The fabric of Indian
society is woven with myriad threads. The result is
multi-textured, many layered and though this
diversity has fuelled some dissension, it continues
to be India’s strength.
India is predominantly Hindu and it also has the
world’s largest population of Muslims. Sikhs,
Buddhists, Jains, Christians (Roman Catholic,
Protestant and Syrian Christian), Jews and
Zoroastrians people this great land. There is
phenomenal ethnic diversity too. While the people of
the north are mainly Indo-Aryan, in the south they
are mostly Dravidian. The tribal population in the
northeast is of Tibeto-Burmese extract, while the
‘adivasis’ of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are
probably proto Australoid. Language varies almost
every ten miles and India’s billion-strong
population has a total of 1535 recognized dialects.
One of the most marked things about Indian society
is the great diversity. This applies to religion,
ethnicity and language as much as to the economic
situation. The yawning gap between the rich and the
poor is bridged by a large middle class of small
businessmen, professionals, bureaucrats etc.
Most Indians actively practice their religion, and
despite the creeping westernisation, most of India
is socially orthodox. That means that caste
distinctions have not been forgotten, man-woman
interaction may be frowned upon, and the public
display of affection is strictly no-no. The cow is
sacred and ‘all ye who forget that-be doomed’. The
left hand, which is an indispensable tool for Indian
ablutions, is considered impure and isn’t used in
passing things around.
On the whole the Indians are a warm welcoming
people. The guest is next only to God and crooks and
touts notwithstanding, and curious looks and probing
questions notwithstanding, you’ll find that they are
great hosts. Their idiosyncrasies just make it all
the more interesting; be patient and you will learn
to love the complete package.