna designs on their hands and feet. Apart from serving the role of a body art, applying henna is also considered as very auspicious. Heena application is a complex art and the artist needs to be proficient to be able to paint intricate designs swiftly. Also called Mehndi, one can prepare the henna by making a paste out of the henna powder available in the markets across India. Traditionally, it is made by grinding the leaves of the henna tree to a paste.

While using mehendi leaves, it should be ensured that they are not whole and unbroken after grinding. Henna does leave its deep red-brown stain on the skin until the Lawson molecules are not released from the leaf and this happens only when the leaves are properly grinded. So, people prefer using the henna powder for this form of body art. You need to mix henna powder with lemon juice, strong tea or other mildly acidic liquid, apply this paste and leave it on for about 10 hours to dry. Later, you can scrap it off with a blunt knife or a spoon.

Since mehndi is considered lucky, in our country, its application on the hands and feet of a bride is mandatory. Henna artists usually apply the most complex mehndi patterns and designs on the bride as these look the loveliest. The traditional Indian henna has been glammed up lately with the use of glitters and other such things. People wear them to parties and get-togethers. But it's the traditional henna that is widely worn by most people because it is much cheaper and looks much more beautiful.

In our country, henna artists generally belong from the Nai (barber) caste. The history of mehendi tells us that the knowledge or skill of its application is normally passed down from one generation to another. Mehendi application also provides a source of income to many women who are not allowed to work outside. All happy occasions in India, be it birth, weddings or religious ceremonies; include henna application as part of the celebration.


KajalIn India, Kajal is a form of eye makeup, which has been in vogue since the ancient times. It's the womenfolk of India who mostly apply kohl to darken their lower eyelid. However, it is also applied in case of children's and earlier, even the Indian men used to wear kajal. Kajal accrues the word Kohl, which is also at times spelt as Kol, Kehal or Kohal. Traditionally, it was prepared at home by females, as protection against eye ailments.

However, today, it is easily available in almost all the shops. Infact, the concept of applying Kajal has become more of a fashion trend in urban India in the recent times. Those people who prepare Kajal at home make it out of soot and other ingredients. In old times, people believed that kajal or Kohl provided relief from the sun's glare. Another perception pertaining Kajal was that it wards off bad luck or vibes.

As such, many women even today apply the Kajal as a small dot on the forehead of their toddlers as well as in their eyes. It is also applied at the nape of a child's neck, where it is not visible. Some people believe this will strengthen the child's eyesight. Applying Kajal is a strong tradition practiced by inhabitants of almost all the regions in India.

Method of preparing Kajal at home
Kajal preparation begins with dipping a clean, white, thin muslin cloth about four by four inches square in a sandalwood paste. The cloth is then dried in shade. After the sun is down, a wick is made out of the cloth and then used to light a mud lamp filled with castor oil. A brass vessel is positioned over the fire, leaving enough gap for the oxygen to aid the burning of the lamp. This is left burning overnight. Next morning, one or two drops of pure ghee or castor oil is added to the soot on the brass vessel and stored it in a clean dry box.

scientific reasons behind indian traditions

NaNamaskarmaskar or Namaste is the most popular form of greeting in India. It is a general salutation that is used to welcome somebody and also for bidding farewell. While doing namaskar, both the palms are placed together and raised below the face to greet a person.
It is believed that both the hands symbolise one mind, or the self meeting the self. While the right hand represents higher nature, the left hand denotes worldly or lower nature.
Other common forms of greetings by various communities and regions in India are - Sat-sri-akal by the Sikhs, Adaab by the Muslims, Vannakkam by the Tamilians, Juley by the Laddhakis and Tashi Delag by the Sikkimese, amongst others.
Tilak is a ritual mark on the forehead. It can be put in many forms as a sign of blessing , greeting or auspiciousness. The tilak is usually made out of a red vermilion paste (kumkum)which is a mixture of turmeric, alum, iodine, camphor, etc. It can also be of a sandalwood paste (chandan) blended with musk.
The tilak is applied on the spot between the brows which is considered the seat of latent wisdom and mental concentration, and is very important for worship. This is the spot on which yogis meditate to become one with Lord Brahma. It also indicates the point at which the spiritual eye opens. All thoughts and actions are said to be governed by this spot. Putting of the coloured mark symbolizes the quest for the 'opening ' of the third eye. All rites and ceremonies of the Hindus begin with a tilak topped with a few grains of rice placed on this spot with the index finger or the thumb. The same custom is followed while welcoming or bidding farewell to guests or relations.
Is Aratiperformed as an act of veneration and love. It is often performed as a mark of worship and to seek blessings from God, to welcome the guests, for children on their birthdays, family members on auspicious occasions or to welcome a newly wedded couple.
For performing Arati, five small lamps called niranjanas are filled with ghee or oil and arranged in a small tray made of metal. A wick is made out of cotton wool and placed in the lamps. A conchshell filled with water, auspicious leaves or flowers, incense or lighted camphor are also placed in the tray. The lamps are lit and the tray is rotated in a circular motion in front of the deity or the person to be welcomed. The purpose of performing arati is to ward off evil effects and the malefic influence of the ‘evil eye’.
FGarlandinglower garlands are generally offered as a mark of respect and honour. They are offered to welcome the visitors or in honour to the Gods and Goddesses. The garlands are generally made with white jasmine and orange marigold flowers. They are weaved in thread tied in the end with a help of a knot.

ABindi bindi is an auspicious mark worn by young girls and women . Bindi is derived from bindu, the Sanskrit word for dot . It is usually a red dot made with vermilion powder which is worn by women between their eyebrows on their forehead. Considered a symbol of Goddess Parvati, a bindi signifies female energy and is believed to protect women and their husbands. Traditionally a symbol of marriage, it has also become decorative and is worn today by unmarried girls and women as well.
No longer restricted in colour or shape, bindis are seen in many bright colours and in different shapes and designs. They are also made of coloured felt and embellished with coloured glass or glitter.
Essential Ornaments
Nose Pin
Many Indian women wear a pin on their nose studded with stones, called a nose pin. A symbol of purity and marriage, the nose pin is today adorned by many unmarried girls as well.
IMangalsutras a necklace made of black beads, worn only by the married women as a mark of being married. It is the Indian equivalent of the western wedding ring.
The mangalsutra is tied by the groom around his bride's neck. Mangalsutra is generally made out of two strings of small black beads with a gold pendant. The black beads are believed to act as protection against evil. The married women wear this to protect their marriage and the life of their husband.
In southern India, the mangalsutra is called 'tali'. It is a small gold ornament, strung on a cotton cord or a gold chain.
Are a pair of shell (shakha) and red coral (paula) bangles worn as marriage symbols by the Bengali women.



Nose Pin
Many Indian women wear a pin on their nose studded with stones, called a nose pin. A symbol of purity and marriage, the nose pin is today adorned by many unmarried girls as well.

Mangal Sutra
Is a necklace made of black .beads, worn only by the married women as a mark of being married. It is the Indian equivalent of the western wedding ring. The mangalsutra is tied by the groom around his bride's neck. Mangalsutra is generally made out of two strings of small black beads with a gold pendant. The black beads are believed to act as protection.

Are a pair of shell ( shakha ) and red coral ( paula ) bangles worn as marriage symbols by the Bengali women.

‘Customs’ Vs ‘Scientific Reasons’.

India is a country that prevails from one of the oldest known civilizations in the world. Located in the southern Asian subcontinent, India has the second largest population in the world. Indian population contains people from diverse backgrounds and customs. India is a secular state, where in every one has a fundamental right to “freedom of religion”. India hosts the world’s largest Muslim and Hindu population. Today India is the world’s largest democratic country. With people from varied backgrounds living in the same country, India customs and traditions are infinite to describe.

I am a proud Indian who has been brought up along with various Indian customs and traditions followed by my family. We are too young to question these customs and traditions early in our childhood days. But as we grow up, we tend to start questioning most of the routine customs and traditions that we are asked to follow. I always believed that “Necessity is mother of Invention”. Nothing could have become a tradition or custom without having significance. My article tries to list down the customs and the possible scientific reasons and significance the customs carry with them.

Most of the Indian customs and traditions are derived from our ancestors. India has a very long history dating back to thousands of years. Education in ancient times was derived from the elders and preceptors of a family. Traditions and customs were taught at a very young age and followed as part of life. Due to colonization of India over a period of time, different customs and traditions had to co-exist with each other. Most of Indian population lived in villages having agriculture as their main profession. Until post independent times when Education became a necessity, customs and traditions were followed strictly by most Indian families.

Education brings about a transformation in every Individual. We learn to question, reason and understand what ever we intend to do. It may be very common experience for today’s young generation to question our elders when we are asked to follow a custom or tradition. But if we try and figure out the real intention behind what we are being asked to do, we would learn that our forefathers were as educated as we are today. Most of the answers can be got from the elders in the family. Try to get your doubts answered by your grandmother or grandfather. You may be thrilled and happy to know the real intention of the customs we follow in our day to day lives.

I have listed down a few Indian Customs/Traditions along with the possible scientific reason with which I got convinced with. All the reasoning used in this article is solely my thoughts and my understanding of the Indian customs. I have no intention in denying any other interpretation of the same custom or tradition discussed in this article.

Custom 1: “Throwing Currency Coins into a River” Many of us would have noticed our co-passengers throwing coins into rivers especially when traveling over river bridges.


Possible Reason: The general reasoning given for this act is that, it brings Good Luck back to us. It is also believed that it will bring back Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi to our households.

Scientific Reason: In the ancient times, most of the currency used was made of copper unlike the stainless steel coins of today. Most of us even know of the ANNAs (made of copper) which were used in the pre-independent times. Copper is a vital metal very useful to the human body. The intake of copper with water is very good for health. Throwing coins in the river was one way our fore-fathers ensured we intake sufficient copper as part of the water. Rivers were the only source of drinking water. Making it a custom by saying it will bring good fortune to us has ensured that all of us follow the good practice.


Custom 2: “Joining both palms together to greet others”

In Hindu culture, I have seen people greeting others by joining their palms together. This is termed as “Namaskar” as per Hindu traditions. This is the most common way of greeting others.

Possible Reason: The general reason that would be given is that greeting elders and others by joining both the palms is the way of respect given to them.

Scientific Reason: While greeting others, we join both the hands together. Joining both hands ensures joining the tips of all the fingers together; which are denoted to the pressure points of eyes, ears, and mind. Pressing them together is said to activate the pressure points. This helps us to remember the person for a long time.


Custom 3: “Applying Tilak on the forehead”

Tilak is a ritual mark on the forehead. It can be put in many forms as a sign of blessing, greeting or auspiciousness. Applying Tilak on the forehead is a very important and mandatory ritual custom followed by the Hindus. Women should always put this tilak at the center of the forehead, the place in between the two eyebrows. Many of the males belonging to the orthodox communities would also put tilak on their foreheads.

Possible Reason: Hinduism is very much concerned about this custom and I myself faced a great opposition from my family members if I have not put tilak by mistake. This is considered as a evil practice if women do not put tilak.

Scientific Reason: The tilak is applied on the spot between the brows which is considered the seat of latent wisdom and mental concentration. This spot present in between the eyebrows is said to have the nerve connection to the brain. And putting tilak in this spot regularly would stimulate this spot and helps us to have good concentration and mental concentration.


Custom 4: “Tying Mango and Neem Leaves to the doors on auspicious days”

Possible Reason: The general reason given for this act is that tying mango and neem leaves would not allow the evil powers to enter the house.

Scientific Reason: On auspicious days and on special occasions, all of us gather at one place along with our relatives and friends. Photosynthesis is a process where in plants take in carbon-di-oxide and give out oxygen. This process helps in circulation of oxygen and in turn keeps the room temperature at an optimum level. Mango leaves and neem leaves are very effective in the photosynthesis process comparative to other plants. Neem leaves purify the bacteria too. In order to keep the temperature cool and to circulate air, we tie mango leaves and neem leaves to all the doors.


Custom 5: “Why do women apply turmeric paste to their foot and legs.”

Possible Reason: The general reason that is given for turmeric application is that it is a to be done act by women.

Scientific Reason: Women traditionally used to perform many household duties which involved bringing water from the river, cleaning the house with water, washing clothes, and cooking. Most of the houses were made of mud and clay which were soaked in water at regular intervals for cleaning purposes. All these activities required women step into/on water. In order to prevent their feet and legs from the bacterial and fungus infections; they were advised to apply turmeric paste to their legs. In today’s medicine we all know that turmeric is an very good antiseptic agent. Our forefathers knew this too and therefore they used turmeric extensively in their day to day lives.


Custom 6: “Madi while cooking”

“Madi” is a process in which an individual cleans himself and dresses himself into a traditional costume to perform an activity like cooking or any other religious activities. This custom is still prevalent in many orthodox families. This custom is commonly followed by Brahmin community in India.

Scientific Reason: Madi is a process of purifying the physical body before undergoing any sort of actions like cooking, religious rituals. It is always good to be clean before cooking to avoid any sort of bacteria and germs entering the food. So our ancestors have introduced a custom, called Madi. But in the recent times, it has been noticed that this custom has misinterpreted by treating people who are not in Madi as un-touchables.


Custom 7“Raangoli in the month of December.”

It is one of the common custom followed by everyone with full of enthusiasm and interest. The home makers and the kids would involve putting rangoli in the month of Deccember, with the mix of rice powder.

Scientific Reason: In India, the month of December, it is a bit cold month comparative to the whole year. And the small insects and ants that live in the soil would not have food for the winter. Indian tradition of India tells us to help others and not to harm, even knowingly or unknowingly. Inorder to help the small insecticides, we would put rangoli on the floor, with rice powder. This would help them in providing food for the winter.


Custom 8: “Women Staying away from rituals during menstrual cycle.”

Women under menstruation are asked to remain indoors and restricted from performing most of their daily activities as a custom in many Indian traditional families.

Scientific Reason: This is probably one of the most misinterpreted customs that prevails in many traditional families. During menstruation women undergo both physical and emotional changes and may not be ready for rituals that required concentration and strength for execution. Women in the ancient times used to do a lot work that required a ritual to be completed. This custom was to ensure that women under menstruation are given rest during rituals. Over time this has been misinterpreted by many that women under menstruation are to stay away from rituals since it brings ill effects to the ritual.


Custom 9: “Why do elders rotate crystal salt, lemon around head?”

Most of the time, I see my maternal grand mother taking crystal salt or lemon and revolve around us, her grand children saying“Drishti”, evil eye. She always does this when I visit her.

Possible Reason: “Dristhi” is stated as an evil eye on the person who feels jealous about others. It is believed that if a person gets “Dristi”, he would be ruined or would fell sick due to the evil eye. As a cure and remedy to this evil eye, elders take dristhi by revolving salt or lemon around the person.

Scientific Reason: Salt can be considered as the first antibiotic. Not only that, the salty and acidic substances would less affect the magnetic field. Keeping these properties if lemon and salt in mind, we revolve salt and lemon around the person.

The salt and lemon when revolved around, it would kill all the bacteria around the person. It forms an aura layer of antibiotics around the person. Not only has this, revolving around the person balance the magnetic field too. This would make the person affected with dristi feel better.

I have stated some of the customs and traditions that have scientific reason. There is no intension to hurt any of the religious believes. These are my personal feelings and views.


Touching Feet: Questioning the Tradition

touch-feet-charan-sparsh-pairi-paunaTouching the feet of elders is one of the most respected traditions among Hindus, probably because the tradition is associated with respect. Most of my relatives are very particular about teaching their kids to touch feet when they are still very small to understand the concept of the tradition.


While I had personally been following this tradition in a quite unquestionable fashion, I recently realised how often I did not feel like touching feet. It was then that I thought from a kid’s perspective. Whose feet do I have to touch? Is everybody larger in size (a toddler’s definition of an elder) supposed to be respected? Do I have to touch the feet of all my relatives i.e. do they inherit respect? Why don’t people touch my feet?


Have we ever wondered how important it is to teach the meaning of respect to the child before teaching him to touch dont-touch-my-feet-touch-feet-touching-feet-touch-your-feetmy feet? How can one follow such a tradition without understanding an emotion that is closest to the most intense feeling of love?
You must have seen parents asking their child to recite a poem in front of a stranger. The child would, in most cases, be shy. While reciting that poem can be the child’s way of having fun with his or her mother, he may not associate the same feeling of happiness with the activity in relation to a stranger’s presence. Then, imagine teaching children to touch the feet of relatives they have never met before. For them, they are strangers. How will they respect them?


The relatives I respect are not those who have the “touch my feet” expression on their faces. They are the people who touch the heart. It is that love which connects the souls. It does not require any physical connection to express the false respect, but can surely result into affectionate physical expressions.
Anyway, what is an action that is no guided by feelings? Does that define how hollow our traditions are? Is the tradition of touching feet standing up to the values it represents? When we are asking our child to touch a person’s feet just because s/he is older, it ceases to be an action that can come from the feeling of respect. It is pure submission that we demand from our child. Do you still want to teach your child to touch your feet?


Indian Traditions, customs, religions, festivals, pooja


Bathing is an integral part of daily routine in every Indian's life. Special occasions call for holy dips in sacred rivers and lakes as enumerated by the scriptures. That a bath keeps us healthy through personal hygiene is a well known fact. But there are other aspects as well that are not well known. Polygraphic studies proved that water enhances electro-magnetic activity. In the context of this finding, the religious practices like washing hands and feet before entering temples and taking bath everyday, worshipping with wet clothes and offering prayer standing in the middle of water chest-deep in rivers and tanks etc., seem to be more scientific than a mere act of cleanliness. Human body is centre of electric currents and impulses. A continuous process of generation and consumption of electric energy takes place in the human body.   Maharshi Vaatsyaayana has described the various power centres in human body.   More energy is generated in our body whenever we are excited and battle various emotions as well as indulge in intense physical activity.  However, at night when we retire until the next morning this generation and consumption level of power drops drastically. This is the reason why we feel so lethargic on waking up in the morning.   We are neither active physically non mentally.   Washing our face immediately clears the cobwebs of drowsiness.   A bath certainly freshens up completely and puts us in our best shape.  This happens due to the fact that water consumes the electricity in our body.    This is known as Electro-magnetic activity.   Physics describes this in detail.   Therefore, taking bath has more to do with such scientific reasoning
than merely cleanliness.


The time 90 minutes prior to sunrise is called Braahmi Muhurtham. This time is good for academics, purohits and the time where in the later hours, the night the last 48 mins. (2 ghadi) is called Braahmi Muhurtham. 'Braahmi' means Saraswathi, the Goddess of intellect. The above specified time is auspicious for gaining and sustaining intelligence and knowledge, owing to which it is called Braahmi Muhurtham. It is during Braahmi muhurtham that Sun god spreads his rays just as a peacock spreading its feathers. He starts spreading his light and energy throughout the world. The light rays from the Galaxies influence the human brain. The nascent sun spreads thousand arms in the form of rays across the sky, which emit light-blue devine rays. These rays bring to life the cells and the brain. Lord Surya or the sun god is also the god of life. If the man can synchronise his senses with these rays during this hour he will be empowered with unchallengeable energy. This observation was endorsed by sages. This is the time when the life under the sun still remains in deep sleep supported by the tranquil and pleasant environment, the sages and munis spread the power of penance, which comes out in the form of high powered electrical and magnetic charge, for the upliftment of the living creatures on the earth. If one keep awake during these hours, it is possible to benefit from this charge.


One should apply the sacred religious marks (Tilakam) after performing aachamana(sipping water sanctified and fortified with mantras). The sacred texts enjoin that the forehead must never be left unannointed.

It has been a tradition in all Hindu families, irrespective of caste and creed to mark the body with some sacred sign.It is an ancient practice still in use wherein women, men and children of all castes apply such signs according to their traditions to this date. It is decreed imperative in case of women. Any women who sports a Tilakam on her forehead anywhere in world appears to owe her roots to bharatavarsha, i.e, India. It is our tradition to invite people to any auspicious ritual by applying a "Tilakam", vermilon dot on the forehead. It also signifies pleasantly the subsistence of her beloved husband. Even the most poverty sticken bid their relatives, friends, etc,farewell by applying a Tilakam. The havemores and the havenot, all commonly sport Tilakam. The splendour of a Tilakam is compared with that of Goddess Laxmi Devi herself and therefore, Indians paint even the portal of their residence with beautiful bindies lending unparalleled grace to it. The is not only a beautifying aid for women but also a charm to ward off evil, the elders opine. Beginning with a child in a cradle to a grandma, all women wear a Tilak.


Pooja is a part of Indian tradition. However, pooja in the Indian context is not just as simple as reading something from a holy book. All those performing the pooja are involved in the process of worship. This is considered to be a direct way communicating with the god.

Indians have a practice of worshipping god in different forms. It is said that there are about 30 million forms of god. It is also believed that there is only one sole supreme. There are different schools of worship. Some advocate worshipping the supreme god without a form or a shape since god is considered to be the cosmic power. Others give a form or a shape to the god. It is reflected in the idols they pray. Worshiping Yantras or the algebric forms of mantras encrypted on a variety of surfaces like metal, wood and stone is also a popular form. However, worshiping idols of different gods are the most followed.


Ghantaa or bell is a common sight in any temple. Bell has a signficant place in the process of worship. While the bell made of gold and silver produce mild sound it is said that the bells made of copper, brass help in controlling the evils and germs.


Abhishekam is an important part of idol worship. Normally, abhishekam, or bathing the idol, is performed to the gods (in the form of idols) with Panchaamrita. It is a mixture of cow milk, curds, pure ghee, sugar and honey. Devotees also mix banana and coconut water in Panchaamrita.
After completing the abhisheka, the panchaamrita used for the purpose is consumed by the devotees as teertha.It is said that panchaamrita, being the mixture of various milk products, has medicinal values and will provide health and nourishment to the body. However, since it is used for worshipping the god, there are spiritual values too attached to this teertha. For non-believers, the fact that it adds to the health would convince them to consume it.


Festoon (Toranam)Decorating the main door of the houses, temples or any other place, where some ritual is performed, with a festoon (Toranam or a string of mango leaves) is part of the Indian culture. Normally, this kind of decoration is done during festivals or celebrations. Though there is a scientific reason behind this festoon decoration, this has become a part of the tradition and majority does not even bother to know the actual reason behind doing so. Indians use a festoon made of fresh and green mango leaves. However, leaves of other species like Neem are also used for this purpose. Most of us know that the green leaves absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. This helps in keeping the surrounding atmosphere clean and hygienic. Keeping, the aesthetics in view, mango leaves are preferred, since their shape adds to the ambience. However, all other advantages of having a festoon revolve around this basic reason. According to a theory, the air filled with carbon dioxide, which is lighter than the pure air, gets purified immediately while passing through the festoon. In addition, insects get attracted to the green leaves. This stops the insects from entering the room.


Even this is an age-old practice in every house according to the Hindu culture and tradition. Applying Turmeric on the threshold is as important as having bath in every Indian house. Again, every one knows the reason. But the modern Indian has a habit of ridiculing all such practices and branding them as blind beliefs or meaningless practices.It is beyond doubt that turmeric has anti-septic characters. It is an anti-bacterial too. While the green festoon hanging on the top of the main door frame stops insects and other visible but small flying objects from entering the room, turmeric applied on the door sill stops bacteria or other microscopic organisms from making their way into the house. Turmeric checks every invisible organism.
In addition, the yellow color makes the main door colorful and is an aesthetic combination for the green festoon on the top of the doorframe.


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