It is impossible to ascribe a single culture to the nation of India. Although almost 80% of the country is Hindu, it is also home to Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and others. And, even within any one religious community, multiple languages are spoken and different customs followed.
Depending upon the time of your visit, you might experience one of the country's many festivals. Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is one of the most colourful, spectacular and welcoming. You can also witness some of the rituals of life and death that have remained unchanged for thousands of years. For example, a boat trip on the River Ganges at Varanasi will take you past the "burning Ghats" - riverside steps on which the bodies of devout Hindus are burned after their deaths.
Food and drink
A large part of the attraction for many people of India holidays is the chance to sample Indian cuisine in its native home. You might already be familiar with the tandoori, biriyani, keema and dal dishes that the Punjabi diaspora have shared with the wider world. However, there are plenty of new treats to try, including a wide variety of flatbreads and indulgent Indian sweets. Further south, is the home of the thali, a meal that brings together several smaller dishes on a single serving platter. In places such as Kerala and Goa, you can also expect more fish and coconut, as well as delicious dosas (thin crepes) and idlis (steamed rice cakes).
Soft drinks and bottled water are widely available, even outside the cities, as are several excellent Indian beers.
Most people, when they think of India, think of heat and dust, as immortalised in Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's 1973 novel of the same name. And it is true that India can be both hot and dusty, particularly before the monsoon. However, loose clothing in natural fibres and drinking plenty of water go a long way to ensuring personal comfort in even the highest temperatures.
The monsoon rains spread across India by degrees, beginning in the west in June. By mid-July they have covered the country but, by early October, they have retreated. Good waterproofs are a must for anyone visiting India during this time of year, although it is worth knowing that the monsoonal rains are not continuous and there are usually one or two dry spells every day.