Customs and traditions
In India, hospitality is central. Those who visit an Indian household are usually offered the best house they have. Traditional clothing also dominates, although Western garments such as jeans nowadays are common at least in the cities. India has a plethora of religious festivals, holidays and various New Year celebrations.
The most common greeting phrase of the Hindus is the lowest thing said with palms pressed at chest height. Muslims say salam walekum. Out of courtesy, you greet the oldest person first. Men and women do not shake hands, although it may occur in Western business contexts.
- Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of India, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
It is important to behave respectfully towards seniors, leaders and religious leaders. Titles such as professor or doctor are often used. A common way to show respect is to add “ji” to a surname, such as Gandhiji. Indian women are often reserved towards foreign men.
According to Abbreviationfinder, Indians often have a fairly flexible view of times, but in business context punctuality is becoming increasingly important. Office workers generally start after nine in the morning and the best time for meetings is late morning or late afternoon. Many state workplaces hold lunch closed. Business is open late.
Visits, invitations and gifts
At weddings and festivals like diwali (see below), gifts are important. The wedding gift signals the importance of the recipient to the donor and the financial status of the donor. Clothes, home electronics, jewelry and money are common wedding gifts.
It is fun to bring a smaller gift if you are invited to an Indian family. Suitable symbolic gifts may be fruits, sweets and nuts. Giving flowers is common among well-to-do Indians. White flowers should be avoided as they are used at funerals. It is polite for the recipient to first refuse a gift. Wrapped presents are not opened in the presence of the donor.
When visiting an Indian home you should take off your shoes. The kitchen is a private part of the home and a guest does not go there uninvited. It is impolite to touch someone with the foot and if it happens by accident you should apologize. If you are invited to tea or something to eat, it is polite to say no once. If the invitation is genuinely intended, it is repeated several times.
If a company goes to a restaurant in India, it is the person who proposes the visit who pays the bill for the whole company.
Fun small talk is often about family and children, career, food and culture. Topics to avoid include religion, sex and political explosives such as Pakistan and Kashmir. Indian issues such as poverty, caste discrimination and child marriage are also sensitive topics of conversation.
Indians unwittingly say no to a question and speak rather hoveringly. Saying no to, for example, a dinner invitation can be perceived as unfair and rejection can instead be wrapped in an “I’ll try” or “we’ll see”. When you say “yes”, you sometimes turn your head from right to left.
Food and meals
Indian cuisine is incredibly rich and varies from north to south. Hindus and Sikhs do not eat beef and Muslims refrain from pork. Vegetarianism is widespread among Hindus and Buddhists and many do not eat eggs either. Practitioners of the religion Jainism also refrain from onions and garlic. For many vegetarians, cream cheese panir is an important source of nutrition. Along the coast, seafood is common food, while chicken and lamb dominate in the north.
In general, the dishes are spicy and the emphasis is on vegetables and lentils. In northern India, unleavened bread is a more important staple than rice.
An Indian breakfast often consists of a hot vegetable dish with bread or rice. Tea is the most common drink in northern India while coffee is found in the south. Lunch or dinner can be dal, a lentil soup that comes in many varieties, a vegetable or meat dish, as well as rice or bread. For this, pickles and yogurt are served. Indian desserts and sweets are very sweet and are often based on milk and nuts.
After eating, it is common to chew on spices such as anise to facilitate digestion and improve breath. Another appreciated chew product is sweet paan, where honey and various spices are wrapped in edible paan leaves into a small package that is chewed and swallowed. Paan is also available with tobacco and crushed betel nut where the package is chewed and the red juice is spat out.
Muslims, conservative Hindus and many women do not drink alcohol. However, India has a large selection of domestic beer and spirits. The wine industry is growing rapidly with vineyards in the southern parts of the country. Alcohol is expensive and among the poorest, home-made liquor is a growing health hazard.
Indian food is often eaten with your hands and you wash your hands both before and after the meal. You eat with your right hand, the left is considered unclean when used in toilet visits.
Indian women often wear sari and salwar kamiz. A sari consists of about six meters of fabric draped over a waist short blouse and skirt. Salwar kamiz is a long tunic with slim or puffy pants and a matching shawl.
For men, it is popular with kurta, a long collarless tunic, which is worn with some form of pants. Dhoti is a piece of fabric that is wrapped around the waist and up between the legs while the lungi, which is common in southern India, is worn more like a wrap skirt. For this you have a shirt or tunic. Indian men do not have shorts and women do not wear short skirts.
Indian children and young people have school uniforms. Sikh men always wear turban and Sikh boys comb their hair in a knot on their head. Indian politicians almost always wear traditional clothes, while Western attire is becoming more common in business contexts.
Visitors should dress conservatively in the countryside. It means long skirt, tunic and shawl for women, shirt and pants for men. In larger cities and in holiday resorts, Western attire goes well.
India’s many religions mean that the country has a wide range of religious festivals, holidays and various New Year celebrations. Public holidays can vary from state to state. An important national holiday is Republic Day, which is celebrated on January 26 in memory of the birth of the Republic of India. A televised parade is held in New Delhi, where India’s military shows the muscles and each state participates in cultural shows.
According to Countryaah, on August 15, India celebrates its independence from the United Kingdom, and on October 2, the national hero and freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday is celebrated. On national holidays you can see the Indian flag: a saffron colored, a white and a green field with a blue chakra (a wheel with 24 spokes) in the middle (see here). You can also hear the Indian national anthem Jana-Gana-Mana (You are the ruler of all human minds), to which the Nobel laureate and national poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote both text and music.
For the Hindus, holi and diwali belong to the biggest festivals. During the holi in February – March you are welcomed in the spring. The holiday is celebrated with games where both children and adults throw toner and colored water at each other. Diwali is a light festival in October – November when the wealth goddess Lakshmi is honored with parties, prayer ceremonies and gifts.
Muslims celebrate the feast of the month of Ramadan, which ends with the party id al-fitr. The Christians celebrate Easter and Christmas. The Sikhs celebrate the birthday of Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhism, at the end of November.
A new law of corruption is adopted
The federal parliament adopts a new anti-corruption law that gives India an independent ombudsman who can prosecute corruption-prone politicians and civil servants. This has been one of Anna Hazare’s main demands against corruption, which the upper house has previously opposed. However, the leader of the AAP party, Hazare’s disciple Arvind Kejriwal, says that the new law is “weak” (for background on the law see August 2011, December 2011 and January 2012).
Gay acts again illegal
The Supreme Court decides that homosexual acts should again be criminalized. A 153-year-old colonial law says that homosexual acts should be punished with up to ten years in prison. The law was abolished by a lower court in 2009, but the Supreme Court says it should not be abolished by the judiciary but by the federal parliament. The Court says that it must be Parliament that establishes and abolishes the country’s laws.
The BJP becomes the big winner of the state elections
The overall result of the state elections will be a great success for the BJP and a staggering setback for the Congress party. The results are seen as a signal of where the people’s opinion is before the federal elections in spring 2014. Strengthened by the successes in Delhi, AAP decides to stand in the elections to the federal parliament.
AAP forms government in Delhi, BJP wins in Rajasthan
In the state elections in Rajastan, the BJP wins a landslide victory. In Delhi, the dominance of the two major parties is broken when the Common People’s Party (AAP) becomes the second largest. The BJP becomes the largest party and the Congress party comes third. Since the BJP and its alliance party are not given enough mandate to form a government on their own, they renounce government power. AAP forms the state government together with the Congress Party.
BJP wins in Madhya Pradesh
In the state elections in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP wins big. In Mizoram in the far east, the Congress Party wins.
Violent election in Chhattisgarh
Elections to the state assembly in Chhattisgarh are held under great security pressure. In several constituencies, the election process is disturbed by acts of violence carried out by the Naxalites (see Naxalitu uprising), which should have placed explosive charges at some polling stations in order to prevent residents from voting. The ruling BJP becomes the largest party and retains government power. The turnout is relatively high, which is interpreted as a success for the Democratic parties and a setback for the Maoists.
Many killed in attacks in Bihar
Six people are killed and more than 100 injured when several explosive charges explode in the city of Patna in Bihar. The explosions occur shortly before BJP’s Prime Minister candidate Modi will speak in front of a larger gathering of supporters. Modi’s number is set. No group assumes responsibility for the attack.
Agreement on cooperation at the border with China
India and China enter into an agreement on border defense cooperation with the aim of avoiding confrontations in the disputed joint border regions in the Himalayas.
American ship seized
The Indian Coast Guard stops a vessel owned by a private US-based security company in Indian territorial waters. It finds that the ship is loaded with weapons and ammunition that the owners have not declared. The 35-man crew is arrested and detained in a port city in Tamil Nadu.
Protests against the formation of a new state
Andhra Pradesh is suffering from severe power outages for several days since electricity workers went on strike in protest of plans to form the new state of Telangana (see July 2013). The formation means that Andhra Pradesh in the future will lose the dynamic metropolis Hyderabad. In addition to the strike, other types of protest actions are also being carried out.
Famous politicians are sentenced to prison
One of India’s most famous politicians, Lalu Prasad Yadav, is sentenced to five years in prison for a corruption deal in the 1990s, when he was the head of government in Bihar. He then embezzled tens of millions of dollars from a state support program for livestock owners. The verdict means that Yadav loses his seat in parliament. Lalu was formerly Federal Railways Minister and his party Rashtriya Janata Dal supports the Congress party’s federal government.
About 10 dead in Kashmir
About ten people, including police, military, assailants and civilians, are killed by militant perpetrators at a police station and an army camp in Indian Kashmir. The incident complicates the situation ahead of planned talks between Pakistan and India in the UN.
Modi formally becomes prime ministerial candidate
The BJP opposition party formally appoints Narendra Modi (see June 2013) as its prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 elections.
Four convicted to death for group rape
The four adult men charged with the group rape in Delhi 2012 are sentenced to death. The judge justifies the death penalty with the extreme brutality of the crime and says the incident “shocked the collective conscience”. On average, around 130 death sentences per year are served in India, but until November 2012 no executions had been carried out in eight years.
Dozens of deaths in violence between Muslims and Hindus
The worst religious ravages in several years are erupting in the district of Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, just over 10 miles northeast of Delhi. 49 people are reported to have been killed when groups of Hindus and Muslims attacked each other with knives and firearms. The riots begin after a mass rally in which the participants demand revenge for the murder of three Hindu men as they objected to a Hindu woman being verbally harassed. The political parties in the state accuse each other of inflicting violence. Thousands of soldiers are sent to Muzaffarnagar and military readiness is being raised throughout Uttar Pradesh. Prime Minister Singh pledges 200,000 rupees in compensation to the victims’ families and 50,000 rupees to the relatives of the most severely injured.
Lifetime prison for gang rape in Bangalore
Six men are sentenced to life imprisonment for a group rape against a 21-year-old Nepali female student at a university campus in Bangalore in October 2012.
The rapist is sentenced to juvenile imprisonment
The youngest of the defendants for the group rape in Delhi in December 2012 is sentenced to three years in prison. The man was 17, and thus a minor, when the crime was committed.
Parliament adopts food safety law
Parliament’s two chambers adopt the Food Grants Act for two-thirds of the population, the so-called Food Safety Act.
The conflict in Kashmir is escalating
Five Indian soldiers are shot dead in Kashmir. According to the defense minister, there have been people in Pakistani army uniforms among the 20 men who killed the Indians. The Indian government submits a protest to Pakistan, which denies involvement. After frantic reactions to the shooting deaths by the opposition and the Indian public, the government sharpened the tone and openly accuses the Pakistani army of being behind the attack. The shootings are followed by several days of minor screen arrests at the border and mutual accusations of escalating the conflict.
Requirements for more new states
The government’s decision to move Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh (see below) is triggering widespread protests among the people of Andhra Pradesh as well as members of the state parliament and the federal parliament. About 30 members of Andhra Pradesh parliament resign in protest. The decision also revives old demands for new states in other parts of India. Both in West Bengal and Assam, ethnic minorities demonstrate self-government.
Andhra Pradesh is to be shared
The government decides that the state of Andhra Pradesh should be divided by telangana deployment. The new state of Telangana will have 35 million residents and cover 10 of the 23 districts of Andhra Pradesh. Waiting for Andhra Pradesh to get a new capital of its own, the two states will share in Hyderabad which will then end up in Telangana. The decision triggers widespread protests in Andhra Pradesh. For the proposal to become a reality, it must be approved by both the Andhra Pradesh state parliament and the Delhi federal parliament.
Sentenced politicians must resign
The Supreme Court of India decides that members of federal and state legislative assemblies must submit their assignments if sentenced to at least two years in prison. More than 150 of the 543 members of the federal parliament’s lower house are suspected of crimes, most often corruption. The decision is made to reduce corruption among politicians.
Attacks on Buddhist temples
Nine explosions occur at one of India’s most famous Buddhist temple complexes, Bodh Gaya Monastery and Mahabodhi Temple in the state of Bihar. Two people are injured and the buildings are less damaged. The police describe the explosions as a terrorist act and the Indian mujahedin is suspected to be behind this. A man is arrested by the police.
The President approves the Food Safety Act
President Mukherjee signs the government’s bill on food subsidies for two-thirds of the population, the so-called Food Safety Act (see March 2013). The law must also be ratified by Parliament.
Thousands dead in flood
One of the world’s largest rescue operations is carried out when hundreds of thousands of people get help from flooded areas in the state of Uttarakhand in the Himalayas, where the monsoon rains are the worst in 80 years. An estimated 5,700 people are feared dead as a result of floods and landslides. Thousands of villages are leveled or severely damaged.
Worst attack in Kashmir in five years
Eight Indian soldiers are killed and seven injured when armed men attack an army column in Srinagar in Indian Kashmir. The attack is the worst in five years and occurs the day before Prime Minister Singh will visit the area. A few days earlier, two Indian policemen were shot dead in Srinagar.
The government is being reformed
Prime Minister Singh is rebranding in the government in an attempt to bring new energy to the Congress party. Two senior ministers are dismissed and eight new ministers are appointed.
Modi becomes BJP’s prime ministerial candidate
The BJP appoints Narendra Modi, the prime minister of Gujarat, as leader of the party’s campaign committee ahead of the 2014 general elections (for more on Modi see December 2012). In practice, the appointment means that Modi will become the prime ministerial candidate for the BJP in 2014. The election of Modi results in the party’s founder and “patriarch”, LK Advani, not leaving the party congress – officially for health reasons. He also resigns from his party assignments in protest but is persuaded to remain. The controversy exposes strong contradictions within the BJP.
Many killed by Maoists in Chhattisgarh
At least 20 people are killed by Maoist rebels (see Naxali uprising) in Chhattisgarh. A couple of those killed are high ranking politicians within the Congress party in the state.
Death sentence for the explosion in Pune 2010
The man charged with blasting German Bakery in Pune in February 2010, when 17 people were killed, is sentenced to death for murder and for planning the act. Five other suspected perpetrators are still on the loose.
Rape on children is rioting
Protest demonstrations are being held in Delhi after it was revealed that a five-year-old girl has been trapped for at least two days after being kidnapped, raped, tortured and left to her fate. Two men are arrested for the abuse. Later this month, another five-year-old girl dies after a serious rape in Madhya Pradesh. The girl is found unconscious in a farmhouse, taken to hospital but dies after a few weeks. At least one man is arrested for the abuse.
Murdered Italians back in India
The Supreme Court decides that Italy’s ambassador to India is once again free to leave the country after the two Italian marines returned to India to attend the murder trial in New Delhi (see March 2013).
Plans for food grants to the poor
The government presents a plan to subsidize food for two-thirds of India’s population. The so-called Food Safety Act means that access to food should become a right supported by the law and that about 800 million poor Indians should have access to five kilos of cereals every month. The law also means that the price of a range of basic foods must be lowered through government subsidies. The Food Safety Act was an election promise made by the Congress Party in the election campaign in 2009.
Government Party jumps off
The DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) regional party in Tamil Nadu leaves the government. The reason is that the DMK wants the government to make a clearer mark against the Sri Lankan government’s suspected abuse of the Tamil minority in the civil war in Sri Lanka. The DMK wants India to label what happened in the neighboring country as genocide (see Sri Lanka, modern history). Despite the resignation, the government still has a majority in parliament.
Diplomatic dispute with Italy deepens
The conflict over the two murdered Italian marines deepens as India raises the Italian ambassador’s diplomatic prosecution immunity. The two defendants return to India to participate in the trial since Rome stated that they have received guarantees from India that the defendants will be treated well. Italy’s Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi resigns in protest of sending the Marines back to India.
Dispute with Italy on murdered marines
India’s highest court forbids Italy’s ambassador to leave the country after the Italian government refused to extradite two Italian marines who are charged with murdering two Indian fishermen in Kerala in February 2012. The defendants have been detained in India since the shooting but were allowed to temporarily visit their home country in February 2013 to vote in the Italian elections. They then refused to return to India and were initially supported by the Italian government. However, the Italian ambassador to India had personally guaranteed that the defendants would return. The prosecuted Italians acknowledge that they shot the fishermen but state that they believed they were pirates about to attack the oil ship guarded by the soldiers.
Five dead in assault in Kashmir
Five security officers at a police station in Srinagar in Indian Kashmir are killed in an assault, which is described as the worst assault against Indian authorities in Kashmir in three years. In riots that erupt on the city streets after the assault, about 10 people are killed in clashes with the police.
Prosecutor for the group rape dies
The bus driver who is charged with the gang rape in Delhi 2012 dies in prison. Prison staff say he committed suicide by hanging, while his family and defense attorneys say he was brought to life in prison after being beaten and raped.
Explosion attacks in Hyderabad
Seventeen people are killed when two coordinated explosive charges detonate at a bus stop in Hyderabad. The police investigation points to the Islamist Indian mujahedin behind the act.
Execution leads to outbreak of violence in Kashmir
Demonstrations erupt in Indian Kashmir when Kashmir Muslim Mohammad Afzal Guru is executed by hanging for participation in an attack on India’s parliament in 2001. Three young men are shot dead by police in connection with the demonstrations. The people are upset, among other things, that the Guru is buried inside the prison area of Delhi and not in Kashmir, and that his family was not informed of the hanging in advance. Guru has been in death cell since 2002.
Many dead in clan-related violence in Assam
Thirteen people are shot dead by police when violence erupts at a polling station in Assam. Members of the clan rabha oppose the local elections being held, as they consider it contrary to the clan’s traditional practices. According to his own information, the police shoot into the crowd when a security guard becomes stabbed. Before that, clan members must have attacked staff in the polling station and tried to prevent them from entering the building. Another six people are killed in violent clashes between various protest groups.
Stricter punishment for crimes against women
The Indian government and president are introducing new laws that sharpen the scale of punishment for a number of crimes targeting women, such as rape and acid attacks. The death penalty can now be punished for a rape that causes the victim to die or “end up in a vegetative state”. Group rape, rape against minors, and rape committed by police or other government personnel must provide a prison term of at least 20 years (previously the minimum sentence was 10 years). In 2011, over 24,000 rapes were registered in India; a quarter of them led to conviction. In Delhi, a rape is estimated every 25 minutes – every tenth rape is reported to the police.
Doctors in the United States are condemned for participation in the Mumbai act
An American-Pakistani doctor in the US is sentenced by a US court to 35 years in prison for participation in the planning of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008.
BJP elects new chairman
Opposition party BJP elects 62-year-old party veteran Rajnath Singh as new party chairman. Sitting chairman Nitin Gadkari does not stand for re-election after being accused of corruption. In the BJP, the president is not always elected as the party’s prime ministerial candidate in the general elections.
Women’s Court is set up in West Bengal
As a direct consequence of the group rape in Delhi, a special women’s court is set up in West Bengal with only female staff. The court is supposed to be the first in the line of similar courts in India. The aim is that cases involving female abuse, rape or other crimes against women should be dealt with more quickly.
Rahul Gandhi is promoted
The Congress Party appoints Rahul Gandhi as Vice Chairman. He thus becomes the party’s second highest representative, after his mother, party chairman Sonia Gandhi.
More group rape is being noticed
Four Delhi police are being suspended from their services as a result of how they handled a suspected gang rape that happened to a 21-year-old woman on January 5. In Punjab, six men are arrested on suspicion of group rape against a 29-year-old woman aboard a bus.