The Indian subcontinent is home to one of the largest, oldest and most complex civilisations on the planet. This nation of more than 1 billion people has a distinct, thriving culture that makes it an interesting place to study or travel. While India itself is made up of numerous subcultures, religious groups and languages, major cultural patterns characterise the nation.
Indians value cuisine as a means of social bonding. Different regions have their own cuisines, and gastronomy can vary widely between the disparate northern and southern regions of the country, but generally Indian food is colourful, spicy and concocted with an array of spices and flavourings. Vegetarianism is one cuisine-related cultural pattern that is important to Indian society, since it speaks to the culture's regard for health and animal welfare -- especially that of cows, which are, to Hindus especially, considered sacred.
Hinduism is the dominant religion in a country in which many other faiths -- Sikhism, Jainism, Islam -- also exist. Hinduism has a distinct influence on Indian cultural patterns. Hindus conceive of the world as an "undivided wholeness" permeated by an all-encompassing spiritual force known as Brahman. The fundamental human aims in Hinduism also apply to Indian culture and include success, liberation, righteousness and enjoyment.
Indian society is more collectivist than most Western societies; therefore, the family assumes a greater importance in daily life. Family ties are close both within nuclear families and between immediate families that compose the extended family. Intergenerational reverence and respect is an important cultural value. Frequently, children continue living with their parents until the children get married.
Values and Beliefs
Festivals are an important part of Indian life. Indians value such public celebrations their expression of joy and their bringing together of a community. Even as India progresses technologically, people still place a premium on alternative, traditional medicine, such as yogic healing. The popularity of meditation, practised for thousands of years in the subcontinent, indicates India's attitude toward the importance of the mind-body connection.