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|Government||Federal Parliamentary Republic|
|Currency||Indian Rupee (₹, INR)|
|Population||1,324,171,354 (according to the 2017 revision of the World Population Prospects)|
|Language||Hindi, English and 21 other official languages|
|Religion||79.8% Hindu, 14.2 Islam, 2.3 Christianity, 1.7% Sikhism, 0.7% Buddhist, 0.7% Other religions, 0.4% Jain, 0.2% Religion not stated (2011 Census)|
|Electricity||230V/50Hz, Indian (Old British) and European plugs|
|Emergencies|| dial 100 for police|
101 for fire
India (Sanskrit, Hindi: भारत, Bhārat) is the largest country in the South Asia Region, located primarily in the center of South Asia, and shares International borders with Pakistan to the north-west, China and Nepal to the north, Bhutan to the north-east, and Bangladesh and Myanmar are to the east. Sri Lanka lies to the south, Maldives to the south-west and has maritime boundary 8 Indonesia to the south-east of India in the Indian Ocean.
The Republic of India is the seventh largest country in the world by area and, with over a billion people, is second only to China in population, although its much higher birth-rate makes it likely to reach pole position in less than ten years.
It is an extremely diverse country, with vast differences in geography, climate, culture, language and ethnicity across its expanse, and prides itself on being the largest democracy on Earth and a hub of trade in Southeast Asia.
- "We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open."— Jawaharlal Nehru
Indians are known for their greeting to thir guest, "अतिथि देवो भवः" Atithi devo bhava meaning "Guest is God". India's culture and heritage are a rich amalgam of the past and the present. This vast country offers the visitor a view of fascinating religions and ethnography, a vast variety of languages with more than 438 living languages, and monuments that have been present for thousands of years. As it opens up to a globalised world, India still has a depth of history and intensity of culture that awes and fascinates the many who visit there.
India remains to be one of the world's fastest growing economies and one of the fastest developing countries. It is considered to be an emerging superpower. Therefore, your visit will indeed be an interesting one.
- "Nothing should more deeply shame the modern student than the recency and inadequacy of his acquaintance with India.”— Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage
Mesolithic sites include the Bhimbetka rock shelters in Central India, Madhya Pradesh, which are 300,000 years old. One of the three cradles of civilizations the Indus Valley Civilization flourished in Northern India. The oldest archaeological site attributed to this civilization is Bhirrana(7570 BCE), located in mordern day Indian state of Haryana and the largest site being Rakhigari, Haryana. In the east this civilization extended as far as the mordern day city of Alamgirpur,Uttar Pradesh.Other important sites excavated in India include Lothal, Dholavira, Kalibangan and so many more . This civilization came to an abrupt end around 1700 to 1500 BCE. This was followed by Vedic Period. Indians date the Vedic Period as one of the significant role in Indian Society, which scholars place in the second and first millennia BC continuing up to the 6th century BC, based on literary evidence. This is the period when the Vedas, one of the oldest and important books of Hinduism, were compiled.
The Vedic civilization influences Republic of India to this day. Present-day Hinduism traces its roots to the Vedas, but is also heavily influenced by literature that came afterwards, like the Upanishads, the Puranas, the great epics; Ramayana and Mahabharata, and the Bhagavad Gita. By tradition, these books claim to only expand and distil the knowledge that is already present in the Vedas. Some rituals of Hinduism took shape during that period. Most North-Indian languages come from Sanskrit, the language of the Vedas, and are classified as part of the Indo-European group of languages. In the 1st millennium BC, various schools of thought in philosophy developed, enriching Hinduism greatly. Most of them claimed to derive from the Vedas. However, three of these schools - Sikhism , Buddhism and Jainism - questioned the authority of the Vedas and they are now recognised as separate religions.
Many great empires were formed between 500 BC and AD 500. Notable among them were the Mauryas and the Guptas. This period saw major mathematical and astronomical advancements, many of which were ahead of their time and were rediscovered later in the West. In particular, Aryabhata theorised that the earth was a sphere that rotates about its axis and revolves around the sun. He also developed a calendar that is followed to this day. This period also saw a gradual decline of Buddhism and Jainism. The practice of Buddhism, in particular, disappeared from India's heartland, though Buddha himself was incorporated into the Hindu pantheon. Jainism continues to be practiced by a significant number who are ambivalent about whether they consider themselves Hindus or not. Hinduism itself went through significant changes. The importance of Vedic deities like Indra and Agni reduced and Puranic deities like Vishnu, Shiva, their various Avatars and family members gained prominence.
The Islamic conquest of India started in the 8th century. It was summed up by historian Will Durant in his famous line: “The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history". Gradually the raiders started staying as rulers, and soon much of North India was ruled by Muslims. The most important of the Muslim rulers were the Mughals, who established an empire that at its peak covered almost the entire subcontinent (save the southern and eastern extremities), while the major Hindu force that survived in the North were the Rajputs. The bravery of the Rajputs in resisting invasion of their land is legendary and celebrated in ballads all over the forts of Rajasthan. Prominent among the Rajputs wes Rana Pratap, the ruler of Chittorgarh, who spent years in exile fighting Akbar, the third of the Mughals. Eventually, however, the Rajputs were subdued, and the Rajput-Mughal alliance remained strong till the end of the empire. This period of North India was the golden age for Indian art, architecture, and literature, producing the monumental gems of Rajasthan and the Taj Mahal. Hindi and Urdu also took root in medieval North India. During the Islamic period, some Hindus also converted to Islam, some due to force, some due to inducements, and some to escape the caste system. Today, some 13% of the Indian population is Muslim. Sikhism, another major religion, was established in Punjab during the Mughal period. Relations between Sikhism and the Mughals varied over time. The Golden Temple at Amritsar was built by the fourth guru, Guru Ram Das Ji. By the time of its tenth Guru - Guru Gobind Singh, however, relations were hostile. Conflict between the Sikhs and the Mughals was one of the causes for the eventual decline of the Mughal empire. The other cause was the challenge of the 'Marathas in Maharashtra, which was started by Shivaji and carried on by the Peshwas. The Marathas established a short-lived confederacy that was almost as large as the Mughal empire. Marathas lost their command over India after the third battle of Panipat, which in turn paved a way for British Colonialism.
South India followed a different trajectory, being less affected by Islamic rule. The period from 500 AD to 1600 AD is called the classical period dominated by great South Indian Kingdoms. Prominent among them were the Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas and Vijayanagara empires who ruled from present day Karnataka and the Pallavas, Cheras, Pandyas and Cholas who ruled from present day Tamil Nadu; Kerala. Among them, the Cholas are widely recognised to be the most powerful of the South Indian Kingdoms, with their territory stretching as far north as Pataliputra and their influence spreading as far east as Sumatra, Western Borneo and Southern Vietnam at the height of their power. Some of the grandest Hindu and Jain monuments that exist in India were built during this time in South and East India.
European traders started visiting India beginning in the late 16th century. Prominent among these were the British, French and the Portuguese. The British East India Company made Calcutta their headquarters in 1772. They also established subsidiary cities like Bombay and Madras. Calcutta later went onto to become 'the second city of the empire after London'. By the 19th century, the British had, one way or the other assumed political control of virtually all of India, though the Portuguese and the French too had their enclaves along the coast.
There was an uprising by Indian rulers in 1857 which was suppressed, but which prompted the British government to take over from the Company and make India a part of the empire. Many Indians converted to Christianity during the period, for pretty much the same reasons as they converted to Islam, though forcible conversions ended in British India after 1859, and Queen Victoria's proclamation promised to respect the religious faiths of Indians.
Non-violent resistance to British colonialism under Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi led to Independence on 15th August 1947. However, independence was simultaneously granted to the secular state of India and the smaller Islamic state of Pakistan, and the orgy of Hindu-Muslim blood-letting that followed Partition led to the deaths of at least half a million and the migration of 12-14 million people.
Free India under Nehru adopted a democratically-governed, centrally-planned economy. These policies were aimed at attaining "self-sufficiency", and to a large extent made India what it is today. India achieved self-sufficiency in food grains by the 1970s, ensuring that the large-scale famines that had been common are now history. However these policies also led to shortages, slow growth and large-scale corruption. After a balance-of-payments crisis in 1991, the country adopted free-market reforms which have continued at a meandering pace ever since, fueling strong growth. The IT and the business outsourcing industries have been the drivers for the growth, while manufacturing and agriculture, which have not experienced reforms, are lagging. About 60% of Indians live on agriculture and around 36% remain in poverty.
Relations with Pakistan have been frosty. The two countries have fought four wars, three of them over the status of Kashmir. The third war between the two countries in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh. India continues to experience occasional terrorist attacks that are widely believed to originate in Pakistan and ordered by its military-intelligence complex.
China and India went to war in 1962 over a border dispute. Though current relations are peaceful, there is still military rivalry and no land crossings are allowed between the two countries, though one border crossing between Sikkim and Tibet was re-opened in 2006 for trade (but not tourists). Security concerns over Pakistan and China prompted India to test nuclear weapons twice (including the 1974 tests described as "peaceful explosions"). India wants to be accepted as a legitimate nuclear power and is campaigning for a permanent Security Council seat.
India is proud of its democratic record. Constitutional government and democratic freedoms have been safeguarded throughout its 60 years as an Independent country, except for an 18 month interlude in 1975-1977, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency, suspending elections and human rights.
Current concerns in India include the corruption, poverty, over-population, environmental degradation, ongoing disputes with Pakistan and China, terrorism, and ethnic and religious strife. But the current comparison, at least among the educated elite, is over whether India will be able overtake to China in economic growth. At the same time the Indians, both Elite or otherwise, are very specific that they would want to achieve equitable and sustainable growth, unlike China and also not be reduced to dictatorship or communist rule for the sake of economic growth.
India is a Parliamentary Democracy modeled on the British Westminster system. The President, indirectly elected, is the Head of State, but his or her position, while not entirely ceremonial, has limited powers. In practice, the Prime Minister is seen to wield the most authority, and runs the government with her/his cabinet. The Parliament is bi-cameral. The Lok Sabha, the lower house, is directly elected by adult franchise, while the Rajya Sabha, or the upper house, is indirectly elected. The Lok Sabha is the more powerful of the two, primarily because a majority in the Lok Sabha is required to form a government and pass budgets. India has a vast number of political parties,recently got a highly stable government led by hugely popular Narendra Modi where a single party got absolute majority after a slew of unstable coalition led governments in which no single party has secured a majority in the Lok Sabha, leading to unstable governments and raucous politics. The transition of power has always been peaceful and always constitutional.
India has a strong and independent judiciary Supreme Court of India is apex court, and each state has an highcourt. and a free press.
India is also a Federal Republic, divided into states and union territories. Each of these have their own legislatures, with government run by a chief minister and a cabinet.
Street demonstrations and political agitations occur, as they do in any democracy, though there is also occasional low-level violence. A visitor has only a miniscule possibility of getting caught in these demonstrations.
Indian Standard Time (IST) is 5 hours and 30 minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+5.5). Daylight saving is not observed.
Mountains, jungles, deserts, and beaches, India has it all. It is bounded to the north and northeast by the snow-capped Himalayas, the tallest mountain range in the world. In addition to protecting the country from invaders, they also feed the perennial rivers Ganga, Yamuna (Jamuna) and Sindhu (Indus) on whose plains India's civilization flourished. Though most of the Sindhu is in Pakistan now, three of its tributaries flow through Punjab. The other Himalayan river, the Brahmaputra flows through the northeast, mostly through Assam.
South of Punjab lies the Aravalli range which cuts Rajasthan into two. The western half of Rajasthan is occupied by the Thar desert. The Vindhyas cut across Central India, particularly through Madhya Pradesh and signify the start of the Deccan plateau, which covers almost the whole of the southern peninsula.
The Deccan plateau is bounded by the Sahyadri (Western Ghats) range to the west and the Eastern Ghats to the east. The plateau is more arid than the plains, as the rivers that feed the area, such as the Narmada, Godavari and the Kaveri run dry during the summer. Towards the northeast of the Deccan plateau is what used to be a thickly forested area called the Dandakaranya which covers the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, the eastern edge of Maharashtra and the northern tip of Andhra Pradesh. This area is still forested and populated by tribal people. This forest acted as a barrier to the invasion of South India.
India has a long coastline. The west coast borders the Arabian Sea and the east coast the Bay of Bengal, both parts of the Indian Ocean.
In India, it rains only during a specific time of the year. The season — as well as the phenomenon that causes it — is called the monsoon. There are two of them, the Southwest and the Northeast, both named after the directions the winds come from. The Southwest monsoon is the more important one, as it causes rains over most parts of the country, and is the crucial variable that decides how the crops will do. It lasts from June to September. The Southwest monsoon hits the west coast the most, as crossing the western ghats and reaching the rest of India is an uphill task for the winds. The western coastline is therefore much greener than the interior. The Northeast monsoon hits the east coast between October and February, mostly in the form of occasional cyclones which cause much devastation every year. The only region that gets rains from both monsoons is North-Eastern India, which consequently experiences the highest rainfall in the world.
India experiences at least three seasons a year, Summer, Rainy Season (or "Monsoon") and Winter, though in the tropical South calling the 25°C (77°F) weather "Winter" would be stretching the concept. The North experiences some extremes of heat in Summer and cold in Winter, but except in the Himalayan regions, snow is almost unheard of. November to January is the winter season and April and May are the hot months when everyone eagerly awaits the rains. There is also a brief spring in February and March, especially in North India.
Opinions are divided on whether any part of India actually experiences an Autumn, but the ancients had certainly identified such a season among the six seasons ( or ritus - Vasanta - Spring, Greeshma - Summer, Varsha - Rainy, Sharat - Autumn, Shishira - Winter, Hemanta - "Mild Winter") they had divided the year into.
India's rich and multi-layered cultures are dominated by religious and spiritual themes. While it is a mistake to assume that there is a single unified Indian culture, there certainly are unifying themes that link the various cultures. India's cultural heritage is expressed through its myriad of languages in which much great literature and poetry has been written. It can be seen in its music - both in its classical (Carnatic and Hindustani) forms and in modern Bollywood music. India also has a vast tradition of classical and folk dances. Art and theatre flourish amongst the bustling cities of the country, against the backdrop of the ever expanding western influences.
Vibrant processions are seen going on everywhere, especially during festivals. Ganesh Chatutrthi processions in Mumbai, Dusshera in Mysore etc. are some important processions which have to be seen. Along with these, marriage and religious processions are also seen on the roads. You can see people dance, play music and drums, play with colors etc.
Indians value their family system a lot. Typically, an Indian's family encompasses what would be called the extended family in the West. It is routine for Indians to live as part of the paternal family unit throughout their lives - i.e. sons live together with their parents all their lives, and daughters live with their parents till they get married. The relationship is mutually self-supporting. Parents may support their children for longer than is common in the West, brothers and sisters may support each other, and sons are expected to take care of their parents in their old age. "Living with parents" does not carry the same stigma as it does in the US. Nowadays, most indian families are becoming more nuclear. Naturally, the arrangements are not perfect and there are strains and breakups, especially by the time the third generation grows up. Also, it has now become common for children to move away from the parental house for education and employment. Nonetheless, it is fair to say that the joint family is still seen as the norm and an ideal to aspire to, and Indians continue to care about their family's honour, achievements and failures even while they are not living together.
Despite the weakening of the caste system, India remains a fairly stratified society. Indians care about a person's background and position in society as is the case elsewhere in the world. This attitude, when combined with the legacy of colonial rule, results in some rather interesting, if unfortunate consequences. Paler skin is deemed desirable but there is no discrimination on the basis of color.
There are three national holidays: Republic Day (26 January), Independence Day (15 August), and Gandhi Jayanti (2 October) which occur on the same day every year. In addition, there are four major nationwide festivals with shifting dates to be aware of:
- Holi, in February or March — The festival of colour is a major festival celebrated mainly in North, East and Western India. On the first day, people go to temples and light bonfires, but on the second, it's a waterfight combined with showers of coloured powder. This is not a spectator sport: as a visible foreigner, you're a magnet for attention, so you'll either have to barricade yourself inside, or put on your most disposable clothes and join the fray. Alcohol and bhang (cannabis) are often involved and crowds can get rowdy as the evening wears on. Celebrations are fewer in South India, though private celebrations occur among North Indian communities residing in major South Indian cities
- Durga Puja / Navarathri/Dussehara, Sep-Oct — A nine-day festival culminating in the holy day of Dasara, when locals worship the deity Durga. Workers are given sweets, cash bonuses, gifts and new clothes. It is also new year for businessmen, when they are supposed to start new account books. In some places like West Bengal, Durga Puja is the most important festival. In the north Dussehara celebrations take place and the slaying of Ravana by Lord Rama is ceremonially reenacted as Ram Lila. In Gujarat and South India, it is celebrated as Navarathri where the festival is celebrated by dancing to devotional songs and religious observances like fasts extended over a period of 9 nights.
- Eid-ul-Fitr, the largest religious holiday of the year for Indian Muslims, it celebrates the start of the holy month of Shawwal. Ramzan ends with the Eid-ul-Fitr festival extending over several days. Food is the highlight, and if you're lucky you'll be invited into a private home for a feast. Businesses close for at least a couple days if not a week.
- Diwali (Deepavali), Oct-Nov — The festival of lights, celebrates the return of Lord Rama to the capital of his kingdom, Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years. Probably the most lavish festival in the country, reminiscent (to U.S. travellers at least) of the food of Thanksgiving and the shopping and gifts of Christmas combined. Houses are decorated, there is glitter everywhere, and if you wander the streets on Diwali night, there will be firecrackers going off everywhere including sometimes under your feet.
Apart from these, each state has its own major national festival like Onam for Kerala or Sankranti for Andhra Pradesh & Karnataka or Pongal for Tamil Nadu or Baisakhi for Punjab or "Ratha Yatra" for Odisha, which is celebrated as public holiday in respective states.
Religious holidays occur on different days each year, because the Hindu and Islamic festivals are based on their respective calendars and not on the Gregorian calendar. Most of them are celebrated only locally, so check the state or city you are visiting for information on whether there will be closures. Different regions might give somewhat different names to the same festival. To cater to varying religious practices, offices have a list of optional holidays (called restricted holidays by the government) from which employees are allowed to pick two, in addition to the list of fixed holidays. This may mean thin attendance and delayed service even when the office is officially open.
- A Goddess in the Stones: Travels in India by Norman Lewis (Cape 1991; US: Holt 1992), In "Goddess in the Stones", influential journalist and author Norman Lewis undertakes a jouney of 2500 miles in search of the old India.
- The India they saw : foreign accounts, by Meenakshi Jain (2011). A compilation of intriguing travel tales and excerpts from travelogues by travellers, writers, pilgrims and missionaries.
- Indian journals, March 1962-May 1963: Notebooks, diary, blank pages, writings. Ginsberg, A. (1970). San Francisco: Dave Haselwood Books. Travel diary written by the famous beat poet Allen Ginsberg.
- India: A History, John Keay; "A superb one-volume history of a land that defies reduction into simple narrative... Without peer among general studies, a history that is intelligent, incisive, and eminently readable." -- Kirkus Review (starred review) (ISBN 0802137970)
- India: A Million Mutinies Now, V.S. Naipaul; "With this book he may well have written his own enduring monument, in prose at once stirring and intensely personal, distinguished both by style and critical acumen" -- K. Natwar-Singh, Financial Times (ISBN 0670837024)
- In Spite of the Gods, Edward Luce; an exceptionally insightful and readable book on the unlikely rise of modern India. (ISBN 0316729817)
- No Full Stops In India, Mark Tully; "India's Westernized elite, cut off from local traditions, want to write a full stop in a land where there are no full stops. From that striking insight Mark Tully has woven a superb series of stories which explore everything from communal conflict in Ahmedabad to communism in Kolkata, from the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad (probably the biggest religious festival in the world) to the televising of a Hindu epic." (ISBN 0140104801)
- Mother Pious Lady, Santosh Desai; An excellent account of middle class beliefs and customs from the pre-liberalization era till date. For anyone who wants to understand the culture of present India, this is a must read where the author cuts through the chaos and confusion letting you to see things more clearly . (ISBN 8172238643)
- Spiritual India handbook: A guide to temples, holy sites festivals and traditions by Stephen Knapp (2013). Useful for the pilgrim traveler who wants to get the most out of his or her spiritual adventure and experience in India.
Touts are ubiquitous, as in many developing countries, and where tourism is strategically promoted and you should assume that anyone 'proactively' trying to help you has a hidden agenda to part you from your money just like you experience in every other tourist place you visit. However, in areas hardly or not at all visited by tourists, it is not at all uncommon for people who go out of their way to 'proactively' help you without expecting anything in return. During your travels in India, you will be deluged with touts trying to get you to buy something or patronize particular establishments. There are a myriad of common scams, which range from telling you your hotel has gone out of business (of course, they'll know of one that's open with vacancies), to giving wrong directions to a government rail ticket booking office (the directions will be to their friend's tour office), to trying to get you to take diamonds back to your home country (the diamonds are worthless crystal), to 'poor students' giving you a sightseeing for hours and then with pity make you buy school books for them (tremendously overpriced from a bookstore with whom they are affiliated). There will also be more obvious touts who "know a very good place for dinner", sell fake SIM cards (even in officially looking establishment), or want to sell you a chess set on the street. No place in India is completely free of touts, but if you want an almost tout free experience, visit southern states especially Kerala.
Faced with such an assault,If you face any assault call 100 (police number) immediatly the police 100 service is often very fast in India, but it would be nice to call for help from people nearby. it's very easy to get into a siege mentality where all of India is against you and out to squeeze you dry. Needless to say, such a mentality may affect any true appreciation of the country. Dealing with touts is very simple: assume anyone offering surprising information (such as "your hotel is shut down") is a tout. Never be afraid to get a second or third answer to a question. To get rid of a tout:
- Completely ignore him/her and go about your business until he goes away. This may take quite a while, but patience is key to managing India.
- Tell him "NO", very firmly, and repeatedly.
It is also beneficial to have a firm Indian friend whom you can trust. If they show you around, they will act to help you ward off such touts.
Basic strategy will help you:
- Don't feel harassed, consider each problem and joy as your experience, that's why you are traveling. Isn't it?
- Hiring a qualified guide, if you manage to find a trust worthy one, will sort out your most of the problems, almost every problem.
- If you still have any issues or want to chat friendly to an Indian, then seek for an Indian tourist. He/she may help you if he/she knows English but may likely know less than you about the place you're visiting.
- Don't expect everything to happen exactly as at home; quickly adjust to situations and use your common sense.
- In case of any practical guidance or help look for any respectable looking person in the premises (which by and large you will find many) and request for any guidance. Else its absolutely a good idea to ask for suggestions with the commercial stall operators inside platforms who usually are local fellows. By and large you will find a great deal of help and information from the decent people around who are not the touts and have no vested interest in the affairs. So use your common sense judiciously in order to look out for these fellows.
Recently, there has been a great rise in the number of complaints about harassment of innocent tourists in various destinations around the country. The Ministry of Tourism has adopted a strategy of introducing Audio Guide Devices at various places of interest around the country such as the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, etc. to provide reliable and factual information to tourists. It is wise to hire such devices as you can avoid the being ripped off or ambushed by desperate touts itching to make a buck. The Ministry of Tourism has also announced its partnership with AudioCompass, a company specializing in creating Audio Tours of all places of interest in the country in the form of Audio Devices available at the monuments and Smartphone apps that can be download from the App Store.
Some tourist attractions that are run by the Archaeological Survey of India have different rates for Indians, SAARC countries and foreigners. The difference in price may be significant: for example, entry to Taj Mahal is only ₹40 for Indians, but is ₹1000 for foreigners. The rates are prominently posted at the entrance and ticketing booths.
India is administratively divided into 29 states and 7 union territories. The states are broadly demarcated on linguistic lines. They vary in size; the larger ones are bigger and more diverse than some countries of Europe. The union territories are smaller than the states—sometimes they are just one city—and they have much less autonomy.
These states and union territories are grouped by convention into the following regions:
|Western India (Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan)|
World's second largest Salt Flat, Great Rann of Kutch. Miles and miles of the Thar Desert. Home to the colorful palaces, forts and cities of Rajasthan, the country's most vibrant and biggest city Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), wonderful beaches and pristine forests of Goa and Bollywood.
|Southern India (Andaman and Nicobar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu)|
South India features famous and historical temples, tropical forests, backwaters, beaches hill stations, and the vibrant cities of Bangalore, Kochi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Amaravathi. The island groups of Andaman & Nicobar (on the east) and Lakshadweep on the west are included in this region for convenience, but they are far from the mainland and have their own unique characteristics.
|Eastern India (Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Sikkim, West Bengal)|
Economically less developed, but culturally rich and perhaps the most welcoming of outsiders. Features Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta), once the capital of British India, and the temple cities of Puri, Bhubaneswar and Konark. Geographically it stretches from the mountains to the coast, resulting in fascinating variations in climate. It is also the mineral storehouse of India, having the country's largest and richest mines.
|North-Eastern India (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura)|
insular and relatively virgin, the country's tribal corner, with lush, beautiful landscapes, endemic flora and fauna of the Indo-Malayan group and famous for Tea Gardens. Consists of seven tiny states (by Indian standards, some of them are larger than Switzerland or Austria) popularly nicknamed as the Seven Sisters.
Below is a selection of just ten of India's most notable cities. Other cities can be found under their specific regions.
- Delhi — The Capital of India,seat of the Federal Government, numerous historic monuments,markets, industrial hub and major gateway to rest of Northern India. If this is your first trip to India, and you think about flying to Delhi, please read the city article carefully.
- Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) — The garden city, once the sleepy home of pensioners now transformed into Silicon Valley with all major of software companies establishing their offices in the city and major aviation/rail hub for South Central India.
- Chennai (formerly Madras) — Main port in Southern India, cradle of Carnatic Music,Bharatanatyam and Indian Tamil Film Industry, home of the famous Marina beach, Automobile Capital of India and a fast emerging IT hub.
- Jaipur — the Pink City is a major exhibit of the Hindu Rajput culture of medieval Northern India.
- Kochi (formerly Cochin) — the Queen of Arabian Sea, historically, a centre of international trade, now the gateway to the sandy beaches and backwaters.
- Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) — The Erstwhile Capital of British India till 1911, now gateway/hub to Eastern/North Eastern India,home to numerous colonial relics, eclectic culture, street food, Indian Bengali Film Industry,Oscar Winners and Nobel Laureates, has earned the sobriquets of City of Joy,Cultural Capital of India
- Mumbai (formerly Bombay) — The financial capital of India, housing most of the Indian/Multi National Corporations, major port, "Bollywood" (Indian Hindi Film Industry).
- Shimla — the former summer capital of British India located in the Himalayan foothills with a large legacy of Victorian architecture.
- Varanasi — considered the most sacred Hindu city, located on the banks of the Ganges, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities of the world.
- Hyderabad — was historically known as a pearl and diamond trading centre, and it continues to be known as the "City of Pearls". The Telugu film industry "Tollywood" based in the city is the country's second-largest producer of motion pictures. Hyderabadi biryani and Hyderabadi haleem, with their blend of Mughlai and Arab cuisines,carry the national Geographical Indications tag.
- Vijayawada — is known for business and trading centre, and it formed as a new capital of Andhra Pradesh. It is famous for Telugu cuisine, Indian pickles. Amaravathi is known for Sanchisthupa, place where remains of Gautham Buddha were kept
India has many outstanding landmarks and areas of outstanding beauty. Below is a list of nine of the most notable:
- Bodh Gaya — the place where the Buddha Sakyamuni attained enlightenment.
- Ellora/Ajanta — spectacular rock-cut cave monasteries and temples, holy place for the Buddhists, Jains and Hindus.
- Goa — an east-west mix, beaches and syncretic culture.
- Golden Temple — Sikh holy site located in Amritsar
- Hampi — the awesome ruins of the empire of Vijayanagara
- Khajuraho — famed for its erotic sculptures
- Lake Palace — the Lake Palace of Octopussy fame, located in Udaipur
- Meenakshi Temple — a spectacular Hindu temple in Madurai
- Taj Mahal — the incomparable marble tomb in Agra Much has been written about this monument and everyone has seen the photos. But little can prepare you for witnessing it up close.it's unlike any other place in india.
See also: Indian National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries and Sacred sites of the Indian sub-continent.
Do you need a visa?
Electronic Visas An online e-Tourist Visa facility was introduced on 27 November 2014 and expanded to cover Business and Medical travel from 1 April 2017. This visa allows two entries into India through the airports in Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bagdogra, Bengaluru, Calicut, Chennai, Chandigarh, Cochin, Coimbatore, Delhi, Gaya, Goa, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mangalore, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Tiruchirapalli, Trivandrum, and Varanasi or through the seaports in Cochin, Mangalore, and Goa with the first entry occurring 120 days of issue (an e-Medical Visa can permit up to three entries). An e-Visa should be applied for at least four days in advance of travel and permits a stay not exceeding 60 days from the date of first entry into India. Those of Pakistani descent are not permitted to apply for a e-Visa.
A copy of the eTV printout should be carried and presented both to airline staff at the airport of departure and to Immigration at the port of entry. Biometrics will be collected upon arrival. The visa cannot be adjusted or extended and is not valid for Protected or Restricted Areas. Only two visits with e-Visas are permitted in a calendar year. Citizens from these countries are eligible:
No e-Visa fee: Argentina, Cook Islands, Fiji, Jamaica, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Uruguay, and Vanuatu
e-Visa fee of USD 25 (+2.5% bank fee): Japan, Singapore, and Sri Lanka
e-Visa fee of USD 50 (+2.5% bank fee): Albania, Andorra, Angola, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameron Union Republic, Canada, Cape Verde, Cayman Island, Chile, China, China (Hong Kong SAR), China (Macau SAR), Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cote d'lvoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Laos, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Myanmar, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Oman, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks and Caicos Island, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vatican City, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
e-Visa fee of USD 75 (+2.5% bank fee): Mozambique, Russia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States of America
Visa on Arrival As of March 2016, citizens of Japan are permitted to apply for a visa on arrival at the Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Chennai airports. This visa costs ₹2000; is valid for a single entry and a maximum stay of 30 days for tourism, business, conference, or medical reasons; and is not extendable or convertible to another visa category. A maximum of two visits with visas on arrival are permitted in a calendar year.
A visa obtained in advance is required by all other nationalities other than those mentioned above.
Depending on the purpose of your visit and nationality, you can get an e-Visa for tourism, business, or medical purposes (60 days); a visa-on-arrival (30 days); a tourist visa (3 months or more, depending on nationality); a business visa (6 months, one year, five years, or ten years, multiple entries); a student visa (up to 5 years); or an entry visa (for longer stays). A special 10-year visa is available only to select nationalities, including US citizens (USD100 for tourists, USD 240 for business); US citizens can now only apply for a 10-year multiple-entry tourist visa, however. An Indian visa is valid from the day it is issued, not the date of entry. For example, a 6-month visa issued on January 1 will expire on June 30, regardless of your date of entry. A tourist visa valid for 6 months can have maximum duration of stay of 90 days per visit, depending on citizenship. (This will normally be endorsed on the visa.) Make sure to check maximum duration per visit with your local embassy. Other visas, including Student, Employment, Research, Missionary, and Overseas Citizen of India visas, are also available for those who qualify, with varying validity periods and stay limitations.
The e-Tourist visa online application process is detailed and somewhat cumbersome, especially for those with weak computer skills. Allow at least an hour per visa for the process if it is your first time. You will be required to upload a photo of yourself and a scan of the first two pages of your passport. Make sure you write down the visa application number or print it out as it will be necessary if you decide to return to the visa application process. One incorrect letter or number in the temporary application ID number will result in the loss of your application and you will have to start again. Certain minimum and maximum file sizes and other specifications are required for the uploads. A useful photo cropping tool is provided on the visa application site. A standard scan of the passport pages may be too large to meet the requirements and custom scanner settings may have to be used. The e-Tourist visa applications are required to be submitted several days ahead of time, but the actual processing time for two recent visa applications was only about 24 hours.
Many Indian embassies have outsourced visa processing in full or in part to third party companies, so check ahead before going to the embassy. For example, in the USA, you must submit your visa application to Cox & Kings Global Services, not the embassy. Applications through these agencies also attract an application fee, above that which is detailed on most embassy websites and should be checked prior to submitting your paperwork. In addition, many Indian embassies only offers visas to residents of that country: this means you should get your visa before you leave home, instead of trying to get in a neighbouring country (since August '09, non-residents were able to apply for visas through the Bangkok embassy for an additional 400 THB "referral fee", but this has changed: since August/September 2015 this is, for the time being, no longer possible: only Thai nationals can apply for a visa).
Rules and validity of visas will differ based on citizenship. Check the website of the Indian embassy, consulate or high commission in your country  or contact the local office . A notable rule is that citizens of Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, and Bangladesh, foreigners of Pakistan and Bangladesh origin, and stateless persons are not permitted to re-enter India on tourist or visitor visas within 60 days of their preceding departure without special permission. (This rule was abolished for other foreigners in 2012.)
It's wise to ask for a multiple entry visa even if you aren't planning to use it - they cost the same, are handed out pretty liberally and come in handy if you decide last minute to dip into one of the neighbouring countries.
Overstaying a visa is to be avoided at all costs as you will be prevented from leaving the country until you have paid some fairly hefty fines and presented a large amount of paperwork to either the local immigration office or police station. This whole process is unlikely to take less than 3 days, and can take much longer if you include weekends, numerous government holidays and the inevitable bizarre bureaucratic requirements.
Customs and immigration
Clearing customs can be a bit of a hassle, though it has improved vastly over the the last decade. Most airports now operate red and green channels for customs clearance. In general, avoid the touts who will offer to ease your baggage through customs. There are various rules regarding duty-free allowances — there are differing rules for Indian citizens, foreign "tourists", citizens of Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan, non-citizens of Indian origin and people moving to India. Cast a quick glance at the website of the Central Board of Excise and Customs for information about what you can bring in. Foreign tourists other than Nepalis, Bhutanese and Pakistanis and those entering through Nepal, Bhutan or Pakistan, are entitled to bring in their "used personal effects and travel souvenirs" and ₹4,000 worth of articles for "gifts". If you are an Indian citizen or are of Indian origin, you are entitled to ₹25,000 worth of articles, (provided of course you aren't entering from Nepal, Bhutan or Pakistan.) The other rules are on the web site. If you are bringing any new packaged items along, it is a good idea to carry along the invoices for them to show their value. You are also allowed to bring in 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco and 1 litre (2 litres for Indians) of alcohol duty-free. If you do not have anything to declare, you can go through the green channel clearly marked at various airports and generally you will not be harassed.
Up to US$5000 in foreign currency cash, or an aggregate of US$10,000 in foreign currency, may be imported or exported from India without any special requirements or declaration.
Importing and exporting Indian rupees is no longer prohibited, except by citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Indians and other foreign citizens travelling from/to countries other than Bhutan or Nepal may import and/or export a maximum of ₹25,000, but only when entering or exiting India via an airport; the import and export of rupees when travelling from/to Nepal or Bhutan is unlimited, but cannot include notes of greater than ₹100.
India has 4 major airports known as Gateway Airports at Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata. The airports at these cities are either new or undergoing development. Delhi has unveiled its brand new international Terminal 3, is one of the largest in the world. Mumbai's swanky new Terminal 2 (T2) was inaugurated on January 10. The other major entry points in the country are Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Kochi. There are many non-stop, direct and connecting choices to these cities from Europe, North America, Middle East & Australia. Africa is also connected to Delhi and Mumbai.
For secondary points of entry to India, consider Gaya, Goa, Trivandrum, Trichy,Mangalore, Coimbatore, Madurai, Kozhikode, Ahmedabad, Patna, Lucknow and Pune. Most of the major Middle Eastern carriers offer one stop connections to the coast from their Gulf hubs. Goa is a favourite European tourist destination and is connected by many European charter operators like Condor, Edelweiss, Monarch Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines & Thomson Airways. Kolkata is currently served by Dragonair (a subsidiary of Cathay Pacific), Emirates, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways.
India has homegrown international airlines like Air India, Jet Airways , Indigo etc. They have daily flights to major hubs across the world.
From the United States, United Airlines  offers nonstop daily service from Newark Airport to Delhi and Mumbai; Air India offers daily non-stop service to Delhi from New York-JFK and Chicago and Mumbai from Newark. Various European airlines offer connecting service through their European hubs from most major US cities and various Asian airlines offer connecting service from West Coast cities to India through their Asian hubs. Jet Airways  also flies from New York to Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai via Brussels.
Entries from Europe and Northern America are possible using many European airlines such as Lufthansa , Finnair , British Airways , KLM Royal Dutch Airlines , Air France  and Virgin Atlantic . For long-term visitors (3-12 months), Swiss airlines  often have good deals from Switzerland with connecting flights from major European and some American cities as well.
To save on tickets, consider connecting via Gulf countries, by Air Arabia  (Sharjah-based low cost carrier having some connections in Europe), Etihad  (especially if you need one-way ticket or going back to Europe from another Asian country) via Abu Dhabi, as well as Emirates  via Dubai or Qatar airways  via Doha. Obviously, these airlines are also the easiest way to come from the Gulf countries themselves, along with Air India and Air India Express.
From East Asia and Australia, Singapore (which is served by Air India, it's low-cost subsidiary Air India Express , Jet Airways, as well as Singapore Airlines , it's subsidiary Silk Air  and low-cost subsidiary Tiger Airways ) has arguably the best connections to India with flights to all the major cities and many smaller ones. As about the cheap way from South-East Asia or vice versa, Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia  is usually the best choice (if booked well in advance, one-way ticket price is normally below US$100, sometimes being less than US$50, they have connections from China, Australia and most of South-East Asian countries). They fly from Kuala Lumpur into New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Kochi and Tiruchirapalli. If you're going from/to Thailand, Air India Express flies from Chennai and Kolkata to Bangkok. Jet Airways, Air India and Thai Airways  fly from there to the wider range of Indian cities also. Most Recently, Silk Air  started its direct flights from Singapore to Coimbatore, Hyderabad as well. Recently, IndiGo, an Indian low-cost-carrier, has started service to Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai, and Muscat.
From Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific and its subsidiary Dragonair fly to Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. G.C. Nanda  has been appointed as the exclusive wholesale agent for selling Cathay Pacific and Dragonair flights from Hong Kong to India. If you try booking flights from Hong Kong to India on the Cathay Pacific/Dragonair website you will only be able to purchase full-fare tickets. If, however, your itinerary originates from another country and you are merely transiting through or stopping over in Hong Kong, G.C. Nanda does not have exclusive wholesale rights.
India has several international ports on its peninsula. Kochi, Mumbai, Goa and Chennai are the main ones handling passenger traffic, while the rest mainly handle cargo. However, due to the profusion of cheap flights, there no longer appear to be any scheduled ferry services from India to the Middle East.
Some cruise lines that travel to India include Indian Oceans Eden II and Grand Voyage Seychelles-Dubai.
There are two links from Pakistan. The Samjhauta Express runs from Lahore to Attari near Amritsar in Punjab. The Thar Express, restarted in February 2006 after 40 years out of service, runs from Munabao in the Indian state of Rajasthan to Khokrapar in Pakistan's Sindh province; however, this crossing is not open to foreign tourists. Neither train is the fastest, safest or the most practical way to go between India and Pakistan due to the long delay to clear customs and immigration (although the trains are sights in their own right and make for a fascinating trip). Ths Samjhauta express was the victim of a terrorist strike in February 2007, when they set off bombs that killed many people. Should you want to get from one country to the other as quickly as possible, walk across at Attari/Wagah. In India, all trains are managed by Indian Railways IRTC.
From Nepal, trains run between Khajuri in Dhanusa district of Nepal and Jaynagar in Bihar, operated by Nepal Railways. Neither is of much interest for travelers and there are no onward connections into Nepal, so most travelers opt for the bus or plane instead.
Train services from Bangladesh were suspended for 42 years, but the Moitree Express started running again between Dhaka to Kolkata in April 2008. The service is biweekly: A Bangledeshi train leaves Dhaka every Saturday, returning on Sunday, while an Indian train leaves Kolkata on Saturdays and returns the next day.
You can see what trains are available between stations at the following sites: http://www.indiarail.gov.in. However, for booking of rail tickets through the internet you should use the Government of India's website http://www.irctc.co.in. For booking through this site, you have to register (which is free) and you need a credit/debit card. It is better that you book your own tickets than fall prey to touts.For checking reservation status enquiry you could use the pnr status check Indian railways. or Check PNR Status directly here.
From Pakistan the only land crossing is from Lahore to Amritsar via the Attari/Wagah border crossing. See Istanbul to New Delhi over land. You will need a Carnet de Passage if crossing with your own vehicle. The process is not particularly lengthy - crossing with your own vehicle from/to Pakistan should take a maximum of 3 hours to clear both borders for you and your vehicle. There are also crossing points with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
There is one open border crossing between India and Myanmar at Moreh, Manipur, but special permits are required to reach the border from either side.
The Nathu La pass in Sikkim, which borders Tibet in China is the only open border crossing between India and China. For now though, only traders and pilgrims are allowed to cross the border, and it is still not open to tourists. Special permits are required to visit the pass from either side.
Tour in India By Bus is possible. Research around. While most of the Indian states have their own Transport Departments registered online for internet booking of the tickets, private bus bookings can also be made at www.redbus.in . Under this website one can make a booking for private bus tickets. Buses vary from ultra modern Volvo or Mercedes Benz to plain vanilla non air-conditioned buses run by private bus operators.
- From Nepal buses cross the border daily, usually with connections to New Delhi, Lucknow, Patna and Varanasi. However, it's cheaper and more reliable to take one bus to the border crossing and another from there on. The border crossings are (India/Nepal side) Sunauli/Bhairawa from Varanasi, Raxaul/Birganj from Patna, Kolkata, Kakarbhitta from Darjeeling, and Mahendrenagar-Banbassa from Delhi.
- The Royal Bhutanese Government runs a service to/from Phuentsholing