The Republic of India is a country in South Asia. It is the second most populous country, with a population in excess of 1.2 billion people, but only the seventh-largest country by area. Part of India lies along the Fertile Crescent—the area where the first human civilizations have been discovered as far back as 7600 BCE.
Today, India is a diverse landscape with mountains to the north, deserts below and tropical and subtropical regions. It is one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world, with 13.7% of all avian species present, among others.
About 80% of the Indian population follow the Hindu religion, but there are also strong majorities of those who follow the Muslim faith, the third-largest in the world and the largest for a non-Muslim majority country, as well as significant followings for Jain, Sikh, Baha’i, Islam and Zoroastrianism.
India has one of the longest-standing cultures, with a cultural history spanning 4,500 years. The MIC’s collection of traditional Indian artwork, jewelry, and clothing demonstrates to our visitors the true diversity of the Indian culture.
One of the most distinctive pieces of Indian clothing is the sari, a long garment about 4 to 9 yards long, that is worn wrapped around the waist and drapped over one shoulder, leaving the midriff bared. They are widely considered a symbol of grace and wealth, and the fabric is typically quite decorative.
The Museum of International Cultures has examples of the sari so that viewers can see this element of Indian culture.
Indian jewelry has a distinctive style and many different ritual and celebratory purposes. The traditional wedding jewelry of the Indian people can very eleborate and decorative. One distinctive element of Indian jewelry is the nose piercing, which is a longstanding element of Indian culture.
Although there is an element of fashion to the nose piercing, this is not the only reason that Indian people pierce their noses. This form of jewelry has significance in Hindu culture. Typically, Hindu women pierce their left nostril, which is associated with childbirth and was originally meant to make childbirth easier. These piercings, which are typically done at around the age of 16, the marriagable age, can also be dedicated to the goddess of marriage, Parvathi.
The Museum of International Cultures has examples of Indian jewelry so that viewers can educate themselves about this aspect of Indian culture.