This is a funny one. You might not be aware but a lot of things are happening on the web these days. This is the case with Thickumz – the new series featuring sporty women with slim waists and curvy certain aspects of their body. Making their bodies temples these girls want to have a good time and tease some guys. Would that be popular in India? It already is! And it’s American-made, so it’s a win-win for both citizens.
It’s no surprise that when you talk about India and one of the first few images that pop up in your head is this majestic tomb located in Agra. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. Made of white marble, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built in the 16th century for his wife.
This carries on the legacy for the Taj Mahal as an enamoring symbol of long-lasting romance. If any American tourist leaves India without paying a visit to this monument, then it won’t be a complete trip.
Delhi has a whole set of classic Islamic style monuments brimming with a rich past and culture. One of the finest specimens of this is the largest brick minaret in the world, the Qutab Minar. Not only the tower, but the whole Qutab complex makes for an interesting getaway to explore.
There are broken remnants and fragments of old Hindu and Jain temples, tombs (dargahs) of Sufi saints and British gardens. You can hop from timelines with every step. This gives you a classic Indian tourist experience.
Karnataka has some exciting places to wander off to like the Mysore Palace and several temples. But the greatest symbol of heritage here continues to be the magical site of Hampi. It once used to be the city of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century.
This city from the time long gone reflects a vibrant town culture, complete with lined streets, houses of elites and grand stone temples. The temples are also of different proportions and functions. For instance, there is a famous temple with chariot wheels attached to its structure, another shrine called the Hazara Rama Temple which has detailed designs narrating stories in its walls.
There are various forts to visit in the desert state of Rajasthan, but one of the earliest and grandest has been the Jaisalmer Fort without a doubt. Located on the Trikuta Hill amidst the dunes of the Thar Desert, it attracts hordes of foreign tourists every year. You can buy authentic Rajasthani handicrafts and souvenirs located within the palace area or head to the havelis.
These have some remarkably intricate architectural designs and can be found in other old residences of the princes here, some of which have been converted into mini-museums. As people still live within its territory, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the only ‘living forts’ in the world.
Therefore, when you plan your next trip to India, make sure you soak in the culture and heritage of India.
Temples of India are the towering edifices of rock that have stood the test of time to tell the tales of the magnificent country’s glorious past. They are the fruit of labor of several thousand craftsmen and builders, artists and sculptors. Temples are the jewel in the crown of a powerful king, proclaiming his greatness to the world…
Whatever your faith, your visit to India will be incomplete without including a visit to a temple. There is a lot you can learn about India, both its present and its past, by visiting a temple. If you have a more spiritual bent of mind, you will discover a great many things about your own self, and ‘the brahman’, or the Supreme Being.
Significance Of Temples
The Konark Sun Temple
Deeply rooted in ancient Vedic traditions, temples in India are structures that were constructed with the idea of being the place for devotees to have a ‘darshan’ (or view) of the Supreme. The temple embodies the all the elements of Hinduism – the good, the evil, the human, the elements of cyclic time that represent dharma (righteousness), moksha (liberation),artha (material prosperity), and Kama (emotional fulfilment), and the ultimate freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
Hindu temples show us the diversity of the religion itself. The architecture of temples vary in each region, village, city, or town depending the spiritual inclination of the people living there. Interestingly, it is not necessary for every Hindu to go to a temple. In fact, there are some schools of Hindu thought that don’t even encourage the rituals associated with temple worship.
Understanding The Concept Of Many Deities
Hinduism believes in the one ultimate Brahman, the basic consciousness that defines our very existence. But by architectural design, every temple will have one primary deity and several other smaller shrines for other deities (called ‘Moorthi’). Devotees will follow a circular path and offer their respects to all the deities. This shows how monotheism and polytheism co-exist in Hinduism.
Rituals That Are Performed In Temples
There are always mythological stories of valor, righteousness, justice, and compassion associated with the deity that make him worthy of the exalted position he is accorded. Inside the temple, several rituals are performed every day. These are considered as offerings to the deity.
These rituals involve waking the primary deity in the morning by chanting hymns in Sanskrit language, cleansing the deity with ghee (clarified butter), bathing the deity with rose water and milk, dressing the deity and adorning with ornaments, and even singing lullaby to make him sleep.
Aarti is a ceremony that is performed many times a day by the priest. He illuminates the deity by circling the deity with a flame and then extends this flame to all the people assembled there, one by one. This represents the complete surrender of the individual’s soul to the divine Supreme.
Such rituals of humanizing God are meant to signify the relationship between the devotee (Jeevatma or human soul) and the Supreme power (Paramatma). They also imply that the Brahman or the Supreme is within every individual’s heart.
Helpful Tip: Remember to wear clothes that will cover your arms and legs. Salwar kameez would be the ideal attire for women. A recent ruling banned women from wearing jeans or leggings to temples in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Do check with the local tour guide before visiting a temple.
Some temples don’t allow men to wear shorts. Full trousers would be a safe bet for men. Check with the authorities before you plan to visit a temple.
Americans traveling to India need not worry about looking around for places to exchange their dollars for Indian rupees. There is help close at hand, right at the airport. American tourists may exchange currency at any of the currency exchange booths that are inside the airport before you exit the customs area. Remember that once you exit the airport you will not be allowed to come back to the exchange booth.
Always exchange your dollars at authorized dealers such as Thomas Cookor American Express outlets. Most of the banks also have the authority to deal with exchange of American currency.
Make sure you get the receipt for the currency exchange. This receipt is of great importance since it proves the source of your funds. The receipt will clearly show details of the amount of dollars that were converted to Indian rupees and the rate of exchange that you were offered.
Be cautious and do not trust frauds who may promise you exchange rates that are higher than those offered by banks. If any offer sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.
There are many private currency exchange dealers who will give you a higher rate but with the condition that they will not give you a receipt for the transaction. Steer clear of such deals! With the recent efforts at demonetization by the government of India and the issue of new currency notes, it is best to keep valid receipts for all your transactions.
You can carry your credit and debit cards to India but most credit cards will charge between 3% – 5% on all transactions which can add quite a bit to your expenses.
American Express Office in India
Prices in India are much lower when compared with the Western world. So it is not necessary to carry large amounts of money. If you know someone in India already or if you have a bank account in India, you could make a bank transfer using Transferwise, before you leave America. Transferwise will transfer money to the bank account in India using the actual mid-market exchange rate that will keep cash ready for you when you arrive. You can avoid paying the hidden fees.
Opening a PayTM account is invaluable. If you have a friend in India or have your own bank account, you can have up to Rs. 10,000 on your account. This is very useful when you are travelling, to pay for train tickets, cabs, small purchases, and for recharging your mobile.
ALERT: Beware of fake currency notes. Since India banned old 500 and 1000 rupee notes from Nov, 2016, make sure you don’t get the old notes during money exchange. New Rs.500 and Rs.2000 have come into circulation.
Both the Indian and the American cultures are very proud and rich heritages that are seemingly poles apart but are similar in some ways. The two countries constantly observe and gauge each other. They also inadvertently try to imitate each other and in that process we can spot the differences between the two unique cultures. Here are few of the pop-out differences, some quirky ones, and a few funny ones.
The purpose of this article is not to debate if one culture is better than the other but to give the American guest a better understanding of the Indian culture. In the last few decades the Indian and the American cultures have undergone unprecedented changes that have led to westernization of Indian culture as well as the Americans developing keen interest in practicing yoga and developing a taste for Indian cuisine.
There is a lot of importance given to society in the Indian culture. An individual’s actions have an impact on the society’s perception of that individual. Attending a school, interacting with people in a particular manner, wearing a certain outfit, and even the person one chooses to marry decides the type of individual you are.
The American culture emphasizes on the individual instead of trying to appease the society. An individual concentrates on his own aims and goals instead of worrying about the society.
Family is considered the next important priority. Children are molded in a particular way from a very early age and the significance of family is impressed upon them. They are guided on the part they will have to play when they grow up.
American children are brought up to be independent with unique views and opinions. Though family values are important, the individual is expected to take responsibility for his/her decisions.
Marriages are arranged by families rather than being decided by the bride and the groom. In rural India, arranged marriages are still the order of the day. Families decide who their son or daughter should marry and going against this norm spells trouble. This concept is gradually being supplanted by marriages of choice in urban India.
Independent young american
Families play no part in selecting a partner for the son or daughter.
Joint families are still encouraged in rural India, where parents, their son, his wife and children, grandchildren – all of them live in the same house. In urban India, the idea of nuclear families is more popular and prevalent.
The concept of joint family does not exist in the USA. Kids are considered old enough to support themselves when they turn 18. They move out of their parents’ and start on part time employment even as they attend college.
Dress code is considered important, especially for women. Clothing that is deemed appropriate and respectable for women include sari, Salwar kameez, chudidar, and long skirts. Revealing and tight-fitting clothes are frowned upon, particularly in rural India. In recent times, however, this moral policing has been challenged by many women’s organizations and women in cities and larger towns do not hesitate to dress as they please.
American woman do not have any restrictions on how they should dress though the unwritten rule is to dress appropriately as the occasion demands. There are always formal and informal dress codes to adhere to.
If you ask an American tourist to describe Indian food, the word that comes up most often is – ‘Hot’! And there a quite a few American tourists who would shed tears (not of joy, though!) after tasting the Indian cuisine. They find it too spicy (or did you say ‘hot?). Almost all Indian food is spicy but not all are ‘hot’ because spicy and ‘hot’ are not synonyms!
Simply put, you could say that American food is a lot of potatoes and meat and Indian food is a lot of vegetables and spice. Both countries have cuisines that have been influenced by a lot by other countries. America is a land of immigrants and they all have blended their native flavors to create the American cuisine as it is known now.
India was invaded by the Moghuls, Asiatic, and the Europeans, followed by the British. Naturally, they all have left a hint of their tastes on Indian flavors and the end result is a lip-smacking array of delicious dishes. You have to taste it to believe it.
There are delectable Indian dishes that bring out the best of the taste and health benefits of aromatic spices. Here’s a guide to help you through the variety of scrumptious Indian food and give an insight into how it is different from the American cuisine.
Vegetarian Indian Vs American Food
Grilled Bulgogi Burgers
An estimated 40% of Indians are vegetarian, due to cultural and economic reasons. So, every state in India has its own vegetarian specialty dishes depending on local produce and other prevalent traditions. The same vegetable curry (yes, curry is not just for chicken!) can be made differently in different parts of India. The spices and oil used will result in a subtle change of flavor that is also distinctive!
For example, the southern state of Kerala has coconut trees in abundance. Consequently, there is a huge variety of snacks, starters, main course, and desserts using coconut as a base ingredient. Coconut oil is used for cooking and frying purposes. Maharashtra uses peanut oil, Tamil Nadu sticks to Sesame oil, and the eastern states prefer to use mustard oil for cooking vegetables. The cooking method and a dash of spices make all the difference.
American vegetarian food is not without variety but it doesn’t have as many spices as the Indian ones do. Since the majority of population eat meat, you have to specifically mention that you want a vegetarian or vegan option with no meat. Corn bread, potato salad, apple pie, and pumpkin pie are among the American dishes that are vegetarian.
Many burger places will replace the meat with cheese or soya patty. Thai food and Chinese eateries also make special versions of their delicacies for vegetarians and vegans by substituting meat with tofu.
Italian food is a great favorite with vegetarians. There always are pizzas with a wide variety of vegetable toppings and cheese. Pasta with vegetables and a selection of mouthwatering sauces can appease any vegetarian craving. Healthier versions of multigrain and whole wheat pasta are gaining popularity. Baked potatoes are a staple favorite for many tourists.
Chinese, Thai, and Italian are all available in India, both in their authentic and Indian versions. Be ready to taste ‘Chatpata’ (spicy) noodles and paneer(Indian cottage cheese) pizza. They are as good as the original, only with a dash of India’s trademark ‘masala’ (spices).
Non-Vegetarian Indian Vs American Food
‘Chicken tikka’ and ‘Chicken curry’ have become such common delicacies across the world that it is unnecessary to even describe what the dishes are. Spices are generously added to cooked chicken and the curry is allowed to slowly draw in all the flavors to produce this universal favorite. No wonder ‘curry’ and ‘tikka’ have marched their way into dictionaries. ‘Anda’ is egg in Hindi. Egg-lovers will have a treat with ‘Anda burji. That is scrambled eggs for you! There are special delicacies prepared with mutton and sea-food too. You only have to ask. Contrary to ‘popular’ depiction of India in movies, you will find that most people in India do understand and speak a splattering of English at least.
Most of the cultural dishes of the West involve meat. So, American food is largely meat-based. Burgers, sausage, hot dog, and fried chicken are the staple non-vegetarian food in the USA.
When you are travelling around India, make sure you try the regional cuisine that is unique to each state. You will be pleasantly surprised by the assortment of flavors that assault your taste buds!
Most tourists from Western cultures complain of the culture shock they experience when they visit India. This is quite natural because adjusting to any unfamiliar culture can be a challenge. There may be some fundamental beliefs you’d assumed to be universal that are not followed in this culture. True, you have pored over a dozen guide books, but there’s always something you might have missed and it is never too early to start preparing to counter the culture shock that is inevitable…
People, People, Everywhere!
Best outfit for India Trip
The first shock to hit you as soon as you land the country is the sheer mass of humanity that engulfs you. With a huge population of over a billion, the crowd in marketplaces, on the streets, malls, and everywhere else, can be overwhelming! Forget your personal space and be ready to be surrounded by faces.
Helpful Tip: Indians are generally very friendly and hospitable. Dress well and be clean and neat. It is a good idea to buy a couple of Indian dresses so you blend in the crowd. You will be respected and treated well. Be prepared to fend off beggars and street hawkers.
Garbage And Trash
The greatest eyesore in India is the abysmal condition of waste and trash strewn everywhere. Though the government has stepped up all efforts to improve the system of garbage disposal management, the progress is painfully slow. There is a paucity of trash cans in public places in all cities and towns. You may see heaps of trash in the corners of streets. Sometimes these trash piles are set ablaze, sending out dark spirals of smoke.
Helpful Tip: Always have a couple of plastic bags in your backpack for collecting the trash you may throw during the day. Wait till you reach your hotel to throw it.
Pollution Problem Is Serious In India
Cute mask to brink in your travel
Environmental pollution is cause for serious concern for American tourists to India. You can see that waste disposal and garbage removal are not well-organized. In some places there is lack of proper sewage treatment. Monsoon showers can flood the streets of most cities.
Due to the sheer volume of vehicular traffic, the air is perpetually clouded by smog. Not only are the horns of vehicles blaring, you can also hear loud music playing from venues of political meetings and other celebrations. If your hotel is in the vicinity of any of these venues, bid goodbye to sleep!
Helpful Tip: Bring a pack of surgical face masks and ear plugs. Carry bottled water wherever you go.
Chaotic Traffic And Blaring Horns
India is a land of hundreds of languages and even more dialects but there is one special language that will catch your attention (and potentially render you deaf!), and that is the language drivers ‘talk’ with the horns of their vehicles. The traffic is huge and it will seem dangerously disorganized and utterly chaotic, not to mention, noisy, to the American eye and ears.
It can be frightening to watch cows, dogs, and chicken wander on busy roads as the drivers expertly meander through the traffic, conversing incessantly with their horns or hand gestures. Road accidents are a common sight. This article featured in The Indian Express says it all.
Helpful Tip: Traffic is bad, but traveling by public transport is worse. Ask your hotel to arrange for a reliable cab service to take you around the city. It is much more convenient as you can escape standing in long queues waiting for public transport. And your cab driver will be a tourist guide too.
Beware Of Beggars And Scams
Beggars in the street
As a foreigner, you will be the target of all beggars and scams. There are so many ways in which you can be duped. Read about typical scams that happen and brace yourself to face any such fraud. Do read this forum to learn about popular scams as recounted by other travelers. As always, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Be relaxed and don’t let the possibility of a scam spoil your vacation to India. Don’t give in just because somebody is persistent. May common sense prevail at all time. There are beggars everywhere, especially in tourist locations. There may be very disabled beggars and even very young children vying for your attention.
Try as hard as you may, you just can’t avoid getting your tummy upset, sometimes even by drinking water. Travelers getting diarrhea is very common in India, so common that it is almost inevitable. You may drink only bottled water and use water purification pills but even a tiny gulp of water when you brush or bathe can upset your stomach severely.
Helpful Tip: Carry bottled water wherever you go. Also carry emergency medication and ORS with you. Avoid eating food from the roadside eateries if you see flies hovering over them. Even if you decide to subsist on just fruits, wash the fruit thoroughly.