Monday, May 9, 2011

Society and traditions

Traditional Indian society is defined by relatively strict social hierarchy. The Indian caste system describes the social stratification and social restrictions in the Indian subcontinent, in which social classes are defined by thousands of endogamous hereditary groups, often termed as jātis or castes. Several influential social reform movements, such as the Bramho Shômaj, the Arya Samāja and the Ramakrishna Mission, have played a pivotal role in the emancipation of Dalits (or "untouchables") and other lower-caste communities in India. However, the majority of Dalits continue to live in segregation and are often persecuted and discriminated against.
Traditional Indian family values are highly respected, and multi-generational patriarchal joint families have been the norm, although nuclear families are becoming common in urban areas. An overwhelming majority of Indians have their marriages arranged by their parents and other respected family members, with the consent of the bride and groom. Marriage is thought to be for life, and the divorce rate is extremely low. Child marriage is still a common practice, more so in rural India, with about half of women in India marrying before the legal age of 18.
Many Indian festivals are religious in origin, although several are celebrated irrespective of caste and creed. Some popular festivals are Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Ugadi,Thai Pongal, Holi, Onam, Vijayadashami, Durga Puja, Eid ul-Fitr, Bakr-Id, Christmas, Buddha Jayanti, Moharram and Vaisakhi. India has three national holidayswhich are observed in all states and union territories — Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti. Other sets of holidays, varying between nine and twelve, are officially observed in individual states. Religious practices are an integral part of everyday life and are a very public affair.
Traditional Indian dress varies across the regions in its colours and styles and depends on various factors, including climate. Popular styles of dress include draped garments such as sari for women and dhoti or lungi for men; in addition, stitched clothes such as salwar kameez for women and kurta-pyjama and European-style trousers and shirts for men, are also popular.

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