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18. We have heard about traditional Indian marriages. Can you tell us some interesting facts about them?
India is a vast land of many traditions, with each community having their own rites of passage, some strange and others endearing, but all being part of wedding customs ... 10 interesting facts about Indian weddings are as follows:

(i) Deeper the color
An Indian bride applies henna (or mehndi as it is commonly referred to in India) to her hands and feet before the wedding. The belief is that the deeper the final color, the more she will be loved by her husband or some say, her mother-in-law. She is also forbidden from doing any housework as long as the color of the bridal mehndi remains on her hands, making the longevity of the henna all the more desirable!

(ii) Veiled groom
In North India the groom's face is kept hidden before the wedding behind a floral veil, called sehra, which is tied to the turban. The veil is believed to protect him from the evil eye. At some point before the ceremony, someone from the bride's family lifts the veil briefly to ensure that the groom is the chosen one and not an impostor!

(iii) Right footed
After the Hindu wedding ceremony the bride arrives to her husband's home and is ceremonially ushered in by her mother-in-law. The bride must take care to enter the threshold with her right foot first, which she uses to gently knock over a vessel filled to the brim with rice that has been placed there strategically in order to ensure good luck and plenty for her new family.

(iv) Ransom shoes
In Punjab it is customary for young girls related to the bride to play a prank on the groom involving his shoes. During the marriage ceremony the groom's untended shoes are removed and hidden away. After the ceremony, he is asked to pay a ransom or 'fee' for their return. The groom comes prepared for this and offers cash or traditional trinkets, called kalicharis, gold for the bride's sisters and silver for her cousins.

(v) Ring of control
A light-hearted ritual called aeki beki among Gujarati Hindus follows the arrival of the newly wed couple at their home. A ring and a few coins are put into a silver dish filled with milk and vermilion and the bride and groom are asked to dip their hands into the bowl to search for the ring. The one who finds the ring four out of seven times is predicted most likely to rule the roost!

(vi) Groom's nose
A pre-wedding ritual in Gujarat has the groom arriving at the house of the bride to seek the blessings of his mother-in-law. She blesses him and performs a ritual to ward off the evil eye. She also tries to catch his nose, playfully reminding him of his responsibility as a son-in-law.

(vii) Earth bringing
Some tribal communities perform an earth-bringing ceremony before the wedding. Earth from a holy place is carried to the wedding house and a kiln built and anointed. All food for the wedding feast is cooked in this kiln.

(viii) Marriage by abduction
Among some ancient Indian tribes, marriage by abduction is the norm. The young man must carry away his lady on his back, keep her hidden for a year and then have a normal ceremony with the then automatic consent of the bride's parents.

(ix) Ascetic groom
Grooms among Tamil Brahmins perform a ritual enactment of asceticism. A regular practice during the wedding is for the groom to pretend to being suddenly disillusioned and wanting to renounce the world. Accompanied by his friends, he leaves the marriage hall dressed in a dhoti (a simple cloth tied at the waist with a knot). The father and other relatives of the bride must then persuade him to come back and accept the bride.

(x) Wedding contract
The Nagarattars of Tamil Nadu in South India, have a tradition that follows the ceremonial tying of the thali or mangalsutra. The fathers of both the bride and the groom sign the isaivu padimaanam, which is a document stating the marriage contract between the two families.

19. We are planning our first visit to India. We would appreciate any useful information that you can provide us before we reach India.
We understand your perspective and anxiety about your first trip to India. We have tried to address some issues that you may have wanted to know prior to your arrival in India. Here they are:

Entry into India
AIR: All the four major cities - New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai have direct international air connections. Domestic airlines operate between cities.
SEA:
Mumbai, which used to be the main point of entry into India, still receives sea travelers via passenger ships and freighters.
ROAD:
Overland, there are several points of entry into India. For up-to-date information on border crossing-points, contact Indian overseas missions or government tourist information offices

Indian Immigration
All visitors, except those from Nepal and Bhutan, must have valid passports stamped with current visas. Visitors must register with the Foreigners' Regional Registration Office within 14 days of arrival. Please contact the nearest Indian embassy or consulate in your home country before making your travel plans. All Indian consular offices around the world issue visas. Business travelers should apply for a multiple-entry business visa, which is valid for one year. Special visas are also issued for trekking, botanical expeditions, and sports and journalism related activities. Visitors may move freely throughout the country, except to restricted or prohibited areas

Indian Customs
Visitors possessing more than US$ 10,000 (or the equivalent in travelers' checks (cheques) or bank notes) must fill in a currency declaration form. Visitors may bring in up to 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, and one litre of alcohol, duty-free. Non-sporting firearms and narcotics are prohibited, as are gold bullion or coins (except by Indian nationals returning from working abroad, who may bring in a maximum of 5 kilograms). The penalties for violations are heavy. If you plan to bring in your own Laptop, Camera, VCR or portable computer to use while in India, ask for a re-export permit from customs officials when you arrive. The permit will be written into the back of your passport, and unless you can present the item to Customs while leaving, duty will be levied. If the item has been lost or stolen, make a prompt report to the nearest police station and get a copy of the First Information Report (FIR) taken down by the police. Show this report to the Assistant Collector of Customs, who will then decide whether or not to levy duty. India restricts the export of antiques, including foreign-made artifacts and items more than 100 years old. The Archaeological Survey of India is the authority that determines whether items are restricted. Visitors may not bring in or take out of India anything made from endangered animal species

Indian Currency
The units of Indian currency are the Rupee and Paisa (100 Paisa equal 1 Rupee). Paper money is in denominations of Rupees 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 (although you rarely see the 1's, 2's and 5's). Coins are in denominations of Rupees 1, 2 and 5. Visitors may not bring in or take out any Indian currency, except in the form of travelers' checks (cheques). Do not use unauthorized moneychangers for exchanging foreign currency. You run the risk of receiving forged rupees, or being cheated. Exchanging facilities are generally available at airports and docks, and authorized moneychangers usually display the rates of exchange. Credit cards are normally widely accepted in major hotels, restaurants and shops

Indian Climate
India has three major seasons: winter, summer and the monsoon. The winter months (November to March) are pleasant in most of India, with bright sunny days and cool nights. In the northern plains however, the minimum temperature at times drops steeply. The Himalayas and its foothills receive snowfall, sometimes till early April. In most parts of western, southern and eastern India, December and January are pleasantly cool but never really chilly. During the summer months (April-August), northern India is fairly hot, with daytime temperatures around 45C (113F). Most hill resorts, like Shimla, Mussourie and Nainital are busy with Indian tourists beating the heat of their hometowns. The southwest monsoon usually hits the southern tip of India in early June, and tracks north over the next two months. Most of India receives its major share of rainfall between June and September. The south-eastern areas, in addition, get the north-east monsoon rains between mid-October and the end of December

Indian Dress
Light and loose, easily laundered clothing is best for the south, and the northern plains, especially from April to September. You will need warmer clothes, including woolens, for the north during winter. Warm clothing is a must in the hill stations all year round. India does not have a very formal dress code, though some hotels and clubs could insist on a minimum of formality in their dining rooms - long trousers and a conventional shirt usually suffice. Businessmen should wear a jacket and tie, or a tailored safari suit when meeting counterparts or senior officials. Women should follow the same principle. When touring, avoid revealing tops, shorts and skirts. A set of loose-fitting salwar-kameez is a good investment.

Indian Language
English is the lingua franca between Indians of different regions. Staff at airline, railway and telecommunication counters and offices is usually fluent in English. Most direction signs usually have an English version too. Additional books that translate English words into Hindi words can help visitors interpret locals better. Hindi, the official and most widely spoken language, is concentrated in the northern states. Dravidian languages such as Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada prevail in the south.

Delhi Weather
The temperatures shown in the table below are indicative and based on past weather trends. It is advisable to check current weather before making any arrangements which are dependant on weather conditions

 
Celsius (°C)
Fahrenheit (°F)
Total Rainfall (mm)
Number of Rain Days
Month Average High Average Low Average High Average Low Average Average
January 21°C 7°C 69°F 45°F 20.3 1.7
February 23°C 10°C 74°F 50°F 15 1.3
March 29°C 15°C 84°F 59°F 15.8 1.2
April 36°C 21°C 96°F 70°F 6.7 0.9
May 39°C 26°C 102°F 78°F 17.5 1.4
June 38°C 28°C 101°F 82°F 54.9 3.6
July 34°C 27°C 94°F 80°F 231.5 10
August 33°C 26°C 92°F 79°F 258.7 11.3
September 34°C 24°C 93°F 76°F 127.8 5.4
October 33°C 19°C 91°F 67°F 36.3 1.6
November 28°C 13°C 82°F 55°F 5 0.1
December 23°C 8°C 73°F 47°F 7.8 0.6

Some Useful Resources:
Website Links:
http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delhi
http://www.tourismofindia.com/fs/interestingfacts.htm
http://www.incredibleindia.org/
https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/print/in.html
http://travel.mapsofindia.com/fast-facts-on-india.html
http://wikitravel.org/en/Delhi
http://www.worldweather.org/066/c00224f.htm#climate
http://delhigovt.nic.in/museum.asp

Guide Books:
Lonely Planet Guide
Eyewitness Travel Guide
Berlitz Guides

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