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India

Aleksandra Turek

 
Basic information

People and their culture

National holidays and customs

Everyday life

Cuisine

Associations with Poland

Integration in Poland – successes and difficulties

 

Basic information

India is an extremeSwieta i zwyczaje. Fot. Tomasz Dzida małyly diverse country and it is impossible to clearly and explicitly define it. It is difficult to introduce any generalizations because India forms a rich mosaic of cultures, nations, religions, languages. Each region, a specific community, a given religious trend, will have its special character and should be discussed individually. The diversity of India is also reflected symbolically by the state flag - three horizontal stripes: deep saffron symbolizing Hinduism, India green - Islam and white in the middle symbolizing other denominations and peace between religions. A navy blue wheel is in the middle of the white and it symbolizes dharma, the main principle of Hinduism, indicating orders, bans and duties of each Hindu.  India may be divided into two parts because of its geographic configuration, but also because of the cultural special character - into the north and the south. Apart from the mountainous zone of the Higher Himalayas, and the Sub-Himalayan Range (which includes the Sivalik Hills, extending in parallel to the Himalayas, length 1,000 km), the north is, first of all, the fertile agricultural area of the Indo-Gangetic Plain (mainly the Ganges Plains with the Ganges River, the holy river for the Hindu, called "the transport backbone" of Northern India ). The southern part is called the Deccan because it consists of a plateau with the same name. The entire Indian subcontinent occupies more than 2% of Earth's area which makes India the seventh largest country in the world. It is also one of the most populated countries in the world with more than one billion inhabitants.


People and their culture

India is not an ethnically homogenous region and it never was. The country forms a mosaic of numerous nations of various origin: Indo-European, Dravidian, Mongolian (Tibet-Burma) and Australian-Asian. The criterion for distinguishing national minorities and ethnic groups is not clear and is often impossible to be clearly determined. That is why, the Indian Constitution does not define the notion "minority", as is the case with "caste". The Constitution, first of all, defines the list of Scheduled Tribes, including the status "particularly primitive" to some of them, regardless of their racial features. The Constitution thus does not indicate nationalities, e.g. Punjab, Bengal, Gujarat or Tamil. It is only generally stated that each population of the Indian territory or its part with a separate language, writing or culture has the right to preserve this (Article 29.1). India is dominated by the community culture. The business and honor of the community/group/caste/family is very often more important than the business or honor of the individual. Changes rapidly take place in large municipal agglomerations, individuals play a more and more significant role while the caste mentality - a less and less significant role, but the rural population, generally from the countryside, still functions according to the principles of community life. There is no place for individuality without the reference to a broader context of affiliation to a specific community, tradition or caste. In this situation, it is necessary to demonstrate definitely greater loyalty towards the community/group/caste/family than towards the country or state institutions. India is often defined as the greatest democracy in the world, but the civil society is still developing there. Much effort is still put into developing a sense of community and loyalty towards the state and not only towards one's closest environment. The principles of community life also affect the behavior of the community's members. Mutual social control is something regular, thus there is no such thing as neighborly anonymity. India may have an enormous number of people who were never recorded in any state registers, but they are never anonymous in their closest environment.  A hierarchical structure is another an extremely important feature of the Indian culture. A society which is dominated by the caste mentality has an a priori hierarchy according to which everyone has an assigned specific place: in the family (the authority of the elderly; the absolute authority of the father; younger siblings must always listen to the elderly), in the community (a specified place in a professional group, political party, religious fraternity, any association) and in the society (caste). It may generally be said that the hierarchical division of the society and the related special type of mentality id present in all aspects of life and relationships between people. India is dominated by the patriarchal culture. Man is the head of the family and the most desired descendant is a son. Sons are expected not only because of the right to inherit which is passed onto them (presently, daughters also acquired the right to inherit), but also, according to Hinduism, it is the sons and not the daughters, who may continue the worship of ancestors, which is very important for the Hindu. For this reason, men are valued more. India has a custom, quite weird for the Europeans, to address women using the word "son" rather than "daughter". In this way, the interlocutor shows that he addresses women with respect (usually an older man to a young woman). Similarly, when the first child is a daughters, her parents will also address her as "son". Girls in the first years of their lives may also use the language with male verb endings. Women in Hinduism are not seen as independent beings. The canon of the holy scripts of Hinduism clearly determine their position and state that women should never be alone. In the childhood, they should be under the custody of their fathers, in marriage - under control of their husbands. When the husband dies, the oldest son should take care of them. Although Hindu women presently aim at emancipation, attention is still paid to the fact that, particularly young girls, never remain alone unattended, especially in the company of men. This may raise suspicions as to the morality of a given girl. For this reason, the majority of emigrants from India are men.  The customary greeting gesture (namaste) also serves the purpose of not touching one another, especially women.  The Hindu strongly believe in astrology, that their fate is strongly related to the alignment of stars and planets. That is why each family has its family diviner who usually is an astrologist, servicing the caste to which a given family belongs. It is the diviner who will instruct what name should be chosen for the child, or at least which letters should be found in the name, so that this human being is successful throughout his life. Each Hindu has a horoscope drawn up on his birthday which serves a very important function. When it is time to arrange the marriage, the couple will be matched also according to the compliance between these horoscopes. Not all Hindu use identity cards but everyone has such horoscope. Each culture develops a typical set of gestures appropriate only for itself. Body language in the Indian culture is much more expanded than in the European culture. Shaking the head, typical of the Hindu, which expresses negation in Poland, is a confirmation in India, a sign saying "yes". Great attention is paid to distinguishing which activities may be made with the left hand, and which only with the right. It is generally assumed that the left hand is intended for unclean activities, and the right - for clean ones. Activities related to worshipping Hindu gods and even consuming food should be performed only with the right hand. Thus, remember that giving food, drinks or even a pen or a document to the Hindu with the left hand may be perceived as disrespect and even anill omen.

National holidays and customs


Hinduism is the dominant religion in India. It is estimated that 80.5% of India's population, namely 827.6 million people, are the followers of Hinduism. The second most numerous religion is Islam (13.4%). Other denominations may be considered as marginal group (Christians 2.3%; Sikh 1.9%; others, such as: Buddhism, Jainism, tribal animistic worships - below 1%). It is important to remember that the word "Hinduism" is a collective notion covering very diverse signs of religion present in the Indian subcontinent. This means that Hinduism may include numerous religions, sometimes mutually exclusive, which, to a large extent, have separate doctrines, rites as well as other organizational forms. Hinduism is thus characterized by the liquidity of forms, the lack of a uniform doctrine, the lack of major organization as well as a common superior. There is also no such thing as one principal institution which would have the right to settle religious matters. Followers of Hinduism may thus include both worshippers of a countless number of images of gods from the extremely expanded Hindu collection of gods as well as persons recognizing God as the non-personal absolute. Any religious matters should thus be examined only through the prism of a specific religious community to which a given follower belongs.  The common frame for such diverse religious forms, a unique primary general Indian structure to which all Hindu religious formations will always refer, is the social and religious pattern which is presented in the holy scripts of Hinduism (this canon is formed by an extremely rich religious literature. It is worth mentioning just several scripts, e.g. four Vedas and two epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana).  According to this pattern, India has a varna-caste system, namely the hierarchical division of the entire society. This is an extremely characteristic feature of the Hindu culture. Even today it is very strongly rooted in the mentality of the Hindu. On the one hand, we have a modernized, secular society in which officials are chosen for institutions regardless of their status or caste. On the other hand, however, we have a hybrid continuation of the caste system which is excluded from the Indian legislation because it was abolished by the Constitution. Thus, it functions beyond the law. The Hindu do not differentiate between secular and religious life as clearly as, e.g. the Europeans do. The life of a Hindu is extremely ritualized. Apart from a complex calendar of holiday (the large diversity of which is illustrated in the table below), the Hindu may go through as many as 40 religious ceremonies/sacraments (sanskara) at various points in life (from the birth to the death).


 Everyday life

The everyday life of a Hindu is ritualizLudzie i ich zwyczaje małyed to a great extent. They pay extremely great attention to perceiving the environment in terms of ritual cleanliness and uncleanliness (foulness). Such principles even determine the sequence of performing specific activities during the day. After each work where you may come into contact with foul substances, objects, people, you should wash yourself. Water in the Indian culture has cleansing properties not only in the physical sense. Today, many inhabitants of India still wear traditional clothes in everyday life, not only for holidays. Sari, a long strip of material, draped around tall parts of the country. In North India, sari is considered an outfit rather for holidays and that is why young girls he woman's body, which is so strongly associated with India, is not a piece of clothing worn by women in every day wear either shalwar kameez (trousers with a long shirt sometimes to the knees and even to the ankles, the length depends on the trend at a given time; such set is usually supplemented with a headscarf/scarf) or dress in the European way.  The custom of wearing a turban by men is quite popular, especially among the rural population. There are no rules in India making men take their headdress off after entering a room. A flamboyant tearing someone's turban off of their head is one method of humiliating and dishonor for a man. The method of tying a turban, its color and even the type of pattern often contains an information about the region a given person comes from and even about the caste to which he belongs. The Sikhs wear characteristic turbans which distinguishes them. Each man who passed the initiation of incorporation into the Sikh community must wear a headdress. The Sikh turban may thus be considered one of the elements extremely important for the Sikh's identity.


Cuisine


The attitude towards food is specific as well. The Hindu generally divide food into two categories: kacca and pukka. Pukka food is processed food, subject to thermal treatment as a result of contact with fire, fat, boiling water. Kacca is food from raw products (e.g. from raw fruit) and that is why it is eaten only at home, only among relatives. Food served outside, in restaurants, in street stands, is mainly pukka food. Such distinction was certainly also influenced by the climate (humid and hot) in which food quickly spoils. However, a religious justification was added to this distinction with time. In a culture in which it is forbidden to consume a meal with a person from another caste, there is a belief that pukka food is safer and thus the risk of fouling another person, or even giving them one's bad fate, is smaller. Food which was once touched by a person's mouth belongs only to this person. It should not be given to another person. For this reason, when the Hindu drink water, they pour it into their mouths not touching the vessel or the bottle. In this way, the vessel with water remains clean and others may also drink from it. Contrary to appearances, vegetarians are much less numerous than it usually appears. Definitely more Hindu eat meat, most often poultry and lamb/goatmeat. However, the majority of people eating meat will not have beef. Due to the large number of Muslims in India, pork is also impossible to get. The Indian cuisine is very diverse in terms of regions. The greatest differences may be found between the cuisine in the north and in the south of India. More meat and wheat products are eaten in the northern part of the subcontinent. The famous Indian bread, in the shape of little loaves of bread, cakes (chapati, roti, poori, naan, paratha) are elements, typical of the northern Indian cuisine. Southern Indian cuisine has more vegetarian meals prepared from all varieties of rice, including fermented rice. The rice is sticky, and not loose, because meals are traditionally eaten in the south only with hands and are served on the leaves of a banana tree. India is the empire of spices and thus the first European expeditions to India were commercial with the desire to gain direct access to the wealth of spices. Today, it is also impossible to imagine any Indian dish without at least ten spices.


 Associations with Poland


In the old times, (16th-18th century) few Poles, including Polish missionaries, arrived in India, mainly on Portuguese or British ships. Closer and more direct contacts between Poland and India begin at the end of the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century. It is worth mentioning several great figures who substantially contributed to developing close relations and tightening bonds between Poland and India.
The most interesting and noteworthy example of special Polish-Indian relations is the maharaja of Gujarat in north-western India who, in the years 1942-1946, gave asylum and cared for approx. 1000 Polish orphaned children who managed to leave the Soviet Union with soldiers from the army of gen.   Anders. Wanda Dynowska (1888-1971), who received an Indian nickname - Umadewi, was a great popularizer of India and Hinduism in Poland as well as the Polish culture in India. She was a writer, a translator, a social activist and one of the founders of the Polish Theosophical Society and the Polish-Indian Library in 1944. Another important figure who gained respect, both in Poland and in India, is priest Marian Żelazek (1918-2006) who helped the poor and lepers in India for 56 years (from 1950). For 26 years he was a missionary among the tribal population in Orissa (from 2010 - Odisha) and then he established a center/town for lepers in the town Puri, providing lepers excluded from of the society with a chance for a decent life. He was a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize for his activities. In 2014, it is the 60th anniversary of establishing Polish-Indian relations (official cooperation began as at March 30, 1954). There were few visits on the highest official level. The first such visit in Poland was paid by the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1955. We was accompanied in that journey by his daughter, Indira Gandhi who later twice served as the prime minister of India. The economic exchange with this country has grown significantly since 2011. Polish export to India includes mainly equipment for power plants, railway, mining equipment, chemicals, metals and machines. The most important goods imported from India include: tea, coffee, tobacco, pepper, fibers and cotton products. Indian entrepreneurs in Poland mainly invest in the following sectors: IT, business outsourcing, vehicles, machine, steel production. The parliaments of the two countries also began cooperation.   The growing popularity of Indian movies in Poland, generally referred to as Bollywood, also contributes to an increase in the interest in Indian culture, its traditions, cuisine and even language among the Poles. The Indian side also started noticing the attractiveness of Poland in recent years. Projects are pursued not only by businessmen from India, but Indian movie producers choose to shoot movies in Poland as well (mainly in Kraków, Warsaw and Zakopane).


 Integration in Poland – successes and difficulties

The Hindu living in Poland may be generally divided into three groups.  The first, and the oldest group in terms of chronology, includes people who came to Poland mainly to study at Polish universities. Single students from India came. Men, first of all. This group may be considered the most assimilated because they stayed only in the Polish environment from the beginning of their stay in Poland. They lived in dormitories with Poles, used canteens, had to start learning Polish. Those who decided to stay in Poland, usually for personal reasons, were forced to adapt to living conditions at times when, e.g. following a vegetarian diet was something very exotic and difficult to pursue. Due to their relations with Polish women, this group of men became quickly Polonized. The second group is represented by a completely different type of people. At the beginning of the 1990s More and more businessmen from India started arriving at the beginning of the 1990s in order to start their businesses in Poland. The Hindu, who then came to Poland, are mostly Sindhi people, namely they come from a region with strong and old trade traditions. Among others, they import textiles to Poland. Numerous warehouses of fabrics, mainly in Janki near Warsaw and Pabianice near Łódź which are a permanent element of the local landscape, are the result of Indian investments in our country. The Sindhi community is not so much assimilated with Poland. The character of their work makes it impossible to a certain extent. They mainly focus on running their businesses. They treat their stay in Poland as temporary, even though it is often long-term. Most of them would rather marry Hindu women in India. After the marriages, women join their husbands in Poland. They usually do not work, they are only housewives according to the Hindu tradition, observe the principles of Indian cuisine and that is why their contact with the Polish environment is quite limited. The third group may include both emigrants for economic reasons as well as people entering the procedure for receiving a refugee status on the territory of the Republic of Poland. The provisions of the Geneva Convention (1951) and the New York Protocol become effective in Poland in 1991. The first application for a refugee status from the citizen of India in our country was submitted in January 1994. The largest group of Indian refugees starts arriving in Poland after 2000. This is not a homogenous group. They come from various environments, their age is different. Most often, however, these are people from north-western India, mainly men from the agricultural states of Punjab and the neighboring Haryana. It may thus be assumed that the Punjabi are the most numerous group from this category. Poland does not have such a strong and numerous Punjabi diaspora as, for example, in Great Britain or Canada. However, we should remembered that the Punjabi have one of the oldest (contemporary) traditions of migration beyond the borders of India. Apart from the three groups mentioned above, Hindu from other regions of India who do not fit into the characteristics presented here also stay in Poland. The last several years saw an increase in the number of people coming to Poland to study at universities or for other private purposes. As opposed to the first Indian students coming to our country in the 1960s – 90. , currently there are more facilities for people from India A gurdwara, namely a Sikh place of worship, operates in Raszyn near Warsaw. There are many Polish-Indian friendship societies with which people from India can keep in touch. The availability of stores with Asian food, restaurants and bars serving Indian food makes it possible for them to follow their religious diet and reduces the sense of strangeness in a new environment.  People coming from Indian rural areas, descending from conservative, agricultural environments certainly experience a greater cultural shock. For them, Poland is often the first foreign country they reach.  Everyday life in India is so far dominated by verbal communication, the culture of the word and not letters and this shapes a different type of mentality. We should remember that an average citizen of India does not have frequent contacts with state institutions, certainly not to that extent as in Europe. The Hindu entering various administrative procedures in Poland do not always understand that they need written documents.  A verbal statement for them is often equivalent to a written statement. In addition, the characteristic feature of the Indian culture is the way of thinking in a generalizing manner. The Hindu show a tendency, and this may also be seen in their languages, to perceive common, general phenomena thus belittling individual phenomena. This is another cultural feature which may pose difficulties in contacts between the Hindu and Polish state institutions. The Hindu have a tendency to speak in an extended way which Poles may consider not specific and even not to the point. Of course, this does not mean that the Hindu are not capable of precise thinking. It only stresses the fact that such type of mentality is present in everyday contacts, while they may pay attention to completely different elements of reality than we do in the surrounding world. The newcomers also need to learn how to function in a world which measures time and values punctuality more precisely than in India. The Hindu are known for their very flexible approach to time.  It may generally be said that the Hindu are a nation who adapt far more quickly to Polish conditions than, e.g. other groups of foreigners. We should remember that they come to us with a far greater intercultural experience than ours because they come from a country in which various nations, cultures, religions co-exist. The Indian diaspora is thus not a community which will aim at isolation or establishing a country within a country which is a problem some multiethnic countries in Europe need to face. Their multilingualism also makes it easier for them to learn another language faster, e.g. Polish. The Hindu are used to preserving their identity, at the same time living in a multicultural environment. This is certainly a valuable ability in a world in which the exchange of populations and the related migrations are accelerated. The Hindu are aware of their origin, they are proud they come from a civilization of an ancient origin, rich culture and they cultivate this fact. Living in Poland, they also contribute to diversifying our culture.