India is a land particularly known for its vibrant traditions and multicultural events. It boasts a tapestry of customs that have evolved over millennia. Navigating through its rich heritage requires an understanding of the intricate web of social norms and etiquettes and how different topics are celebrated. 

In this page, you will find all about sacred rituals that mark everyday life, colorful festivals that define its calendar, and cultural traditions that mark India’s cultural landscape. These are some of the practices that shape interactions, celebrations, and daily life in India.

Rules related to religion

  • India is a religiously pluralistic country: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism are only some of the ones practiced in India. 
  • India has strict dress and behavior codes, especially at religious sites
  • Before entering a temple it is traditional to have a bath or shower. If you don’t want to do this, you should at least wash your hands and feet to cleanse yourself of negative thoughts and evil influences.
  • Conservative dress is most suitable for both men and women. Women should ideally wear a modest top and a calf or ankle-length skirt or trousers that will allow sitting comfortably cross-legged on the floor. Men should wear trousers and a shirt. 
  • Do not wear leather or animal skin of any kind, this is offensive.
  • You will also need to remove your shoes before entering temples or similar places of worship. If you prefer to keep your socks, you can, but make sure they are clean and without holes

Social and family customs

  • Family is very important in India. The structure is patriarchal where a woman must obey her father, her husband, her son. Gender- specific roles are widely encouraged.
  • Women are expected to obey blindly their husbands. This devotion may follow a husband to the grave, since in some caste groups widows are not allowed to remarry.
  • In India it is common practice to arrange marriages. They depend on caste, degree of consanguinity, economic status, education and astrology.
  • India has one of the world’s oldest caste systems. Society is structured by four main groups: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. At birth, you are assigned a caste. Although intermarrying between castes was forbidden, it is now more common in cities.
  • Until the child is two,  the mother or grandmother is the primary caregiver. Later, the sisters are the caregivers.
  • Families give their sons better educational opportunities.

General customs

  • Music and dancing are also a huge part of the culture of India. Some of the classic dances of the country are Bharatanatyam and Kathak
  • The Mumbai-based film industry, Bollywood, is known worldwide.
  • Practice your haggling skills before traveling! You will need them. The best way to start is to give a counter-offer of half of what the seller is asking for, and then slowly work your way up until you reach a price that’s fair for both of you. If you think that the seller is asking for too much, don’t get angry: just say no and walk away. 
  • In 2018, the practice of homosexuality was decriminalized in India; however, the country is still very conservative, especially in rural areas, and discretion is advised. Avoiding public displays of affection is advised, whether it’s in a same-sex relationship or not.
  • In India it’s traditional to greet people saying Namaste while placing both hands together and bowing slightly. 
  • If you greet someone, don’t shake hands using the left one. The same goes for passing things to other people. The left hand is considered dirty. While some men might shake hands when meeting or leaving, they don’t shake hands with women. 
  • Physical contact between men and women in public might be considered inappropriate. You should also avoid standing too close to others.
  • Pointing, with either one or two fingers, is considered rude.
  • When a head is jerked back, or moved in a figure of eight, it is usually to signal a yes.

Etiquette for eating

  • Before eating, you should always clean your hands. Your host might politely invite you to wash them.
  • Food is often eaten with the right hand. The left hand is considered unclean. 
  • You will see that guests are typically served in a hierarchical order. First, the guest of honor, then men and then children. Women tend to be served the latest. 
  • Always accept an invitation to dine, unless you have a plausible reason for not attending. Also bring a thank you gift.
  • When entering a house, remember to take off your shoes and have presentable socks on.
  • To immerse yourself in the Indian culture, you should eat traditional dishes with your hands. Bread can be used to scoop up food. 
  • Meals end with a variety of sweets (paan), betel nut served with lime and wrapped in a betel leaf.
  • To immerse yourself in the Indian culture, you should eat traditional dishes with your hands. Bread can be used to scoop up food