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 People & Society of India

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.


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