Traditions in India

Traditions in India

From ancient Hindu worship practices to classically spice-packed dishes, India is one of those countries that’s never short on cultural clout. And thanks to its tradition stalwarts, the majority have survived the ravages of time with envious ease. Such traditions have allowed a country of mind-boggling diversity (we’re talking 22 official languages and over 700 recognised ethnic groups) to always find common ground and celebrate everything from spices found in curries from Ladakh to Goa to colourful festivals like Holi. You’ll never be far from a famous tuk-tuk either, that can always be found whizzing haphazardly down every street corner. Read on to discover our ultimate roundup of our favourite traditions in India and how you can take part in them.

  1. Namaste Is the Go-to Greeting
  2. Food Is Packed with Spices and Yes… Eaten with Your Hands
  3. Life Is Lived on Three Wheels
  4. Hindu Worship Practices Are Quite the Spectacle
  5. Everything, Everywhere Is Bursting with Colour


Namaste Is the Go-to Greeting

We Brits are well aware of the awkward internal questions that float around a greeting. Are they going in for a hug or a handshake? How firm should that handshake be? Do I go for a kiss on the cheek? Painful. Awkward. Uncomfortable. So, of course, we are fans of India’s simple and seriously charming Namaste. Derived from the Sanskrit word meaning ‘I bow to the divine in you’, and involving a slight bow with your hands in prayer pose, Namaste is a great way to greet, thank or say goodbye to someone in a respectful way. And while we’re not much of a fan of the kitsch slogan T-shirts it has generated (anyone for a na-ma-ste in bed tee?), we sure do love this classic Indian greeting.


Food Is Packed with Spices and Yes… Eaten with Your Hands

If we were to pick just one of the traditions in India that lives up to its stereotype, it would be their traditions around food. To start with, each and every dish comes bursting with aromatic flavours from turmeric, cumin and ginger to cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. There is also the ever-present (and sometimes much feared) chili, which isn’t for the faint-hearted. We can arrange for you to enjoy private cooking classes with local families on the shores of the gloriously azure Vembanad Lake in Kerala or in classically cosy homes in the charming city of Pondicherry. Whatever your final dish is, make sure to tuck in with your hands. Apart from being a way to show respect to your host, it deepens the connection between your food and five senses.


Life Is Lived on Three Wheels

Indian roads – think tuk-tuks, bikes and regular old cars competing for every last inch of prime tarmac – aren’t everyone’s cup of chai. That said, if you’re wanting a full-on cultural immersion then joining in the madness of Indian road culture is an absolute must. Tuk-tuks have been one of the most traditional modes of transport since they emerged as the less labour intensive alternative to rickshaws. No matter where you are in the country, you’ll have little trouble flagging down a whizzing tuk-tuk. For something a little more slow-paced, we can arrange guided bike tours that see you weave through the craft markets of Jaipur, the spice markets of Cochin and the cobbled colonial streets of Goa.


Hindu Worship Practices Are Quite the Spectacle

India’s Hindu population (we’re talking a good 80% of the nation here) know how to worship in style. To start with there’s the puja, which encompasses the values of respect and homage to one or more deity through an offertory worship. Most people in India have a beautifully decorated shrine in their home, where they can perform the ritual by burning candles, lighting incense, leaving fruit and flowers and ringing a bell. But it’s in temples where things really step up a notch. Believed to be where gods reside, people  can often be seen bringing spiritual trinkets as offerings to connect to the divine. We can arrange for you to observe puja at dusk in one of the most important active temples in India, Sri Meenakshi, which is dedicated to the wife of Shiva. You can witness the spectacular daily ritual of the temple’s bronze statue of Shiva being taken to the chamber of his wife accompanied by hypnotic music and a fervent crowd.


Everything, Everywhere Is Bursting with Colour

We thought we’d finish our roundup of the best traditions in India with one of our absolute favourites: colour. One thing you’ll notice the moment you step foot in India is the sheer omnipresence of colour. Weaving its way – with exceptional vibrancy – into everything from food and fashion to architecture and festivities, you’ll see it in crimson saffron and turmeric (a symbol of sanctity), turquoise-blue  facades (which pays homage to Lord Krishna) and fiery red traditional saris  (a nod to Durga, one of the most revered Hindu goddesses). There is also Holi (the 'Festival of Colours'), which sees Hindus across the country head out during the spring equinox to toss around handfuls of coloured paints and powders – orange for optimism, blue for vitality and red for joy and love. While in India, our team of experts can organise an array of authentic experiences centred around colour – including taking part in a truck-painting workshop in Rajasthan, shopping for fabric and spices in the markets of New Delhi or hopping on a private tour of Sri Meenakshi, one of the most colourful temples in India.