India lies to the South of the Asian continent, resting comfortably between the Himalayas in the North and the great Indian Ocean in the South. With an expansion of 3.287 million square kilometres, all facets imaginable of nature’s splendour are present in one or the other part of the country.
India offers vivid, enchanting shades of bewitching beauty. Amazed disbelief at its sheer magnanimous diversity is inescapable.
Geography and Climate
One can meet snow-clad mountains at several excellent destinations like Shimla, Manali, Kashmir, Kufri, Darjeeling, Shillong to name a few.
Northern India is nourished by waters of Ganges; its tributaries and the Brahmaputra, while the peninsular streams of Godavari, Narmada, Krishna and Kaveri flow across southern India. Famed cities of Delhi, Haridwar, Mathura, and Srinagar are located on these banks.
Lakhs of people reach Haridwar every year to take a dip in the Holy Ganges. For the believers, it is the ‘Mecca of Yoga’ and ‘Gateway to the Gods’ that can absolve them of their sins.
The 7516-kilometre long coastline houses the Eastern and Western Ghats resplendent with the biodiversity of flora and fauna.
The marshy Rann of Kutch on the west and Sunderbans Delta on the east are most striking features of the coastline. The Runn Utsav organized in winters has recently become a global tourist attraction.
The Arabian Sea on the west and Bay of Bengal in the east are reservoirs of marine life and resources to the country. Lakshadweep, being an archipelago and Andaman-Nicobar, a volcanic chain, have a sense of uniqueness in their charm.
India has had a shared past. One that cannot be attributed to any single centre of influence but an amalgamation of many. The ancient times saw coexistence of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain ways of life.
The medieval era brought Arabic, Persian and Central Asian influences with the oncoming of foreign rulers, Mughals being the most prominent. By the 18th century, there were established British, Dutch, Portuguese and French colonies.
These many foreign influences combined with the indigenous culture and belief system prepared a concoction whose aroma lingers in the contemporary Indian way of life. This is visible in the architecture, culture, traditions, faiths, festivals and art forms across the country.
Indian architecture forms, ranging from ancient Buddhist to temple to Dravidian, have thrived on a combination of indigenous and imported styles.
The most famous Taj Mahal, Jama Masjid, Red Fort and other Mughal architectures exhibit Indo-Islamic constructions with a pinch of Rajput style. UNESCO World Heritage List describes Taj Mahal as ‘the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage’.
The Islamic influence, arising from the 330 years long Mughal rule, is also visible in the deep roots of Urdu literature, Mughal paintings, and textile designs. The Sanchi Stupa, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Lumbini are centers of pilgrimage for Buddhists.
Jataka tales, stories of Budha’s previous lives, can be found painted on Ajanta and Ellora caves. An extensive network of temples marks unignorable presence in the country.
These temples speak for ancient love of art and strength of belief. The Konark Sun Temple, the Khajuraho sculptures, Meenakshi Temple of Madurai, the Somnath temple are some of the most popular names that see thousands of visitors every year.
This flawless blend of faiths gives India a unique place on the world map.
The advent of Colonisers brought their aesthetics here. St. cathedral in Goa, Church of Sacred Hearts in Puducherry were built under French while the Victoria Memorial, the President House, the Supreme Court, and Parliament building became remnants of British reign.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recognizes 36 Indian locations as World Heritage Sites including the Sanchi Stupa, Konark Sun temple, Bodh Gaya, Nalanda, and others.
Check out this Travel Map of India
Festivals and Fairs
It isn’t without reason that India is called ‘Land of festivals’. The entire year is marked by various celebratory, harvest and community festivals.
Diwali, Holi, and Dussehra mark Hindu celebrations while Eid, Muharram, and Ramzan are sacred to Muslim faiths. Christians celebrate with fervor the Good Friday and Christmas. Pongal, Makar Sankranti, and Baisakhi are festivals to celebrate and thank the gods for a good harvest.
The Rath Yatra is a visual spectacle of faith at Jagannath Puri. The names and number of celebrations are countless but they are the one true window to the Indian spirit.
The fairs are diversified according to location, occasion, language, people and the region. Nevertheless, they are important centers of attraction drawing large masses from far lands.
Some of the most renowned fairs are:
- Gangasagar Mela, organized in West Bengal
- Desert Festival in Jaisalmer, marked by puppet shows and camel races
- Nagaur Fair in Rajasthan is a cattle fair
- Chitra Festival in Meenakshi Temple celebrates the marriage of Shiva and Meenakshi
- Pushkar Fair in Rajasthan, dedicated to Lord Brahma
- Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, Allahabad, Nasik, and Ujjain
Indian cuisine, like all other aspects of the country, is deliciously diverse. It is the combination of several regional cuisines that arose as a result of variations in climate, vegetation, and traditions.
Over the years, Indian cuisine has gained a significant reputation for itself, especially the multitude of flavors arising from Indian spices. Each state and sub-region has thus developed its own cuisine.
The north Indian delicacies are characterized by the use of ghee, non-vegetarian platter, Mughal influences and different varieties of bread. Shahi paneer, naan, kababs, rajma rice, chaat, paranthas, kulfi, rasgullas are some famous servings.
The South Indian cuisine is identified with the use of coconut oil, rice, seafood, and banana leaf servings. Dosa, Idli, Sambhar, Pongal, Hyderabadi Biryani are popular.
Since Goa and Pondicherry were Portuguese and French colonies respectively, those influences are easily visible in the food habits.
India offers an unforgettable experience and cherishable memories to all its visitors.
A boat ride across Dal Lake in Kashmir, a boathouse picnic in Kerala backwaters, spotting Royal Bengal Tigers in Sunderbans, Places at Udaipur city, the Holi in Braj-Dham and Diwali in Haridwar are all experiences that stay with you long after you have left the place.
The Indian community believes in their principle of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’, meaning ‘Guest is God’.