This varies widely in US as well as in India. You can find many in the US who do not breastfeed even 6 months and who also may start solid foods much earlier. You can also find many in India who start solids at 6 months or later - perhpas more so in the rural areas.
But in urban India, e.g. in my neighborhood, I found that many people pushed early solids and few breastfed even for the 2 year recommended minimum. In fact, as I took evening walks with my baby, well before she turned 6 months old, people would come and tell me proudly what all they fed their children at 3 or even 2 months of age, encouraging me to do the same. Some accused me of depriving her of food, etc. [btw these same ppl told me that I should not carry her so much. you get all kinds of parenting advice from people aspiring to be more western than the west.]
I support the 6 month minimum exclusive breastfeeding, as well as 2 years minimum complementary breastfeeding. You can't go wrong following this.
Regarding 6 months minimum exclusive breastfeeding, this is a minimum
and it is not necessary that all babies will be ready for solids as soon as they complete 6 months. SO along with age, I would look for the standard signs that Dr. Sears and Kelly Mom
describe - like being able to sit up, can pick up food, and shows interest in meals.
My dd was certainly eyeing our food and reaching for it by 5 months but we waited till 6 months before starting.
What if your six month old is not eyeing your food and not interested at all? Though I am not speaking from experience, I have read that babies who are, for whatever reason not ready to digest solids, tend to wait longer to take interest in them. Letting them wait will allow time for their digestive system to mature and may prevent allergies that would have developed had the intestines been exposed to solids earlier.
I would encourage a child over 6 months to join mealtimes, make appropriate food available and presentable, and let them eat if they wish. If you really think they are being shy or need more encouragement you culd offer them a spoonful by placing it near their mouths, but make sure they make the choice to eat it - by leaning forward or grabbing your hand eagerly. I would never "make" a baby eat or feed him or her without his/her expressing interest or showing some initiative. How they express interest will vary from baby to baby. I suppose those with any developmental delays will communicate differently.
In (urban) India many people see feeding baby as a chore to be maked off the to-do list, and therefore it should be done as efficiently as possible. I think this attitude is counter productive and leads to the phenomenon we so often see of parents coaxing and cajoling and getting exasperated, and using the idiot box to keep the kid still, or running around behind them with a bowl and a spoon , stuffing something in their mouths at every opportunity. This can go on for ages; meanwhile the child learns little or nothing about eating properly. Rather if you trust the child's natural interest in food you can avoid these problems. And this trust begins from birth - trusting the child to breastfeed, and then trusting her to eat when she is ready, when she is hungry, and knowing when she is full.