In India’s chapter of our famous things across the globe series, we have invited our fellow blogger Riddhi Mukund of “Discover New Paths” What is India famous for? This is her interesting response!
You would be hard-pressed to find a country with more culture, religion, buzz, architecture, and natural landscapes than India.
Although they were born in the UK, Mukund and Riddhi from Discover New Paths are of Indian origin and have traveled there multiple times. Indian culture has played a huge part in their lives, but they have narrowed down their top 12 things India is famous for.
Over a billion people
That’s right, India has a population of more than 1.3 billion people. This makes it second only to China in terms of countries with the highest populations in the world, despite being less than half its size.
India is often described as more of a continent than a country. Traditions, beliefs, landscapes, and cuisine vary massively across the country. In fact, there are 22 major official languages and thousands of dialects.
The villages are the heart of India, where the pace of life is slower, and agriculture feeds the rest of the country. At the other end of the spectrum, the mega-cities are as modern as any other country with their efficient transport systems, multinational malls, and business districts.
The cities, however, are also the most populous parts of India. Although they are home to some of the wealthiest individuals in Asia, they also have densely-populated slum areas where most live below the poverty line.
It doesn’t matter where you are in India, people have one endearing trait in common – they are open, curious, and chatty. Without a doubt, travelers will have plenty of local people approaching them to ask questions and share more about their wonderful country.
All over the world, Indian food has become a popular choice for families and friends wanting to dine out. If you enjoy your local Indian restaurant, imagine how good the food must be in the country itself.
Indian food is made with fresh ingredients, filled with flavor and spices, and incredibly cheap – you can have a full meal for less than €1. And with over 30% of the population classed as vegetarians, and vegetables being a key part of the remaining population’s diet, you won’t miss meat one bit.
Every region has something different to offer. Northern states such as Rajasthan and Punjab are famous for their curries and paratha – flatbread bread stuffed with spicy mash potato, mixed vegetables or paneer (cottage cheese), topped with plenty of butter!
In the South, curries are accompanied by rice instead of chapatis or paratha. In fact, rice is a key ingredient in many regional dishes such as idli and uttapam. Still, arguably the most popular is dosa – huge paper-thin rice pancakes served with vegetables, chutneys, and soups.
Meanwhile, Mumbai is the home of street-food. Pav bhaji, pani puri, the Bombay sandwich… there is just far too much to list and describe. And after eating to your heart’s content, you can wash it all down with a thick, creamy lassi or a delicious, cold falooda.
Indian food is clearly one of the most famous things about India.
Religion and spirituality
India is a very devout country, and people have a lot of pride in their religious beliefs. They practice many different religions, including Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism. However, Hinduism is the main religion, with over 75% of the population practicing. It also happens to be the oldest major religion in the world today.
There are hundreds of religious sites of great significance in India. For example, Kedarnath, one of the most sacred temples found in the Himalayas. Varanasi, the timeless city where life and death merge into one. Dwarka, the birthplace of the Hindu god Krishna. The Ganges, the holiest river in India, and the home of an incredible pilgrimage site, Kumbh Mela – the largest faith gathering in the world where millions of people gather to pay homage to the river.
These are all places that mean a great deal to Hindus, and many Indians will do their best to visit these places, no matter the cost or how long it takes.
But it is not just religion. India is also known for its mysticism and spirituality, with some of the world’s most significant philosophies originating from India. For many, belief in God is not about religion but more a way of life. Many dedicate their entire lives to worship and finding the meaning of life while living in a way that exhibits particular values such as unconditional love, unity, and respect.
Although Hinduism is India’s main religion, cricket is often light-heartedly referred to as a close second. It is the main sport in the country, and Indians are absolutely huge fans of it, with their most popular player ever – Sachin Tendulkar – revered by many as a God.
Not heard of cricket before? It’s not very popular in Europe and the Americas, but it is huge in the Indian subcontinent, with other large nations like England, Australia, and South Africa also having strong national teams.
Matches are played in packed out stadiums, with music, singing, dancing, and flag-waving throughout the game. Even when matches are abroad, Indian fans will often outnumber local country fans.
Whatever part of India you visit, from cities to villages, you will find groups of children playing this sport wherever they can find space – both vast fields and narrow streets. Speak to any Indian, and they will tell you all you need to know about their beloved national sport.
Many festivals take place throughout India, and most are usually centered around a religious story. However, all of them are celebrated with pomp and excitement. It is an opportunity for family and friends to come together and remember God in a joyful way. Here are some examples:
Diwali – The most significant festival in India, symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness. Families will fill their houses and streets with small lamps while enjoying great food, exchanging gifts, and watching firework displays.
Ganesh Chathurthi – the birthday of Ganesh, the elephant-headed God of removing obstacles. On this occasion, colossal clay statues of Ganesh are first painted and decorated beautifully, before being taken to nearby seas and rivers. The journey is filled with singing and dancing before immersing the statue in the water.
Holi – truly the world’s most colorful festival, signifying the victory of good over evil. It is celebrated by throwing colored powders – pink, yellow, green, blue, and many more – over one another and dancing under water sprinklers. There is lots of dancing and food, whilst the religious aspect is symbolized by rituals around massive burning fires.
The popularity of yoga has significantly increased in the West over recent years. However, this ancient practice originated thousands of years ago in India.
What yoga is best known outside of India is physical postures and stress-relief, but it is much more than this. At its core, it is about meditation and spiritual growth. In fact, the word “Yog” translates to “union with God.”
The physical, mental and spiritual exercises of true yoga are meant to bring one closer to God and to experience the joy and bliss that comes from this.
The rise of Westernized yoga has made it difficult to come across authentic yoga, even in India. In Rishikesh, many yoga instructors teach the foundations of this practice, although some may neglect the spiritual essence.
To get a taste of real yoga, you can join one of many multi-day retreats available across India led by experienced and dedicated yogis.
There are some breathtaking examples of Indian architecture across the country, whether it’s the forts of Rajasthan, the Golden Temple of Amritsar, or the ancient temples found in Hampi.
Yet, undoubtedly, the most famous and stunning building in India is the Taj Mahal, one of the new seven wonders of the world. Found in Agra, it is a massive mausoleum complex built by the great emperor Shah Jahan as a symbol of his love for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died after giving birth to one of their children.
The exquisite main building is made of white marble, with a long reflective pool in front of it. As you get closer, you can see the incredible detail with decorative flowers and verses from the holy Qu’ran inscribed into the marble. It is surrounded by green gardens, flanked by two red sandstone buildings, and the entire area displays an impressive symmetry.
The Taj Mahal may look stunning in pictures but is truly somewhere that you have to see with your own eyes. But be warned, you will have to share the site with the thousands of other people who come to see this magnificent structure every day.
Nature and Landscapes
A country with vast amounts of land, India has nature and diversity of landscapes in abundance.
The famous Himalayas can be found in the North-East of India. These snow-capped, towering mountains are some of the most dramatic in the world and are home to many of the highest peaks.
From one extreme to the other, Jaisalmer, in Rajasthan’s state, is the home of the Thar desert. Golden sand dunes as far as the eye can see, people can explore this serene area by camping overnight and experience a very different side to India.
Lush greenery can be found in national parks and jungles where there is a wealth of wildlife, including one-horned rhinos and Bengal tigers. Vivid green landscapes can also be found in many other parts of the country, such as the hill stations and backwaters of Kerala, as well as the waterfall and forest areas of Himachal Pradesh.
For pure relaxation, Goa’s golden and white sand beaches and the Andaman islands rival even the most famous beaches in the world.
Wherever you are in the country, you can be sure to find beauty in the natural landscapes and enough diversity to leave you in awe.
Gandhi was a world-renowned activist who is often mentioned in the same breath as other incredible historical figures such as Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela.
For more than a century, India was under the rule of the British empire. At the forefront of the long and painful movement to gain independence, was a remarkable man called Mohandas Gandhi. He became known as “Mahatma”, which means “great soul”, due to his incredible efforts and achievements.
His powerful blend of intelligence (he was a qualified lawyer) and peaceful protesting, even in the face of violent retaliation from British troops, won people’s admiration not just in India but across the world. In 1947, after years of rebellion and growing nationalism, India finally achieved independence.
Together with other activists and freedom fighters at the time, Gandhi went through a lot for his country’s cause. He went on hunger strikes, spent years in prison, and ultimately was assassinated for his actions and beliefs.
But he will always be remembered for the great service he rendered to India and one of the most famous Indians.
Textiles & other exports
The textile industry in India started thousands of years ago and has become famous worldwide ever since. The quality of the materials and the vibrancy and intricacy of the embroidery or print pattern really make it something special.
Today, many of the world’s most famous brands selling fabrics source their products from India, from silk scarves to Kashmiri rugs. If you are in India, you can buy local and handmade products for a fraction of the price and even see the products being made with your own eyes.
But it’s not just textiles. India’s craftsmanship is also very striking, whether its wood carvings or jewelry. Besides, they are large exporters of various products ranging from mangoes to spices to diamonds.
The best way to see, touch, and feel all that India has to offer is to explore the famous bazaars. These buzzing local markets house thousands of small businesses and individual sellers providing everything you can think of – fruit & vegetables, colorful bedding, old antiques, and extravagant wedding outfits. And you can haggle for every single item!
Although Hollywood is the most famous in the world, the glitzy and glamorous Bollywood has long been another well-known movie industry based in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay).
The movies are historically known for their cheesy singing and dancing, over-acting, and dramatic fight scenes. However, they often portray themes that reflect typical household life and traditional Indian values, which resonate with much of the country.
Bollywood is a big part of modern Indian culture where movie stars have become hugely influential and held in high regard. In fact, the industry is so popular and lucrative that some of the biggest stars were signed to Hollywood movies, including Aishwarya Rai, Anil Kapoor, and Priyanka Chopra.
Nowadays, many of the movies produced still maintain the heart-warming elements of older movies but also tackle some previously taboo issues. These include films about the oppression of women, lack of access to clean toilets, menstrual hygiene, and religious leaders’ societal power.
For many visitors, traveling around India is an experience in itself.
The first thing that you will notice on the roads is the sound of horns. There may not seem to be any rules to driving in India, but drivers actually use the horn to communicate with each other. It will come as a shock to most, but once you leave India, you will come to miss the noise.
Next, what you find on the roads might be very different from what you’re used to. Of course, you’ll find cars, trucks, and buses. But you’ll also find even more two-wheelers, and of course the infamous rickshaws. On top of that, every vehicle will be weaving in between each other as well as the cows, goats, and pigs strolling down the streets.
The last form of transport India is famous for is its train network, one of the oldest and largest in the world. The general class carriages are packed with so many people standing that you would wonder how they all fit, with people hanging out of the doors and sitting even on the roof. And amazingly, some people will not wait for the train to stop before joining or coming off – they will do it while it’s moving, both onto the platform and even directly onto the train tracks.
First-class carriages, on the other hand, are like luxury with every amenity you could want. In between, you have the sleeper carriages where there are three levels for people to lie down on overnight journeys. Throughout the train ride, there will be food and tea sellers walking down the aisles, offering delicious snacks.
India’s train network is immense, allowing people of all financial backgrounds to travel to every part of the country. Some journeys can even take well over 24 hours. All in all, going on a train journey is a memorable experience, to say the least.
About the authors
We are Mukund and Riddhi, a British Indian couple sharing our travel tips and lifestyle lessons. We hope to inspire people to travel smart, be open, and live simply by learning, growing, and discovering new paths. Check out our blog at discover new paths.
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