The words ‘serious’ or ‘stoic’ cannot be applied to anything that is truly Indian. Whether it is their weddings and family functions, or even a movie release or cricket match, everything that Indians are involved in inevitably has a rumbustious flavor to it. Heck, for that matter, in certain parts of the country, even funerals are celebrated with song and dance since they believe death is only a passing on from one form to another!
Indians have a sense of family that is unmatched anywhere in the world. Only in this country can you see families that include dozens of members and run up more than four generations living under a single roof! And while their fiercest forms of love are always kept reserved for their kin, if they like you enough they will make you a part of it no matter where you’re from. And once you are part of an Indian family, they will stick with you for life!
This is a culture that coined the motto ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’ or ‘guest is equivalent to God’ more than 2,000 years ago. And for the large part, continues to live by it even today! India’s hospitality is the stuff of legends and it doesn’t just apply to fancy hotels and resorts. In fact, India is one of the few countries where, as long as you are a guest with true intentions, people will welcome you into their homes no matter which part of the country you are in and provide you with all the comforts, even at the cost of great hardship.
Put together all the major religious and cultural festivals in the world and you still won’t get close to the number of festivals that are celebrated in India alone! That is just a testament to how much Indians love celebration. While major ones such as Diwali and Holi are world-renowned and draw tourists from all across the world who want to witness it, almost all of India’s festivals are celebrated with equal fervor and frolic across religious and cultural lines. The best part is that these Indian festivals are accompanied by unique delicacies and specialties, meaning that they are not just a cultural extravaganza, but also a culinary one.
When it comes to religion, it is often Hinduism that stands out among the rest in India in terms of popularity. However, not many know that India also constitutes the second-largest Muslim population in the world and also a diverse following of Christianity that dates back to the 1st Century CE. Apart from this, India is also the birthplace of Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, and several other major religions. It is a testament to India’s and Indians’ legendary levels of tolerance that this vastly diverse mixture of religions and cultures has peacefully co-existed in this country for thousands of years! So no matter which religion or culture you are an adherent of, you will surely feel at home in India.
It is often said that India’s largest religion, Hinduism, isn’t exactly a religion as much as it is an over-arching philosophy of life. And true to this tradition, Indians have always had a strong sense of philosophical pursuit and are often more than receptive to every viewpoint. Not only are they proud of their ancient philosophical culture, Indians have also contributed greatly to the modern philosophical pursuit. Indeed, only in India can you meet someone who wears Sartre on his sleeve and also quotes from the Gita at every turn!
While India is the land of ascetics and Indians have championed the cause of renunciation of desires for thousands of years, take one to the market and you will find that they are also masters of material prudence. Watching an Indian bargain is a spectacle on its own and is an eye-opener for outsiders who think reason still applies when bargaining. Take an Indian along with you on your next shopping visit and you will make more in savings than you’ve made in the entire year!
Indian merchants were one of the first in the world to spread out all across the globe and this tradition still runs strong in its population today. Whether you go to a non-descript Pacific isle or a remote African nation, you will always find an Indian there. But this enterprising culture doesn’t just apply to its diaspora and some of its best examples can be seen right at home. Just visit Mumbai’s CST station on any weekday and witness the ordeal it takes for normal Indians to travel to work and you will understand how tenacious, resourceful and enterprising this country’s people can be. No matter where they are, Indians have a penchant for turning every weakness into a strength and see opportunity in even disaster.
Generosity is a basic tenet of India’s over-arching culture and ancient tradition. And while the rest of the world might’ve forgotten it, Indians still champion the cause of service to the fellow man at every possible turn. Visit any Gurudwara in India and you’ll leave with a belly full of sumptuous food, or knock on any door with a call for help and you’ll find that it is answered! This is perhaps most evident when you eat at an Indian home, where the hosts will make sure you eat twice what you normally do and still force you to make space for dessert!
People have been coming from far and wide to India for centuries seeking spiritual wisdom, and they never go back disappointed. However, this deeply spiritual culture is not a geographical feature but is rather born from the propensity to be spiritual in every Indian, not just its ascetics and gurus. When in doubt, ask any Indian and you will find gems of spiritual wisdom that is a gift honed through centuries of spiritual pursuit.
Many have said that India’s greatest strength is its diversity. However, in truth, this country’s greatest asset is not just its diversity but rather the unity its populace displays in the face of it. While the world has tried hard to fit all Indians under one umbrella, each one is representative of a culture, tradition, race, or religion that is only one in a multitude that co-exists peacefully in India. So if you think you know Indians and what they’re like just because you’ve met a few, just travel from one end of this great country to the other and you’ll discover just how diverse they can be!