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- Geography, Climate & Location - Culture & People - History - Map

I   N   D   I   A

India has always been a prime destination for those who are charmed by its exotic, spellbinding and ancient civilization. Its diversity of landscapes, people and culture offer everything you want during your holiday in this country. It is impossible not to be astonished by India. Nowhere on Earth does humanity present itself in such a dizzying, creative burst of cultures and religions, races and tongues.

India is surely one of the most marvelous lands on earth and it truly defies description. This vast diamond shaped continent, is a living museum where the past exists comfortably with the present. In Delhi alone the ancient civilizations stretch back over 3 millennia, a modern city scattered throughout with a mysterious past. There are the walled cities of Rajasthan where explorers, traders and travelers journeyed and where the great Moghul Emperors built their massive forts and monuments, the most famous of all being the Taj Mahal, once described as "a tear drop on the face of humanity". There are the temples of the holy city of Varanasi on the Ganges, hidden in the jungles, there are the ruins of civilizations long gone such as at Khajuraho and the ancient forts and temples of the long forgotten Badami region and the Kalinga kingdom. There is a more recent history and from the beautiful buildings of Mumbai to the pretty houses of the hill stations, everywhere there are reminders of the Britishers whose influence over India lasted more than 350 years.

India's people are wonderfully diverse. This is evidenced in language alone as linguists have counted 1,652 languages being spoken all over the country (excluding dialects), written in 13 different scripts. In any airport or railway station you will see the astonishing physical variety - there is no typical Indian. Today, India's people share their beliefs, their hundreds of thousands of gods, their traditional festivals and the pageantry of centuries with the boom industries of technology, tourism, petro-chemicals and the service industries.

India's natural and scenic heritage is no less impressive and certainly no less varied. Experience the lonely splendour of the high Himalayas; ride a camel out into the blinding colours of endless deserts; relax on palm fringed beaches; drive through the steamy jungles to spot tiger hunting and in each locale experience an extraordinary wealth of flora and fauna.

The cultural tour packages of North India takes you to the periodic cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Marvel at majestic monuments, be enchanted by the beautiful Taj Mahal and immerse yourself in the colour and vibrance of Jaipur, in Rajasthan. The historical monuments at various places in India reflect the deep-rooted culture and tradition within the country.

The cultural tour of traditional songs and dances in India presents all the hues and colours of the Unity in Diversity. The festivals and fairs in Rajasthan, Goa and Kerala are the major attractions while being in the cultural tour packages of India. The Gangaur festival, Pushkar festival, Camel fair etc in Rajasthan; Carnival in Goa; Holi in Malwa (Madhya Pradesh); Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra; Elephant festival, Boat carnival and Onam in Kerala etc; complete your cultural odyssey in India. The Taj Mahotsav in Agra, the Khajuraho Festival in Khajuraho, the Konark Festival in Konark, the Chariot Festival in Jagannath Puri, Kumbh Mela in various places in India are the cultural festivals that make an indelible mark on every tourist.

The traditional dances of India like Bharatnatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Mohini Attam, Kathak, Bihu, Kathakali etc. make up the variety of classical dances in India. The tourist places famous for the musical gharanas in India governing the Indian classical music of North India and Karnatic music of South India are worth visiting. The group dances of North East India like Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh have their own distinct features making them an indigenous hallmark of India.

The churches of Goa, temples of Khajuraho and South India, forts and palaces of Rajasthan, the tribes of Central India, the ancient caves of Maharashtra, the Buddhist monasteries and Vihars in Bihar and Ladakh, the verdant gardens and beautiful lakes of Kashmir; all draw a cultural panorama before you in a cultural tour.

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GEOGRAPHY, CLIMATE & LOCATION

With a total land area of 3.3 million square kms, 2,933 kms wide and the 3,214 kms long, the Indian sub-continent is set apart from the rest of Asia by the supreme continental wall of the Himalayas and touches three large bodies of water and is immediately recognizable on any world map. It is the huge, terrestrial beak between Africa and Indonesia. This roughly triangular peninsula defines the Bay of Bengal to the east, the Arabian Sea to the west, and the Indian Ocean to the south. From its northernmost point on the Chinese border, India extends a good 3,200 kms to its southern tip, where the island nation of Sri Lanka seems to be squeezed out of India like a great tear, the synapse forming the Gulf of Munnar. India's northern border is dominated mostly by Nepal and the Himalayas, the world's highest mountain chain. Following the sweeping mountains to the northeast, its borders narrow to a small channel that passes between Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, then spreads out again to meet Burma in the area called the "eastern triangle." Apart from the Arabian Sea, its western border is defined exclusively by Pakistan.

The northern part of India begins with the panhandle of Jammu and Kashmir, a dynamic area with terrain varying from arid mountains in the far north to the lake country and forests near Srinagar and Jammu. Falling south along the Indus river valley, the north becomes flatter and more hospitable, widening into the fertile plains of Punjab and Haryana to the west and the Himalayan foothills of Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh and the Ganges river valley to the East. Cramped between these states is the national capital city, Delhi. The southwestern extremity of the North is the large state of Rajastan, whose principal features are the Thar Desert and the stunning "pink city" of Jaipur. To the southeast is southern Uttar Pradesh and Agra, home of the famous monument; Taj Mahal.

West India contains the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, and part of the massive, central state of Madhya Pradesh. The west coast extends from the Gujarat peninsula down to Goa, and it is lined with some of India's best beaches. The land along the coast is typically lush, with rainforests reaching southward from Bombay all the way to into Goa. A long mountain chain, the Western Ghats, separates the verdant coastline from the Vindya mountains and the dry Deccan plateau further inland. Home of the sacred Ganges river and the majority of Himalayan foothills, East India begins with the states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, which comprise the westernmost part of the region. East India also contains an area known as the eastern triangle, which is entirely distinct. This is the last gulp of land that extends beyond Bangladesh, culminating in the Naga Hills along the Burmese border.

India reaches its peninsular tip with South India, which begins with the Deccan in the north and ends with Cape Comorin, where Hindus believe that bathing in the waters of the three oceans will wash away their sins. The states in South India are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, a favorite leisure destination. The southeast coast mirroring the west, also rests snugly beneath a mountain range; the Eastern Ghats.

The Deccan plateau is the oldest portion of India geologically speaking, and is believed to have been part of a super-continent together with South America, Africa, Australia and Antarctica. As the continents drifted apart, the moving Deccan plateau collided with the Tibetan block of South Asia about 50 million years ago and threw the Himalayas up out of the sea to form a natural northern wall against the rest of Asia. Over the years, the persistent pressure of the Deccan drifting northwards pushed the Himalayan mountains upwards, a process which geologists say is still continuing, causing periodic earthquakes and tremors in the Himalayan ranges as the accumulated stress is released from time to time.

As the Himalayas rise, they are also steadily being eroded by the three great rivers of Northern India - the Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. The alluvial soil brought down by these rivers filled up the vast depression between the Deccan plateau and the Himalayas and created what is the Indo-Gangetic plain today. Other rivers at work in India transforming the land, include the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri and the Pennar which created the deltas and flood-plains of India's east coast. The Narmada, Tapti, Sharavati, Netravati, Bharatapuzha, Periyar and the Pamba which did the same for the west coast.

Every geographical feature is present in India, from mountains to plains, deserts to seas, and so is a wide variety of flora, fauna and climate; from the tropical to the alpine. India's geographical diversity is mirrored by the diversity of the Indian people, who reflect a myriad of racial characteristics, social patterns, cultures and stages of historical development, from the tribal to the urban, the feudal to the modern.

Because of India's size, its climate depends not only on the time of year, but also the location. In general, temperatures tend to be cooler in the north, especially between September and March. The south is coolest between November to January. In June, winds and warm surface currents begin to move northwards and westwards, heading out of the Indian Ocean and into the Arabian Gulf. This creates a phenomenon known as the south-west monsoon, and it brings heavy rains to the north and west coastal areas. Between October and December, a similar climatic pattern called the north-east monsoon appears in the Bay of Bengal, bringing rains to the south and south-east coastal areas. In addition to the two monsoons, there are four other main seasons; Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.

Though the word "monsoon" often brings to mind images of torrential floods and landslides, the monsoon seasons are not bad times to come to India. Though it rains nearly every day, the downpour tends to come and go quickly, mostly in the evenings and nights, leaving behind a clean, glistening landscape.

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CULTURE & PEOPLE

Since time immemorial, India has been considered to be a land with rich cultural heritage. Centuries after centuries, this country has seen rulers like the Rajputs, Mughals, English, Portuguese etc; Besides, various religions also flourished at different times in this country like Buddhism, Jainism etc. All these factors have played their role in making an impact on the culture of this country. One can find the traces of different cultures in Music, dance, architecture, festivities, languages spoken, traditional beliefs and customs, food and many more like these. It is the development in these aspects of life that makes the heritage of India one of the most vibrant and exhaustive. Religion is central to Indian culture, and its practice can be seen in virtually every aspect of life in the country. Hinduism is the dominant faith of India, serving about 75 percent of the population. 15 percent worship Islam and 5 percent are Sikhs and Christians; the rest are Buddhists, Jains, Bahais, and so on.

With over 1 billion citizens, India is the most populous nation in the world after China. 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 major official languages in all. There are twenty-four other 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.

Travel to India with our various tour packages and understand why this heritage has withstood thousands of years and is still going strong. There cannot be a better way to understand the diverse faces of this vast country than to experience it first-hand.

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HISTORY

India's extraordinary history is intimately tied to its geography. A meeting ground between the East and the West, it 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.

Indian history can be roughly divided into six periods; Ancient India, Medieval India, the years of the Company, colonial times as part of The British Raj, the struggle for Independence and finally, post-independence. India, the geopolitical entity as she stands today is a post-Independence phenomenon. It was as recently as "the stroke of the midnight hour" on 15th August 1947 when Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Independent India pronounced her "tryst with destiny" and India woke up to “Life and Freedom".

One of man’s oldest civilizations was the settlement at the Indus Valley. The degree of sophistication that archaeologists found in their settlements almost belies the fact that these people lived almost 4000 years ago. The civilization had meticulously planned cities; streets met at right angles, the sewage system puts present day India to shame, and the tools and large granaries show that they knew more than a thing or two about agriculture. Seals of the Indus Valley have on them the only ancient script that is yet to be deciphered. The most important Indus valley cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro are in present day Pakistan. The civilization died out in 1500 BC. The reasons are a still a matter of contention and they range from the coming of the central Asian Aryan tribes to the changing of the course of the Indus river. While both these are true, it’s difficult to ascertain that these are what brought the end of the Dravidian civilization in the Indus valley. By 300 BC the previously nomadic Aryans had settled down in the region of north India. They had brought with them Sanskrit, a member of the Indo-European family of languages akin to Latin and Greek. They also brought with them the spoken literature of the Hindu life-philosophy, horse-driven chariots and a social system of caste differentiation.

The following millennium saw the waxing and waning of empires. In the north the great dynasties were those of the Mauryas (300-200 BC) during which period Buddhism received royal patronage, and the Guptas during whose reign the subcontinent is said to have enjoyed a "golden period" (300-500 AD). The intervening period had new settlers like the Shakas and Kushanas forming lesser kingdoms in areas around the Ganges. The influence of these Aryan kingdoms rarely reached the south. Regional dynasties like the Andhras, Cheras, Pandyas and Cholas ruled kingdoms in the south of the Deccan plateau and lower down the peninsula. When unable to withstand the pressures of central Asian invaders the Gupta Empire crumbled. The north got divided into strong regional kingdoms (except for a brief period from 606 to 647 AD under the poet king Harshavardhan). This was the time that the Rajputs grew to prominence in the west of the country. Within 300 years of being founded in the 7th century, Islam had reached the western parts of India. But it wasn’t until the coming of Turkish-Afghan raiders like Mahmud of Ghazni (997 to 1030 AD) and Muhammad Ghauri (1192 AD) that Islam made significant inroads to the heart of north India.

The first Muslim empire was set up by a general of Ghauri’s, Qutb-ud-din Aibak, which is when the Delhi sultanate came into being. The temptation of privileges extended to the faithful, and Hinduism’s own severe caste system made many convert. The Delhi Sultanate was ridden with internal strife and saw no less than 5 dynasties come to power between 1206 and 1526. In 1526 a young central Asian warlord who had already captured Kabul, set his eyes on the vast land that lay to the south. Tales of riches had reached his ears and Babur, descendent of Genghis Khan and Timurlane made good his ancestral legacy by defeating the sultanate’s armies in the battle of Panipat. In a land of oppressive heat, and such a variety of people that he could hardly make sense of it, Babur founded the Mughal dynasty. Babur began the work of bringing the delicate patterns of Islamic art, the detailed craft of miniature painting, the severe symmetry of formal garden craft to Delhi. Till Aurangzeb, the 6th king of the dynasty, the Mughals had a liberal policy of religious tolerance and that helped them weave together a largely stable and tight knit Kingdom that spanned a larger territory than any previously had. It was a time of plenty and emperors like Jehangir (1605-1627) and Shah Jahan (1627-1658) could focus their attentions on art, architecture and culture. It was the time when the Taj Mahal was built, as was the Red Fort, and the coffers contained the Koh-i-Noor diamond and the ruby and emerald studded Peacock Throne. Aurangzeb’s religious zeal won him widespread resentment. The Mughal Empire began unraveling, unable to withstand the Maratha chieftain Shivaji’s guerrilla warfare. The last really effective Mughal king was Bahadur Shah (1707-1712). After him Mughal power and prestige declined steadily.

The first British East India Company officials landed in India in 1602. Eventually their interests ceased to be purely mercantile as they assumed more political roles. After the Revolt of 1857, the Crown took over the reigns and India officially came to be a part of the vast British Empire. The Raj settled into ruling this vast dominion and did so effectively till in 1947 when the country was handed back to the leaders of the Freedom Movement. Gandhi and Nehru led the largely non-violent movement from the front with the backing of the Congress party and the entire nation. However, partly because of the British ‘divide-and-rule’ policy and internal contradictions in the national movement itself, a communal divide came to be. When India finally achieved freedom, it was combined with the trauma of partition and the formation of Pakistan. Nehru became the first Prime Minister of India on 15th August 1947 at the head of a Congress government. The Congress hegemony ended in the late 60s, but it came to power intermittently through the 70s and 80s. The Nehru legacy was strong enough to make both; his daughter Indira Gandhi, and grandson Rajiv, Prime Ministers of the country. In the 1990s the era of coalition politics had begun and democracy had come of age.

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