Traditions and customs

Tradition and Customs Run Deep in Indian Culture

Traditions and customs

An employee of the Oberoi Hotel at New Delhi doing Namaste, a traditional Indian greeting. Photo by Saptarshi Biswas / CC BY 2.0

The culture of India. Its the way people live in India. The country’s languages, religions, architecture, dance, music, food, tradition and customs are different across the country. The Indian culture spans across India. Its tradition and customs have been influenced by several thousand years of history. India is one of the world’s oldest civilizations and the second most populated country in the world.

Hinduism, Buddhism, architecture, administration and the writing system spread from India to other parts of Asia. Travelers and maritime traders used the Silk Road during the early centuries. Over the centuries, there has been a significant mixture of cultures. It was between Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims (Sunni, Shia, Sufi), Jains, Sikhs and various tribal populations in India.

Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism all originated from India. Today Hinduism and Buddhism are the world’s third and fourth-largest religions. Followers of Indian religions; Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists make up about 80–82% population of India. Tradition in India makes religion play a central and definitive role in the life of many of its people.

Festivals Galore in India

Since India is a multi-cultural, ethnic and religious society, it celebrates holidays and festivals of various religions. The three national holidays are Independence Day, Republic Day and Gandhi Jayanti. They are celebrated with enthusiasm across India. In addition, many Indian states and regions have local festivals depending on prevalent religious and linguistic demographics.

Popular religious festivals include the Hindu festivals of:

Diwali festival

Diwali festival

  • Navratri
  • Janmashtami
  • Diwali
  • Maha Shivratri
  • Ganesh Chaturthi
  • Durg
  • Holi
  • Rath Yatra
  • Ugadi
  • a Puja
  • Onam
  • Vasant Panchami
  • Rakshabandhan
  • Dussehra

The Islamic festivals which are observed and are declared public holiday in India are;

  • Eid ul Fitr
  • Eid ul Adha-(Bakri Eid)
  • Milad un Nabi
  • Muharram
  • Shab-e-Barat

Several harvest festivals such as Makar Sankranti, Pongal and Raja sankaranti swinging festival are also fairly popular. People celebrate Indian New Year festival in different part of India with unique styles in different times.

Some festivals in India are celebrated by multiple religions. Notable examples include Diwali, which is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the country. Buddha Purnima, are celebrated by Buddhists. Sikh festivals, such as Guru Nanak Jayanti, Baisakhi are celebrated with full fanfare by Sikhs and Hindus of Punjab and Delhi. That’s where the two communities together form an overwhelming majority of the population.

Lake Pichola

Lake Pichola, Udaipur India

India: Know the Etiquette Before Visiting the Country

An excellent mix of both Asian and Western tradition, custom and etiquette, the Indian etiquette is somehow conservative, formal and yet, unique; more so because of the British influence on the Indians during the colonial rule.

The diverse population in India comprises mostly 80% of Hindus followed by 14% Muslims 2.4% Christians, 2% Sikhs, 0.7% Buddhists, 0.5% Jains and 0.4% others. Hence, the major religion is Hinduism, followed by Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, and others (includes Zoroastrianism).

This ‘religion’ influences the Indians in many ways. For example, the Hindus consume food only after offering it to God/Goddesses.
india traditions



Traditional henna tatto0

Greetings in India are varied and include:

  • Namaste (Hindi and Sanskrit)
  • Namaskar (Hindi)
  • Juhar/Namaskar in Odia
  • Namaskar (Marathi)
  • Namaskara (Kannada)
  • Namaskaram (Telugu, Malayalam)
  • Vanakkam (Tamil)
  • Nomoshkaar (Bengali)
  • omoskar (Assamese)

These are all common spoken greetings or salutations in different parts of India. According to tradition people say them when people meet, and are forms of farewell when they depart. Namaskar is considered slightly more formal than Namaste but both express deep respect. Namaskar is commonly used in India and Nepal by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists.

Brihadeeswarar Temple

Brihadeeswarar Temple painting

The Etiquette You Need To Remember

A mixture of various religions and culture, India is a country with great diversity. Hence, when you visit India, you need to follow some basic Indian etiquette:

  • Washing hands before and after meals is a must.
  • While eating, do not talk.
  • Don’t make chewing sounds while eating.
  • traditional water carrying

  • When you are invited by someone at his/her home for a meal, let everyone sit down for the meal. Then the eating starts.
  • In India, people normally use right hand to eat. So, in a meal, follow what the host does. If you find the family eating with right hand, you do so. Vice versa, if the family is modern and comfortable using spoon and fork while eating, you also do so.
  • While eating, you should totally concentrate on food and not be on phone.
  • While eating, if you need to get up, do ask to be excused. Don’t just get up and walk up. It is considered an insult.
  • Public display of affection between sexes is not at all accepted.
  • Physical contact between men and women in public is a bad manner.
  • Shake hands only when an Indian extends his/her hand to you. This happens more in big cities.
  • If you are invited at someone’s wedding—Hindu, Muslim, or any other religion for that matter—learn the basics of the dos and dont’s before visiting the wedding.
  • While greeting someone, use your right hand, and not left hand. As Indians use their left hand for toilet use, it is considered unclean.
  • Standing tall with hands on hips is considered an aggressive body language.
  • Do not point your fingers at someone; it is considered rude and bad manner.
  • No whistling out to catch someone’s attention; whistling in public is not accepted.
  • Never use your feet to point at someone; high unacceptable. It means you are trying to insult the person by showing your feet to him/her.


South India

South India Backwaters

More Etiquette You Need To Remember

  • When you are at someone’s place, stand up when an elderly of the household walks in. Sit only when you are asked to do so.
  • When you visit someone at his/her home or office, you will be always offered a glass of water, followed by tea and some snacks. Do not refuse it. It is considered an insult and rudeness on your part.
  • indian man and child

  • Never pass lewd comments on someone’s dressing; it is considered very rude.
  • Never touch any religious object with your feet or left hand.
  • Know the rules before entering a temple, or mosque, or church… whichever is the religious place.
  • Do not pass any comments on the country’s political situation.
  • Don’t use the words ‘hey’, ‘hello’, ‘hey mister’, ‘hey miss’ when calling out to someone. It is considered rude. For example, you need to ask about one ABC street. You stop a passerby and say, “Hey mister, where is the ABC street?” Don’t do it. Instead, say, “Excuse me, can you help me in finding the ABC street?”
  • children

  • Don’t call someone by his/her first name till you have been asked by that person to do so.
  • For example, you meet one Mr. Om Khanna. Address him as Mr. Khanna till he says, “Please don’t be formal; you can call me Om.”
  • If you are elderly, you can be addressed as uncle or aunty. Indians are taught to give respect by not calling any elder person by his/her name.

Know the basic etiquette (where to be formal, where to be informal) when you are in India, follow them and you can easily mingle with the people. In fact, you will be loved and required help would be extended to you as and when you ask.


Like the languages and religions, Indian food is very diverse. Indian cuisines use numerous ingredients and deploy a wide range of food preparation styles. There are many different cooking techniques and culinary presentation.

Indian cuisine is invariably complex. Harold McGee, a favorite of many Michelin-starred chefs, writes “for sheer inventiveness with milk itself as the primary ingredient, no country on earth can match India.” India is known for its love for food and spices.

Indian cuisine varies from region to region. It reflects the local produce, cultural diversity, and varied demographics of the country. The diversity of Indian cuisine is characterized by differing use of many spices and herbs. There is a wide assortment of recipes and cooking techniques used.

Varied uses of spices are an integral part of certain food preparations. Spices are used to enhance the flavor of a dish and create unique flavors and aromas. Cuisine across India was influenced by various cultural groups that entered India throughout history.

Sweets are also very popular among Indians. Indian cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines around the world. A fusion of East Asian and Western cooking methods with traditional cuisines are prominent in major Indian cities. That’s along with regional adaptations of fast food.

Clothing in India

Image illustration is of different styles of Sari, Gagra Choli and Shalwar Kameez worn by women in India.

In India traditional clothing varies greatly across different parts of the country. Clothing is influenced by local culture, geography, climate and rural/urban settings. Popular styles of dress include draped garments such as sari for women.



Stitched clothes are also popular such as churidar or salwar-kameez for women. Women complete their outfit with dupatta (long scarf) thrown over shoulder. Salwar is often loose fitting, while churidar is a tighter cut. For men dhoti or lungi or panche (in Kannada).

Indian women love to perfect their sense of charm and fashion with make up and ornaments. Bindi, mehendi, earrings, bangles and other jewelry are common. Bindi is often an essential part of a Hindu woman’s make up. Worn on their forehead, some consider the bindi as an auspicious mark.

Make up and clothing styles differ regionally between the Hindu groups. It also differs by climate or religion, with Christians preferring Western and Muslim preferring the Arabic styles.

In urban and semi-urban centers, men and women of every religious background, can often be seen in jeans, trousers, shirts, suits, kurtas and variety of other fashions.

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