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India - Facts for Tourists
Health regulations: A Gamma Gobulin, small pox, and cholera inoculation are recommended, but check with your doctor for his recommendations.

Currency: The Indian Rupee (Rs)... 100 Paise to the Rupee.

Language: 15 major languages and 250 minor ones. English is widely spoken and understood in tourist areas.

Religion: 88% Hindu... 11% Moslem... 1.9% Sikhs.

Drink: Do not drink the water. Tea is the national drink. Coffee is good. Local beer is a nice addition to compliment Indian food.

Food: Excellent with emphasis on unique use of spices.

Temperature: Spring and Fall are the best times to visit. Generally it's best to avoid the Monsoon season from the end of May to the end of September. Summers are very hot.

What to wear: Casual clothing is acceptable for everything but a "big event". Cotton is best... and a sweater or jacket if you plan to visit the northern areas. Shorts are generally not worn on city streets.

Things to buy: Local crafts, jewelry, enamel work, lacquer-inlay wood, brassware, leather, tie-dye fabrics, masks.

Tipping: Stock up on plenty of small change! There's much tipping. A service charge is generally added at restaurants. If not, tip 10-15%. Ironically, there's no tipping taxi drivers. Vendors always claim to have "no change".

Transportation: India has the 4th largest railway system in the world. Always travel on air conditioned express trains. Avoid buses... too crowded.

Miscellaneous: The "Caste system" still exists even though it's forbidden by law. Remove shoes at temples, mosques, and holy shrines. You may also have to remove leather belts at some temples. Cover your head when visiting any sikh temple. Do not give money to beggars who hang around hotels.

Hinduism: Although Hinduism teaches belief in one Supreme Being, the religions mythology includes numerous gods, goddesses, and incarnations. Brahma (The Creator) was once the mightiest of the Hindu gods because he set the world in motion. Brahma has four heads, each one looking over one quarter of the universe. Saraswatl is Brahma's consort. She rides a white swan and if the goddess of learning. Shiva (The Destroyer) is one of the two greatest gods of Hinduism. He represents power in war, famine, and death and usually wears a tiger skin, carries an axe, a trident, and a bowl made of a skull. Parvati is Shiva's wife and appears looking like the model loving consort. Nandi (The Bull) is Shiva's sacred mount and his musician. Ganesh is the chubby, elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati. Vishnu (The Preserver) usually holds 4 symbols: a discus, conch, mace, and lotus.

Sikhism: This 15th century religion is a bridge between Hinduism and Islam. Men are not permitted to cut their hair, and it is usually neatly tucked up into a turban at all times.

Sadhus: About 6 million orange-robed Sadhus (holy men) live in India. They lead solitary lives as hermits near shrines and will take anyone in their fold.

Caste system: There were four main castes: priests (Brahmans), warriors and administrators (Kshatriyas), businessmen, farmers, traders, and shopkeepers (Vaishyas), and craftsmen. These were further divided into numerous subcastes. Under all were the Untouchables who did the most disagreeable tasks. This ensured a steady labor supply in various occupations and did not encourage change or upward mobility. Thus, it inhibited progress.
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Author of this article is Gene Gill. For more information visit his website: Gene Gill Miniatures.
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