Student Exchange Program

Information you need to know about going to India

Religion

India is mostly a Hindu country. If you are not Hindu yourself, make sure you respect the family you will be staying with. They believe in multiple gods, and there will be a shrine in their house dedicated to one of the three main gods, you may ask them questions but you will have to respect what they say. They do not believe in violence so saying something about violence will most likely upset them. They also believe dharma, karma, and reincarnation. Respect this, or else they will be offended.

Religious Dress

The family you will be staying with will have a whole different wardrobe than yours. For traditional clothing, some Hindu men wear a dhoti kurta, which is a suite type clothing and a churidar worn during worship, prayer or festival days. For women, a traditional dress is known as a sar. In India you will still see a lot of women wearing the sari which is a dress that has a flowing top. They also may wear a salwarkameez which is very colorful and shows a design at the bottom and flows out. During worship or other appropriate times, women will cover their heads and are very modest. Women that follow Hinduism often will wear a jewel called a Bindi. If you are violating the Hindus dressing you will most likely offend them.

Common Foods You May Be Asked to Eat

Foods to Stay Away From

If you are with a Brahmin Hindu, they are mostly vegetarians, so if you are staying with them you would not want to have spa sandwich or something along those lines. Among many Hindus, many frown upon elation Onion and Garlic with non-vegetarian foods during festivals or Hindu holy months, if you are staying with a family during that time you wouldn't want to eat anything with that stuff. Hindus believe that the cow is a sacred animal, so eating a hamburger would offend them a ton.

Religious Ceremonies

Your family's religion may have religious ceremonies, you will have to respect. Sacrifice is a highly structured affair. Strict rules govern the purifying preparations for the Brahmin priests, construction of the altar, the preparation of the offering—in the contemporary world, various vegetable and grain offerings, particularly ghee (clarified butter)—and the performance of the ritual itself. All of this is to satisfy the gods and maintain order, or dharma.

Holy Days & Holidays

Holi is an annual festival that is celebrated on the day after the full moon on the Hindu month, Phalguna. It celebrates spring and commemorates various events in Hindu mythology. This is probably the least religous of the Hindu holidays.

Diwali, meaning "row of lights", is a Hindu festival of lights lasting for five days. For many Hindus, Diwali is also New Year's Eve.

Shiva Ratri is the great festival of Shiva. It is held on the 14th day of the lunar month of Phalguna. It is especially important to Saivites, but is celebrated by most Hindus.


Another holy day is Rama Navami, birth of lord Rama. Kumbh Mela, is a pilgrimage occurring every 12 years. If your host family is celebrating any of these holidays, you should strongly respect this.