India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world with a kaleidoscopic variety and rich cultural heritage. It has achieved all-round socio-economic progress during the last 65 years of its Independence. India has become self-sufficient in agricultural production and is now one of the top industrialized countries in the world and one of the few nations to have gone into outer space to conquer nature for the benefit of the people. It covers an area of 32, 87,263 sq. km, extending from the snow-covered Himalayan heights to the tropical rain forests of the south. As the 7th largest country in the world, India stands apart from the rest of Asia, marked off as it is by mountains and the sea, which give the country a distinct geographical entity. Bounded by the Great Himalayas in the north, it stretches southwards and at the Tropic of Cancer, tapers off into the Indian Ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west. As you travel, India offers a range of vast tourism choices, diverse in land and nature, people, tribes, cuisine, faiths, dance forms, music, arts, crafts, adventure, sport, spirituality, history; even these vary as you journey from one state to another. As a country, India has achieved all-round social-economic progress in the last 70 years of independence. The change is clearly visible in the Tier I and Tier II cities. However, the fascinating aspect lies in the stark difference as you travel through the new and old parts of its cities. From world-class airports and hotels, luxurious shopping malls, restaurants, pubs and cafes to overcrowded streets and alleyways, in the same cities, filled with thousands of little shops offering every possible modern and ethnic product and native street food is a fascinating experience.
History of India
The hallmark of Indian history dates back to the stone age with paintings at the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh. These paintings symbolise the earliest known traces of human life in India. The first known permanent settlements appeared over 9,000 years ago and gradually developed into the Indus Valley Civilization, dating back to 3300 BCE in western India. It was followed by the Vedic Civilization, which laid the foundations of Hinduism and other cultural aspects of early Indian society. From around 550 BCE, many independent kingdoms and republics known as the Mahajanapadas were established across the country.
The empire built by the Maurya dynasty under Emperor Ashoka united most of South Asia in the third century BCE. From 180 BCE, a series of invasions from Central Asia followed, including those led by the Indo-Greeks, Indo-Scythians, Indo-Parthians and Kushans in the north-western Indian subcontinent. From the third century CE, the Gupta dynasty oversaw the period referred to as "The Golden Age" of Indian history. Among the notable South Indian empires were the Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Hoysalas, Pallavas, Pandyas, and Cholas. Science, engineering, art, literature, astronomy, and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings. Paintings at the Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, Maharashtra were made in the 6th century.
A number of invasions from Central Asia between the tenth and twelfth centuries is an important landmark in history of India, as much of north India came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate, and later the Mughal dynasty. Mughal emperors gradually expanded their kingdoms to cover large parts of the subcontinent. Nevertheless, several indigenous kingdoms, such as the Vijayanagara Empire, flourished, especially in the south. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the Mughal supremacy declined and the Maratha Empire became the dominant power. From the sixteenth century, several European countries, including Portugal, Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom, started arriving as traders and later took advantage of the fractious nature of relations between the kingdoms to establish colonies in the country.
The first half of the twentieth century is an important period in the history of India, as a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress and other political organizations. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, and displaying commitment to ahimsa, or non-violence, millions of protesters engaged in mass campaigns of civil disobedience. Finally, on 15 August 1947, India gained independence from British rule, but was partitioned, in accordance with the wishes of the Muslim League, along the lines of religion to create the Islamic nation-state of Pakistan. Three years later, on 26 January 1950, India became a republic and a new constitution came into effect. Unfortunately, Indian history since independence has been marked by poverty, corruption, and intermittent periods of chaos.
The history of India is a mingle between the East and the West. India has always been an invader's paradise, while at the same time its natural isolation and magnetic religions allowed it to adapt to and absorb many of the peoples who penetrated its mountain passes. No matter how many Persians, Greeks, Chinese nomads, Arabs, Portuguese, Britishers and other raiders had their way into this great country, many of them merged into the society giving rise to a country full of diversity in terms of culture, religion, language and architecture.
India is also home to a large and diverse population that has added to its vibrant character since ages. Its population is one billion (one thousand million), making it the second most populous country after China. It is more than three times the population of the United States though its area is only about one-third. It is the largest democracy in the world. India, it is often said, is not a country but a continent. From North to South & East to West the people are different, the culture is different, the moods are different. A pluralist, multilingual and multicultural society, Indians are largely tolerant and peaceful. Religious practices of various faiths are an integral part of everyday life in society. In 2001, India had 35 cities / urban areas with a population of more than one million people. In total, some 108 million Indians, or 10.5 per cent of the national population, live in the country's 35 largest cities. Mumbai (Bombay) with a population of more than 16 million is now the world's fourth-largest urban area followed by Kolkata (Calcutta) in fifth place. The United Nations now estimates that by 2050 India will have overtaken China as the most populous country in the world. Today, Indians make up 16.7 per cent of the world's population with an annual growth rate of close to two per cent while the world population is growing at an annual rate of 1.4 per cent. In 2001, the sex ratio for the whole of India stood at 933 females to 1,000 males. Based on their physical type and language, we can easily divide Indian people into four broad classes. First, a majority of high class Hindus, who live in North India and whose language is derived from Sanskrit. Secondly, those who live in that part of India that is south of the Vindhyas and whose languages - Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam - are entirely different from Sanskrit. These are known by the generic name of "Dravidians". Thirdly, primitive tribes living in hills and jungles of India, who as mentioned above constitute eight percent of the total population in India. The Kols, Bhils and Mundas belong to this class. Fourthly, there are a people with strong Mongolian features inhabiting within India the slopes of the Himalayas and mountains of Assam. The Gorkhas, Bhutiyas and Khasis are striking examples of this. It is impossible to speak of any one Indian culture, although there are deep cultural continuities that tie its people together. English is the major language of trade and politics, but there are fourteen official languages in all. There are twenty-four languages that are spoken by a million people or more, and countless other dialects. India has seven major religions and many minor ones, six main ethnic groups, and countless holidays.
Located in the upper part of India in the foothills of the Himalayas, the northern region of India is enriched with different cultures, religions, marvelous monuments, immense wildlife parks and sanctuaries, holy rivers, majestic Himalayas, and diversified climate conditions. The whole of north India borders countries like Pakistan, China, Nepal and Bhutan from northwest to northeast. Geographically north India has great diversity. The towering majesty of the Himalayas, the breathtaking mountainous beauty of Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir, the agriculturally rich plains of Punjab, Haryana and the Ganga basin of Uttar Pradesh that has nurtured many ancient civilisations form an incredibly rich visual extravaganza. This rich cultural tapestry is woven with brilliant strands of many hues-dance, music, food, costumes, languages, customs, festivals -a variety staggering in its appeal. The origin of sacred river Ganga, Yamuna and sources of many other important rivers are in northern India.
The southern part of India touches the Indian Ocean and is rich in wild life, flora & fauna and temples. South India is a geographic and linguistic-cultural region of India. Geographically, South India is a vast triangular peninsula, bounded on the west by the Arabian Sea, and on the east by the Bay of Bengal. The Vindhya and Satpura ranges and the Narmada River are the traditional boundary between northern and southern India. South of the Satpuras, at the center of the peninsula, is the Deccan plateau, defined by the Western Ghats mountain range, which runs along the western edge of the peninsula, and the Eastern Ghats along the eastern edge. The great rivers of south India, the Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri (Cauvery), rise in the Western Ghats and flow across the Deccan and through gaps in the Eastern Ghats to empty into the Bay of Bengal. As a linguistic-cultural and political region, South India consists of the five south Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Pondicherry & Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Natives of these states are referred to as South Indians. South India is also called Dakshina Nad (Dakshina = South + Nad = land), Dravida Nad (Dravida = Dravidian + Nad = land), or simply Dravida. The dance forms of South India are Bharathanatyam, Kuchipudi and Mohiniaattam which literally translates as 'the dance of the enchantress'. The music of the South Indian people is called as Carnatic music.
The dominant features of south India are the tropical climate less harsh than the northern States, lush green tropical vegetation in the coastal areas and the architecture, culture, languages and lifestyle which had remained essentially Dravidian at the core in spite of repeated exposures to alien influences. This is a land of temples, a land of the devout, the profusion of jasmine and 'kanakambaram' flowers and the soft beat of distant drums as yet another festival starts. Main languages includes Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Tulu, among many others. The chief dressing of South Indian women is the Sari and of Men is Lungi, which is also an unstitched drape like the sari. Rice is the staple diet, with fish being an integral component of coastal South Indian meals. Coconut is an important ingredient in many of the dishes of the south Indian people. The people are largely agrarian, dependent on monsoons, as are most people in India. Some of the main crops cultivated in South India include paddy, sorghum, millet, pulses, cotton, chilli, and ragi. South India was and still is the "promised land" as far as spice cultivation is concerned. Areca, coffee, pepper, tapioca, and cardamom are widely cultivated on the Nilgiri Hills and Coorg. Education is highly valued in the south Indian community, and is seen as a gateway to a better livelihood.
Climate in India
The climate of India may be broadly described as tropical monsoon. India's climate is affected by two seasonal winds - the north-east monsoon and the south-west monsoon. The north-east monsoon commonly known as winter monsoon blows from land to the sea whereas south-west monsoon known as summer monsoon blows from sea to land after crossing the Indian Ocean, the Arabian sea and the bay of Bengal. The south-west monsoon brings most of the rainfall during the year in the country.
Cycle of seasons: There are four seasons in India: winter (January-February), summer (March-May), Advancing monsoon (June-September) and post monsoon also known as north-east monsoon in the southern peninsula (October-December).
Summer: During the three months from April to June it is summer in most parts of India.Generally in the month of April, many parts of India experiences high temperature. The normal temperature recorded in this time in generally 30°C. But at some places in the plateau region the temperature rises to 40°C and in the Himalayan mountain region, it remains near about 20°C.
Winter: During the period from December to February there is winter season in India. During this time clouds and dry North-East Monsoon passes over different regions of India and temperature is decreased considerably. In Himalayan area the temperature is much lower (between 5°C and 10°C). But sometimes cyclone (coming from the West) causes storm and rainfall which is known as Western disturbance.
Rainy: The rainy season in India begins generally from the second week of July and continues up to the second week of October. From the second week of June humid monsoon enters various parts of India and causes rainfall everywhere in the state.
Spring: The advent of spring brings us the pleasant sound wind begins to blow. It refreshes our body and mind. The countryside appears to be adorned with green leaves and flowers. Birds sing and bees hum in the flower garden. Trees and creepers are covered with beautiful flowers. Bees hum all day long among them.
Indian history and culture is full of richness and affluence, which undoubtedly has had a significant impact on the evolution of the current society. Home to the Indus Valley civilization and a region of historic trade routes and vast empires, the Indian history is identified with its commercial and cultural wealth over the past thousands of years. Four major world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated here, while Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity arrived in the first millennium AD and mingled into the region's diverse culture. India became a modern nation-state in 1947 after a struggle for independence that was marked by widespread nonviolent resistance. The history of India can be divided into four major segments, the ancient era, the medieval era, the modern era and the post-independence era.
Vital to India's self-image as an independent nation was its constitution, completed in 1950, which put in place a secular and democratic republic. It has remained a democracy with civil liberties, an active Supreme Court, and a largely independent press. Economic liberalisation, which was begun in the 1990s, has created a large urban middle class, transformed India into one of the world's fa Pakistan. The stest-growing economies, and increased its geopolitical clout. Indian movies, music, and spiritual teachings play an increasing role in global culture. Yet, India is also shaped by seemingly unyielding poverty, both rural and urban; by religious and caste-related violence; by Maoist-inspired Naxalite insurgencies; and by separatism in Jammu and Kashmir and in Northeast India. It has unresolved territorial disputes with China and withIndia-Pakistan nuclear rivalry came to a head in 1998. India's sustained democratic freedoms are unique among the world's newer nations; however, in spite of its recent economic successes, freedom from want for its disadvantaged population remains a goal yet to be achieved.
Indians have been cultivating and consuming the same categories of grains and legumes they still eat for thousands of years. Present-day staple foods such as lentils, whole-wheat flour, rice, and pearl millet are found to have been part of the Indian diet from around 6,000 B.C.E.
India has been producing salt for over 5,000 years, particularly in its Rann of Kutch area in the state of Gujarat. Evidence of black pepper being used in Indian cooking has been found from as early as 2,000 B.C.E. The southern state of Kerala was known far across the oceans for its black pepper exports during ancient times, when the spice was known as ‘black gold’ and considered a much-valued commodity in parts of the world.
As per Ayurveda, India’s ancient medicinal system, there are three primary categories of food – Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. Satvic food comprises all that’s natural and minimally processed such as vegetables, and is considered to have a positive, calming and purifying effect on the body and mind. Rajasic food is spicy, oily, salty or bitter and drives ambition, competition and egotistic pursuits. Tamasic food is overly processed, toxic, difficult to digest and has negative effects on both mind and body.
India is rightfully known as the "land of spices", India is the largest producer of spices in the world. The country produces over 70% of the world’s spices and is also home to a higher variety of spices than any other in the world.
India is home to one of the world’s hottest chillies – bhut jolokia or ghost pepper – which is estimated to be about 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. Grown in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur, the chilli was certified as the world’s hottest in 2007 by Guinness World Records, though it lost its spot in subsequent years.
Clothing in India
Clothing is a vital form of expression in India, closely tied to religious tradition. Indian culture imposes a certain dress code, which varies between regions, so it's important to know what to wear and how to wear it before embarking on an Indian journey. At the same time, clothing in India plays a huge role in protecting people from sometimes harsh weather, so dress in a way that keeps you as cool and shielded from the sun as possible.
When you're visiting India's big cities, you might be able to get away with your typical clothing, especially in bars, clubs and other cool hangouts. However, this isn't the case in most of the country, where revealing clothing is viewed as disrespectful and – particularly at holy sites – insulting. Prepare to pack clothing that reveals as little skin as possible, both out of respect for the local culture and to protect yourself from the sun and mosquitoes.
Tourists in India are welcome to adopt the traditional dress while there, especially while visiting holy sites. For women, these pieces include saris, churidars and kurtas. Saris wrap around the body without stitching, so unless you have someone to teach you how to wear it, consider springing for churidars (leggings that bunch at the ankle) and a kurta (a long tunic) instead.
For men, traditional dress is simple and usually cheap: Just aim for trousers and lightweight shirts.
Best Time to Travel in India
The best time to visit India is between October and March when the monsoon rains have ceased and the country is largely warm and dry. The climate does vary considerably by region though this is the peak travel season in Rajasthan and Kerala due to the agreeable weather conditions.
Generally speaking, the weather in India can be divided into three seasons – summer, winter and monsoon. The coolest and driest time of the year to visit is between October and February, which is regarded as the winter season and seen by many as the best time to visit India. During this time temperatures are cool and dry, making the ideal conditions to take in the highlights and hidden gems of India. Temperatures will always be warmer in the south, with comfortable coastal beach weather.
Following winter is the summer season which is hot and dry, lasting from March through to May, when temperatures reach their peak. During this time the thermometer can be intensely warm in the central and southern reaches of the country, making it an excellent time to head to the north and higher altitudes of the Himalayas, and the lofty hill stations of Shimla and Darjeeling.
May signals the start of the monsoon season, which begins in Kerala on the south-western coast, bringing with it regular downpours interspersed with sunny hot intervals that gradually work their way up the country. It is very humid during this time of year and the days are punctuated by intermittent rainfall. At the height of monsoon season there can be flooding in some lowland regions and most national parks close during this time (excluding Periyar, which remains open). Come November and December another monsoon hits southern India, sweeping in from the Bay of Bengal. The states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka receive most of their rainfall during this time.
Art and architecture
Much of Indian architecture, including the Taj Mahal, other works of Mughal architecture, and South Indian architecture, blends ancient local traditions with imported styles. Vernacular architecture is also highly regional in it flavours. Vastu shastra, literally "science of construction" or "architecture" and ascribed to Mamuni Mayan, explores how the laws of nature affect human dwellings; it employs precise geometry and directional alignments to reflect perceived cosmic constructs. As applied in Hindu temple architecture, it is influenced by the Shilpa Shastras, a series of foundational texts whose basic mythological form is the Vastu-Purusha mandala, a square that embodied the "absolute". The Taj Mahal, built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by orders of Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, has been described in the UNESCO World Heritage List as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage". Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture, developed by the British in the late 19th century, drew on Indo-Islamic architecture.
Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism
States of India
|Andhra Pradesh||Madhya Pradesh|
|Andaman and Nicobar||Chandigarh|
|Dadra and Nagar Haveli||Daman and Diu|
|Delhi||Jammu and Kashmir|