10 Things You Might Not Have Known About India

Alana Poole - India


April 2, 2016

1. Dancing Queens

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You don’t have to be seventeen or female to be a dancing queen! Everyone in India is a dancing queen regardless of age and gender. Bollywood, Garba, Dandiya, Sambalpuri, Lavani, Bharatnatyam…the list goes on! These dances, both modern and traditional, are completely enjoyable and ridiculously fun.

This photo was taken during Dussehra, a holiday in October, at a Dandiya event I went to with some of the other fellows. It was a night filled with dance, laughter, and fun!

2. Beefy Business

24/29 states in India have anti-cow slaughter laws with various regulations around it. This is because in Hinduism, the cow is a creature of God. Since there isn’t uniformity in the law with all the states, the punishments range from fines to ten years in prison

You can pay a higher fee for serving beef than most other offenses. It can result in persecution and in some cases, execution.

3. Festivals!

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India is a land of festivals. On Hindu holidays like Diwali, Holi, and Ganesh Chaturthi, you will find most people, not just Hindus, celebrating with lots of fireworks, colorful idols, and plenty of vibrant flowers.

So far I have experienced Raksha Bandan (celebration of sisters and brothers), Krishna Janamastami (celebration of Lord Krishna’s birthday), Ganesh Chaturthi (celebration of Lord Ganesh), Dusshera (celebration of Lord Rama’s victory over evil Ravana), and last but not least, Diwali (celebration of light, which my birthday happened to fall on!). I am super excited for Holi (celebration of colors!) coming up in March.

4. No National Language!?!?

If you thought that Hindi was the national language but you thought wrong! There isn’t a national language declared by the Constitution of India, however there is an official language – actually 23! Even natives of India might travel to a certain state and not be able to communicate with others or even read signs.

Some people say having so many languages is a great thing and produces people who can speak two, three, four, even five languages, but some people thing it creates dissonance within the country.

5. Markets

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Markets come in various sizes, they can be huge and they can be tiny. You’ll always find plenty of fresh, vibrant vegetables and sweet fruit. I love going to the markets because the vendors, or sabjiivalas, are always friendly and love to talk. You will learn the act of friendly bargaining (sometimes not so friendly bargaining); its a great way to practice your Hindi!

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6. Hijras/LGBTQ

Hijras are a social group, part religious cult and part caste, who live mainly in north India. They are culturally defined either as “neither men nor women” or as men who become women by adopting women’s dress and behavior. Hijras are devotees of Buhuchara Mata, a version of the Indian mother goddess. 

Though sexual activity between to members of the same sex is officially illegal, it is rare. India does legally recognize hijras as a gender separate from men or women, making the country one of the few in the world to legally recognize a third gender. 

7. How to Take the Bus by Stina!

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Step 1: Find the bus. There are many many huge, red buses in Pune. Make sure you get on the right one!

Step 2: Jumping on the bus. That thing will NOT stop for you, you have to jump in as its going by.

Step 3: Finding a place to stand. It’s rare to find a seat, sometimes you’ll get a pole to hold but sometimes you have to rely on others for balance. Be careful when they go over speed bumps, if you’re in the back you’ll catch air.

Step 4: Pay for the bus. To pay for the bus, you need to know exactly which stop you are getting off at, there isn’t a general fee. It ranges from 5-20 rupees depending on how far you’re going.

Step 5: Jump out of the bus. If that bus didn’t stop for you to get on, it sure will not stop for you to get off. Please watch your step and ride Pune Municipal Corporation Buses again!

8. How to Hand-le the Food

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Here in Pune, we eat most of our food with our hands (But you must make sure you’re using your right hand. Using your left hand is seen unsanitary since it is used for…well, other activities, if you know what I mean) It varies from state to state, but traditional Indian cutlery does not recognize the use of spoons, forks and knives while eating, but is used in the kitchen. Everyone I have spoken to has told me that eating with your hands makes the food taste much better – that you have a direct connection to it. I have to admit, I agree!

 

9. Henna

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Henna is a temporary dye made from henna plant and is used  to dye skin, hair, fingernails and fabrics. When used for body art it is called ‘mendhi’ and when used on hair it is called henna. There are many different purposes and events that mendhi is used for but the most intricate is for weddings. For weddings, mendhi is done all on the bride’s entire palms, backhands, and arms as well full feet and going up their leg. Of course this depends on which region the couple is from but this is generally common among Hindi weddings.

10. And…

Everything you just read…the opposite is also true.

 

 

Alana Poole