Cultural Highlights In IndiaA cultural exploration of a country as large as India can involve quite a lot, particularly when the specifics of what comprises the culture vary from one region to the next. You can’t get a full feel for India with a single tour or trek. For that reason though, it’s good to consider what a cultural tour of India might mean in a broad sense, and thinking of things this way, these are some of the highlights in major cultural categories.
Food isn’t everything, but it can be one of the most distinct aspects of a country’s culture, and it just so happens that India is home to some of the most unique cuisine in the world. Said to have roots in the Moghul Empire of the 1500s, Indian food is heavy on spices and features striking flavor combinations. Bold sauces, herbs, and spices elevate some otherwise ordinary ingredients to create dishes that are mimicked and beloved all around the world. Additionally, because there’s more focus on flavor that ingredients, India is known for producing filling and satisfying vegetable-based dishes, to the point that large portions of the population are vegetarian, and its’ not uncommon to find vegetarian India restaurants out in the world.
We could fill pages listing restaurants to try where you might partake of the best of traditional dishes, or enjoy particularly nice atmospheres. Instead though, we’ll leave you with a list of street food places around the country that do well to exemplify some of the local fare. So often it’s street food that really shows off a country’s culinary prowess, and this can certainly be true in India. Plus, this gives you a cheap way to enjoy the food as you seek to broaden your understanding of the nation’s culture.
India is often characterized as being something of a dual religious state, with both Buddhism and Hinduism having deep roots in the country. It’s true that these and some other smaller religions are fairly active in India. However, the idea that the two main religions exist in any equal balance is misleading. The vast majority of Indians practice Hinduism and have for some time, and as a result the Hindu religion has a strong, fascinating place in the day-to-day culture. You may or may not feel comfortable attending an actual religious service or event of any kind, but even if not, the related temples should be part of any comprehensive tour of India. There are hundreds of them around the country, and more than a few are among the most humbling and impressive places you’ll see in the country. Wherever you may be touring specifically, you’d do well to see where the closest and most noteworthy Hindu temples are.
Arts may comprise the biggest and most diverse category in any country’s culture, and can naturally refer to any number of things. In India, more than visual arts or local museums, some might direct you to take in local architecture as a means of understanding the artistic prowess of Indians. Others might point you toward dance, or music, or even film, which has arguably become India’s greatest cultural export aside from food. There are legitimate comparisons between Bollywood and Hollywood, indicating the size, scope, quality, and impact of the Indian film industry. Engaging with this industry, whether that means studio tours, seeing current films, or whatever else it may be, can be a wonderful way to expose yourself to India’s artistic side, as it also often overlaps with music and dance.
Sport is a major aspect of culture that’s sometimes overlooked in conversations like these, and in India, as in many other large countries, it’s fairly expansive. Engaging with local sport can mean a lot of things. Sports fans in India will cheer on their teams as well as international rooting interests from their homes, from public sports bars, or at live matches. They will take part in the busy European-based markets for betting on and predicting sporting outcomes (given that the UK sites are easy for Indians to access given grey areas in gambling laws). And the excitement of sports will peak and become palpable in towns and cities whenever a particularly major event is approaching. It can all be fun to participate in whether or not you’re a major sports enthusiast yourself, and the local cricket in particular is uniquely Indian.
Nature & Wildlife
Nature and wildlife aren’t necessarily considered parts of culture everywhere. In fact, if you consider culture to be a result of human behavior and development, which might be most appropriate by strict definition, nature and wildlife shouldn’t be included. In India however, particularly from a traveler’s perspective, these are core elements of the country, and are part of what a lot of people will want to explore in order to get a feel for it. India is replete with beautiful natural areas and wildlife preserves showcasing animals the likes of which you don’t always see in many other parts of the world. So, while these things won’t give you any information about the people of India, or the culture by traditional definition, they’re still unique elements of the country and should be enjoyed and explored.