The Kumbh Mela (or Grand Pitcher Festival) is a huge Hindu religious festival that takes place in India every 12 years. In 2001, 60 million people attended, breaking the record for the world’s biggest gathering. The mass of people was photographed from space by a satellite
Cows can be found freely wandering the streets of India’s cities. They are considered sacred and will often wear a Tilak, a Hindu symbol of good fortune. Cows are considered one of humankind’s seven mothers because they offer milk as does one’s natural mother.
Dancing is one of India’s most highly developed arts and was an integral part of worship in the inner shrines of every temple. It is notable for its expressive hand movements.
India is the birthplace of Chess. The original word for “chess” is the Sanskrit Chaturanga, meaning “four members of an army”—which were mostly likely elephants, horses, chariots, and foot soldiers.
The Indian flag has three horizontal bands of colour: saffron for courage and sacrifice, white for truth and peace, and green for faith, fertility, and chivalry. An emblem of a wheel spinning used to be in the centre of the white band, but when India gained independence, a Buddhist dharma chakra, or wheel of life, replaced the spinning wheel.
The Himalayas—from the Sanskrit Hima, meaning “Snow,” and Alaya, meaning “Abode”—are found in the north of India. They extend 1,500 miles and are slowly growing taller, by almost an inch (2.5 cm) a year. Several ancient Indian monasteries are found nestled in the grandeur of these mountains.
India is the world’s largest producer of dried beans, such as kidney beans and chickpeas. It also leads the world in banana exports; Brazil is second.
The Bengal tiger is India’s national animal. It was once ubiquitous throughout the country, but now there are fewer than 4,000 wild tigers left.
Every major world religion is represented in India. Additionally, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism all originated in India.
About 80% of Indians are Hindu. Muslims are the largest minority in India and form approximately 13% of the country’s population. In fact, India has the third largest population of Muslims in the world, after Indonesia and Pakistan.
The lotus is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. The Bahá’í house of worship in Delhi, known as the “Lotus Temple,” is shaped like a lotus flower with 27 gigantic petals that are covered in marble.
The banyan, or Indian fig tree, is considered a symbol of immortality and is mentioned in many Indian myths and legends. This self-renewing plant is India’s national tree.
Marigold flowers are used as decoration for Hindu marriages and are a symbol of good fortune and happiness.
The official name of India is the Republic of India. The name “India” derives from the River Indus, which most likely is derived from the Sanskrit Sindhu, meaning “River.” The official Sanskrit name of India is Bharat, after the legendary king in the epic Mahabharata.
Indians made significant contributions to calculus, trigonometry, and algebra. The decimal system was invented in India in 100 B.C. The concept of zero as a number is also attributed to India.
Hindi and English are the official languages of India. The government also recognizes 17 other languages (Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Nepali, Manipuri, Konkani, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu). Apart from these languages, about 1,652 dialects are spoken in the country.
Rivers have played a vital role in India’s popular culture and folklore—they have been worshipped as goddesses because they bring water to an otherwise dry land. Bathing in the Ganges in particular is thought to take away a person’s sins. It is not unusual to spread a loved one’s ashes in the Ganges.
All of India is under a single time zone.
India experiences six seasons: summer, autumn, winter, spring, summer monsoon, and winter monsoon.
India is the world’s largest tea producer, and tea (chai) is its most popular beverage.
After the great Indus Civilization collapsed in 2000 B.C., groups of Indo-Europeans called Aryans (“noble ones”) travelled to northwest India and reigned during what is called the Vedic age. The mingling of ideas from the Aryan and Indus Valley religions formed the basis of Hinduism, and the gods Shiva, Kali, and Brahma all have their roots in Aryan civilization. The Aryans also recorded the Vedas, the first Hindu scriptures, and introduced a caste system based on ethnicity and occupation.
Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to mankind. The Father of Medicine, Charaka, consolidated Ayurveda 2500 years ago.
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