India is a culturally diverse country and here are some tips on local customs and religions in India. If you give the impression of being from a different country or a different part of India, chances are that you might be stared at. Don't be offended, people mean no harm. They are just curious.
1. Religious - Dress codes for religious places may include covering your head, removing shoes and so on. Ask, so that you don't unwittingly give offense.
With all sects, removing shoes is a must before entering a shrine, though sometimes cloth overshoes are provided for a small charge. Drinking alcoholic beverages on the premises or speaking in a raised voice is not permissible. Some structures are off-limits to visitors who don't practice the faith. One should not try to force or bribe to enter such places.
In a Sikh gurudwara or mosque, women should be properly dressed and should cover their head before entering. When you enter a mosque, you are supposed to step right foot first into the courtyard. No visitor in a gurudwara should keep his feet pointing towards the Holy Book or step over any one sitting in prayer or meditation. Most people sit on the floor of a Hindu or Sikh temple either with their legs crossed or with feet tucked beneath.
Another of the tips on local customs and religion in India concerns leather, which is deemed to be unpure. In some Hindu and Jain temples all leather products like shoes, belts, handbags, camera cases and so on are prohibited inside the shrine. Many temples also expect visitors to purify themselves by washing their hands and feet under a tap or tank available there before entering.
In a Buddhist monastery always remember to follow a clockwise direction while spinning a prayer wheel and going around the interiors and exteriors of the monastery. Inside the monastery, cushions and chairs are reserved for lamas (monks). You may sit only on the steps outside or on the floor. If one gets the opportunity to meet a rimpoche (head lama) or a respected monk, it is polite not to turn one's back on him while leaving. Also removing the hat and lowering an umbrella within the confines of a monastery is advised. This courtesy is also observed in the presence of a lama.
2. Smoking - Another of the tips on local customs and religion in India concerns tobacco. Smoking is not allowed at public places. All properties of the Indian Railways including trains and railway stations are strictly non-smoking zones with stiff penalties for violations.
3. Time – In some parts of India, things usually take a longer time to get done than in most other places. Always give yourself extra time for doing certain tasks such as visiting the post office or moneychanger.
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