India - The Motherland
All major religions of the world are given equal importance in India. Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism started in India; Islam, Christianity, and Judaism came to India shaping and combining with the native religions.
For example because of the Islamic influence in Northern India, most Hindu's cover their head in prayer unlike the ones in the South. A lot of Christian Churches in Southern India use "Deepa Valkas" or oil wick lamps instead of candles in worship due to Hindu influence. One of the largest synagogues in the world Paradesi Synagogue is in Cochin, a city in Southern India. There you have to take your shoes off to enter, again due to Hindu influence.
Buddhist sculptures in the north have the Greek Influence. The sculptures there have curly hair, anglicized features, and their garments are in "wet drapery" just like the Greek and Roman statues of the west. The Muslim Kings gave India the greatest monument to love the "Taj Mahal" built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved Mumtaz Mahal. They brought their style of architecture from Persia to combine with the temples that already existed in India.
When the Christian pilgrims came to India, they built beautiful Catholic Churches in Goa and Syrian Christian Churches in the South.
India even has a French colony in the south Pondicherry where French is the main language spoken.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has made his home in Darmasala, India for many years after leaving his homeland Tibet.
When the British came they brought 2 very important things the English language and the railroad. Before every few hundred miles there was a different King and language. The English language unified the country. The British might have oppressed India but they did bring English.
Recently Samsung moved to Chennai, bringing along its Korean families. There is now a large number of Koreans who have built Korean schools and Korean fast food restaurants. But of course they serve no beef, due to the Hindu influence.
When someone asks an Indian where are you from? They have got to be very specific because our languages, cultures, religions vary by region. Even within the same religion there are different practices, languages, cultures, etc.
Comments like " oh I just loved Monsoon Wedding, is your wedding going to be like that"
No maybe if someone is a Punjabi Hindu. A Punjabi Muslim can't relate or a Punjabi Sikh or anyone from the South.
" I just love Indian food, Palak Paneer is my favorite" ok, but a South Indian can't relate to that because they don't make that dish in the South.
"Indians don't eat meat do they? "- wrong a large amount do, A lot of Hindus, Jain, and Buddhists practice vegetarianism and a lot don't, depends on your culture, region, and your own personal beliefs.
"I loved Bend it like Beckham, does your family have parties like that? Do you know how to dance Bhangra" - that movie
relates to a Punjabi Sikh girl, and she's British. Bhangra is "Indian Hip Hop" but pertains to the North not the South.
Bollywood movies, hey everyone loves them right? Again the language is Hindi, only certain amount of Indians know the language everyone else watches it with subtitles. Hindi might be a national language of India, but so is Tamil, English, Telegu, etc. the list goes on.
India is definitely the motherland as for centuries now it has welcomed many types of people, religion, and cultures and continues to do so. No region of India is the same. It is like 75 countries put into one. One fantastic thing about it for travelers is that everyone speaks English or at least pretends to understand.
In conclusion you have to be very specific with an Indian, there is just no way to generalize India or its people.